Harley-Davidson to buy Ducati?

According to custom bike blogger Cyril Huze, Harley-Davidson is one of the companies lining up to buy Ducati.

Huze doesn’t name the specific origin of his information, citing only “numerous sources.” However, he’s connected enough in the cruiser world that he’s usually right with these predictions. He says bidding for the company is expected to officially begin in July, and that buyout funds are also interested, as well as Indian manufacturing giant Bajaj (one of the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturers).

Huze says Ducati owner Volkswagen (long rumoured to want to sell the motorcycle manufacturer to help ease its financial woes) may not complete the sale before this year’s EICMA show.

If all this talk about Harley-Davidson buying a sportbike manufacturer sounds oddly familiar, that’s because it is: Harley-Davidson bought Italian brands Cagiva and MV Agusta back in 2008, only to sell them in 2010—see Jensen Beeler’s coverage of that deal here at Asphalt & Rubber. That deal saw a lot of ink spilled, with sportbike enthusiasts perplexed and cruiserattis irritated by the idea of the Motor Company working on sportbikes. Similar to Harley-Davidson’s involvement with the ill-fated Buell brand, the move made nobody happy, and was arguably bad for the MoCo when everything came to an end.

This time around, the deal could make more sense, as Ducati is a much more stable and established brand than MV Agusta. The company has gained value under its Volkswagen ownership, and while it’s impossible to think of an Italian motorcycle manufacturer without thinking of financial instability, Ducati has certainly projected an aura of success in the past few years, achieving sales growth and releasing a constant stream of exciting new models.

As well, it’s arguable that Ducati fans are the only motorcyclists that love their brand as much as Harley-Davidson faithful cling to the Bar and Shield brand. Harley-Davidson’s marketeers should be able to work with this sort of a customer base.

Would Harley-Davidson have the money to buy the brand? Asking price is expected to be around 1.5 billion Euros, which is a lot of cash.

15 thoughts on “Harley-Davidson to buy Ducati?”

  1. HD has a goal..to make money. They will make sure Ducati will make money or dump it. Just like Polaris dumped Victory. Victory made such a small % of profit for Polaris it was easy to shut down; since they just bought the factory that makes off road 4×4 parts which produces 1000x profit more than Victory could. We need to wake up and realize there is no MC passion for any company unless its profitable… bottom line, profits dictate or they wouldn’t exist. Therefore “perceived” exclusivity, marketing the “impression” of quality and higher price points = profit.

  2. “Harley didn’t kill Buell, Buell killed Buell.”
    – Harley helped, mainly by not putting Eric Buell on a very short leash and not marketing the lineup properly..

    “But Harley was stupid for buying MVAgusta considering its brand and its product line-up was so lacking.”
    – True that, MV still is and likely always will be a niche market.

    ” But Ducati would be another story – a proper brand and a decent line up of bikes that unlike the Polaris take over of Indian wouldn’t eat its own share (goodbye Victory!).”
    – Polaris recreated Indian, they didn’t take anything over except maybe whoever previously owned the tank badges. They build snowmobiles, atvs, utvs and 3-wheelers, changing the 2-wheeled name completely over to Indian makes a lot of marketing sense. Their flat track program will give them a lot of credibility.

    The Motor Company has to do a lot more like the Street 500 and 750. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the Street 500 is one of the biggest selling ‘large displacement’ motorcycles in India right now. That’s a huge opportunity – if you’re one-in-a-million in India there are 1,250 just like you….

  3. Harley didn’t kill Buell, Buell killed Buell. But Harley was stupid for buying MVAgusta considering its brand and its product line-up was so lacking. But Ducati would be another story – a proper brand and a decent line up of bikes that unlike the Polaris take over of Indian wouldn’t eat its own share (goodbye Victory!).

    Frankly Ducati lacks a dealer network worthy of its market pricing, and while they celebrate large gains in yr. over yr sales % wise, they’re still a pimple on an elephants butt barely making over 50000 total sales a year. What they could learn in brand management, pricing, marketing, merchandising, financing, market analytics etc. would be great for Ducati, as long as they maintain free reign for evolving their product and continue their race program (Harley gets branding fundamentals better than anyone so I wouldn’t think this would be at risk).

    As for Harley they understand that there are limits to their brand and a ceiling to the traditional Harley market, so this makes sense for them too and it would expand their exposure to market segments that were previously unreachable. Plus scale can work wonders for any company, especially production based.

    If VW comes down on their over-valuation of Ducati, as a Harley shareholder, I say go for it!

  4. F*ck. I just bought a Ducati this year, and now Ducati is being sold off to HD. HD are the grandmasters of profiting by sucking all the value out of a brand while letting that brand die off from lack of development, design and reinvestment. This is really bad news for Ducati.

    In a few years, I’ll have to tell people “No, my bike is not a Hardley-Ableson: It’s from before Ducati was bought out and driven into the ground by those *ssholes.”

    1. I think you have a legitimate concern, lets just hope they have learned from their mistakes. That being said Ducati is a fabulous brand, somebody will always want it!

  5. I really hope HD gets it, not some Indian moped co. or worse some hedge fund who’s going to hollow out the company.

    1. The Indians turned around Land Rover/Jaguar after Ford drove them into a ditch; and turned KTM into a global success story by lowering costs, increasing distribution and maintaining product quality. And the only guys to ever make Ducati a viable motorcycle company were “a bunch of hedge fund guys” named Investindustrial.

      Harley-Davidson meanwhile, drive Buell into a ditch, and blew through several hundred million in the MVAgusta fiasco and got nothing out it.

      So, I am pretty sure you got that backwards.

      1. Also, the second largest shareholder during the golden years (2008-2012) was the Ontario Pension Fund, so Canada not only did well there but so did Ducatisti all over, who finally got reliable, modern motorcycles.

      2. I’d prefer a Chinese company like Shinaray or Geely buying Ducati over HD. Geely have done well by Volvo so far. HD is an exercise in marketing not building world-class motorcycles.

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