After weeks of rumors and speculation, Audi has made it official and purchased Italian motorcycle manufacturer Ducati. That makes it the third Italian company owned by Audi, complementing the design studio Italdesign and exotic car manufacturer Lamborghini. The actual transaction is still pending as Audi and Ducati wait for regulatory approval.
Audi hasn't disclosed how much it paid for Ducati, but it was almost certainly around €1 billion (about $1.3 billion). When private equity firm Investindustrial Holdings put Ducati up for sale earlier this year, that was the price tag cited by CEO Andrea Bonomi.
"Ducati is known worldwide as a premium brand among motorcycle manufacturers and has a long tradition of building sporty motorcycles," Audi chairman of the board Rupert Stadler said in a statement. "That makes Ducati an excellent fit for Audi."
Already the company suggests that it and parent Volkswagen Group could learn a lot from Ducati's lightweight motorcycle design, unique combustion chamber engineering, and other tech secrets. Ducati, for its part, can presumably benefit from the Volkswagen Group's mass production know-how and global brand recognition.
Audi has been interested in Ducati for several years; from 2002 to 2006, executives were buying the Italian company, but then-Volkswagen Group chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder apparently saw motorcycles as a low priority.
Ducati last year sold 42,000 motorcycles around the world, totaling €480 million (about $630 million) in revenue. The company employs 1100 people and is headquartered in Bologna, Italy, with an additional factory located in Thailand. In addition to regular motorcycles, the company has an impressive racing history that includes winning the manufacturers' title in the Superbike World Championship 17 times.
What remains to be seen is how Ducati’s new Volkswagen/Audi ownership will affect the brand’s existing ties to Mercedes-Benz. Ducati signed an official partnership with Benz’s AMG performance division in late 2010, and has since paired with AMG to market and promote each other’s wares to each other’s clientele.