The post-Dieselgate crisis that stormed the VW Group has kept Audi-owned Ducati on a roller coaster. For about two years, a “for sale” sign was cyclically put on and then taken off the factory’s main gate of the Bologna-based make.
Many factors generated a sequence of contradictory events or, more appropriately, hypothesis about the best use the group could make of Ducati, its non-automotive component that many on the board regarded as non-strategic.
Ducati was incorporated into Audi in 2012 after CEO Ferdinand Piech decided the desmo make would be a perfect gift for his 75th birthday. When Dieselgate implied a big financial loss, the board considered selling both Ducati and MAN Diesel & Turbo to fill the hole.
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Four-cylinder superbike represents a radical turning point for the Italian motorcycle manufacturer.
After Piech lost power, Ducati become disposable. It was unofficially put on the market for 1.5 billion euros. Therein lay the first objection: Although that amount exceeded VW’s initial investment, it would barely scratch the expected 25 billion euro Dieselgate outlay.
Potential buyers nevertheless lined up at the gate: Investments Bank Evercore, SIAC from China, and Hero Motor from India. Former owner Andrea Bonomi’s Investindustrial and American brands Harley-Davidson and Polaris were also alleged to show interest.
New VW Group CEO Matthias Muller was determined to reduce bureaucracy and cut costs while launching a radical program of electrification of the VW model range. His efficient policy slashed costs by about 10 billion euros—a positive sign for Ducati.
As a result, Ducati was allowed to remain under the Audi wing; even the powerful German IG Metall unions opposed the sale of the brand. But shortly after that decision, SIAC and Bajaj resurfaced, along with a very credible Italian group: Benetton.
Ducati’s destiny remained in the balance on a tightrope until this past December, when current Audi CEO Rupert Stadler confirmed that the idea of selling Ducati had been completely canceled. This, he said, is final.
That the Panigale V4 had already received a green light from Audi top management should have signaled to all involved that the situation had reached a significant turning point. And with that ends yet another Italian comedy.