Common Tread

The rumors just get stranger: Harley-Davidson to buy Ducati?

Jun 21, 2017

I've been doing my best not to drag the swirling rumors of the potential sale of Ducati by Volkswagen into the pages of Common Tread.

Not because I didn't care, or thought readers wouldn't care. But just because they were nothing more than rumors, and lots of them. Believe me, if I knew who was going to buy Ducati — or even if anyone was going to buy Ducati or even if VW was really going to go through with a sale — I'd rush to be the first to share it with you.

Today, the rumors took a twist even I can't ignore, however. Reuters reported that Harley-Davidson is considering a bid for Ducati. According to the story, which is naturally based on anonymous sources, Harley has hired Goldman Sachs to work on a potential deal.

This follows a long series of rumors that named potential buyers ranging from the low-cost, high-volume motorcycle manufacturers in India to some of the Japanese brands to BMW and various private equity firms. Some of those rumors were shot down, some left to languish on the branch.

So what could go wrong with a Harley-Davidson and Ducati merger? They both make V-twins, right? 

You don't have to go back to the 1960s and Aermacchi to find romances between Milwaukee and Italy that ended in divorce. Less than 10 years ago, Harley-Davidson invested more than $100 million in MV Agusta, another company known for making sexy, Italian sport bikes, then "sold" it a few years later for €1. So what could possibly go wrong with mixing Panigales and Fat Boys? Think of the synergy!

Wouldn't it be great to complement the Harley-Davidson lineup with a fancy, big-bucks sport bike or two? Oh, wait, wasn't there some kind of Buell experiment a few years back, as well? If the guys down at the local H-D dealership could never really get comfortable with the bikes turned out by Erik Buell — a Pittsburgh native, for the love of all that's middle America — then how many training sessions will it take to get them to speak of Gigi Dall'Igna with the same reverence as Willie G. Davidson? Or even pronounce his name right? Or even believe Gigi is a guy's name.

Really, Harley-Davidson buys Ducati. What could possibly go wrong?