The quintessential Italian manufacturer reaches new heights with German partner
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]f you sold Ducati’s back in the day, you may have been selling radios, vacuum tubes or electrical devices. The company also made a very popular engine for bicycles called “Cucciolos” or the “Puppy” engine. However, in the early 1950s company management decided to split the motorcycle and electrical divisions into two separate companies.
Fast-forward to today, and the company that once made radios and 48cc bicycle motors is all grown up, maturing into a premium performance motorcycle powerhouse that has set sales records for five straight years. How did it get there? If you look back at its history, it has been a long and rocky path for the Bologna-based manufacturer.
To be certain, Ducati has sold more bikes in the last five years than it ever has in its history. In 2014, the company which operates under a German umbrella with Audi AG and is owned by its Italian counterpart Lamborghini (Ducati Motor Holding spa), it sold 45,100 bikes (up 2 percent from a record year in 2013), with a slight uptick in the U.S. (its biggest market, mind you) and Asia following fast behind with 11 percent growth.
But those aren’t the kind of numbers that sell Ducatis. What sells Ducatis is plain and simple: Superbikes. While Ducati has done very well in other categories with the Monster and Multistrada, it virtually invented the superbike (along with some British blokes, too) and has now gone on to teach the master class.
The 899 Panigale was its biggest selling sportbike last year, and the 1299 S, released earlier this year, displays every bit of Ducati’s understanding of what a motorcycle is supposed to be. It’s equal parts art and engineering. It’s a Grand Prix bike for the street.
Ducati attributes its latest sales success to a slew of new bikes it has introduced that have taken off despite some less than favorable market conditions. The superbike family, for example, was up 12 percent, with the 899 Panigale accounting for more than half (5,806 of the 9,788) of the superbikes delivered to customers in 2014. Overall, North American sales performance was in line with that of 2013, with Mexico experiencing 8 percent growth.
But the U.S. is still the top dog and most important market for the company, with 8,804 units delivered to customers. To be top dog in any market, you need to deliver the right mix of what customers want, and Ducati seems poised to keep on delivering.
The Ducati Riding Experience, the riding school that Ducati has been organizing for more than 10 years, has expanded this year with a course that is dedicated to the new Multistrada 1200. The 1299 Panigale is also set to play a prominent role in the school, which offers four on-track riding courses as well as an intro course for beginners.
Held in the hills of the Tuscany region, with base in Montepulciano (near Siena), Ducati’s newest addition, the Multistrada Techride course for the Multistrada 1200, is a dream for touring and adventure enthusiasts who can become fully immersed in the lifestyle. The course lasts a day and a half and focuses on road-specific techniques as well as teaching the basics of off-road riding.