According to British magazine Car, the two brands have struck a deal that would give Audi the first right to buy Ducati when its current owner moves to offload the debt-stricken brand.
The legendary bikemaker's liabilities are understood to be around AU$250 million, with a purchase price for the brand expected to settle between $320 and $380 million.
Audi's interest in the Ducati brand is believed to be motivated by Volkswagen Group chairman Ferdinand Piëch, who has been keen to add a two-wheeler brand to the stable for some time.
A Ducati buyout would not be a first for the Volkswagen subsidiary, with the prestige brand already counting supercarmaker Lamborghini in its folio, another purchase spearheaded by Piech.
Ducati is understood to have given Audi an April expiration date on its exclusivity rights, at which point it will welcome bids from other parties.