Adding credence to rumours spread last week, Audi officially announced Wednesday there is the new owner of Italian motorcycle company Ducati. Buying share holdings from Investindustrial the Canadian-based Hospitals of Ontario Pension Plan and BS Investimenti, the purchase of Ducati by Audi has been quoted to be in excess of 1.1 billion US dollars. In presenting this major acquisition, Chairman of the Board of Management of Audi AG Rupert Stadler declared, “As a sporty, global premium brand, Ducati is an excellent fit for Audi.”
In the announcement, Audi pinpoints several desirable attributes in the Ducati company that made the acquisition mutually beneficial for both companies. Citing Ducati’s knowledge of lightweight material and engineering, Audi has describe this information could offer great opportunities for future Audi and Volkswagen Group products. Audi has also been impressed by Ducati’s small engine technology and their utilization of a special combustion chamber process for creating sport power.
An Italian company founded in 1926 by Antonio Cavalieri Ducati and his sons, Ducati business was initially a producer of radio equipment. It was after the Second World War when the Ducati name would be associated with motorized bikes when they proceeded to assemble the Cucciolo in post-war Italy. Ducati swiftly expanded their product line-up to include higher performance motorcycles that would eventually blossom across Europe and overseas in the Americas. North American customers were introduced to the Ducati name with the Scrambler in 1962 where the company quickly assembled a following. Similar to many transportation-oriented companies, Ducati has been setting focus on growing in Asian markets. “Ducati has thrived with us as a result of the intensive industrial turnaround and the commercial push into new, fast-growing markets. We are convinced that the company will continue to provide a bright and rewarding future to its customers and employees in the very capable hands of Audi.” said Andrea C. Bonomi, Chairman of Investindustrial (the major outgoing owner of Ducati).
Part of the brand fostering efforts for Ducati has been a company’s prominent motorsport presence. Under the motorcycle manufacturer’s racing arm Ducati Corse, the company’s bikes propelled 14 FIM Superbike World Championship riders. Ducati in the FIM Superbike World Championship earned the yearly manufacturer title on a record 17 occasions including 2011. A Ducati also carried Australian rider Casey Stoner to a 2007 MotoGP title. Audi’s heavy involvement presently in motorsports should bode well for Ducati’s future in motorcycle racing accepting that the adage “Race on Sunday, sell on Monday” appears to be shared.
The pairing of Audi and Ducati might sound surreal to modern era fans of the four-ring badge. However, one of the four rings in Audi’s famous Auto Union emblem represents their historical connection to motorcycle construction. Under the DKW banner, Auto Union sold numerous varieties of two-wheeled motorcycles and scooters. After the Second World War, DKW were required to give up their designs to the very popular RT125 motorcycle to industries in ally nations including American company Harley-Davidson. Known as the Hummer in the United States, almost 32,000 motorbikes using the DKW design were produced by Harley-Davidson from 1948 until the mid-1960s (coincidently, the same time the DKW brand would be discontinued). The DKW RT125 would also influence motorbikes in Britain, Poland and Japan up to the 1980s.
Along with the DKW motorcycle history, Audi was also connected to a second foray into the two-wheel sector. In 1969, Audi’s parent company Volkswagen merged with NSU Motorenwerke AG that built cars and motorcycles. At one time itself a one of world’s largest motorcycle manufacturers during 1950s, NSU was a notable in motorsports. NSU had exited the motorcycle business in 1965 prior to the merger with VW Group.
Pending approval by the competition authorities, the inclusion of the Italian motorcycle builder with Audi is certainly going to present some unknowns for how the companies will collaborate over time. Will this acquisition lead to the presence of Ducati motorcycles on the showrooms of Audi dealerships? Could the small Ducati engines lend engine to a production-based interpretation of the Audi’s Urban Concept vehicle? The options seem wide open for where the newest joining of two and four wheels can lead.
Information and photo source: Audi AG, Ducati Motor Holding S.p.A.