THERE was some head-scratching about the potential benefits to the Volkswagen Group when its subsidiary, Audi, became the owner of Ducati earlier this year. Just what did the massive car conglomerate stand to gain by buying a niche bike firm?
Despite talk of technical collaborations, few really believed that Ducati engineers had much to offer that one of the world's biggest companies couldn't have achieved on their own, and Ducati is never likely to make any noticeable financial impact on VW's corporate wallet regardless of how well it performs in the future.
However, Audi and fellow VW subsidiary Lamborghini are set to have a big presence at World Ducati Week, starting at Misano on June 21-24. Why? Because Ducati riders like to go fast, often aren't short of a few bob and probably tend to prefer the finer things in life. How many might have a supercar sharing garage space with their Panigale? And how many might be persuaded to buy one from the VW stable?
Mercedes' performance arm, AMG, had previously had links with Ducati, and presumably saw the same benefit. Since buying the whole firm represented little more than pocket change to VW, the benefit in simply getting existing Ducati owners to buy Audis or Lambos instead of Mercs or Ferraris could on its own be enough to justify the purchase.
The very choice of cars to appear at WDW shows how high-end Audi considers Ducati customers to be. There are no entry-level A1, A3 or A4 models, only the high performance S6 (£54k) and S8 (£77k) along with the R8 V10 supercar (£109k-plus). And Lamborghini will be showing its £180k-plus Gallardo LP 570-4 Super Trofeo Stradale and £250k Aventador LP 700-4 in the Misano paddock. And it wouldn't take too many extra sales of cars at that price level before Ducati might start looking like a very wise purchase indeed.