BOLOGNA, Italy – Since a surprise takeover in 2012 by German automaker Volkswagen, Italian sports motorcycle maker Ducati has experienced a much-needed era of financial stability that it has seen to record record sales.
But don’t expect Ducati motorcycles to start flooding the market. CEO Claudio Domenicali is focused on protecting the aura of exclusivity that surrounds the brand, which is best known for its success on global racing circuits.
“We will remain a premium brand,” he said recently at the factory and company headquarters in the Borgo Panigale district of Bologna.
Ducati sold 7,400 motorcycles in June, a 60% increase from June 2015. And in the first half of the year, the company increased sales by 22% to a record 32,600 motorcycles.
This year’s sales include 9,000 deliveries of the Scrambler, a new retro-styled motorcycle aimed at customers who may not have traditionally considered buying a Ducati. Some enthusiasts have criticized the laid-back Scrambler – with its own yellow logo and its own line of clothing and accessories – as a break from Ducati’s racing roots. The 75 horsepower of the Scrambler, for example, is only a fraction of the 205 horsepower of Ducati’s premium Panigale 1299 S superbike.
Domenicali ignores these concerns.
âIt’s part of a character that’s more focused on lifestyle and ease of living,â said Domenicali, noting that Ducati still sells a range of high-performance road bikes – in their traditional red paint.
Domenicali was appointed CEO of Ducati in 2013, a year after the takeover of the company by Volkswagen, a subsidiary of Volkswagen. Previously, he led Ducati’s racing division, led research and development, and served as general manager of operations and product development.
The Volkswagen buyout, he says, was fundamental in boosting Ducati sales – not only by providing stable ownership, but also by focusing on customer satisfaction, as opposed to mere financial returns.
“It changes the world, you know?” Said Domenicali. âBecause you don’t just report to the stock exchange or the banks and try to satisfy them, but try to satisfy the customer,â he said.
Ducati’s racing heritage is something that is as fundamental to the brand as it is to iconic sports cars built 25 miles to the west, he said.
âWe like to think we’re like Ferrari, but Ferrari is a dream and Ducati is a dream you can make,â he said. “Because you can actually buy a Ducati.”
After Audi’s purchase of Ducati, the performance division of rival luxury automaker Mercedes-Benz, AMG, bought a 25 percent stake in Italian sports motorcycle maker MV Agusta in 2014. And BMW makes motorcycles since before they started producing cars. Motorcycles help drive young customers to car manufacturers’ showrooms, Domenicali said.
âThey gain the sexy side of the brand,â he said. “Cars, of course, are interesting, but sometimes they aren’t as exciting as bikes.”