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Piaggio enters new phase in scooters

MURALI GOPALAN | Updated on January 20, 2018

Crossover Aprilia SR 150, India's first sporty scooterbike, unveiled by Piaggio at the Auto Expo this year PTI

Aprilia SR 150 will join Vespa soon

In a country where over 16 million two-wheelers are sold each year, Vespa’s share is embarrassingly small.

Yet, this does not remotely worry Stefano Pelle, Managing Director of Piaggio Vehicles which manufactures the iconic scooter at its Baramati plant near Pune.

“Vespa is going on a clear long-term strategy of being premium, unique and Italian design with style and fashion thrown in. This is what Vespa wants to be both here and globally,” he said in a recent interview. As a result of this deliberate brand positioning, there are implications in terms of market share (since it is premium) which means “we are in a niche and will play the niche”. Pelle reiterates that Piaggio has no intent of devaluing the brand which is why it remains Vespa and will continue to be so even if sales are averaging barely 2,000 units each month.

Perfect blend?

For the moment, though, Pelle is more excited about the Aprilia SR 150 which was displayed at the recently held Delhi Auto Expo. Its official launch is still some months away but there is a lot riding on this crossover between a scooter and bike. Like Vespa, the Aprilia SR 150 will be part of the Baramati production line and Piaggio is upbeat on its prospects.

“This is a completely new product for India which has the potential to do extremely well. I am betting it will click and create a different segment,” says Pelle. It was a result of exhaustive market research to try and understand what youngsters were looking for.

In his view, the interesting takeaway in India is the move from the traditional bike to scooter where men are part of the transition. This was seldom the case till recently when women largely led the way.

Pelle believes that there is still a tradeoff in this behavioural shift since a scooter is more utility-like in its function while a bike is a lot of fun. This is where the Aprilia SR 150 could do the trick as a fusion of these tradeoffs. “We did not tell customers that it is a crossover but it is they who said it was something between a bike and scooter,” he says.

Offbeat offering

The targeted user base is in the age group of 18-28 which is constantly looking for something different and unique. To that extent, a parallel can be drawn with Honda’s Navi which is again a scooter-cum-bike in appearance. The difference though is that this Aprilia offering is not going to be as competitively priced as the Navi at ₹39,500.

“This is not a mainstream product,” reiterates Pelle. The feedback at the Expo has been encouraging enough for him to believe that the company perhaps has a winner on its hands. It was also important to send out a clear message to visitors what Piaggio was all about and that it had more to offer than just Vespa.

“Today, it is still Vespa and tomorrow there will be Piaggio and Aprilia within the scooter segment. We may not be looking at volumes today even though we may change our mind tomorrow,” hints Pelle.

In the process, a largely urban focus could go now extend to Tier-2 centres beginning with the Aprilia SR 150. “The network is what we are gearing up for especially when we are premium. Tomorrow or two years down the line, we could come up with a mass market product and the network will be completely different,” he says.

Even while the company is not ruling out an entry in the mainstream space, Pelle stresses this will not be “in the true conventional sense of what you have today”. In other words, it will steer clear of the ₹50,000-price brand which epitomises most mass two-wheeler brands. “We are not looking at volumes but value,” he says.

Published on February 25, 2016

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