Old-style logos and badges in full effect to capitalise on brand loyalty.
Old-style logos and badges in full effect to capitalise on brand loyalty.

 

A friend recently told me about a common discussion on marketing degree courses…

 

Imagine that you are the boss of CocaCola and you have a choice of two possible nightmare scenarios:

 

  1. Overnight, every Coca-Cola factory in the world is subjected to a simultaneous terrorist attack that stops production or…
  2. Your factories are fine but overnight, everyone completely forgets what Coca-Cola is.

 

Which is the worst scenario?

 

While Scenario-1 might seem terrible because it halts supply for a period until you can restart production, it does nothing to remove demand. In fact, a clever businessman might be able to make something of a restricted supply to increase demand once you are back in production.

 

The killer is Scenario-2. What is this sugary brown drink you are trying to sell us? Isn’t it just a copy of Pepsi? Why would I want to stock that in my supermarket ahead of all the other colas? What is special about this one?

 

The point of this example is to demonstrate the power of a brand. It is relatively easy to build a product but it takes years to build a brand that people are loyal to. Once this brand loyalty exists it is surprisingly enduring.

 

British Lambretta fans wait patiently in the sun for the unveiling of the V-Special.
British Lambretta fans wait patiently in the sun for the unveiling of the V-Special.

 

Lambretta as a brand

 

In the ‘50s and ‘60s Lambretta was Pepsi to Vespa’s Coca-Cola. There were other scooters, just as there are other colas, but in marketing terms having two brand leaders is a perfect scenario because competition promotes loyalty. Think Blur vs Oasis, The Beatles vs The Rolling Stones or even Shoei vs Arai helmets.

 

In 1989 I rode my Lambretta chopper to Athens via the first Euro-Lambretta in Strasbourg. On my way through Italy I only saw one other Lambretta on the road and was repeatedly told by Italians that “Lambretta is dead”.

 

For them it was true. Lambretta pretty much finished for Italy in the early 70s when the entire scooter production line was sold to the Indian government. Italy didn’t have a massive Mod revival or a huge scooterboy scene to soak-up substantial imports of Indian GPs from Scooters India Limited or Servetas from Spain. In the subsequent period, it was the British and the international spread of our peculiar youth cults that kept passion for Lambretta alive and many scooters on the roads. It is safe to say that most Italians didn’t understand or appreciate at the time the rich cultural heritage that Innocenti bestowed on the world.

 

As explained in the previous scenario though, for Lambretta to have been a Pepsi of its market, even a long time ago, means it was once very powerful. For as long as the name is remembered, this power never truly dies.

 

As a marketer, the achievements of Innocenti’s scooter provide a rich seam of historic wealth to mine.

 

Watches are one of the most stylish Lambretta products licensed by Scheffrahn's firm 'Brand Concern'.
Watches are one of the most stylish Lambretta products licensed by Scheffrahn’s firm ‘Brand Concern’.

 

New Lambretta

 

Let’s be honest, the story of the latest Lambrettas starts not with a scooter but with products capitalising on the Lambretta brand: clothes, watches, perfume etc.

 

Ducati, Harley and Triumph all do this sort of thing too, but at least they also make a motorcycle with the same name. Producing a scooter under the Lambretta brand is the most important step in legitimising every other Lambretta licensed product as official. For Walter Scheffrahn, the Dutch branding specialist who is behind the latest Lambretta scooter, it is probably his most ambitious project so far.

 

Becoming a scooter manufacturer is not something you can do on your own or overnight, but Scheffrahn has help from massive Austrian company KSR Group. They have been importing and trading in motorcycles and scooters for many years.

 

We caught Walter’s speech at the first public showing of the new Lambretta V-Special at Euro-Lambretta 2017 in Adria, Italy and you can hear it in full in the video below.

 

Walter Scheffrahn unveils the V-Special at Adria

The SYM connection

 

Ironically, when it comes to scooters from Taiwan, SYM are the Coca-cola to Kymco’s Pepsi. These two giant companies dominate the home market and produce good quality automatic scooters that are generally a step up from Chinese brands but usually a little cheaper than European or Japanese machines.

 

It is not financially viable to build a new scooter factory from scratch as well as developing an engine, so Scheffrahn has done the logical thing and chosen to work with SYM to produce their first new Lambretta model: the V-Special.

 

The shortcut to doing this has been to base the V-Special on an existing SYM frame and engine from the Fiddle 3 model. In this way, all the main chassis and drive-train development has already been done, saving a fortune, but this choice has also lead to some inevitable compromises in Kiska studio’s styling of the V-Special.

 

There are very clear dimensional similarities between the SYM Fiddle 3 and the new V-Special.
There are very clear dimensional similarities between the SYM Fiddle 3 and the new V-Special.
This image explains perfectly why the slim V-Special bodywork has to be upswept to clear the engine and exhaust.
This image explains perfectly why the slim V-Special bodywork has to be upswept to clear the engine and exhaust.

 

Why does the rear body line slope upwards?

 

This is a feature common to nearly every modern automatic scooter as a result of having a wide engine casing on one side of the rear wheel, and a fat exhaust pipe on the other that moves with the motor.

 

In order to provide clearance for the exhaust and engine during suspension travel, a designer has only 3 choices:

 

  1. Sweep the rear body line upwards to provide clearance. All the modern Vespas do this. Or…
  2. Keep the rear body line level but high, as per AJS Modena. Or…
  3. Make the rear body wide enough that the engine and exhaust can move up inside the bodywork when the suspension compresses. This was the solution adopted by Scomadi.

 

For the V-Special, Austrian style house Kiska Design, chose the first option. The advantage of this method is that the rear body can stay slim which makes it easier for short people to get their feet on the ground.

 

Lambretta's original SX200: flat floor and horizontal lower panel lines were a signature of the Slimstyle range
Lambretta’s original SX200: flat floor and horizontal lower panel lines were a signature of the Slimstyle range
The V-Special has an upswept floor and lower panel line.
The V-Special has an upswept floor and lower panel line.

 

Why does the floor sweep upwards?

 

This is the first machine wearing the Lambretta badge that doesn’t have a horizontal floor for the rider’s feet.

 

Even Motom’s Lambretta-badged LN125 – which was also based on SYM cycle parts and engine – had a flat floor. To achieve this Motom comissioned a completely new chassis for the LN which Massimo Tartarini (of Italjet fame) styled.

 

For the V-Special range, Kiska had little choice but to follow the same floor line as the SYM Fiddle 3 due to the layout of the underlying chassis.

 

 

There are two proposed version: 'flex' with a turning mudguard and this 'fixed' version.
There are two proposed version: ‘flex’ with a turning mudguard and this ‘fixed’ version.

 

Why is the front mudguard so high above the wheel?

 

This is another design compromise forced by the use of basically the same telescopic forks as the Fiddle 3. The yoke that clamps the top of the telescopic fork legs is wide and square, forcing Kiska to mount the mudguard high in order to provide clearance.

 

On original Lambrettas the forks were not telescopic and had a rounded top arch which made it possible to have a lower, sleeker fixed ‘fender’.

 

Innocenti S.A. – the registered parent company based in Switzerland – have so far shown two versions of the scooter: ‘Fixed’ with a mudguard attached to the chassis, and ‘Flex’ which has a turning mudguard attached to the forks as per the Cento and also Tartarini’s LN design.

 

At Adria only the fixed version was displayed, and this has widely been the more popular solution of the two.

 

 

Motom's LN125 had an almost flat floor, but this required a dedicated chassis.
Motom’s LN125 had an almost flat floor, but this required a dedicated chassis.

 

What powers the V-Special?

 

As SLUK predicted last year, this machine is powered by SYM’s range of relatively basic 2-valve air-cooled 4-stroke engines in Euro-4 format. There will be a 50cc, a 125 and a ‘200’ (actually 169cc).

 

The 125cc version essentially uses a derivative of Honda’s venerable GY6 engine; similar, but not exactly the same, as both the LN125 and the current Scomadi TL125. In terms of performance it should be fine for city use, but don’t expect the learner-legal version to offer the performance of more advanced 4-valve water-cooled 125s like the latest Vespa Sprint or Primavera, or indeed the forthcoming water-cooled Scomadi 125.

 

Performance of the learner-legal V125 is likely to be mild.
Performance of the learner-legal V125 is likely to be mild.

 

How was the V-Special received at Adria?

 

Scheffrahn couldn’t have picked a more difficult crowd for a launch than passionate Lambrettisti. Perhaps that’s why the prototype machines were shielded behind Perspex.

 

However, while most rally-goers simply stayed away, of those that did watch the reception was not as hostile as I’d anticipated. Our video above captures the initial reactions of those present.

 

Interesting comments from an Argentine Lambrettista – that I totally agree with – are that it would have been much better for the scooter to have a flat floor and a lower rear end as per the original Lambretta slimstyles. Without that feature the scooter is really missing one of the key strands of the Lambretta DNA, akin to an Audi missing its 4-ring bonnet badge.

 

VIDEO | What did the Lambrettista think of the V-125?

 

Will the V-Special sell?

 

For the reasons I pointed out at the start of the article, I expect that the Lambretta V-Special will sell, if it isn’t priced too prohibitively. You could put a Lambretta badge on a bottle of ketchup and someone would buy it.

 

Having said that, certainly for markets like Italy and Benelux, the disastrous situations surrounding the release of previous ‘Lambrettas’ has tarnished the name with both public and dealers alike. Motom’s LN wasn’t as bad as previous Asian re-badging attempts but still buyers were left with difficulties finding a dealer or getting spares. These people won’t want to be burned again.

 

However, from comments we’ve seen on the internet there are already people queuing up to ‘mod-up’ the first V-Specials. Manufacturers of chrome bathroom accessories take note – your time is coming!

 

The V-Special – which is due in 2018 – also arrives at a time when retro is really big but choice in retro scooters is massively diminished.

 

The 2-stroke PX as we know it is finished. LML are looking very unlikely to produce any more scooters. Royal Alloy sales are currently on hold in Europe pending a court decision and Scomadi are awaiting stock of their first Thai-produced machines.

 

At the time of writing if you want a retro-auto it is a choice of AJS Modena/Lexmoto Milano at the cheap end or modern Vespa at the high end.

 

At the moment we know of at least two prospective UK importers for the brand, both of which have had dealings with SYM, but it is understood that KSR will not announce importers until later this year.

 

A lot of money and effort has been ploughed into the V-Special. This bodes well for larger capacity versions.
A lot of money and effort has been ploughed into the V-Special. This bodes well for larger capacity versions.

 

What will the price be for a V-Special?

 

Not cheap. Suggestions are that the 50cc version will be over £2,000, the ABS-equipped 200 will be approaching £4,000 and the 125 will be somewhere in the middle.

 

 

Where next for new Lambretta?

 

For serious scooter enthusiasts the petite V-Special was never likely to tick our boxes. Many scooterists looking for a modern scooter demand more power and comfort. Sales and popularity of the Vespa GTS250/300 prove that.

 

Walter has already stated that Innocenti SA plan to display a 400cc model at the Milan show, but the latest rumours are of another model with a manual gearbox, possibly 250cc 4-stroke format. For me, this is a more interesting prospect.

 

With a release like that, Lambretta could be the only brand offering a geared swinging scooter engine. It might not offer the convenience of CVT automatic transmission but in terms of rider involvement it would be unique on the market.

 

Like revived Triumph, new Lambretta could turn out to be much more interesting than their first offering suggests…

 

 

Sticky

 

 

 

What do you think of the V-Special?

 

We are interested in feedback on the new Lambretta from all genuine SLUK readers so please leave your comments below.

 

Spammers and prospective importers conducting social media campaigns pretending to be scooterists need not apply.

 

20170603-1289-800

 

Lambretta V50 V125 and V200 Specifications (from 2017 brochure)

 

Engine

V50 Special

V125 Special

V200 Special

Type

4-stroke air-cooled single cylinder

4-stroke air-cooled single cylinder

4-stroke air-cooled single cylinder

Capacity

49.5cc

124.7cc

168.9cc

Compression

12.5:1

10.7:1

10.3:1

Fuel

Petrol 95 (octane)

Petrol 95 (octane)

Petrol 95 (octane)

Fuel Management

Electronic carb

Electronic Fuel Injection

Electronic Fuel Injection

Max power

2.6kW@7500rpm

7.5kW@8500rpm

8.9kW@7500rpm

Max torque

3.4Nm@6500rpm

9.2Nm@7900rpm

12.5Nm@5500rpm

Ignition

CDI

ECU

ECU

Starter

Electric

Electric

Electric

Gearbox

CVT

CVT

CVT

Final drive

Belt

Belt

Belt

    

Max Speed

45kmh (28mph)

Not stated

Not stated

    

Dimensions

   

Length

1900mm

1900mm

1900mm

Width

690mm

690mm

690mm

Height

1130mm

1130mm

1130mm

Wheelbase

1330mm

1330mm

1330mm

Seat height

770mm

770mm

770mm

Fuel Tank Capacity

6.5litres

6.5litres

6.5litres

    

Chassis

   

Front tyre

110/70-12

110/70-12

110/70-12

Rear Tyre

120/70-12

120/70-12

120/70-12

Suspension front

Telescopic fork

Telescopic fork

Telescopic fork

Suspension rear

Single rear shock

Single rear shock

Single rear shock

Brakes Front

220mm disc

220mm disc with CBS linked brakes

220mm disc with Bosch ABS

Brakes Rear

110mm mechanical drum

220mm disc with CBS linked brakes

220mm disc with Bosch ABS

 

Buying from SLUK Shop supports this site

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •