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Jakob Ehrensvärd | profile | all galleries >> Ruins of despair >> The Innocenti factory tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

The Innocenti factory

Some days are just so utterly dull and gloomy that color just doesn't make sense. But, on the other hand, when finding an object like this, the weather is maybe not that important after all.

Innocenti was a founded in the 1920s and started to produce steel tubes. In the 1930s the factory moved to Milan and with the uprising of the fascists and Mussolini's aggressive foreign policy, the company went into the defense sector. During WWII, the factories were extensively bombed.

After WWII, there was an obvious need for low-cost vehicles for the masses and in war torn Italy, and the classic Vespa scooter became an instant success. Innocenti who had to go into the civilian market again decided to make their version of the Vespa and the Lambretta was born. It has been said that the requirement specification was low cost, ability to carry one passenger and reasonably protect from dirt. The Lambretta quickly became an icon for the 1950s Italy, but as wealth increased, the interest for motorcycles fell as people turned their eyes to cars, such as the low-cost Fiat Cinquento, introduced in 1957.

The 1960s was a painful trajectory downwards and the slump in scooter sales made Innocenti to join forces with British Leyland as some kind of short-cut to enter the exploding automotive market. Kind of fascinating to see how it all looked back then - . The bold attempt to seduce the Italians with the Classic Mini ended up in a complete fiasco and it all closed in 1972. Innocenti was split up and some parts ended up in the Fiat group, whereas the Milan plant became industry group INNSE. The Lambretta assembly lines were dismantled and sold to India, where Lambretta-like scooters were made until 1998.

The industrial structure in Italy during the years of recession and strikes in the 1970s typically meant that industries like this was sucked into state-owned conglomerates, typically IRI. In 1989, massive privatization programs were launched to break up these bleeding giants. Given that this particular plant closed in 1993, one can assume that the privatization program was the kiss of death.

The entire giant factory complex is now being demolished and empty skeletons are the only remains of this past glory. The cleanup operations seem to have been finished and presumably the steel structures will be torn down shortly.

Although one sometimes can question it, it seems like people after all prefer function before style (at least with tech stuff) and it is somewhat ironic that the British of all went as rescuers to make something out of the sinking Innocenti. I can't help thinking that the British at that time already then had their fair share of problems with low productivity, strikes and all-erratic automotive technology. Joining forces with the Italians in this respect must have been like grabbing for a life-west filled with lead. I remember so well the endless attempts I made some twenty-five years ago to bring some life into a 1957 Lambretta together with my cousin. We never made it...

Sic transit gloria mundi... In today's brand centered economy, a re-launch is maybe not impossible after all... ? Just like with Triumph, maybe we'll see some decent quality Lambrettas in the future ?
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