It’s been almost two years since Audi bought the relatively small luxury bike manufacturer Ducati. Despite intense media speculation and dismissive talk of “trophy hunting” on the part of Audi (and by extension, umbrella owner Volkswagen), the last two years have seen Ducati’s fortunes rise to the point where they are pulling consistently better sales figures while still maintaining their unique brand identity.
The price tag of just over US$1 billion for Ducati might have made for a good headline at the time in April 2012 but compared to the revenues of VW’s 11 group brands (Ducati made 12) such a figure was trivial. Industry analysts pondered long and hard about the benefits that Audi and its parent company could expect to gain in the face of such a relatively tiny acquisition.
Theories were touted and promptly debunked in quick succession. Were Audi trying to compete with BMW in a non-linear fashion by getting into the motorbike business? Perhaps, but it would be a trivial side show compared to the main business of auto sales. Were they after Ducati’s engine technology? No, the size, scale and nature of Audi’s operations made such a matchup unlikely to put it mildly.
It seemed for a time that no hugely compelling reason could be found and that the real reason was grounded in pride rather than logic. At the time, Christoph Stuermer told Business Week that the Ducati purchase was strategically insignificant for Audi:
“Its revenue is more than Lamborghini’s and Bugatti’s combined, but to the automotive operations, it’s a mere accessory.”
Another analyst went even further, saying: “The purchase does have a trophy feel to it, in the sense of something you might mount up on the wall next to the stag you shot last year.”
However, even though a relatively short period of time has passed, the firm but encouraging hand of Audi has already translated into a more invigorated Ducati. It has continued to innovate and push the performance envelope even further with the latest editions to its motorbike range. Like Lamborghini before it, Ducati remains a luxury brand that has benefitted from the support and resources of the VW group but hasn’t been watered down or stymied by the takeover.
Not only does Ducati continue to impress with the technical capabilities of its bike technology, it has even managed to produce healthier sales figures since Audi’s takeover. December last year was an absolute bombshell of a month as the Ducati 899 Panigale managed to become the best selling bike in the UK, outselling bikes and scooters that were a mere fifth of its asking price.
Granted, December is traditionally a quiet month for bike sales but the fact that the so-called “Ferrari of bikes” managed to outsell any other model on the market speaks volumes of the desirability of the product twinned with its sound marketing support which has been forthcoming from its parent company
If the last two years are any indicator of things to come, then we look forward to seeing Ducati stride onwards to greater success under the guidance of Audi.
Photo Credit: Audi USA on Flickr