Italian OEM selling more bikes in U.S. than anywhere
Ducati Motor Holding president Gabriele Del Torchio has done quite a job of selecting the top brass to operate Ducati North America.
First, Cristiano Silei has made his mark as CEO of Ducati North America, helping the Italy-based manufacturer of premium motorcycles gain market share in a declining overall industry.
Earlier this year, Del Torchio promoted Dominique Cheraki to general manager of Ducati North America. Together, the two executives have guided the brand to new heights. In fact, Del Torchio proclaimed in September that the United States is now Ducati’s No. 1 market.
“We sell more bikes here in the United States now than we do in our domestic market. Only 20 percent of our bikes are sold in Italy, and 80 percent are exported,” he said.
The addition of Cheraki to the North America headquarters was one of about a half-dozen newly created staff additions in 2011 that figure to bolster Ducati’s stature even further.
“[We’ve added personnel] for the simple reason that the North American market is very important for us,” Del Torchio said. “We truly believe that we have a lot of opportunities in North America, and we’d like to really show our commitment to this market. We have been here for many years, but now it’s time to further improve our presence in North America. In order to achieve these results, we’re working very hard to improve and strengthen our North American position. So I decided to appoint two of my best men here in North America.”
While Silei brings experience with the North American market and its dealer network, Cheraki has managed Ducati’s European markets, including France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.
“He’s a well-experienced manager, working at Ducati for at least 15 years,” Del Torchio said of Cheraki. “I decided to give him the opportunity here in our most important market, where we have a lot of opportunities.”
Ducati has watched its worldwide market share in the segments in which it competes nearly double over the past four years, from 4.8 percent to 10.6 percent, Del Torchio said. Ducati also posted record revenues of $650 million, making “2011 the best ever,” he said.
“It’s been a quite positive year for us,” Del Torchio added. “Our registrations through the end of August went up by 18.6 percent despite the fact that the worldwide market was down 4.3 percent. I truly believe that by the end of the year, we will reach 42,000 units, which would be a record in our history for highest volume, even better than our previous best year in 2008.”
Key to that growth will be new product, one of which turned the EICMA show on its ear. The 1199 Panigale will be available early in 2012.
International growth figures to come from Asia and South America. A new Ducati assembly plant opened in Thailand in September, marking the company’s first plant outside of Italy. Ducati plans to open a similar assembly plant in Brazil in 2012. Both are being established to service their own individual markets.
Dealers can expect a new SAP-based Dealer Communication System to launch in 2012. Del Torchio said three factors persuaded him to use SAP: discipline, instant visibility and improved efficiency.
“The level of support that we were giving to dealers was not enough, so we decided to invest in DCS [Dealer Communication System],” Del Torchio said. “I believe that when the system is in place, Ducati will have one of the best DCS in the industry.”
Similarly, Del Torchio pointed out that the new 1199 Panigale offers the most powerful twin-cylinder production engine available.
“We declare our willingness to introduce at least one brand new motor every year,” he said. “This has proven to be really successful for us. Product innovation and budget for our engineers plays a very important role. It’s usually about 36 months for time to market. But the Panigale was a new bike with a completely new engine. In the case of the bike itself it was three years to market, but for the engine it was five years. It’s completely new, state-of-the-art, highly advanced. You’ve seen the technology, so it was very important and challenging for us.”
Ducati’s commitment to quality might have gone unnoticed until recent years.
“We are truly obsessed by quality,” Del Torchio said. “I can’t say in the past that we were recognized as a top manufacturing company in terms of quality. But today we’re at the same level as the best European manufacturers, and this is something that we are very proud of.”
Del Torchio said the company has improved its engineers’ ability to design quality product, and there’s been an overhaul of how Ducati interacts with its suppliers.
“We completely changed the relationship with our suppliers,” he said. “We are now working with top class suppliers in the world and are constantly scrutinizing their ability to reach the quality target that we affix to them.”
Del Torchio only needs to look at finished products to know that Ducati quality has reached a new level.
“We improved the quality philosophy inside the manufacturing line,” he said. “The percentage of bikes that are coming from the assembly line without any need for additional work has been dramatic. In the past only 25 percent of the bikes were produced without problems after the assembly process. Now the vast majority, about 85 percent of the bikes, reach that level.”
That commitment has helped Ducati raise its profile. In fact, Ducati and Mercedes-Benz AMG will likely extend their marketing alliance beyond its initial 2011-12 time frame.
“I’m very proud of our relationship because it’s the oldest car manufacturer, and one that is a strong and solid, robust German company,” Del Torchio said. “The fact that they want to link their name to our name means a lot to me. To date Ducati is far stronger and more reliable than it used to be.”
Del Torchio expects to see double-digit growth fromd Ducati North America in 2012.
“I believe our North American dealers have the best product line ever and the best product range ever,” he said.
1199 Panigale brings power
The 2012 Ducati Superbike family marks the official introduction of the 1199 Panigale, 1199 Panigale S and flagship 1199 Panigale S Tricolore. Available early in 2012, the 1199 Panigale offers the most powerful twin-cylinder production engine available and delivers 195 hp from 164 kg (361.5 lbs.). It also has the highest production motorcycle power-to-weight and torque-to-weight ratios.
The standard version is priced at $17,995; the S version is $22,995; the S version with ABS is $23,995; and the Italian heritage-inspired Tricolore is $27,995.
The 848EVO and new for 2012, 848EVO Corse Special Edition with enhanced electronics, suspension and Ducati Corse livery, complete the 2012 Ducati Superbike range.
Also, 2012 sees the new Streetfighter 848 take its place alongside the Streetfighter S in the high-performance naked family. The new 848 is dressed in red with a red frame, while yellow makes a comeback and the dark stealth scheme underlines the Streetfighter’s image. The Streetfighter S comes in Ducati red and the brand new for 2012 “race titanium matte,” both schemes with red frames and black wheels.
The Ducati Diavel introduces a new Cromo model for 2012, in addition to the Diavel AMG Special Edition. First introduced in Milan in 2010, the Diavel went on to become one of Ducati’s top selling models. For 2012, the Diavel is available in four versions: the standard Diavel, the Diavel Carbon, the Diavel Cromo and the Diavel AMG Special Edition.