Italian manufacturer of two, three and four wheeled transportation, Piaggio, has entered a joint venture with the Chinese Foton Group. Bound for a bright future.
Secretly we all know Piaggio from its Vespa and of course the three wheeled Ape. The wasp and the worker bee, commonly known better under their respective type name than from their manufacturer. However Piaggio is not a small fish in the market of two wheelers and small transport. The three wheeled Ape, on the market in many guises since the 1940’s, is the ideal truck for transport and services in busy inner cities. Small, volatile and incredibly versatile. Today we all know of a barista or ice cream man that stands out on food truck festivals with one of these perky Italian three wheelers, but don’t forget the masses that earned their daily livelihood thanks to the little Italian do-it-all.
This year Piaggio celebrates the seventieth birthday of the Ape, but that does in no way mean they are leaning back in ease. What most people know nothing about, are Piaggio’s successes wit small four wheeled vans. Especially in Southern and Eastern Europe, these tiny Italian vans are very popular. Something the Chinese realize too. The Italian industry does have a long history with their Chinese counterparts. Long before the rest of the world jumped on the wagon, the Italians recognized the many possibilities of doing business with the largest growth market in the world. No wonder the Foton Group, one of China’s largest manufacturers of light and heavy trucks, is keen to start a joint venture with Italy’s largest in the area of small transport.
Besides the world famous Vespa, the Ape might very well be the largest success of Piaggio as a vehicle manufacturer. Simple, sturdy and versatile, we mentioned it before, the Ape managed to gather a world wide following in its seventy years long existence. The original Ape is found on street corners around the world, whereas Asia streets are flooded with the strongly related TukTuk. It’s not a miracle a large player like Foton, that earlier committed itself to the impressive likes of Daimler AG and Cummins Inc., foresees a future in cooperating with the relatively small Piaggio holding. Relatively indeed, since Piaggio’s share on the market for small three and four wheeled transporters is still an important one.
Will the infamous Ape soon be produced in China? Not very likely. Foton and Piaggio will collaborate on developing an entirely new series of three and four wheeled light transporters. With a maximum load of 1,5 tons and state of the art engineering the collaboration faces entrepreneurs and services in cities all over the world, but of course the crowded conglomerations of the Chinese People Rebuplic to begin with. With Piaggio’s heritage and the Foton Group’s capacity this can’t become but a successful venture.
Marc GF Zaan