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Audi buys Ducati: An 800m-euro birthday present?

Audi has bought struggling motorbike brand Ducati for a reputed 860 million euros, a move which will see the automotive giant absorb estimated debts of 200 million euros while gaining an eleventh brand for parent company Volkswagen AG.

Ducati will become the third Italian brand under the Audi umbrella, alongside Lamborghini and Italdesign. Although the Bologna-based company’s output is miniscule in the scope of the Volkswagen Automotive Group’s as a whole (Ducati produced 42,000 units in 2011; VAG produced over 8 million), Ducati’s disproportionately famous brand image and expertise with small, high-performance engines could prove valuable in the future. Meanwhile, VAG is likely to lavish Ducati with plenty of capital to revive the specialist brand, in the way we have seen with Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti in recent times.

Other factors likely to have been instrumental in the decision-making process were VAG’s lack of a competitor for BMW’s motorcycle division, and the fact that Chairman Ferdinand Piëch made no secret of his disappointment when the company missed out on buying Ducati last time it was up for sale, in 1984. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that he celebrated his 75th birthday this week, either.

The deal will be concluded once it has been approved by competition authorities, which is no more than a formality. It will also effectively sever the collaboration between Ducati and Mercedes-AMG.

Photos: Audi

You can find Ducatis for sale in the Classic Driver Market.