This two-wheeled version of an old joke sums up the motorcycle media over the last 48 hours with headlines from countless two-wheeled outlets wondering if Ducati would be sold off by its parent company, Volkswagen AG.
First, the back story.
As we and many other news outlets reported late last year, in the wake of what has become known as ‘DieselGate’ Volkswagen AG were presented an option by international banks of selling some of its subsidiaries such as Ducati to secure possible financing. These credit lines would help the company ride through future fines and lawsuits over allegedly rigged U.S. diesel emissions tests and falsifying carbon dioxide emissions. This is all detailed in our previous report ‘VW's emissions scandal puts a possible sale sign on Ducati’ so we won’t rehash the facts here.
It appeared to everyone at the Clutch and Chrome offices this possibility was more or less taken off the table in March when, as reported at the time, ‘Audi’s Chief Executive Rupert Stadler has blown away those clouds with a simple but strong statement ruling out selling its Italian brands Lamborghini and Ducati to help offset costs of its emissions test-rigging scandal’.
On Tuesday June 14th, Bloomberg news reported ‘Chief Executive Officer Matthias Mueller is undertaking a sweeping strategy review that includes backing off a focus on growth at all costs, shifting the company into car-sharing and stepping up electric-vehicle development. The portfolio review will assess Volkswagen’s 12 brands as well as side businesses such as ship engines, while components manufacturing across the group will be folded into one entity, according to people familiar with the matter.’
Aside from a two sentence speculation in Bloomberg's report the company’s subsidiaries were again on the chopping block, nothing was officially released. However, the same stories that were run in the motorcycle press at the end of 2015 were published again over the possibility of Ducati being sold with a new dynamic, the move was being made as a change in ‘corporate focus’.
Volkswagen AG have now released a press release which includes the company’s future plans and while they are electric, quite literally, the world is left with the same indication of whether Ducati will be sold as it had before the meeting. Rounding up the facts to the nearest decimal point takes what is known to, well, zero.
Ducati's Monster 1200 S was given an honorable mention in a leading European award - Source Ducati
‘The Board of Management, with the approval of the Supervisory Board, has adopted a future program, ‘TOGETHER – Strategy 2025’. By doing so, it has also launched the biggest change process in the Volkswagen Group's history. The new Group strategy comprises a raft of far-reaching strategic decisions and specific initiatives essentially aimed at safeguarding its long-term future and generating profitable growth. This is to be achieved by comprehensively transforming the core automotive business, rapidly establishing a new mobility solutions business, significantly increasing efficiency as well as strengthening innovation power and entrepreneurial mindset and approach in the Company,’ the press release states in the opening paragraphs.
According to the press release, which can be read in full here, the automotive group does have a major electrification initiative planned, featuring more than 30 new e-vehicles by 2025 which will have annual unit sales target of two to three million.
"The Volkswagen Group will be more focused, efficient, innovative, customer-driven and sustainable – and systematically geared to generating profitable growth," CEO Matthias Müller stated. The press release noted this will require investments in future technologies in the double-digit billion range, financed through Group-wide efficiency improvements and portfolio optimization.
The above sentence as well as this statement deep in the press release, ‘Additional funds for future investments can also be generated by optimizing the existing portfolio of brands and equity investments,’ are the only mentions of what Volkswagen AG will do next with its various brands. Quite frankly, it’s no more information than what was known in December 2015.
Should Ducati fans worry?
Simply put, Ducati is one of the world’s top motorcycle brands. A 2016 benchmarking study named it number one in the United States, its Monster 1200 S was given an honorable mention in a leading European award and the Italian motorcycle manufacturer is coming off a record-breaking 2015 which delivered the exact profit margins Volkswagen AG has as their corporate long term goal. In the press release this number was 7-8% with Ducati reporting an operating return on sales of 7.8% in 2015.
It’s like magic!
Ducatisti have more pressing concerns on any typical ride with the young girl applying makeup while driving in front of them and the aggressive driver texting on his smartphone at 70mph to their left than they do with the fate of the Italian motorcycle manufacturer.
There’s no doubt even more corporate attention will be given to the turnout at Ducati’s upcoming World Ducati Week, but if riders are looking for a firm lane position on this matter for the next bike night, Clutch and Chrome would go with ‘It would be very unlikely but at the end of the day, who knows?’