Why Audi Bought Ducati: Ambition and Obsession

The automotive word and the motorbike manufacturing business are oftentimes completely unrelated. Yes, both cars and bikes use engines and transmissions to send power to the road via rubber contact, but that’s about it. In fact, bike building market leader Honda has two completely different logos, one for its auto business and another for its two-wheelers.
Duati Streetfighter 1 photo
Photo: Ducati
But somehow, German luxury automaker Audi ended up buying Italian sportsbike maker Ducati in a deal that’s reportedly worth €860 million ($1.12 billion). But why?

Certainly the numbers don’t add up. Last year, Ducati only sold 42,000 bikes and generated revenue almost half of what Audi is paying for the company. What’s more VW Group is rumored to invest another billion or so in boosting the struggling Italian firm. That sound like a money pit to us, but cash-rich Audi is not in it for the money, but for the prestige.

The reality of the industrial world we live in is that $1 billion is play money for VW Group, who now owns 12 brand in total if you also count Porsche. Their revenue is off the charts, so the only issue now is what they need Ducati for.

The gearhead in us is tempted to just say that this is about engineering related to small engines. At first glance, Ducati has engines that make 200 hp per liter, while the auto world can’t even get that with turbos. However, BMW has both a motorcycle and a car division and they never managed to swap. Also, part of Honda’s current misfortunes come from the fact that they’ve stuck with their rev-happy four-cylinder units far to long when the industry and buyers favor turbo torque.

On a personal note, we don’t think any Audi A3 will ever want to change at over 5,000 rpm, replace his oil, filter and chain drive every spring or do an engine rebuild... ever.

All that’s left from this deal is pride and marketing, not money making and certainly not technology!

Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech has alway had a soft spot for the Italian bike builder. Most analysts speculate that Audi’s move to buy Ducati is a result of Piech’s failure to do the same for half the money some years ago.

However, you can’t just go ahead and call this madness. A better word would be “pet project”. Audi wants to become the world’s largest luxury automaker by the end of the decade and the fact that BMW had the Motorrad division has been a thorn in their corporate backs.

Will Ducati help with that? No, not really!

While BMW motorcycles enjoy the same badging and some corporate identity, the Italians are unlikely to swop their badges for Audi ones. This is going to be a little pet project, like Lamborghini. If Ducatis will keep making you feel special inside, Audi will be happy with that!

Analysts have questioned the wisdom of this acquisitions, but we see it differently. If a giant plucked a tree and swallowed it whole just for the apples on it, you’d think that tasted bad, but for the giant there really wasn’t much a taste at all. VW and Audi are that giant, and they are in a gobbling mood.
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About the author: Mihnea Radu
Mihnea Radu profile photo

Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
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