By Mark Kleis
Wednesday, Apr 18th, 2012 @ 1:55 am
 
Leftlane reported in mid-March of a rumor suggesting a pending purchase of Italian exotic motorcycle maker Ducati by Audi - and now it appears that rumor may be coming true.

Two sources familiar with the pending deal between Audi, owned by Volkswagen AG, and Ducati, owned by Investindustrial, told Reuters that the German automaker is prepared to buy the Italian motorcycle maker for about 860 million euros ($1.12 billion U.S.). The deal would also see Audi assuming the debt owned by Ducati, which is believed to be below 200 million euros.

"The Ducati purchase is driven by VW's passion for nameplates rather than industrial or financial logic," said Arndt Ellinghorst, analyst at London-based Credit Suisse. "It's an unnecessary sideshow to VW's main challenges of integrating sports-car maker Porsche and merging truck operations at MAN and Scania."

To those who may be unaware, the Volkswagen Auto Group already lays claim to such exotic nameplates as Lamborghini and Bugatti, and pending legal cases, Porsche as well. The acquisition of Ducati is believed to be driven by a handful of factors, few of which are directly profit-related. For example, BMW currently plays in the superbike arena, and Mercedes-Benz's AMG division has long partnered with Ducati - both giving Audi reason to take the brand for itself for bragging rights if nothing else.

Ducati is a premium brand in the motorcycle realm, selling just 40,000 units last year, which pales in comparison to Honda, for example, which moved over 16 million motorcycles in 2011.