Innocenti had a sales winner on his hands and started to licence the design to other manufacturers around the world, so his scooter was soon on the roads of many continents. The scooter was a roaring success during the 1950s and 60s, however Western Europe was getting wealthier and buyers were upgrading to small cars from the major manufacturers. This meant that Innocenti started to see gradually reducing scooter sales.The company recognised the decline and did what they knew best – licencing, although the opposite to what they did in the 1950s. They licenced car designs from the British Motor Corporation. BMC and later BLMC saw the opportunity to build their cars in Italy and sell into FIAT’s backyard. So from 1960, Innocenti built the Austin A40 – an Italian design from Pininfarina – and the Issigonis designed Mini.
They also added the 1100 Spyder to the range – this was a restyled Austin Healey Sprite by Ghia. So by the mid 1960s, they were building several Austin or Morris models under licence.
In 1964, Innocenti developed a prototype sports car called the 186GT. It was fitted with a 1.8 litre Ferrari V6 producing around 160 hp. Sadly Innocenti died before it could be put into production which was a pity as it was a pretty sports car with hints of Aston amongst its design elements.
Innocenti’s son Luigi took over the company and by the mid 60s were seeing financial difficulties looming as scooter sales declined. In 1972, BLMC bought the company for £3M and set about manufacturing the Austin Allegro as the Innocenti Regent. The Allegro wasn’t a fabulous car no matter where it was made, despite being another Italian design from Guigario – probably one of his least successful designs – and it drove the subsidiary further into financial trouble, so after a short 3 year stint BLMC sold the company to De Tomaso who added it to his stable of marques.
De Tomaso created the Nuova Innocenti or New Innocenti and they contracted Bertone to design a body for the Mini mechanical components. This started out as the Innocenti Mini and very soon afterwards was renamed the Innocenti De Tomaso. The car was in production from 1974 through to 1982. This is the car that I most often associate with Innocenti – I remember seeing them on holidays in Italy during the late 1970s.
This car was renamed again to the 3C and was in production for 10 more years with a Daihatsu 3 cylinder engine replacing the British components. De Tomaso had an agreement to built limited edition Daihatsu’s so access to the engines was easy.
In 1990, De Tomaso sold Innocenti to FIAT who discontinued the 3C in 1993 and closed the factory. They used Innocenti as an importer of FIAT based cars into Italy. They put Innocenti badges on the cheaply built Zastava Yugo Koral made in Serbia, basically a FIAT 128 and the Brazilian made Elba, which was a FIAT Uno.
FIAT dropped the brand in 1996 although they still own the rights to the Innocenti name.
And what of the famous Lambretta scooters? Back in 1949, one of the licensees of the scooter was the Indian Government who manufactured them until the early 1970s. When the Innocenti family sold the car division and the Innocenti name to BLMC, they also sold the rights to the Lambretta brand and manufacturing tooling to SIL or Scooters India Limited. SIL has continued the licencing trend by selling licences in Korea, the US and many other countries. They have also licenced the brand name to clothing and watch making companies.