WE WON'T pretend to be experts at high finance of course, but this one puzzles us more than most things which come out of the City pages these days. Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess gave an interview to Bloomberg TV last week, where he ratcheted up the possibilities of Ducati being sold again, as part of the VW Group's attempts to repair its finances.
The German car maker suffered from the 'Dieselgate' scandal in 2015 of course, where its diesel cars were found to be cheating engine pollution emissions tests in the US and Europe. After losing billions of Euros, the firm had planned to sell off some assets, including its 'non-core' motorcycle business - but seemed to cancel those plans last year and looked set to hold onto Ducati.
Now though, Diess has raised the possibility of a Ducati sale once more, telling Bloomberg TV that VW will either expand or sell Ducati. “Either we find a way forward for Ducati, which provides some growth” and expand the brand, “or we have to look for a new ownership,” he said.
The reason? Ducati apparently makes the second-best profit margin in the VW Group - second only to Porsche, and miles ahead of mega-brands like Bentley, Audi, Seat and Skoda. For the first half of this year, its return was up to 9.5 percent from 8.2 per cent. Now, call us simpletons, but surely you'd want to hold onto the business that's making good profits? Apparently not.
“The new Volkswagen group structure aims to develop sustainable future perspectives for non-core businesses - calmly and with the necessary thoroughness,” Audi said last Friday. “This can be expansions and growth strategies, but divestments are conceivable as well,” it said.
There's an upside there too of course - Ducati could well make moves like Harley-Davidson did earlier last week, and announce plans for new small-bore bikes and a range of new electric two-wheelers for the future.
So - Ducati being sold to some venture capital slags? Or VW holding onto it and expanding the brand to make a massive new range of mini-Monsters for India and SE Asia and electric superbikes for the US and Europe? We know which we'd prefer...