One of the major focuses of Ducati North America's 2010 dealer meeting was how to improve on the customer experience for both new and existing Ducatisti — after all, this is a brand with a historically zealous fan base.
While a portion of these efforts lands squarely in the lap of the OEM's dealer network, another part is the province of the manufacturer, which must continually develop, build and market machines that reflect the Italian marque's distinct pedigree.
This point is not lost on Gabriele Del Torchio, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding SpA, DNA's parent company, who said that the current difficult economic environment is no reason to not charge forth with new products. In fact, bringing new bikes to market is exactly what the company needs to do.
Over the past three years, the company has invested $150 million in new product development and has not cut back on the creation of new sale programs, Del Torchio said.
Del Torchio used this background to frame comments about the Multistrada 1200, one of the most technologically advanced motorcycles the company has developed and manufactured. After his presentation, Dealernews sat down with Del Torchio to talk a little bit about Ducati and the North American market. This Q&A was edited for clarity and readability.
Dealernews: Where does the 2010 Multistrada 1200 fit into the North American market?
Gabriele Del Torchio: I personally believe it will fit quite well for various reasons. First of all Ducatis fit very well in North America because of the style of Ducati, because of technology of Ducati, before of our DNA. Then there is the fact that Baby Boomers are becoming older and the fact that superbike owners are interested in having quite more comfortable bikes. That is one of the major reasons why we have developed this bike. This bike is surely a superbike sold ... the engine of the Multistrada is the same one we have in the 1198 ... but then we implemented some very innovative solutions, like the four different modes for the engine, the four different power delivery ... I believe that there was a need in North America for a bike like the Multistrada that is in the meantime a touring bike, a superbike and an urban bike. I'm really confident ... that we were right in designing and developing and now manufacturing this bike.
DN: Which other bikes in the Ducati lineup are important to the U.S market?
GDT: The superbike, including this new 1198 S Corse, is a very important product for us. We finally improved the performance of the bike, we reduced the weight with the aluminum tank ... So obviously the superbikes, but also the renewed Hypermotard line. ... Now we have expanded the product offering by introducing to the market a new 796, which is a more affordable and less intimidating bike.
DN: How big of an opportunity is the new Multistrada in this economy?
GDT: This is a very interesting question. Obviously we started to begin the design activity of the new Mutltistrada a few years ago. … The market was not as it is today, [and] we didn't start the design of the bike because of the crisis, but as soon as the crisis appeared instead of cutting expenditures in new product development, I decided to maintain the level, even to increase the level of budget expenditure in new products. I believe the best way to react to a crisis is for a company like Ducati to launch new products. So the fact that we are now coming with the Multistrada at this moment has been chosen by us. We decided to stay on the same schedule and arrive on the market right now because it is the right moment.We have gained market share worldwide. We achieved a record market share of 7.2 percent, [and] I bet there is still ground for us. I'm confident that we'll find improvement in the future.
DN: Can Ducati remain such a distinct brand and get mass market appeal?
GDT: I don't aim to the mass market. My objective is to stay true to our mission, and our mission is to be the leader in sport premium segment. We stay consistent to that. Ducati is not a mass bike. It is a bike for a very special customer.Ducati quality is comparable to the best European. Are we satisfied? Not yet. We have to improve it. We have to reach the quality of the Japanese, but keep what makes Ducati different, our style, the uniqueness of our bikes.
DN: What are the most challenging issues facing Ducati in the North American market?
GDT: We need to restore confidence among customers. As I said, money didn't disappear, but some customers are facing more problems because of strict rules in credit [and] financing activity. This is one of the most important issues. I don't see a reason why the market won't regain some confidence. I'm not expecting a big jump in 2010, actually if I look at the results of January and February the market is still depressed. This probably has something to do with the economy, even something to do with the weather, which was terrible, but I believe that from spring time onwards things will go better.