Mike Stevens | Apr 19, 2012

It's official: Audi has confirmed it will buy Italian motorcycle brand Ducati. The news follows reports in recent weeks that the carmaker had been in exclusive talks with the Ducati owner Investindustrial SpA.

The purchase amount has not been revealed, although sources have reportedly confirmed the Volkswagen-owned company will pay around AU$1 billion for the brand, including nearly $200 million in debt.

While the deal has been signed-off by the parties, the sale must still be sanctioned under European competition rules: however there are not expected to be hurdles there that might stand in the way of the sale.

"Ducati is known worldwide as a premium brand among motorcycle manufacturers and has a long tradition of building sporty motorcycles," Audi boss Rupert Stadler said.

"It has great expertise in high-performance engines and lightweight construction, and is one of the world’s most profitable motorcycle manufacturers. That makes Ducati an excellent fit for Audi."

Analysts have questioned the purchase, viewed as a result of Volkswagen Group boss Ferdinand Piech's well-known desire to have the Italian bikemaker in the family.

Piech's interest in the brand has been public knowledge since 2008, when a bid for the brand was eventually beaten by Investindustrial.

"Ducati doesn't enhance Audi's business model in any way, it's just a trophy in the wall cabinet," Stefan Bratzel, director of the Center of Automotive at the University of Applied Sciences in Bergisch-Gladbach, told Reuters.

While there might be little economic or industrial value in the deal, adding Ducati to the Audi stable gives the carmaker a marketing boost in its battle with BMW, which counts BMW Motorrad among its brands.

The purchase will make Ducati the 11th brand in the Volkswagen Group portfolio, joining Italian compatriots Lamborghini and design studio Italdesign.

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