Adapt To the Changing Market says Ducati's Michael Lock

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A few years back, Harley-Davidson was ridiculed for having Elton John headline its massive 100th anniversary party — not exactly the soundtrack of choice for those more partial to leather and denim than to Dockers and polo shirts.

So what of Ducati, which kicked off its 2010 national sales meeting with The Ramones' three-chord anthem, "Blitzkrieg Bop," and proceeded to pepper the event with tunes from The Jam, the Stranglers, Iron Maiden and The Motors?

That's more like it.

"For so many years now I've wanted to get up on stage after The Ramones," said CEO Michael Lock as he prepared to address the nationwide collection of dealers gathered in early March at the suitably hip W Hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz.

In a daylong presentation to the dealers Lock and other Ducati officials presented a picture of a company on the move, an OEM that gained market share in one of the worse sales years in recent history, has expanded into new international markets and is still charging forth with new model development — all in preparation for the inevitable rebound.

Throughout it all, the energetic soundtrack bookended presentations about new models designed for new customers, efforts at improving customer service, new sales programs and expanded marketing campaigns.

Lock pointed out that the the focus for the company and its dealers should be on succeeding and surviving while ignoring those factors not under their control (e.g. the economy, real estate market, etc.) by focusing on the brand and its customers. As evidence this is working, Lock explained that Ducati North America has doubled its market share in the U.S. to 7 percent in the last four years. And in December 2009, the company had 10 percent of the superbike market in the U.S.

So while the mass motorcycle market has fallen, Ducati's niche — the premium segment — has fared better and the recession has provided them with an opportunity to capitalize as a brand with a diehard and loyal customers base. "We have a better chance to make a splash with this little company than when the economy was good," Lock said.

To do so the OEM and its dealers must invest in the commitment the Ducatisti have to the brand by always improving customer service and learning to communicate with the new generation of motorcycle riders moving up through the ranks. The latter is an important point, Lock emphasized, "They speak a different language but it's a language we have to learn."

Lock pointed out that dealers (and the company) has to learn to flex the changing market and be more open-minded about the evolution of the industry and the new generation of buyers. "We have to resist the temptation to become rigid. We have to adapt," he said.

Here are a few key things Ducati is doing for the coming year:

  • Introduction of the Multistrada 1200. Lock said the bike is all about "venturing into new ground," and is more important bike for developing Ducati's business than the 1098 (introduced in 2007). The Multi is basically an adventure touring bike built around the OEM's 1198 superbike motor. "It's a comfortable Ducati superbike," said Kevin Davis, DNA business development manager.
  • Introduction of a new model to be announced in April.
  • The launch of the Ducati North America Master Technician program, a highly technical education regimen for training level III technicians. Lock said that service is a major part of Ducati's growth strategy. Click here to learn more about the program.
  • Expansion of the Ducati Experience tour to include one "Adventure" demo truck built around the company's Multistrada and Hypermotard models, and one around its general lineup. The interactive displays will put an emphasis on promoting the complete Ducati experience.
  • Launched the Ducati Fast Track promotion. Read more about it here.
  • Expanding the Ducati North America footprint with the addition of Ducati Mexico. Read more about Ducati North America in this Q&A with Gabriele Del Torchio, CEO Ducati Motor Holding SpA.