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Volkswagen’s Diesel Emissions Fiasco Includes 2.1 Million Audi Vehicles … What Impact on Ducati?

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The Volkswagen Group is massive, delivering more than 10 million vehicles to customers in 2014 –  amounting to nearly 13% of the world passenger car market. When it was reported that Ducati was being acquired by Audi (ultimately placed under the ownership of Audi subsidiary Lamborghini), one of the group brands, motorcycle enthusiasts were delighted. It was generally anticipated that the seemingly limitless financial resources of the Volkswagen Group, together with R&D support, assured the long-term success of the luxury Italian brand.

How quickly things can change. Last week, Volkswagen admitted to installing software that effectively defeated government emissions testing in roughly 11 million cars sold by the company. Earlier today, it was confirmed that 2.1 million of those vehicles are branded Audi. More to the point, the financial fallout could be unprecedented for a major corporation. Estimates of tens of billions of dollars in government agency fines, consumer lawsuits, and vehicle recall and repair efforts seem reasonable. As massive as the Volkswagen Group is, it may need to sell assets to finance these costs, including possibly the Audi brand itself.

That huge financial safety net beneath Ducati may be disappearing. Moreover, Ducati may prove to be an asset that Volkswagen will part with in an effort to finance its massive loss. In light of the developing circumstances, it is somewhat ironic that Ducati will announce more new models this year than ever before, and enter two new motorcycle categories.

Ducati is profitable on its own, and may prove to be largely unaffected by the financial woes of its corporate parents. As motorcycle enthusiasts, we sincerely hope Ducati continues to thrive … and race. Only time will tell.

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According to its web site, these are the Volkswagen Group brands as of December 31, 2013.

57 Comments

  1. HS1-RD-CX100-VFR says:

    This morass could cause all sorts of events, but I think a Ducati sale is more unlikely than likely. VW has put huge money into developing a large Ducati product line. Unless we see a global economic crisis, they stand to earn that back with a nice profit. Selling now is like selling short in a rising market. They would also have to worry about competitors, like MB, eventually getting this marque. Some other suitors might be bad PR moves at a time when they can ill afford to anger people more. Ducati is just now profitable after many gestations of losing enterprises. It might only be able to ever be that under the ownership of two or three large, Western European conglomerates. Is Ducati as sexy if owned by Hero or a Chinese company?

  2. kjazz says:

    NEWS FLASH……….!!!

    Recent lab tests have proven conclusively that Ducatis are 8-10% less sexy than originally thought. Film at 11:00

  3. Pigiron says:

    The last thing VW will do is sell Audi. It can’t because they are the same cars! (engines, transmissions, and chassis) VW and Audi models are as close as Fords and Lincolns.

  4. Grover says:

    Cough, cough…the air is…cough, cough, cough….much worse since ..gag…VW messed with the….cough, cough…emissions. I don’t know…cough….how the planet…cough…will survive….cough, cough cough cough.

    • peter h says:

      Gee Grover I guess the over 100 deaths estimated due to the added pollution from the VWs is a joke – or maybe it’s true that the world begins and ends at the tip of your nose.

      • mickey says:

        who and how in the world came up with THAT figure?

        • todd says:

          It’s been estimated that over 53000 people in the US die every year from pollution, which includes pollution from your motorcycle. In fact, motorcycles probably pollute more. They only make up 3.6% of the vehicles in California and less than 1% of the miles traveled yet they make up 10% of the total pollution from vehicles. My point, there are far many more motorcycles on the road than 2010 and newer TDi VWs and quick math would suggest motorcycles are responsible for 5300 pollution deaths a year.

          Let’s all stop riding until someone fixes this.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          No death certificate in the US has ever had cause of death as “tailpipe emissions”. The figure was calculated from a computer simulation created by a team at MIT, or at least that is where the figure todd cited comes from, anyway. There was no attempt to try to relate deaths directly or indirectly to pollution in that study.

          There are no doubt indirect tailpipe pollution related deaths every year as some asthmatics are highly sensitive to it, but the margin of error on that estimate is greater than that of a detailed weather forecast five years from. Its all pretty dubious, really (the way people are using the results of the study, not the study itself.) All the study really does is create background to form a hypothesis against, which has yet to be definitively or even superficially tested. People just grab at any numbers that get published and take them at face value.

          • todd says:

            Yes, I obviously latched on to whatever speculative number was available, much like the poster I was responding to. My point is that there are what some people in charge consider “acceptable” number of deaths caused by any number of dangerous or benign activities. If we wanted to stop people from dying, everything would be outlawed.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            Todd, I wasn’t trying to be critical to your post and only mentioned your reference to the number you cited because I recognized it. The intent of your message was obvious to me. As for peter h’s comment, well, sorry peter, but that one was just plain silly.

      • Grover says:

        How many motorcyclists reject their carbs or install Power Commanders on ther bikes? Bikes are never tested for emissions like cars are on a regular basis and millions of bikes are operating without catalytic converters and are polluting the air way more than the “experts” could ever calculate. Any of the pre-smog controlled bikes burn way dirtier than any new VW (and that’s a lot of bikes!).

  5. Norm G. says:

    re: “Estimates of tens of billions of dollars in government agency fines, consumer lawsuits, and vehicle recall and repair efforts seem reasonable.”

    no worries, they’ll be fine. car world makes money hand over fist. and any taxation over emissions is really moot considering diesel has a tuner aftermarket same as gas world and the vehicle’s owner comes right behind and mods the engine to “roll coal” as is the catch phrase FAR worse than anything V-Dubs ever done.

    re: “As massive as the Volkswagen Group is, it may need to sell assets to finance these costs, including possibly the Audi brand itself.”

    the only likely change you will see is VW NOT buying the Lotus team and jumping in to F1 as was rumoured to finally happen just before this scandal broke.

  6. Mike says:

    VW GOOD TO GO AFTER SELLING DUCATI ……. YES OR NO

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    PREMISE
    “Moreover, Ducati may prove to be an asset that Volkswagen will part with in an effort to finance its massive loss. In light of the developing circumstances”

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    MY REPLY
    The sale of Ducati is mere petty cash related to the magnitude of the funding necessary to finance the losses Volkswagen will incur after installing software that effectively defeated government emissions testing in roughly 11 million cars sold by the company.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    FINANCIAL MAGNITUDE OF THIS VW PROBLEM (Estimated)
    1. Cost to repair 11 million cars @ $500 cost each = 5.5 billion

    2. Possible EPA Fine = 18.0 billion

    3. Possible compensation to 11 million car owners @ $500 cost each = 5.5 billion

    4. Misc = 6.0 billion

    Grand total Maximum Cost = 35.0 billion.

    OK, say… 20.0 billion

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    VW SELLS DUCATI
    1. VW/Audi bought Ducati in 2012 = 1.2 billion

    OK, say… Ducati is sold for 2.0 at the end of 2015

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    VW GOOD TO GO AFTER SELLING DUCATI ……. YES OR NO

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I say VW will be good to go whether they choose to sell Ducati or not.

      When you are looking at 20 billion in fines – heck, any amount that ends with the word “billion” – then $2 billion from an asset sale is far from petty cash regardless of what percentage it is against the total bill.

      VW plays an important role in a number of economies, including ours. I suspect whatever the final fines are, they will be designed to be unpleasant but palatable to VW in the long run.

      • Mike says:

        Jeremy

        I think we agree that selling Ducati for say 2 billion is not going to solve any of this for VW…..right?

        >>>>>>

        You stated: “I suspect VW will finance their way out of this, and it shouldn’t be terribly difficult for them with $3.5 billion free cash flow annually.”

        My Reply: I agree, but are no assurances that the prior 3.5 billion in cash flow levels will continue because the impact of this matter on consumer confidence is not known and could erode sales. Even if the $3.5 billion free cash flow annually continued and this used to pay down the 20 billion….that equates to near 6 years with no free cash flow.

        Banks and financial institutions already committed will be continue to there for VW as you stated….after all what choice do they have? Future investors …..not so certain…. and of note is the VW stock price has dropped from 170 to 95 in one month.

        Ole VW ad campaign = Drivers Wanted.

        Pending VW Ad campaign being considered = Investors and Buyers Wanted

        >>>>>>

        Speculation on my part here……but my view of VWs future is…..

        All this will have a small effect/influence on VWs future customer base after a year or two even with the pending avalanche of bad publicity.

        Additionally, the fine will be scaled way back to maybe 10% to 20% of the 18 billion, but making current units legal that are already at dealers will be a costly matter. Of course the settlement with current owners will indeed be “petty cash” instead of what it should have been.

        And …Ducati will not be sold for many reasons, but an important one is this would be perceived as an act of desperation to investors, bank creditors/credit lines given “only” 2 billion in cash flow from this sale.

        Chance of any of what I stated being correct… 2.36% to 4.19%

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          Mike, I actually disagree that selling Ducati wouldn’t solve anything. It certainly would solve 10% of the problem in the hypothetical example you stated.

          More specifically, the sale of Ducati would solve a large near-term hurdle. You are correct that the $3.5 billion in free cash flow is an uncertainty going forward. I think VW will return to that norm pretty quickly, but that will most definitely not be the case in the short term as VW does the requisite damage control to retrofit existing vehicles to comply with emission laws, pay lawyers, etc. More problematic for the short term cash flow perspective is the huge chunk of the production (and therefore demand) halted for their diesel vehicles as well as existing inventory that they cannot sell. If VW does sell Ducati, it would be to cure this short-term cash flow issue.

          Banks wouldn’t see the sale as an act of desperation but instead as an act of goodwill (towards the lenders) and probably as a sound business decision. In fact, a bank deal might even require the sale of a certain amount of assets. I don’t think VW will need to do this, but it is definitely possible.

          I agree that the fine will be scaled back, but I still think it is going to be pretty massive. As far as VW’s future, I agree with you. People have short memories and for the most part don’t really care about this anyway. VW will be back to normal in a couple of years.

          Percent chance of me being right about any of this? Unknown. Percent chance that I am buying VW stock: 100%.

          • Mike says:

            Good reply….

            Possible outcome options

            >>>>>>

            You are right about most of what you said

            I am right about most of what I said

            Neither of us were right on we agreed on

            Both of us were right on what we agreed on

            >>>>>>

            I am sure there were more options, but I am too sleepy now to think about it

            >>>>>>

            I am leaning toward the last option stated above during the 35.36% of the time I am able to figure out what I actually said!!!!

    • Gham says:

      VW’s fine could depend on which administration is in power at the time it is rendered.If they try a lengthy appeal process it could be dragged out for years.The repairs will be done as soon as a remedy is approved.Regardless,this is a huge mess for VW and could hurt Ducati more if they keep them.Very unfortunate for the Ducati brand.

  7. ApriliaRST says:

    The EPA *may* be in denial of reality as Elon Musk said, something to the effect that this proves we’ve reached the end of progress for hydrocarbon-fueled vehicles. Of course we’d expect Elon to say that, but he might be right.

    On a side note, yesterday I tried buying a VW and could not get the sales guy to bring out the keys so I could decide between a Golf, Golf GTI or Golf wagon. I never did get to look at any of the three, even after telling him, Yes, I am a serious customer and want to replace my four year old Mazda 3 hatchback that sits right there by your store front.

    • KenHoward says:

      Re: “On a side note…”
      That’s strange behavior for a salesman. Maybe it was time for his coffee break (or, you look remarkably similar to Bill Maher: “VW: The number one name in poisonous gas”)?

      • ApriliaRST says:

        Maybe they thought (rightly so) that I’m a shameless opportunist.

        http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/vw-scandal-wreaking-havoc-on-dealers/

        But I really have been thinking about one of the three cars.

        • MGNorge says:

          Back in the early 2000’s I was out shopping HD trucks to tow our 5th wheel with. I literally went all over from dealer to dealer, brand to brand and could not believe how seemingly uninterested all the sales people were. It gave me the feeling that maybe because trucks are so popular they didn’t need to try, that there’d be another right behind me wanting to buy? Yes, not typical salesperson behavior, but ran into this at several dealers. Soooooo, I went out of state after researching online. That dealer even flew us over and shuttled us to their dealership! One of the best vehicle buying experiences we’ve had.

  8. Butch says:

    My 2 cents :

    The tranny on my 06′ VW went out @ 40k. It’s known as an Aisin 09G Made in Japan. The valve bodies fail prematurely and if ignored, wipes out the clutch packs which results in a full rebuild, almost 4 grand. VW knew they had a problem but didn’t fix it until 2012.
    Claimed the fluid was “lifetime” and never needed changing. NO tranny dipstick, none.

    As for Ducati, they will survive either with or without VW/Audi.
    They’ve recently had one of their best years ever and continue to be a driving and innovative force in the MC Industry (9 new models being introduced next year).
    As for VW, I hope they get there ass handed to them on a rusty plater.

    • Bill says:

      My 06 Tundra is the same, no dipstick and alleged lifetime fluid. I say bull crap and changed it at 100k.
      If Duc is sold, I can see them going the way of Kawasaki in motogp.

  9. Craig says:

    I say fine VW for breaking the rules… but for all humanity, don’t act like it’s the sin that should kill a company and millions of jobs. That’s affecting things that don’t deserve this penalty and in reality… the car is still a great car that delivers… just not as good as it said.
    It’s not something that I plan as an owner to sue over as I love the product and if it’s a bit less GREEN; I’m sure it fits within the scope of being allowed on the road, so work up a fine; set it in motion and move on…

    I’m thinking of looking for a good deal on idle VW sales… 🙂

    • Chris says:

      “a bit less GREEN”

      A bit? Is 11 – 40 times the limit for NOx a bit? I’d call that a lot. Is the limit too strict?

      “within the scope of being allowed on the road”

      Does 11 – 40 times the limit sound like it is “within the scope”? That said, I wouldn’t punish the owners of the affected vehicles by banning them from being driven. The owners were lied to as well. There should be a lot of pressure (maybe even a daily fine) put on VW to expedite a fix.

      “I’m thinking of looking for a good deal on idle VW sales”

      Diesel sales have been put on hold until the problem is fixed. The gassers should be readily available though.

      • Craig says:

        yeah, yeah… our cars are so clean today, it’s crazy. There is VERY few emissions except at start up while everything is cold. I forget the stat, but the rockets and space shuttle put out more emissions in one launch then… whatever, so while I want to be green and have clean air, I don’t want to ride a bicycle with 4 wheels to work to achieve this.
        But yes, I do believe VW is responsible and should pay… But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater… that’s typical journalism.

        I lease mine, so I’m going to ask for a cheap buyout… I think they will take it and I will be happy with my 43 miles a gallon and my 11x the limit.

  10. TF says:

    Either someone will get a massive new Volkswagen assembly plant and the fines will go away OR Ducati will be bled dry to help pay the fines. Those are my predictions.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      They would sell Ducati to create cash, not bleed it dry (which would create very little cash), if it comes to that.

      • TF says:

        Don’t be so sure……this coming from a guy who works for a division of a multi-billion dollar company where the parent company is bleeding the division dry to pay for other sins. We have been waiting for the announcement, for several years, that we are being sold to generate cash.

        I guess it would depend on many factors including Ducati’s profitability.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          If you are a good cash cow, which apparently your division is to your company, it might make better sense to bleed it than sell it. It is possible that VW just won’t want to sell Ducati regardless of the penalties they face, in which case they may also try to bleed it.

          However, if I were running a large, global automaker and needed to generate cash flow in a relatively quick manner, I’d be looking at lines of business that have the least relevance to my core business.

          I’m betting they will retain Ducati, though. The penalties will be harsh, but probably not nearly as bad as they could be. The large banks aren’t the least bit concerned about VW’s balance sheet from what I’ve read, and interest rates are still cheap. I suspect VW will finance their way out of this, and it shouldn’t be terribly difficult for them with $3.5 billion free cash flow annually.

  11. Fitbar says:

    I wonder once the dust has settled how big an impact this will have in terms of direct cash penalties that would hurt a giant like this, maybe it will be huge I don’t know. Personally, I don’t feel any differently about the VW brand than before, but then again I don’t own one. The bigger impact could be to future sales for people who feel strongly about this issue and believe other corporations are any different. I should research exactly how big a margin the cars would have failed the the standards by without the “fix” but the most interesting part for me is how they managed to keep this software secret for so long (could the Italians of had a hand in this?): there must have been a complex execution of software development with limited people understanding what was actually being acheived.

  12. azi says:

    Without adding my worthless two cents into the ethical and procedural debate about the VW case… motorcycles have been “working around” environmental requirements for a while. A whole aftermarket industry has spawned around fixing the 5000-5500rpm ‘flat spot’ in most standard performance bikes – which coincidentally is the range where environmental and roadworthy testing occurs in a lot of countries.

    The difference though is that the flat spot is there all the time, unlike the VW defeat device software.

    • Fitbar says:

      Agreed. I would be happier if motorcycle companies used the VW method, just for the power. Now that you have put it like that I am beginning to support VW in there plight.

      • Austin ZZR1200 says:

        No, no and no. VW has no plight, just an unwillingness to out-innovate hybrid technology. As for flatspots…advances is fuel mapping are rapidly doing away with that. As for power…do we really need more than 2:1 hp to cc ratio?

        • azi says:

          Yep agreed, it was mostly the early fuel injected bikes in the 1990s and early Noughties that were bad at it. The Italian motorcycles of the time were the worst, with the 916/996 and some Guzzis almost unrideable at part throttle.

          • vato_loco_frisco says:

            The fueling on my stock 1998 Moto Guzzi Sport 1100i was pretty bad. The fueling on my stock 2013 KTM Duke 690 is also pretty bad.

        • guu says:

          Diesel technology has the potential to out-innovate hybrids by far. AFAIK its just that VAG wanted to do it on the cheap and not pay royalties to its competitors.

          • MGNorge says:

            Not sure about diesel out innovating hybrid tech when you have cars such as the upcoming Acura NSX utilizing a 3-motor system to name one example. There are a lot of diesel proponents around the world for sure but hybrid technology is stealing the day as VW has tried hard to get diesels back in the limelight, especially in the US.
            I suspect diesel fans will blow this off while others may feel a big chunk of VW’s credibility has been lost.

          • Norm G. says:

            re: “There are a lot of diesel proponents around the world”

            yes please.

            re: “I suspect diesel fans will blow this off”

            pfft.

          • Dave says:

            Re: “I suspect diesel fans will blow this off ”

            This will depend almost entirely on how badly being right with the EPA effects their diesel’s performance and effeiciency.

            If they start re-working cars and they lose 15% of their power and 10-20% of their mileage then it would fatally damage consumer diesel in the US.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            I don’t think diesels will “out innovate” hybrids. The two technologies have different reasons for existing. A diesel is an alternative to a gasoline engine while hybrid technology is designed to augment an ICE powertrain, be it gas or diesel. A hybrid-diesel offers the same benefits (and compromises) over a diesel powertrain that to a hybrid-gasoline offers over a gasoline powertrain.

            As far as diesel fans blowing this off, I agree with Dave on that one.

      • azi says:

        I can’t say I agree with you there. VW is allegedly applying deceptive practice to give themselves an advantage in a level playing field.

        There’s also ‘tuning for the regulations’ versus ‘tuning for performance and then crippling it for regulations’. Case in point: Yamaha R1 versus Honda RC213V. VW has, in effect, tuned for performance whilst pretending to tune for regulations.

        • Tom K. says:

          That’s not how I see it at all – the alleged “defeat device” only goes into emmision-compliant mode when it detects EPA dynamometer testing, which is much more devious in nature vs. simply tuning to emissions in some rpm sweet-spot – a simple change in EPA test procedures will defeat the latter, while still being defeated by the former.

          That being said, I have to wonder if the EPA diesel emissions standards aren’t unnecissarily harsh, and whether the public wouldn’t be better served by vehicles that get better mileage and power at a slightly higher rate of pollution. Have we reached the point of (excessively) diminishing returns on emissions control?

          Having grown up during the modern evolution of IC engines (I started driving in the early 70’s, before digital control of fueling and exhaust aftertreatment – my first car was a 1968 Olds with a Rocket 455 – Lord, I miss that car), I can tell you that automobiles are WAY better today in terms of reliability, power, driveability, etc. vs. 40 years ago, all while polluting far less ane being much safer. But they are also a whole lot more complex and expensive. I guess in taking the long view, it has been a worthwhile endeavor, and society has been well-served by this evolution.

          Bottom line, VW knew the rules, took a risk with their workaround, and will now pay a very hefty price, maybe even with their corporate life. You pays your money and you takes your chances, I guess. The problem is, the technocrats who took these chances did so with billions of dollars of stockholder and owner’s monies. If I were one of them (and I may even be), I would want to see some bodies thrown from German bridges.

          • Tom K. says:

            Sorry, Azi, in re-reading your comment, we really don’t disagree here, I mis-read your intent – I think we’re pretty much on the same page.

          • azi says:

            No problem Tom – we’re in agreement. 🙂 Interesting how Honda has done almost the opposite with their MotoGP replica – they have risked losing face with the consumer by honoring all their corporate legal obligations, even to the point of meeting the 75hp restriction in their domestic market.

          • MGNorge says:

            From what I’ve heard, the list of those sent to the Russian front keeps growing. Not just executives in Europe and in the US but a pretty large list of key engineers are being shown the door. VW stands to take a huge hit in talent which will further make it hard for VW to bounce back.

          • Norm G. says:

            Q: I have to wonder if the EPA diesel emissions standards aren’t (unnecessarily) harsh(?)

            A: yes…

            the after-treatment DEF and EGR systems are costly and from my analysis wholly INCOMPATIBLE with the chemical make up of #2 Diesel. there can’t be an engineer on the planet who’s happy about the systems (he or she) was forced to create.

        • fitbar says:

          I understand VW’s method is deceptive and that the motorcycle mapping mentioned is not. I am not really supportive of VW but I wouldn’t mind this issue if I owned a VW. I don’t drive or ride very fuel efficiently so I always feel a little environmentally irresponsible anyway, Don’t take this the wrong way I really support environmental issues, but obviously have different priorities when riding. Plus, unless I am commuting I am burning gas just for fun and that’s probably a poor choice for the environment too.

          BTW. I don’t think this will impact Ducati unless they start using similar software, which would be great if it improved fueling and power.

  13. Bill says:

    So, Ducati could be for sale….at least whoever buys it will make their money back on the service departments…..

    • Stratkat says:

      you really need to re educate yourself on modern Ducatis, they are very reliable.

      • MGNorge says:

        He may be referring to the much heralded costly valve adjustments rather than making a jab at Ducati reliability?

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        “you really need to re educate yourself on modern Ducatis, they are very reliable.”

        Compared to old Ducatis.

        • Superchicken says:

          How old? Mine has never stranded me (OK, well it did once, but that was the battery failing suddenly.) I made two shim changes in the past 24,000 miles and it looks like I’ll go another 12K before I have to change more. I’m sitting at 100K at the moment on a 2004. Still, the service costs are high, even when you do it yourself (the belts are especially annoying every 12K.)

          • nickst4 says:

            Belts last way longer than that (12K miles), especially if you are riding it in a manner that doesn’t demand frequent valve shim adjustment.

          • Superchicken says:

            I’m not really willing to find out at what point the belts fail over the limit. I generally end up changing them around the 13-14K point. The newer bikes go 15K before replacement is called for, so I imagine I’m safe there. And sure, I could try to push them further, but given that even doubling the interval wouldn’t save enough to rebuild the top end if one failed (or net me any time), I don’t really see the ROI there. Now if I could extend that to 50K, then we might be talking, but given the belt dust left on the cover and rubber deposited on my cam pulleys after 12K, I’m not going to try that.