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Audi seals deal to buy Ducati

New bedfellows: German giant Audi has purchased iconic Italian motorcycle manufacturer Ducati.

Ducati purchase puts Audi back on two wheels – and head-to-head with BMW

19 Apr 2012

VOLKSWAGEN luxury brand Audi last night signed-off on a deal to buy iconic Italian motorcycle manufacturer Ducati.

The deal reignites the German company’s dormant two-wheel heritage that once flourished under the DKW, NSU and Wanderer brands, all of which were absorbed into the ‘four-ring’ company decades ago.

Provided the purchase wins the approval of Italian regulatory authorities, the takeover will expand Audi’s stable of Italian brands to three, with Bologna-based Ducati joining sportscar-maker Lamborghini and design house ItalDesign under Audi within the Volkswagen Group.

The agreement to buy Ducati from current owner Investindustrial Group for an undisclosed sum will give Audi a ready-made weapon against the likes of BMW and Honda, while also dramatically increasing revenue.

Bought by venture capitalist Investindustrial in 2006, the once-ailing Ducati has been turned around to such an extent that it is regarded as the most profitable motorcycle-maker in the world.

It is unclear how the purchase will affect Ducati sales in Australia, where distribution has been handled by the independent NF Importers – part of the Fraser Motorcycles Group – since 1964.

 center imageFrom top: Panigale S, Streetfighter 848 and Diavel Carbon.

Both Audi Australia and NF Importers told GoAuto today they were awaiting more information on the deal.

Audi general manager corporate communications Anna Burgdorf said: “It is very early days in the process and not possible to confirm distribution of Ducati in Australia.

“What is certainly clear, however, is that Audi remains a stand-alone premium brand in terms of our sales networks.” Ms Burgdorf said the Audi-Ducati deal was a good fit for both companies.

She described the move as “breathing new life into our old roots”, adding that Audi had a strong heritage in motorcycle manufacturing thanks to DKW, NSU and Wanderer.

Germany’s DKW was the world’s biggest motorcycle manufacturer in the 1920s and 1930s, making a range of two-stroke machines alongside its car range.

DKW merged with Audi, Horch and Wanderer – which also produced motorcycles as far back as 1901 – to form Auto Union in 1932, but DKW-branded motorcycles continued in production until the 1990s.

NSU Motorenwerke started making motorcycles more than a century ago, and continued making two-wheel machines until the 1970s, even after being taken over by Volkswagen in 1969.

Ms Burgdorf said the purchase made sense for Audi on a number of levels, including financial.

“The market for motorcycles is set to grow over the next few years, especially in Asia where Ducati had a plant (Thailand),” she said.

“It’s a profitable company and generates returns comparable with those of Audi.

“It’s a premium brand in the motorcycle segment and Audi is a premium brand in the vehicle segment.” Ms Burgdorf said the two brands also cross over on cutting-edge technical solutions, with Ducati being famed for its engines and lightweight construction.

In a statement released jointly in Ingolstadt and Bologna overnight, Audi identified Ducati’s “progressive control systems”, “combustion chamber process” and extensive knowledge of lightweight construction as offering great potential for Audi and Volkswagen Group.

The takeover, which has been expected since Audi signed an agreement last month giving it first refusal to buy Ducati, is set to bring Ducati’s existing technology-sharing arrangement with Audi rival Mercedes-Benz to a halt.

However, the Audi takeover still requires the approval of competition authorities.

Ducati Motor Holding CEO Gabriele Del Torchio said Ducati expected approval to go through “in the coming months”.

“I am confident that the Audi Group will allow Ducati to continue strengthening its position in markets around the world,” he said.

“The announcement confirms the positive reinforcement of Ducati made in 2006 under the control of the Investindustrial Group.” Ducati was founded by Andriano and Marcello Ducati as a maker of radio parts in 1926, but ventured into motorcycles in 1949.

Last year, it made 42,000 motorcycles and generated €480 million in revenue, compared with Audi Group’s €44.1 billion.

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