Audi to Buy Ducati?

Out of nowhere CAR Magazine today has broken a story this morning that Audi entered an exclusive deal to buy motorcycle manufacturer Ducati. After re-checking our calendar to make sure it wasn’t April 1, we took a closer look at the story. Penned by Georg Kacher, we don’t question its accuracy in any way and as such it’s worth considering the details.

Apparently Ducati is on the market and it’s being suited by no less than Audi, Daimler (with whom there’s a marketing deal with AMG), Mahindra and even Audi’s parent company Volkswagen. All are interested in the Italian motorcycle manufacturer but Kacher is revealing via CAR that Audi has an exclusivity deal that gives it first refusal – one that could very well see Ducati under Audi ownership by April.

Why Ducati?
Apparently Ferdinand Piech has been interested in Ducati for some time and is on the record for stating his regret for not snapping up the motorcycle marque when it went up on the market years ago.

Apparently Piech also looked into revival of the Horex brand, but it was determined that there wasn’t enough brand recognition to make it worthwhile. Ducati, on the other hand, sells 40,000 motorcycles a year and has great brand recognition worldwide.

Why Audi?
One suggestion by Kacher why Ducati favors Audi is its brand positioning. Ducati chairman Andrea Bonomi is on the record stating ‘Ducati is the two-wheel equivalent of Audi’. As a brand steward, Audi may likely be the best in the business for Bonomi.

There’s also just a bit of motorcycle heritage at Audi. Look back past the one-off Audi 50-powered motorcycle prototype of the 70s and you’ll see motorcycle brands with rich histories such as NSU and DKW. Audi also has its own outpost in Bologna with its Lamborghini unit, located just 25 km away from Ducati’s own HQ.

Kacher suggests that a team of executives under the name ‘Project Eagle’ have begun to do their due diligence on the deal. Kacher estimates a price of €50m to €100m – low, but considering Audi will also have to assume the substantial debt of Ducati this explains the number. The actual price will be closer to €850m when you consider the debt burden.


Audi has struck an exclusive deal giving it first rights to buy Italian superbike manufacturer Ducati, CAR can reveal.

The exclusivity deal gives Audi until mid April when the deal will likely be finalised, according to high-ranking sources contact by CAR.

Ducati’s liabilities are said to be in the area of €800 million, and our sources suggest the total purchase price is about €850m. This is a bold move by Audi, which sees the long-term advantage in moving into two wheels as well as four.

Why is Audi buying Ducati?

It’s all part of Project Eagle, another brainchild of Volkswagen group scion Ferdinand Piech. He has been eyeing up the opportunity of buying a prestigious motorcycle brand for some time, and considered reviving Horex, a German motorbike firm which made single- and twin-cylinder bikes from 1936 to 1956.

But Horex doesn’t have enough brand recognition, so when Bologna-based Ducati came up for sale the VW Group paid close attention. Especially since Mercedes-Benz recently entered into a cross-promotional deal with Ducati.

Ducati, which makes around 40,000 motorcycles a year, is on the market since its debt burden is reportedly higher than its revenues.

Who else might buy Ducati?

India´s Mahindra, Daimler and Volkswagen are said to be among the leading suitors, but CAR can reveal that Audi has struck an exclusivity deal giving it first dibs on Ducati.

A small team of advisors has been formed in Ingolstadt under the Project Eagle name and they’re currently doing due diligence on the Ducati deal. According to our insiders, there is no way Audi will pay telephone numbers for Ducati. Instead, the Germans will probably put no more than €50m to €100m on the table – but absorb the new partner’s substantial liabilities.

Ducati chairman Andrea Bonomi has in the past pointed out that he views ‘Ducati as the two-wheel equivalent of Audi’, a perception Ferdinand Piech would likely agree with. In 2008, Piech said it was a mistake not to have bought Ducati when the company was on the brink of brankruptcy before. Four years later, Volkswagen is now closer then ever to making the chairman’s vision complete.

But first of all, the Audi delegation must take a deep dive into the Ducati R&D department and check out the Borgo Panigale production facility. After all, it takes more than a strong name to make Project Eagle fly.–the-four-rings-expands-from-four-wheels

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