With a promise to revamp all of the company’s subsidiaries, the appointment of Herbert Diess leaves Ducati’s future up in the air
A new management change at Volkswagen is prompting new speculation about the selling off of Ducati
Last year it seemed like there was new speculation every week about Ducati's fate, and whether or not it was being sold. So it felt like business as usual when the rumormill started up again recently after the announcement that Herbert Diess will be replacing Matthias Mueller as CEO at the Volkswagen Group. With an established reputation in the industry, speculation has began on how Diess’ appointment will effect the fate of Ducati.
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The VW Group—part of the Porsche Automobil Holding SE company—boasts an auto-empire that includes the ownership of Audi, Porsche, Bentley, Skoda, SEAT, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Ducati, Scania, MAN, VW Commercial Vehicles, and of course, the Volkswagen brand itself. During a press conference the day after the announcement, Diess explained to media that "in its current form, our company is not sustainable”, suggesting the very real possibility that one or more of the parent company’s subsidiaries very well may be on the chopping block.
Diess—who’s known as a bit of a bean-counter—previously headed up BMW Motorrad prior to coming aboard VW a few years ago. BMW was under the leadership of the 59-year-old when it purchased Husqvarna from MV Agusta—a move that didn’t end well for BMW. This has prompted some to wonder whether this negative experience will influence Diess’ view of Ducati.
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After the VW diesel scandal came to light last year, there were talks of Ducati being sold, though the kibosh was put on the sale by unions (who control half of Ducati’s board seats). Diess supposedly has the backing and support of a handful of unions, eliminating one possible factor that would prevent the sale of Ducati.
There are however a number of reasons that suggest that Diess’ new CEO position may benefit Ducati. Because Diess is ultimately concerned with the bottom line, he should be content with Ducati’s performance as of late. Ducati sold more than 55,000 motorcycles globally in 2017, making it one of only a handful of motorcycle manufacturers to actually report positive numbers last year. Part of Ducati’s success has been in its Scrambler range which accounts for just over a quarter of the company’s sales, and Diess played a pivotal role in rebranding BMW and doing away with its snooty image by introducing a wide range of offerings.
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This strategy ultimately served BMW quite well, so it would make sense to see Diess repeat the feat while in control of Ducati. It’s also worth mentioning that Diess himself is reportedly an avid motorcyclist, and based on his tax-bracket, there’s a good chance he actually owns a Duc or two. While whatever sentimental value Diess may have (or not have, who knows?) surely won’t dictate his management decisions regarding the Italian marque, it probably won’t hurt either.