By on March 13, 2012

When I started working for (not at) Volkswagen in the 70s, they talked about adding many brands, all the way “from MAN trucks to a motorcycle.” 40 years later, Volkswagen finally has MAN. And it might soon have that motorcycle wish fulfilled.

German media, from Financial Times Deutschland all the way to Das Handelsblatt report that Volkswagen might soon be adding Italy’s Ducati to its sprawling empire. Emperor Ferdinand Piech has a special affinity to the brand: He used to ride a Ducati 1098R. The deal could happen soon: Volkswagen has  an option to buy which expires in April, says  the Financial Times Deutschland, and the price might be €850 million, plus an assumption of $800 million in debt. Ducati would be bought by Audi, Volkswagen’s unit for (see Lamborghini) Italian properties.

If they add Ducati, another long-cherished Wolfsburg wish would be fulfilled: Volkswagen would finally have its twelve brands.

Another German maker would have to say good-bye to Duacti: Daimler. Daimler and Ducati had a loose alliance. However, Ducatis showed up at Daimler booths at most larger auto shows, fueling fantasies of a takeover.

On the other hand, Volkswagen had been rumored many times before as a suitor for Ducati. Well, it took some 40 years to finally snag MAN.

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16 Comments on “Volkswagen Wants Ducati...”


  • avatar
    Franz K

    Errrrrrr…….. where you guys ( TTAC ) been ?

    This one’s already beyond viral and so much yesterdays news the jokes are already flying hot and heavy on the subject .

    e.g. What do you get when you cross Audi with Ducati ? (A) A motorcycle with the engine ahead of the front wheel , that understeers like a pig and has zero steering feel , is unreliable , lacking in durability and the only thing worse than the break downs is the Abysmal Customer Service ( Audi ) you’ll receive when calling in a complaint

    Suffice it to say this merger as far as future lousy reliability is concerned is only superseded by the Chrysler / FIAT match up .

    Not to mention VW-Audi now absorbing ( according to the Italian press ) another Billion or so €’s in debt to add to their already staggering tally , assuming they go ahead with the purchase .

    Also as a correction , having confirmed this myself . Daimler -Benz-AMG never had ANY intentions of investing into Ducati , but was only interested in the marketing tie in which has proven less than productive .

    I’ll place my prognostication and hopes here that I’ve been saying for over a year and a half ( mainly on CAR’s site )

    VW-Audi is heading for a major league fall , what with their Debt to Profit ratios , poor acquisitions of late that are losing them Billions ( Bugatti Bentley Lamborghini as well as Skoda and SEAT ) their egomaniacal attempts to become # 1 in everything , as well as Piech’s recent spout of Nepotism naming his Wife ( very bad move ) to the VW board ( y’all missed that story as well TTAC )

    So I’ll hope VW-Audi decides against buying Ducati ( to keep Duc out of the impending storm ) as well as Porsche finding a way to divorce themselves from the Evil Empire VW-Audi .

    This is gonna get real ugly . Just you wait and see ;-)

    • 0 avatar
      GS650G

      Is VW doing what GM did by buying their way to bigger?

      • 0 avatar
        friedclams

        GS650G! I know you’re a motorcyclist, like me… doesn’t this news make you sick? Arrrgh! Imagine if Suzuki motorcycles got bought by Hyundai. The sacred being purchased by the profane.

      • 0 avatar
        Fusion

        No. The last acquisition by VW that actually “made it bigger” (i.e. increased their volume by a meaningful amount) was Seat in the beginning of the 90s – two decades ago. Since then they bought two heavy-truckmakers and two luxury niche brands – which are all profitable at least when the cyclical nature of those businesses allows them to. Porsche and Suzuki could be seen as volume additions, but Suzuki is on a standstill (for now). Porsche also is still the most profitable carmaker on this planet – so buying a stake in them hardly seems like a mistake…

        The real, significant growth VW has seen in recent years (in terms of volume) is organic growth by the VW brand, the Skoda brand and the Audi brand.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        I think you mean Skoda

    • 0 avatar
      Fusion

      The fact that you have been doing your forecasts for some time and yet, reality develops into the opposite direction hasn’t given you something to think about? ;)

      But lets start:

      Skoda has been very profitable for at least a decade by now, not “losing millions”. Bentley has been profitable in good years and losing money in bad years. Lamborghini numbers are included in Audi, but the reported numbers also state that they were very profitable in the years up to (and including) 2008, and losing money afterwards. No numbers have been given for 2011.

      The VW debt is that high because their balance sheet includes a financial arm that, among other things, includes a full service bank. Banks are, by their nature, highly leveraged and their debt usually consists of “financial debt”. In fact for a bank, VW bank has a relative high equity/total liabilities ratio of >10%.

      If you look at the whole company, VW’s ratio of equity to total liabilities (or total assets) is almost the same as GM’s (25% to 26%), even though GM does not have a meaningful financial arm anymore. VW’s automotive sector is at 35%. To compare – Ford, including its financial arm, is at 8.5%.

  • avatar
    Robert Gordon

    “Volkswagen would finally have its twelve brands.”

    I count nine or ten depending on whether you count VW commercial as a separate brand. Whats the eleventh?

    • 0 avatar
      Fusion

      The eleventh would be Ducati, I am assuming Bertel is counting Porsche. Which isn’t correct as of now…

      EDIT: Oh, through MAN VW now also owns a piece of Sinotruk (I think they are a brand), but I don’t think they count them. I also believe MAN only has 25%+1 of that Joint Venture.

      • 0 avatar

        Porsche has its flag in front of the headquarters building in Wolfsburg, it is part of the Volkswagen Group display at major autoshows, its management and board is filled with Volkswagen people. For all intents and purposes, it is counted as the 11th brand. Let’s call it a common law marriage.

      • 0 avatar
        Fusion

        The flag part isn’t correct if the VW group webpage is to be believed (see here: http://www.volkswagenag.com/content/vwcorp/content/en/the_group.html ). That seems to be a current picture, considering MAN is on it…

        VW themselves don’t consider Porsche a VW group brand as of now. Reality might be different, though Porsche and VW have very recently complained about legal problems in working together (due to it only being a common law marriage… ;))

  • avatar
    someclevername

    I own a Ducati (m1100 evo) and I have to say this purchase wouldn’t bother me in the slightest. As long as Ducati is free to follow their own path and keep pushing out quality like they do then having a parent with deep pockets is a good thing. Hopefully then they wouldn’t have to engage in any more crass branding excercises like the AMG Diavel either, which is easily equivalent to the Breitling Bentley for us riders IMO.

    Of course I was raised in Europe, where VW is actually seen as reliable and loved, rather then the (undeserved IMO) bad rep it has over here.

  • avatar
    Syke

    As the former parts manager for Ducati Richmond, I really, really, really hope this is true. The last I was hearing was that some heavy industry conglomerate in India was looking at buying the company.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    Meh. Ducati is one of those high profile brands that has had a tepid financial history… think Leica cameras, Fender guitars, etc. The last season of MotoGP took a bit of luster of as well. It would do well for Ducati, but it seems like an acquisition for the hell of it for the VW group.

    One thing that mildly and improbably peaks my interest. Ducati used to work closely with Ferrari in designing their engines, Ferrari had more people to study combustion processes and chamber design. (Those l-twins are very oversquare, and I’d guess there was some contribution to the MotoGP program) Not sure if any of that applies= or matters,

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Diesel Ducati. 4 banger turbo Ducati w/40 HP, a 6000 RPM redline and a 600lb curb weight. 2WD gross understeering Ducati. “Ducati Edition” Up! FUCK. NO.

    Why does Duc need any help? They are a standalone bike company that has EARNED the chops to be considered BETTER than the likes of Big Red etc. Leave Ducati Alone!

  • avatar
    blowfish

    I guess Piech & Vee Dub wanna to build some desmodromic valved VW, Lambo, Bentley, Bugsgetty, Porsche et al.

    Should Ducati went to India it may sell like hot cakes just like JLR does now.


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