The need to expand automotive brands while improving fuel economy is driving automakers to some interesting lengths of late. From GM future concepts that have more in common with a Segway than a Cruze, to Honda’s U-3X and Chrysler’s ill-fated PeaPod, automakers are sending strong hints that the future will be smaller and decidedly less car-like. And MINI and Smart recently took this trend to its logical conclusion, each announcing that they would build (or, more precisely, re-brand) scooters… or as they call them, “alternative mobility concepts.” Which raises the question: what’s a scooter brand to do? Well, Piaggio, maker of the Vespa and other scooter-based “alternative mobility concepts” isn’t going to just drone off into that good night, and it’s fighting back by creating an “alternative” to its core scooter products: a four wheeled car-like “mobility concept.”
Autocar reports that the Piaggio Ape-based NT-3 was unveiled at the Milan Motorcycle Show (and hey, MINI and Smart showed their scooters at the Paris Auto Show, so who’s to judge?), as a future Tata Nano-fighter. The three-seater, 300cc city car is being targeted at the Indian market, with production planned for the 2013 timeframe. But they’d better get a move on before their core scooter business gets eaten up by auto brands with nothing better to do.