Why Small-Displacement Ducati Bikes Is Not Such a Blasphemous Idea

Two days ago I told you about Ducati's mystery bike announced to be available for press testing later this fall and promised you I'd be back with another piece on the matter.
What bike Ducati plans to show to the press is anyone's guess, and the possibilities are quite numerous. From the addition of the DVT Multistrada engine to the line-up to small-displacement rumors, anything goes.

However, knowing that CEO Claudio Domenicali said that a "Ducati scooter is not a blasphemous thing" earlier in March, I took the liberty to explore the small-displacement future of Borgo Panigale, of course, in a purely speculative way. So here we go...

Why small-displacement bikes?

The answer is as simple as it is obvious: small-displacement bikes are easier to sell because they are cheaper. Bikes that are cheaper to get, cheaper to run and maintain but aren't "cheap" are a real treasure. And if they come with the badge of a prestigious manufacturer, all the better!

The economic crisis has turned the worldwide markets upside down, and with people having less money (as an average) to spend, their consumer habits also shifted. They've become much more aware on what they spend hard-earned money. Simply going for the more expensive, high-performance machine in the lot is no longer the first thought.

And while in the US motorcycles are more of a social status symbol, European customers are really using the hell out of their bikes, so making a wise choice became even more important, because of everyday use and a more complex maintenance routine. Where bikes are first a functional vehicle and only then a matter of status, efficiency for each buck spent is paramount.

With the almost mythical allure of Ducati machinery, small-displacement bikes proudly displaying Borgo Panigale's badge could be a hit in both premium and developing markets.

Modern small-displacement bikes can also go very fast

Ducati stands as one of the makers that helped build the two-wheeled sports universe, but modern technology has come a long way from the early days of road racing.

Current 300cc-class bikes almost tap into the 200 km/h (124 mph) zone, and this is, regardless of ANY claims, way more than enough for everyday riding. Not even those who claim that this isn't enough can support their claim. Just ask them how often they get to ride in the highest gear at the red line and you'll quickly agree with me.

Top-notch fuel injection and engine management system made small-displacement bikes fast and fuel-efficient, perfectly suitable for both the stop-and-go traffic in busy urban or sub-urban areas and fast highway hauls, alike.

Speed is a non-issue, at least this is how I honestly feel. Those who want to drag knees around circuit bends and go past 300 km/h (186 mph) in a straight line will simply go for a liter-class superbike. Nobody forces them to ride a small bike, and their big-bore beasts have nothing to lose from having smaller siblings in the dealership.

Ducati knows how to build bikes that are fast, maneuverable AND thrilling, and this knowledge would effortlessly be passed to the small bikes, if they decided to make any.

Bigger makers eye the small-displacement bike segment and there's nothing shameful to that

Frankly, if anyone believes that manufacturing small-displacement bikes and scooters has something shameful or dishonoring to it, I dare say they're just nincompoops, to keep things on the mild side.

Unfortunately, I happen to know some guys with similar ideas, so there might be a (fortunately) small group of people who desconsider small bikes and scooters. Luckily, they are a very small minority, and no manufacturer is listening to their nonsense.

When giants such as Harley-Davidson or BMW decided to take small displacement bikes seriously, I doubt that anyone sitting at the board meeting felt ashamed. Au contraire, they rather understood that the small-displacement segment has a strong growth potential and stated to find the best and most profitable way to tap it.

Saying that a maker adding small-displacement bikes to its line-up is somehow influencing its prestige is dumb. It's like saying the R1 is all of a sudden lousy because Yamaha decided to make the R3.

There's nothing wrong with small-displacement bikes as long as the maker doesn't cut corners to the point where the smaller machines have nothing in common with the traditional values of the brand.

Small-displacement doesn't mean lousy

It's not uncommon to associate small-displacement motorcycles with crappy, low-tech manufacturing. That is most likely because of some manufacturers that have nothing to do with standards like those Ducati works with.

Surely, making a ton of compromises and cutting corners in a barbaric way will definitely deliver a motorcycle that simply cannot retain any of the character its bigger siblings are adored for.

Truth be told, Harley’s smaller Street bikes are on the brink of lousiness in terms of materials being used, while in terms of technology, they seem to fair much better. This will unnerve some H-D fans, but their frowning won't change reality. The Street machines only have H-D-inspired lines and bear some badges, but they are as far as it gets from the image Milwaukee promotes.

It was not in vain that I mentioned the Yamaha R3, as I was surprised to meet a bike that looked and felt much better than I (gloomily) anticipated. A very good proof that cheaper and smaller doesn't necessarily have to involve shittier materials, poorer finishes and all.

Certain concessions must be made, for the sake of price competitiveness, but Ducati are just too proud and too experienced in delivering stunning machines to surface a crappy bike.

Expanding the line-up with smaller bikes in fact ADDS to a brand's notoriety instead of blemishing it

If (or should I use "when") one of the world's best-known manufacturers decides to expand the offer with the addition of small-displacement bikes, this is usually a sign that it is doing quite well. Growth is a sign of health in 99.99% of cases, and this means that the company is evolving.

Their bikes will reach more markets, generating more profit and exposure, fueling the development of better technologies and higher-performing bikes.

Attracting new customers is a good thing, as long as the identity of the company remains unaltered and sufficient resources are being directed in carrying on delivering the bikes that made it famous.

Some argued that the Scrambler, becoming one of Ducati's MVPs and the best-selling bike in Italy, might have a negative impact in the development of the other models. While this possibility cannot be ruled out completely, at least for the sake of "never say never," it's almost impossible to believe that Ducati will allow such changes to take place.

The Borgo Panigale maker is faring better by the year, and I believe that a bold move in the small-displacement segment would be an interesting option aimed at growing the operations.

While this is all purely speculative, the trends in the market seem to favor such directions of development. Time will tell, anyway.
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram

Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories