In North America, this summer's big success story has been the growing popularity of the Italian scooter, commonly known as the "Vespa." A lot of people (particularly women, in some markets) are buying the scooter to reduce expenses, limit harmful emissions and generally improve their commuting experience.
It's excellent on fuel consumption...and improvements keep coming. The manufacturer, Piaggio, has just introduced a gasoline-electric hybrid prototype that promises 60 kilometres on a single litre of fuel. (!)
The Vespa won acclaim right from its introduction in Italy in the late 1940s as a sturdy utility motorcycle, and then it became fashionable a decade later when Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn were featured riding together in the film "Roman Holiday."
According to company literature, the Vespa got it's name when company president Enrico Piaggio first saw a finished model, and said, "Sembra una vespa!" ("It looks like a wasp.")
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Vespa photo from http://www.cepolina.com/