BERLIN, April 18 Volkswagen's Audi
division said it agreed to buy Italian motorcycle maker Ducati,
adding a 12th brand to the German auto maker's portfolio of
passenger cars, trucks and ultra-luxury vehicles.
The 20-member supervisory board of Europe's largest car
maker approved the purchase on Wednesday, Audi said in a
statement. It did not disclose details of the deal, though
sources told Reuters on April 17 that Audi agreed to buy Ducati
for about 860 million euros ($1.13 billion).
Ducati, which has won 13 rider's Superbike World
Championships since 1988, will extend Audi's long-standing
rivalry with Bayerische Motoren Werke to superbikes.
Audi outsold Daimler's Mercedes-Benz last year
and has vowed to surpass BMW for the top spot in luxury car
sales this decade.
The company said it aimed to complete the purchase of Ducati
as quickly as possible once it has received approval by the
Analysts have questioned the Ducati purchase, saying the
move bears no economic or industrial logic and solely reflects
VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech's passion for the Italian company's
expertise on design and light engines.
Ducati also brings in liabilities of well below 200 million
euros, one official told Reuters.
"I can't think of a concrete reason for Audi to warrant a
business case for buying Ducati," said Stefan Bratzel, director
of the Center of Automotive at the University of Applied
Sciences in Bergisch-Gladbach.
"Ducati doesn't enhance Audi's business model in any way,
it's just a trophy in the wall cabinet," he added.
Ducati makes about 40,000 two-wheelers a year across its
range of cruiser, supermoto, adventure, naked and superbikes
that include the muscular Diavel and dual sport Hypermotard. By
comparison, industry leader Honda sold over 16 million
motorcycles last year.
Under Piech, who looks set to win re-election as chairman at
VW's annual general meeting in Hamburg on April 19, VW expanded
its empire to include everything from fuel-efficient city cars
to 40-tonne trucks.
The Wolfsburg-based car maker is currently looking for ways
to buy a remainder of 50.1 percent of sports-car maker Porsche
and said on April 13 that it further raised its
majority stake in truck maker MAN.
($1 = 0.7610 euros)
(Reporting By Andreas Cremer)