When venerable Volkswagen patriarch Ferdinand Piëch issued invitations to his 75th birthday party at Taschenberg Palace in Dresden three years ago, Ducati brand had just been added to the company.
The Italian firm, long Mr. Piëch’s favorite two-wheeler brand and sometimes called the Ferrari of motorcycles, was purchased by Volkswagen’s automotive subsidiary Audi for an estimated €860 million, or $962 million.
Since then, Audi and Ducati have been emphasizing their high esteem for each other. But last year, sales figures for Bologna-based Ducati remained flat at about 45,000 units. And the operative margin that Audi released for Ducati, namely four percent, was significantly under the carmaker’s own margins. Even worse, motorcycle competitors BMW of Germany and Harley-Davidson of the United States recently achieved margins of more than 20 percent.
Ducati’s performance is supposed to change dramatically this year. “We expect to sell more than 50,000 units,” Ducati chief executive Claudio Domenicali told Handelsblatt. That would be a plus of more than 10 percent and a record for the brand from Bologna, which will celebrate its 90th anniversary this coming year.
How well Ducati motorcycles are selling is evident in the just-released figures for the first half year: 32,600 were sold, a rise of 22 percent in relation to last year. In Germany, which the country’s Motorcycle Industrial Association president Heiner Faust likes to call the “Big Bike Republic” because of its preference for large, heavy, powerful motorcycles, the increase was 24 percent. Market leader BMW sold five times as many motorcycles as Ducati, which was eighth in the rankings.
“The margin that we are aiming at in the next five years lies between eight and 10 percent,” said Mr. Domenicali, 49, who has been at the company since 1991 and now, with Audi, is witnessing its fourth owner. He said one should take Ducati’s margin with a grain of salt. Because of additional, scheduled depreciation allowances because of the revaluation of assets and debts in the framework of purchase-price allocation, Audi calculated a margin of 4 percent. Without these special factors, the margin ― according to Ducati’s reading ― was 8.2 percent.