Its price may not be cheap compared with motorcycles in general, but the iconic Vespa scooter remains a bike that many riders long to own.
Vespiario (Thailand), the authorised Vespa distributor, saw its sales leap from 1,000 scooters in 2010 to 6,000 last year.
This has prompted Vespiario (Thailand), the authorised importer and distributor of Italy's Vespa, to foresee a flourishing business here.
Managing director Pornada Tejapaibul said Vespa scooters rode back into the Thai market three years ago and have seen strong sales growth ever since.
Vespiario sold 1,000 scooters in 2010, 3,000 in 2011 and 6,000 in 2012. For all three years, sales totalled 1.05 billion baht.
Vespa prices start at 89,000 baht for the 125cc model, rising to 109,000 and 116,000 baht for 150cc models and 300,000 baht for a 300cc engine.
By comparison, other scooter brands cost 50,000 to 60,000 baht for similar engines.
The Vespas are mainly imported from the Piaggio Group, an Italian scooter maker with its regional production base in Vietnam.
Mrs Pornada said Vespa has growth potential in both new and second-hand scooters _ a testament to their enduring retro look. "We thought Vespa was a niche market at first, but now it's becoming more of a mass premium market with sales rising each year," she said.
Vespiario has teamed with several financial institutions to offer hire purchase with a 10% down payment and average monthly payment of 3,000 baht.
The upshot is potential buyers with a monthly salary of 15,000 to 20,000 baht can afford a Vespa, plus under the Asean Free Trade Agreement, the scooters are exempt from export duties, so the selling price includes only excise and value-added tax.
Nonetheless, spare or replacement parts imported from Vietnam are not exempt from customs duty, as their origin is often murky.
"If the Asean Economic Community takes effect in 2016, we expect Vespa parts imports will become cheaper, making Vespas more affordable to local enthusiasts," said Mrs Pornada.
Vespiario now runs 56 showrooms and service centres.
It plans to expand that number by 10% this year to serve growing demand in the provinces, which account for 70% of sales.
‘‘We thought Vespa was a niche market at first, but now it’s becoming more of a mass premium market with sales rising each year,’’ says managing director Pornada Tejapaibul. Photos by SOMCHAI POOMLARD
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Writer: Piyachart Maikaew