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Harley-Davidson Reportedly Among Potential Bidders for Ducati

A couple of months ago, we reported that Volkswagen, which controls Ducati through its Audi automobile division, is looking to sell the Italian brand as part of a financial restructuring following the emissions scandal that has cost the company billions.

A new report posted by Reuters earlier today indicates Harley-Davidson, according to Reuters’ sources, has hired the giant Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs to represent it in connection with a potential bid for Ducati.  Take a look at the Reuters report yourself, but there are several potential bidders expected to submit offers next month, including some large private equity funds.

Reuters’ sources indicated the winning bid could be in the neighborhood of $1.67 billion (1.5 billion euros). The deal could bring needed diversification to the iconic American brand.


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138 Comments

  1. Rob in Upstate SC says:

    Here in South Carolina, you either don’t get a wave or they point their finger down, indicating you are the low-life. I just ignore them, except its hard with their loud/straight pipes annoying all. Their charity events are a cover for public acceptance, and somehow they think a justification for the noise they create.

  2. Infadel_macgee says:

    Great a Panagale with apehanger bars coming soon

  3. SmokinRZ says:

    I would hate to see Ducati go, but if that is the sacrificial lamb that could help take Harley down then so be it. Harley has been a thorn in motorcycling for too long, and with the SOA popularity, the Harley contingent (bikers) have become really aggressive towards motorcyclist. I can only hope Indian continues to take market share. Longing for the day the “motor company” goes under.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      This isn’t a criticism of your comment so much as a nagging curiousity of mine: Why are so many people interested in “taking Harley down” or wishing that they fail? I personally find nothing appealing about their bikes and lifestyle image they perpetuate, but lots of other people do. I would take no pleasure in seeing fans of the brand and bikes lose out. Or the employees. Or the marque itself. What is the motivation behind perspectives such as yours in this matter?

      • ApriliaRST says:

        Jeremy, I agree. I delight in criticizing Harley at times but applaud them for their success. They make a very high quality product and if one suits your riding, it’s a good buy. I think you get a lot of product for the money, especially price per pound.

  4. PN says:

    Ugh. This is the stupidest business idea imaginable. Ducati displays fabulous engineering while H-D, aka The Motor Company, sells products that are seriously, absurdly under-engineered. Ducati deserves so much better. I’d like to see Yamaha come in.

  5. oldjohn1951 says:

    Sorry, not drinking the Kool-Aid on this one. I think HD is going to be grabbed by some venture capital operation and will be stripped of everything and everybody that doesn’t show profit or promise. My guess would be Ducati will be grabbed by the likes of QJ in China. That would give them worldwide dealer access for not only Ducati, but also Benelli which basically has no dealers.

  6. Sentinel says:

    Because they did such a great job with Buell and MV Agusta…

  7. stan says:

    Ducati sold a whopping 8787 bikes in the US last year (sarcasm). Since most squids live in CA or FL, not surprising you never see them anywhere else in CONUS. Statistically Ducati is a non-entity. Who gives a rip who buys them – if they can increase sales by changing corporate big brothers more power to them.

    • Tim C says:

      I have seen no less than 3 Supersports on the road here in the Denver area. Those have been in stock for maybe a month.

      • hammer says:

        Harhar 3 in Denver – that’s getting him back LOL..

        • Tim C says:

          Denver is Harley country. The bike just went on sale. Seeing 3 of this new model on the roads (yes I see plenty of other Ducs on the road here too) is reasonably significant in terms of Ducati apparently getting this one right as well as having demand outside of “CA or FL.”

    • Gary says:

      Hate much?

    • Half Baked says:

      Why are you shouting CONUS? I see Ducati’s on the street nearly every day here in SoCal and have never observed a “squid” riding one. That seems to be the exclusive domain of 600 and 1000 cc in-line 4 cylinder sportbikes from Japan.

  8. mechanicus says:

    I’m not so against it. I travel all over the U.S. and don’t recall seeing a single Ducati on the road in the last year, so explain to me how it hurts. Maybe HD can get more of them out there onto the pavement – in whatever form.

    • slipjoint says:

      I have carried the same rider and his monster home twice on a trailer when it failed about 40 miles from his house. I have seen that one up close.

  9. Tim C says:

    You know, an aside on the whole Lifestyle thing. I went to my local Duc dealer to check out – NOT test ride because I know what that might lead to – the new Supersport.

    Anyway, point of the story, a guy was there to test ride the thing, and he was suiting up. He was a total Hipster Cafe Racer type – he had jeans, cafe-racer style jacket (his most protective garment), a half helmet, goggles, and was wrapping his face in some kind of scarfy bandana type thing….

    • Austin ZZR 1200 says:

      still waiting for the punchline. Are you implying that the hipster image is as pretentious as the biker image for their respective brands?

      • Tim C says:

        No, just that several people have mentioned that Harley sells lifestyle more than motorcycles, but Ducati is hardly immune to this. Yeah, I like their motorcycles – and lifestyle, depending – a lot more than H-D’s personally, but I wouldn’t say their business models – or the mentality of all their customers – are as different as perhaps the more hardcore “real” motorcyclists on the Ducati side of things might prefer.

        • slipjoint says:

          Another reason to hate on V-twins, they apparently are the root cause of butt-less chaps, tassels and now euro fashion motorcycle attire.

          • austin zzr 1200 says:

            Hey buddy, I ride a ’08 650 V-strom (arguably the least pretentious of all bikes) , thems fighting words!

  10. Ron H says:

    Don’t do it Volkswagen. I’d be like Yugo running Porsche.

  11. azi says:

    People, please stop spelling it as “MV Augusta”! *flips table*

    • Auphliam says:

      Doesn’t matter. The whole MV scenario has no relevance to this at all, but people feel the need to throw whatever HD bashing cards their brains hold, so that’s what comes out. It’s like that person that always tries to lead with trump in euchre LOL

  12. paquo says:

    sad day when sleazy harley buys ducati, look how they treated buell

  13. Jim says:

    Truly, the apocalypse is upon us.

  14. Krampus says:

    HD acquiring another trend setting MC company; how many have they destroyed now? HD consists of in-the-box thinkers and no experience with successful sportsbikes. Potential disaster.

  15. Tank says:

    This might just be the smartest thing HD has done in a long time. If companies learn from their past mistakes, Harley has done a lot of learning. I hope this works out.

  16. Devasya says:

    HD could get away with buying Ducati and not suffer anything bad…for a while.

    But how would the stodgy HD culture work on development of new Ducatis?

    Where would something like Panigale come from in HD World?

    And what about the move to the V4 motor?

    Can HD pull that off?

    Of course, if they buy Ducati and then leave it alone, leaving all the people in place and providing them with adequate funding, then there is really no difference between HD owning them and VW owning them.

    This may actually boil down to nothing at all.

    • Pacer says:

      I think the problem is Harley likes a large profit margin of an establish line. The currnt line is an evolution of the “Evo” bikes from 1986. Nothing worth a historical marker in 31 years. A company like Ducati needs to continually reinvest, and be on the cutting edge. Harley lets everyone else do R&D then implements the technology when it is old news, and put on the shelf (in other words cheap). Harley’s bean counters don’t have the correct mentality for Ducati.

    • Gary says:

      The idea in a merger is to buy the expertise along with the brand. If the story is true, and Harley buys Ducati, they would be stupid if they did not keep the Ducati R&D team intact.

      But that’s ALWAYS the goal. I know because I worked in Mergers & Acquisitions for a short (miserable) period. Companies always say they want to keep the team intact, but the fact is corporate cultures are much, much different (ask Eric Buell) … and I can’t imagine a more divergent corporate culture than HD and Ducati.

      If they don’t let Ducati be Ducati, they will fail.

      • Tim C says:

        I work in software which means several instances of mergers, acquisitions, changes of management from the top down, etc etc. I have yet to see a single one of these improve the company.

  17. StickyTires says:

    Well, early this year, Harley did say they had plans to introduce 50 new models. Notice that the word used was ‘introduce’ and not ‘produce’. Reading between the lines, one could argue that they’ve been planning this for some time.

    • Scott says:

      They haven’t introduced 50 “new” models in the history of the company!

      Unless you count things like changing a footpeg bracket from chrome to black, or using a different stitch pattern on the seat to make a model “new”…

  18. Gary says:

    If this story is true, then I am astonished. Harley once bought Aermachi, an Italian motorcycle company, presumably for exactly the same reason: a quick, cost-effective way to expand into a new market segment. The Aermachi venture belly flopped big time. So would a Ducati venture, I’m sure.

    Come to think of it, when did ANY automotive/motorcycle merger/acquisition every pay off? Remember when Mercedes bought Dodge/Chrysler?

    • CrazyJoe says:

      Volkswagon: Audi, Bently, Bugatti , Lamborghini , Porsche and Ducati.

      • Gary says:

        I don’t believe Volkswagen bought Audi. They created a luxury brand. Porsche is the exception that proves the rule. I don’t think Bently, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Ducati are lighting the world afire.

        • CrazyJoe says:

          Sorry may have hit the report instead of reply button?

          Maybe not the world afire but after seeing the Anniversary Panigale photo the other day let’s just I have never been sexualy attracted to a motorcycle before.

        • todd says:

          Audi goes back long before VW ever existed. Audi (or Auto Union) was a conglomeration of three storied German brands, Horsch, NSU, and Wanderer – much like Chrysler gathered up Desoto, Plymouth, Dodge Brothers, etc. Audi was was already a name brand when VW was called “KDF” and used nazionalist symbols in its logo.

    • Auphliam says:

      Wasn’t that long ago, FordMoCo owned a large chunk of all the European automotive marques, and Mazda. There’s plenty of complaint to be found about those years, similar to what you see in the comments here, but if not for Henry and Co, nearly all of them would be nonexistent today.

      • Scott says:

        And our 2011 Mazda CX-9 (which is really a Ford Edge under the Skin) is a problematic POS that we can’t even give away.. Good riddance, Ford!

  19. Gary says:

    Since Victory has now been shuttered, maybe Polaris should consider Ducati. They definitely need something on the sport end of the deal since even the Indian scout is still a loosely dressed cruiser. I’m still mad at HD (highly dumb) for screwing Buell over.

  20. -D says:

    Fiat should buy Ducati, and keep the Italian brand Italian…

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Fiat should buy Ducati, and keep the Italian brand Italian”

      PIAGGIO will buy Ducati.

  21. Aussie Mike says:

    Heck,HD had a lovely motor bit stuck it into the VRod with a ridiculously low seat height & forward controls. HD couldmake some decent models ither than understeering cruisers. And it wouldn’t cost them $1.5 billion

  22. Vrooom says:

    Sure they can make MV Augusta work, nope. Well then, surely they can make EBR work? Nope. Didn’t they even own Ducati once way back when? The fact is the whole corporation is revolving around lifestyle at Harley, as much as people say it’s a lifestyle brand at Ducati, it’s really a performance brand. Harley will kill it. Full disclosure, I’ve been thrown out of a Harley dealer before.

    • Tim C says:

      You should get some kind of award for that last bit.

      • Scott the Aussie says:

        My local Harley dealer are really nice guys, freindly as anything, but walking in there feels (for this long term Guzzi owner) like an out of body experience. They say the same words as the Triumph dealer 30 metres away….but the meanings are radically different.

  23. austin zzr 1200 says:

    Will someone please set up a change.org or some other sort of petition so we can block this?

  24. chris says:

    If Harley wants to get in the sporting business then they should just profusely apologize to Erik Buell and bring him back on and this time don’t put him in constraint’s on him, but let him build what he wanted to all along,I think they should really consider that especially when you look at how Indian is kicking there butts in flat track racing , plus it would be MUCH less expensive than purchasing Ducati.

  25. John F. says:

    While this purchase might not make make much sense for the American market, it makes great sense for HD if it wants to expand further into the huge third world markets like India and China using an already well known and respected brand name like Ducati with its existing modern technology.

    The massive Indian company Bajaj started this trend when they purchased almost half of KTM (and will probably end up with the other half as well). HD is only taking a page out of the very successful KTM/Bajaj strategy book. Look for KTM (and HD) to increasing shift production to India. KTM has already started doing this with their 390cc bikes.

    This purchase would give HD a well known brand for very little money. KTM has benefited greatly from its Indian association. Hopefully HD will do likewise with Ducati and not screw it up by introducing Ducati Fat Boys or Low Riders.

    If this purchase comes about about the future HD/Ducati product range will include many more smaller, third world produced motorcycles that will probably never been seen in the USA (at least under the HD name).

    The larger Ducatis (if indeed they even continue to be produced in the future) will not be sold at HD dealers however. The culture clash resulting would simply be too great.

    • sbashir says:

      Harleys are much better known around the world than Ducatis. HD doesn’t need the Ducati name. KTM only needed the Bajaj money. KTM is building cheaper bikes in India for the Indian market. Any of the Indian-built bikes for sale in Europe or the U.S. are thoroughly inspected in Austria. Bajaj will not end up with more than the 52% they already own because KTM is doing very well and also now owns Husqvarna and WP. HD is already assembling bikes in India and Thailand so there is nothing to be gained there.

  26. Your Uncle Bob says:

    The rumor makes no sense. The Buell was – within a hair – just as good as a Ducati. So was Buell Racing before its recent collapse. Harley couldn’t get rid of Buel fast enough. It’ll never happen. Now Polaris, maybe.

  27. Jeremy in TX says:

    Honestly, would this bee so bad? Would we really rather see Ducati fall into the hands of a Bain Capital or other investment firm where short-term profits are the only motivating factor? Or perhaps a Chinese or Indian manufacturer makes more sense to some people?

    I understand the trepidation. To be such an industry powerhouse, Harley really doesn’t understand the rest of the market. They are a lifestyle company more than a motorcycle company, which is fine. Ducati has a huge lifestyle component to their brand as well. A lot, and I mean a lot, of the Ducati riders I’ve met also own or used to own and love a Harley. That’s purely anecdotal, but perhaps it implies that H-D’s interest in the Italian marque may make more sense than what is apparent.

  28. wsg says:

    I’ve loved all things Ducati since I was a young boy. I love my current bike (a ’15 Diavel). Reading that HD could be in any way be involved in their future literally feels like being stabbed through the heart. It would also mark the last dollar of mine they ever receive.

  29. dt 175 says:

    can’t wait to hear the h-d faithful complain about the ducatisti being poseurs and only caring about being “scene” wearing officially licensed products and only riding to the coffee bar…

  30. allworld says:

    HD can not handle Ducati, or the people who buy and ride them.
    If they want to expand into other markets they should design and build their own entries.

    I can just imagine the HD crowd stirring and grumbling at the people interested in Ducati’s invading their showroom……….. O yeah good times ahead.

    “Does that thing even have a radio”

  31. Stratkat says:

    please, for the love of God and all things good, NO!!!!!!!!!

  32. Auphliam says:

    Interesting. Not sure what HD has to gain by this. Is it an attempt to “buy” the parent company forward, from a technology standpoint, or just hunting for profit? Is Duc profitable enough to justify that much expense?

    For those positing that this would be a disastrous move, apparently you don’t remember the Cagiva years. I say Relax. The company started out making vacuum tubes. They’ve also made some pretty stupid bikes in the past, all on their own. It’s not some motorcycle messiah that could never stand the tarnish of HD ownership.

    Perhaps Bajaj would be a better choice…but I have my doubts
    http://www.bajajauto.com/bajajavenger/cruise/desertgold.html

    • MGNorge says:

      Safe to say that in most all transactions of this type that profit is the motive.

  33. Fred says:

    HD buys back Ducati ? What for the same $1 they resold it back to Giovanni Castiglioni’s Father Claudio the last time round pre MV Augusta.
    The HD Board better speak to POTUS Trump before HD becomes classed a “foreign assembler”.
    Ask Ford & Merc about owning Mexico Assembly plants heh.

  34. Matt G says:

    I really hope the investment funds don’t get their hands on them. Too many of these funds have a way of cutting and cutting to increase profits, then flip the company, leaving an empty shell of what was once a great brand.

  35. Grover says:

    Think of the bright side…three years from now anyone with $3 in their pocket will be able to buy Ducati.

  36. Kent says:

    Do they have the same idiot CEO who doesn’t ride, and sold MV at a loss just to get rid of it?

    I fail to see why they would buy then sell a boutique (two actually) moto manufacturer and lose a shitload of money – then go buy another one.

    Is there any logic here?

  37. sam says:

    have you seen the other bidders!? Bajaj, a manufacturer of motorcycles that make the Rebel 250 look upscale. and the rest are chop-shop hedge funds (Bain capital, KKR, etc).

    sadly, Harley might be the best choice available.

  38. dman says:

    Harley used to own HRC …

    … Holiday Rambler Corp, makers of motorhomes. Only slightly larger than a Road King.

  39. Sentinel says:

    Ah, and they did so “well” with Buell… 🙁

  40. xLaYN says:

    This is obviously related to the post about the V4…. 4 valves… two per head, air cooled, 1800cc the next airagale would set the reference for the long future…

    • Random says:

      Nearly spit my coffee 🙂 though Potatogale with a Superlongo engine would be more precise.

  41. Stephen says:

    A hd with 16k on the tach!!! Hydraulic valves just a floating…

  42. highspeedhamish says:

    Ducati Monster Sporster addition?

    Just walk away Hog. Walk away and we’ll spare your lives.

    Oddly, Ducati is the Hog Runners of Europe.. they just keep boring out the engine to make more power… sounds familiar huh?

  43. wjf says:

    Great Scott!
    Harely on pole at the motogp…..

  44. ABQ says:

    Please…don’t…stop. Really, I mean it this time. Just say no.
    Harley should invest in growing the Street line of bikes in India.

    • ApriliaRST says:

      > Harley should invest in…

      …putting their bikes on a diet. And how about a power adjusting windshield now that they are mainstream.

      • TF says:

        In addition to the Superleggera, Ducati could now offer a Superpesante!

        • Tim C says:

          The comments on this thread are Best-of-MD level

          • Scott the Aussie says:

            The Night Diavel sounds cool.

            Wide-Strada – for the man who only rides on motorways!

            FatScrambler sound like something KFC uses…

  45. mickey says:

    Lorenzo would look badazz in black and orange, with a half helmet and stay back whip. He already has the life saving pipes.

    Heck doesn’t make any difference..my son already calls his Ducati an Italian Harley (he’s had issues with it)

  46. Bill says:

    Well at least people won’t have to redo their tattoos-Harley- Ducati is still H-D.

  47. Tom R says:

    I just threw up in my mouth about this.

    Oh man, it just happened again.

  48. Matt says:

    First it was Aermacchi, then MV Agusta, and now Ducati? Just what’s with Harley Davidson and Italy, anyway?

  49. Tom R says:

    Oh God, please let this be a piece of fake news.

  50. Ricardo says:

    BTW I also own a Ducati 999, so I don’t think Harley and Ducati mix.

  51. Ricardo says:

    Hopefully NOT otherwise Ducati might end up like Buell. I personally own a V-Rod and like Harleys, but I don’t think HD understands motorcycling very well, specially sport bikes.
    BTW I also own a Ducati 999 which I love, so Harley and Ducati don’t mix very well…

    • It is so sad that you have a case when stating “I don’t think HD understand motorcycling very well”….I couldn’t have said it better though…they absolutely murdered Buell as a brand and it wasn’t because of the rolling chassis design or anything inherently at issue with the bikes….it was simply a poor decision by a bunch of suits too used to the high profits of rebranded chinese soft goods and overpriced chromed out cruisers.

    • Tim says:

      Harley understands marketing. That’s why 80% of the bikes I cross paths with are Harley’s. But they are short sighted, and don’t understand sport bikes. If they buy Ducati they will focus on their own cruiser line, and invest in it, ignoring Ducati. Harley needs to do everybody a favor and just walk away from this deal.

  52. austin zzr 1200 says:

    This would kill any boner I would ever have for a Ducati model

  53. Dirty Bob says:

    There will be no offer from HD. This is not worth discussing.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “There will be no offer from HD. This is not worth discussing.”

      better stated, there will be no offer from HD that will not be SUPERSEDED by an offer from deep inside the borders of Italia. some entity who grinds espresso, turns grapes to wine, or makes fancy shoes and handbags will own Ducati before HD is allowed to do so here in the modern era.

  54. blitz11 says:

    Jeesh, $1.67B for Ducati is not a bad deal. my last employer paid $540M for a company whose annual revenue was $180M, and that was a disaster. Let’s see – $1.5B Euro for annual revenue of $731M Euro – that’s in the ball park. H-D can consolidate the factories in India (Street 500 & 750) and the those in Thailand (Ducati) and generate savings there. This could work out if they let Ducati be Ducati.

    Just as long as they don’t bag on Ducati like they did MV, and sell it for 3 Euro. Ugghhhh. THAT was a disaster.

  55. Gary says:

    Some interesting joint models should come out of this, all based on a common Hogati architecture. Models like the Panahoggy. Multisportster. And of course, the Fat Monster.

  56. Bart says:

    “Nappa” is tassel in Italian.

  57. Tim C says:

    I’m not really personally into Ducatis (not saying I couldn’t be) but for God’s sake keep the toxic touch of Hardly Death away from them! UGH.

    I know there’s a couple H-D guys on here but after Buell….

  58. motocephalic says:

    Maybe it will bring some upright lightweight standards to Harley. I might start buying American bikes.

    • Curly says:

      Yeah, bring back the Aermacchi Sprint! Or it could also be like an AMF Ducati.

    • Pacer says:

      Nope. They will put Ducati on a shelf like a trophy, let it tarnish, and fire sale it away. As this happens everyone will cheer that the boat anchor of a brand is finally gone.

  59. Dino says:

    Not AGAIN!!!
    Did they learn nothing from the last time?

    • Chirp says:

      You mean the last two times. H-D bought the Varese factory twice, once as Aermacchi and once as MV.

  60. slipjoint says:

    Well this should save the V-Twin Duc.