The convergence of the car and the motorcycle we forecast last year looks set to continue with the first public showing today at EICMA 2010 in Milan of a range of three and four wheeled scooters by Italian start-up Quadro. The start-up is particularly exciting because the company is to be run by Luciano Marabese, the man who designed both the Piaggio MP3 three-wheeled scooter and the Yamaha Tesseract four-wheeled motorcycle shown in 2007. The new machines will use an hydraulic tilting system patented by Marabese. In 2011 we’ll see the 350cc three-wheeled Quadro and later in the year, a 500cc four-wheeler. The four-wheeled motorcycle will evolve into a full family of supersports, hybrid, electric and off-road models, offering better braking, faster cornering and more safety and stability than a motorcycle.

Quadro Tecnologie is not your average start-up, as it’s a family company headed by Luciano Marabese. Over the last few decades, Marabese’s design company has worked on more than 450 different design projects in the motorcycle marketplace, working for the likes of Vespa, Piaggio, Moto Guzzi, Aprilia, Gilera, Triumph and Yamaha. Marabese designed the Tesseract for Yamaha and the MP3 for Piaggio.

Marabese is obviously delighted to finally be making the transition from being a designer working under the direction of a manufacturer, to becoming the final arbiter of the finished product. His personal statement to the press at the announcement of the new company read as follows: “The highest expression for a designer is certainly to conceive products with a strong impact on the market. Certainly I have received both critiques and praises throughout my career in design. Many times my ideas were adjusted according to the perceived needs of major clients. As of today, there will be no more compromises in vision!

“Thanks to a team of people that believes in me and in my ideas, the projects I have been working on for years are becoming concrete.

“Today I have the opportunity of enjoying the appreciation of my ideas first hand without an intermediary who may dilute the pleasure of seeing in people's eyes the same dream that I have been chasing for so long. A new line of vehicles that will better suit people’s lifestyles is my dream and it is becoming reality.” Luciano Marabese

Marabese’s plans are for a suite of Quadro machinery with the first three and four wheeled machines launching in 2011 and a full line of vehicles to be released between 2011 and 2014.

As the designer of both the Paiggio MP3 and Yamaha Tesseract, Marabese has obviously been able to take on board the feedback of the manufacturers to create a second generation tilting system which the company claims has been ten years in development. Marabese’s Hydraulic Tilting System (HTS) is an entirely hydraulic technology, does not involve any electronic systems in the process (making maintenance easier and less frequent), and will be used on all three- and four-wheeled vehicles in the Quadro Suite.

Ultimately, the impact of Marabese’s bold decision to create his own company will be judged by the marketplace, but his designs seem to be tailor-made to overcome the problems the world faces on its roads. The European motorcycle industry is currently in crisis because the Global Financial Crisis has effectively thwarted economic growth and consumer confidence. It has without doubt, also failed to recognise that it has been selling to the same target market over and over and that tastes and circumstances change.

The world is running out of space on its roads, and over the next few decades, we’ll all be forced to seriously reconsider our personal transport options as point-to-point times continue to increase on public roads. Vehicles of the future will be smaller in size, and the extra stability that three or four wheels on a motorcycle-sized commuter offers will almost certainly become a major factor in purchasing decisions.

In Europe, Piaggio’s three-wheeled MP3 scooter has been one of the success stories of the last few years. Over the last few months Gizmag’s editor-in-chief Noel McKeegan and I have attended events in Germany, Holland and France we often commented on the number of MP3s we saw on the roads. Since its initial introduction by Piaggio just four years ago the ultra-stable, sweet-handling three-wheeler has been released in 125 cc, 250 cc, 400 cc and 500 cc versions plus a hybrid 125 cc plus electric and a new 300cc version with electric was shown for the first time a month ago at Intermot in Koln.

The advantages of a four wheeled motorcycle may not be obvious but with twice as much contact between tyre and road at each end, the degree of traction is at least doubled, and hence cornering speed can be significantly increased, while braking distances can be significantly reduced. On top of that, the types of road surface irregularities which could mean a crash on a two-wheeler (tram lines, potholes, curbs, cobblestones etc) are not nearly as significant when traction is being shared with another wheel not in contact with the tramline or pothole. Also, many countries allow three- and four-wheeled devices to be driven using a car licence rather than the motorcycle licence.

The first Quadro to become available to the public will be t he EUR7000 (approx US$ 9800) 350cc three-wheeled Quadro 3D which is very similar to and will be a direct competitor to Piaggio’s MP3 family of scooters when it goes on sale next April.

The 500cc EUR9000 (US$12,600) four-wheeler 4D is due towards the end of next year (2011) and is much closer in layout to the stunning Yamaha Tesseract prototype shown at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2007.

The 3D three-wheeler will produce slightly less than 20 kW, with a weight of less than 200 kg. The hydraulic system that drives the front wheels makes it possible to lower the center of gravity about 40% compared to Piaggio's MP3.

The four-wheeled 4D will arrive in late 2011 and the tilting system used on the 3D is also applied to the pair of rear wheels with the torque controlled by a differential. The 4D will have a top speed of around 150 km/h from a new single cylinder of 500 cc producing around 40 horsepower and the weight will be less than 240 kg.

The 4D will sell for around EUR 9,000.