EICMA 2015: Exclusive Interview with Stefano Tarabusi, Ducati XDiavel Product Manager

After a wait of at least 30 minutes, we finally found the right man to speak to at the Ducati booth in Milan. While at first we thought that a PR guy would be there, we were delighted to find out that we were in front of Stefano Tarabusi, Ducati XDiavel product manager. An espresso shot later, we hit the record button...
2016 Ducati XDiavel 2 photos
Photo: Florin Tibu
Stefano Tarabusi, Ducati XDiavel product manager
autoevolution: Well, Stefano, what are your expectations for the all-new XDiavel?

Stefano Tarabusi: The new Diavel is a big challenge for us, probably the biggest challenge this year. However, we at Ducati love challenges and this bike is a great opportunity for us.

We are entering for the first time a new segment for us, the cruiser segment. It is the biggest in the world and has a great importance for the motorcycle industry both in the US and in Europe, or Australia.

ae: Why the XDiavel?
ST: We wanted to enter this new segment with our own "voice" and our unique product. We believe that the XDiavel will be a recognizable motorcycle even if the segment itself is full of bikes that are easily recognizable.

ae: Some say that the XDiavel was engineered to chew a bit from the cake Harley-Davidson V-Rod is enjoying at the moment. Is this so?
ST: Well, to be honest, we really do believe that the XDiavel is something completely different from anything else that's out there on the market.

If you judge in terms of big categories, the XDiavel can be considered as being very close to the V-Rod, the V-MAX or other muscle bikes. But if you look at the bike, you see that things are different, both from a technical point of view and from an aesthetic point of view.

On the tech side, the XDiavel is a machine that has nothing to do with anything else this segment can offer now. When it comes to aesthetics, the design of this bike is so unique, so different from anything else.

It's a real Ducati. On one side, we wanted to create a real cruiser with forward controls, belt final drive, an engine that is very torquey and so predictable at low rpm and fun even at slow speed. On the other side, this is an authentic Ducati, exclusive and unique. You can recognize that this is a Ducati by looking at it alone, with the tank badge covered.

The XDiavel is loaded with all the electronics packages that you could ever desire, plus top-end power, leaning angle, cornering performance, and everything.

ae: This is the second Ducati that uses the DVT power plant. Will there be other bikes that make use of the Dual Valve Timing Engine or the principle behind it?
ST: The DVT is perfect for our desmodromic valvetrain, these two make a great couple. The marriage between these two is a game-changing experience. Our traditional engines were performing very well when revved, they were perfect engines for the track.

But for the road, in normal conditions of low speed and rpm, these engines were not too friendly. But THIS DVT really changes everything; it changed the Multistrada, and it will change the XDiavel even more.

ae: Please tell us why.
ST: First of all, the CVT technology allows us to technically obtain a whole new engine. The XDiavel's engine may seem similar to that of the current Diavel, but its torque response is completely different. Revving the engine low yields massive amounts of torque, with the top value already reached at 5,000 revs.

With a normal Ducati engine, these values are reached at 7,500 rpm, but in XDiavel's case, things are different. The engine produces 72.3 lb-ft (98 Nm) of torque at 2,000 rpm already, slowly growing towards 5,000 rpm and then remaining flat.

ae: So you believe that someone can ride the XDiavel to work, on a regular basis?
ST: Absolutely! This was one of the objectives, delivering a bike that can also feel nice and confident in a parade, at slow speed, straight line, providing a relaxed ride.

For this you need an engine that is smooth in the lower rpm, allowing the rider to not be overly focused on struggling to keep things under control, thus enjoying the ride more. This bike is just fine for everyday use, its adjustable architecture makes it very comfortable for the rider.

The passenger was not forgotten, either, as we added the pillion seat and the special-design backrest as part of the standard package.

ae: How about luggage, will the XDiavel receive any storage accessories?
ST: Of course it will. We think that accessories, both aesthetic and functional are very important in the cruiser world. In fact, we already have prepared the first add-ons in the form of taller windshields and a tank bag. Next come the saddlebags, they ARE a must.

ae: Can we expect an XDiavel Touring version?
ST: We are not planning to replicate the traditional recipe with the XDiavel, so there will not be a dedicate "touring pack." We will offer a lot of accessories sold independently so that riders can get only what interests them the most. A full touring accessory range will be available but not in kits.

ae: Well, how about the D-Air airbag system. Some rumors see the XDiavel incorporating this technology, too...
ST: We have high hopes for this technology and believe that it represents the future, but so far, it comes at a very high cost because of how advanced it is.

So far we only have it on the superbikes and the Multistrada, but the main idea is to extend the D-Air option to the entire range. Just like the ABS, we think it's fundamental.

ae: So we can expect Ducati to offer airbag technology as an accessory for more models? Say, if one buys a new Monster 1200R, will he or she be able to have it equipped with D-Air airbags ex-works or retrofitted?
ST: This is our target, but the high costs are preventing us from adapting this technology to all the bikes. Everybody knows that our core products are the superbikes - super-power, high performance, but we cannot live off that solely.

Still, technology and performance are not enough, and we have to offer safety and emissions-compliant products. The road to follow is not only about looking for the top performance. We have to take care of safety and emissions issues, as well as fuel efficiency.

ae: The Monster range and the Scrambler are selling quite well for Ducati. Will they receive cutting-edge technology?
ST: We first develop the most advanced technologies for our top-of-the-line models, and then, as the costs are getting lower, we gradually introduce some of this technology in the rest of the bikes, to various degrees.

ae: Some say that the XDiavel is ugly and unnecessarily evil. Are you planning to transform more Ducati bikes this way or it is only an XDiavel thing? I guess you agree with me in saying that the XDiavel IS a radical bike, more radical than the base Diavel, which isn't exactly tame, either.
ST: Well, Ducati is not such a big company in the motorcycle industry, so being unique, individual and easily recognizable are key aspects of our business. In order to make our voice heard in the business, we have to be unique, to stand out from the crowd.

No matter what roads we follow, we at Ducati have a fundamental value - beauty. Radical as some bikes may seem, they remain sexy and beautiful, and this is our target. Any real Ducati can be recognized without looking at the tank badge, and the XDiavel makes no difference.

It is obviously radical, but it is new, unique and recognizable. We even ran panel tests without badges, and the subjects responded that even if they did not see such a motorcycle before, they believed it was a Ducati. This means we are on the right track.

ae: This year, Ducati passed a historic milestone, already selling more than 50,000 units, and the year is still running. How much does Audi have to say in this? Is there anything you "imported" from them?
ST: At the moment, the answer is no. Audi trusts us completely, and said "we know that you are good at what you do, and we have full faith in you." They did not buy a brand, they bought a complete, fully-grown company, with its own design center, R&D department and all.

They really believe in our potential, and that's why there are no Audi guys in the R&D or design departments of Ducati. They never felt like we needed guidance at this level, and the current state of things proves this.

ae: Is there any particular secret behind your sales increase this year?
ST: I believe the secret is called "coherence." We were very careful to avoid doing things that were not good for Ducati, and this gives the brand a lot of strength.

We have also introduced the new Scrambler brand, a rather smart move. We wanted something different, yet still a Ducati, but could not do this under the same "roof." Ducati still stands for exclusiveness, high performance, sophistication, and premium vibe, so we chose a brand endorsement.

The Scrambler is something completely different, but a product that still adheres to the core values of Ducati. Is it a new product? Yes. Is it coherent with what we do? Definitely yes.

The same goes, in a way, with the XDiavel, because this is an entirely new direction we are following. Still, the XDiavel keeps within the same style-sophistication-performance paradigm.

ae: The smaller Scrambler is one of the newest addition to the line-up, and it surely looks like a very appealing choice for the young demographic that can't afford to spend too much on a bike. Are you as thrilled as BMW with the small-displacement machine?
ST: Small displacement bikes have a clear target, and that is young people. They want a bike that is affordable, fun, easy to ride, and which is still as Ducati as any other Ducati.

Likewise, the small Scrambler is the everyday bike, with lower maintenance costs and good mileage, still with a desmodromic engine, so we can definitely talk about coherence. It's different, but still a Ducati.

ae: Are there any plans for smaller bikes? Mr. Domenicali said that "Ducati scooters are not blasphemy," so the media interpreted his words as a hint that we might get to see such machines in the future.
ST: I will be honest, so I can tell you that we are not closing any doors, as long as the bikes that the future might bring are coherent with the brand. Technically, we could enter even more segments, as long as the products follow the style-sophistication-performance rule.

ae: And how about small-displacement sport bikes?
ST: Haha, there are limits about that, you know? I just can't say everything I know. However, I can tell you that we analyzed what the younger people want in a Ducati, and it looks like the current trend follows the lines of self-expression and customization opportunities. They just don't seem to be that interested in small-displacement high-performance machines.

ae: Ducati also seems to steer clear from the dwindling supersport (600cc) section, delivering bigger displacement bikes complemented by small ones. The EU licensing regulations take their toll on the 100 hp machines beginning riders are no longer allowed to ride.
ST: I strongly believe that if you want top performance, you need displacement. Performance is directly influenced by advanced technology, so you either wait until being of legal age for this, or settle for something else.

ae: More manufacturers upped their bike's displacement lately, and there are even rumors that the Hayabusa might receive a bigger engine. Will the Panigale grow even more regarding cc's?
ST: Haha, there are limits also for that! But I guess we are where we need to be, the level of performance is so high for street bikes, and the displacement of our top motorcycles is already big...

ae: Any particular expectations for the next year?
ST: Hmm, I guess we can expect Ducati's sales to grow at a steady rate. We now have bikes in almost all the segments, so I can expect that the company will do better in 2016 and beyond, thanks to adding the three new models, the Scrambler 400, Multistrada Enduro and the XDiavel.

We have top-drawer products in all the segments we are present in, and possibly the highest expectations come from the XDiavel. The bike is so different from everything else, and its uniqueness will be appreciated.

ae: The US is one of Ducati's strongest markets, how do you think the XDiavel will be received across the pond? The typical American cruiser customer is not that much of a modern bike fan. Call it conservativeness or whatever you like, but the XDiavel may be too much for them.
ST: You want my most honest answer? We are VERY curious about that, too. We did our best and are convinced that the XDiavel is an amazing bike that stands from the crowd. We are not offering a V-Rod substitute, because nobody can beat Harley at their game in their own market.

We bring a completely different offer, that introduces a new powercruiser concept, and we'll just have to see how it fares.

Mr. Tarabusi has also revealed that in Europe, the XDiavel will arrive in dealerships in February, with the North American markets receiving it with a two-month delay. Definitely it's once more game on in the powercruiser world, and you can follow the link to see more Ducati XDiavel live photos.
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