Europe's largest manufacturer of two-wheeled vehicles, Italy’s Piaggio, will return to Cambodia in September, being absent since the Khmer Rouge takeover.
Vespa Cambodia Co Ltd, part of Narith Long’s Narita group, signed an exclusive distribution agreement with Piaggio last month to distribute its Piaggio scooters, including the world famous and iconic Vespa brand.
A new state-of-the-art concept showroom is set to open in September, located near Golden Tower on Monivong.
The modern-design, two-storey glass showroom will feature educational and promotional movies about Vespa, a relaxing lounge, coffee, internet access, a viewing area into the mechanic shop and the Piaggio models on sale in Cambodia.
Initially the Piaggio Liberty, Fly and Zip models will be available and for Vespa the S and LX models, both in 125cc and 150cc engine.
It is estimated that roughly 110,000 motorbikes were sold in Cambodia in 2011 – 25,000 new and 85,000 used – the market is expected to grow 20 per cent to 30 per cent a year. Presently Honda is the market leader, followed by Yamaha and Suzuki.
The Honda Dream is thought to be the current bestseller in the market and the Honda Scoopy, which has a very strong resemblance to Vespa, has been very successful since its launch in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Frederic Bachelet, head of business development for automotive activities for Narita, is aiming to sell 500 units during the remainder of 2012 and 1,300 in 2013.
Given that neighboring Vietnam was able to reach sales of close to 200,000 units in 2011, the forecast for a 4 per cent market share in the new sales market seems reasonable.
It is expected that close to 75 per cent of new unit sales will be from the Vespa line, and the remainder being other Piaggio models.
Prior to its departure in the late 1970s, Vespas were common in the capital’s streets and many have survived 40 years later, a testament to Vespa’s durability.
Vespa has been coined a timeless classic and has been featured in cult movies such as Roman Holiday, The Talented Mr Ripley and Quadrophenia.
Celebrities have long had a love affair with Vespa, dating back to John Wayne and Marlon Brando to the present day Vespa owners Jude Law, Julia Roberts and Leonardo Di Caprio.
The world’s first globally successful scooter is far from your typical motorbike, and Bachelet highlights its very distinctive and practical design features.
The engine is mounted beside the rear wheel, which is driven directly from the transmission, and enclosed in a cowling, eliminating the drive chain and the oil and dirt associated with it.
The structural frame is single sheet steel resulting in exceptional rigidity and excellent road holding and precision control.
The flat floorboard provides foot protection and the front fairing, protection from the wind.
The shape of the scooter combined with the unique noise of the engine, justifies the translation of Vespa, which means wasp in Italian.
Bachelet has planned a major marketing campaign that includes an innovative launch party, TV commercials, billboards, printed media and extensive use of social media, including Facebook and YouTube.
If the return of Vespa is successful, the look and sound of the wasp will be returned to the streets of Phnom Penh.
Anthony Galliano is chief executive of Cambodian Investment Management. Contact Anthony at [email protected]