Getting detailed financial info on motorcycle manufacturers is difficult. The Big Four Japanese are vertically-integrated conglomerates who make everything from bullet trains and ships to pianos and keyboards. They don’t usually break out motorcycle sales in their financials. Ditto for BMW – they don’t separate cars and motorcycles. The small companies – Ducati, Piaggio, etc. are often traded on foreign exchanges with limited disclosure rules or have large percentages of their stock held by private interests. US-based Harley-Davidson is about the only pure motorcycle manufacturer where we can track true financials. This makes it hard for someone like me to assess trends and get any real feel for what’s happening in terms of industry economics, so it’s really helpful when someone publishes inside data on a specific company.

Alan Cathcart had a brief writeup on Buell and Ducati in the January 23 issue of Cycle News that had some interesting data on Ducati. I record it here for future reference.

Outgoing Ducati President/CEO Federico Minoli engineered the talks between H-D and Ducati that had H-D looking seriously at acquiring the Italian marque in late 2007. The deal was squashed by the Bonomi family, who controls Ducati via a 30%-minus-one-share equity stake owned by their private equity firm Investindustrial.

According to Cathcart Ducati’s revenues for the first nine months of 2007 showed a 43% increase over the same period in 2006:

Financial info for Ducati – first nine months of the year.
Category 2006 2007
Revenue €224.2 million €322.2 million
Gross Profit -€4.6 million €17.6 million
Debt €46.7 million €9.5 million
Worldwide Registrations 30,100 34,705
Data from the January 23, 2008 issue of Cycle News.

H-D’s numbers have gone in the opposite direction, with sales mirroring the overall slump in the US economy and projected 2008 numbers being even worse. Interestingly, the two companies are apparently still talking and a future merger is not out of the question. As we have noted here before, big companies need to get bigger in order to remain competitive, and consolidation is the natural path in all industries. Big companies also have trouble innovating, and tend toward buying up innovation rather than developing it on their own. In the end this reduces overall choice in the marketplace, providing us – the riding public – with largely identical machines that are just branded differently.