Culture – Ducati maintains its myth – Used DUCATI

SPECIAL FILE

Ducati maintains its myth

Culture - Ducati maintains its myth - Used DUCATI

How does the famous Bologna brand work today? Who are the ducatists? How do you roll over a myth? Interviews, portraits, analyzes … The special summer dossier of Moto-Net !

To say that Ducati is an icon is no revelation: who has never dreamed of owning a 916 ?

Or today, a 999R and its fabulous Testastretta engine? Or for the older ones, a Pantah or the 750 "Supersport" led to victory at the Tourist Trophy by Mike Hailwood in 1978 ?

Despite the price, owning a machine from the Bologna firm never leaves its owner indifferent, entering the "tribe". An argument that the leaders of the brand exploit to the full…

SPECIAL FILE DUCATI

And that is the problem ! Has Ducati economically gained what it lost in its soul? No ! At the risk of displeasing its detractors, it has not only progressed but also retained a lot of its values.

The fundamentals have not changed. Since 1996, when the current shareholder, the US pension fund Texas Pacific Group (TPG), saved the brand from bankruptcy, the Desmo has been around. The invention of the engineer Fabio Taglioni (1955) even remains on the Desmosedici de Capirossi when more daring technical choices could have been imposed on a GP machine.

The Bologna firm, which will celebrate its 80th anniversary in 2006, has even reinforced its legend: a sporting image carried by the successes in Superbike and now in Grand Prix, an L-twin, the tubular frame and the Desmo … Even the competition copies one of the brand’s successes (1992), the Mostro. The Yamaha Bulldogs and other Suzuki SVs have bet on this attractive twin-cylinder concept. Does the product show any ?

Not to believe Dominique Cheraki, General Manager of Ducati France: "the Monster family grew another 8% in 2004". Last year, the decline in sales (-1.4% with 3,117 motorcycles for about 3% of the large-displacement market) is more than honorable given the relatively flat context of France (read our).

Did the famous "family spirit" get lost along the way with the expansion of the tribe and the arrival of new members attracted by a more fashionable image? It is clear that the brand encourages him. But, according to an expert, she did not lose. "I remember the days when the tribal side was too exaggerated", tells Marco Raymondin (Ducati Brooklands)."Guys, they were ayatollahs! It absolutely had to be complicated and boring to start! Now there is still a hard core but it has evolved. We sold 100 motorcycles, today it is double. And it’s not bad to see new faces !"

Better still, Ducati reinforces the feeling of belonging of the "ducatists" by organizing multiple community events (French Grand Prix, Superbike, driving courses, circuit, Centopassi, etc.). "Given the repressive environment set up on our roads", says Pierre Col from Lyon (five Ducatis to his name),"it is really only on the track that we can really enjoy our motorcycles. And the outings on the track that we organize with ducatist friends are real good moments of motorbike and conviviality !"

There remains the commercial strategy. Ducati Stores, price of motorcycles, maintenance, new models, reception in dealerships … Everything is scrutinized by "the guardians of the temple", who believe in particular on internet discussion forums that "the extremely elitist, closed and arrogant attitude of current marketing annoys many who no longer find the spirit that represented one of the characteristics of the brand… The myth is tarnished, but Ducati continues to be hallowed even though the dealer is regularly targeted.

Despite recurring threats of desertion, none of the members of this "network" of ducatists declares themselves ready to commit the ultimate sin: swap their beautiful Italian for, at random, a Japanese. Less talkative than Internet users taking advantage of their supposed anonymity on discussion forums, the figures also speak for themselves: despite its losses, the Ducati Store de la Grande Armée in Paris posted increases of 15% on accessories, a target clearly identified by Italian management. Ducati France is also smart to keep the two concession systems: the "stores" and the others.

Are historic fans left by the wayside by excessively high purchase prices and maintenance costs? Olivier Grobost, 27, ducatist to the tips of his nails, puts it into perspective: "my 900 SS, when it came out in 1989, it was worth 65,000 FF. Today it is worth as much (10,000 €), but have you seen the difference in technology? Before, the guy who bought an 851, he paid dearly for it and he didn’t dare take it out. Me, I ride every day and I learned to take my motorcycle apart to maintain it on my own". The famous" network "of the net has also partly remedied the problem: exchanges of good addresses," home "manufacture of parts, learning the technique to do its revisions" alone ", outside the professional circuit..

Even the most infatuated professionals like Rory Simpson have deserted: since 2002, this Englishman, recognized by his peers as one of the brand’s "popes", has deserted Simpson Mécanique and its superb "cathedral" in Montpellier to cede it to … Honda ! Rory may well stir up his resentment by listing his arguments (see opposite), he recognizes that "as soon as DMH (Ducati Motor Holding) and TPG earn more money, their strategy is – basically – unassailable".

Despite the presence of this American shareholder, generally pragmatic in the business, Ducati can still be identified with the myth of "Latinity", messy and not very careful about quality. But everyone agrees, two black spots remain: quality control and logistics. It is not uncommon to encounter an oil leak with 50 km on the clock, or to wait indefinitely for an accessory from the catalog. Come on Ducati gentlemen, one more effort !

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Pierre SYLVESTRE – Photos DR

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