Ducati Case Analysis

As of year 2000, global motorcycle market is dominated by a handful of players. Japanese manufacturers such as Honda, Yamaha, and Kawasaki are low cost players while Harley and Ducati are in the high end of the spectrum and have been able to successfully establish themselves as a premium brand. Harley dominates the cruiser motorbike segment and is a really strong player in the US, where it has a big fan following and loyal customer base. However Ducati has been struggling to increase market share and reach to Harley’s level of profit margin that is highest in industry.

Ducati is self discovering itself with Minoli to target right customer segments, retaining its core competencies and establishing its brand image for which Ducati stands for.

Minoli’s consideration of entering into Harley’s niche market of cruisers is an excellent choice for Ducati’s future growth, as it reinforces the premium flagship of products that Ducati is famous for. We recommend Ducati develop a “sports-cruiser” motorbike that offers the riding style and comfort of a cruiser such as Harley Davidson, and yet be fast and nimble.

We also recommend offering customization capabilities through Ducati.com and company-owned stores as well as single franchise stores that would continue to offer the same legacy and brand association that Ducati loyalists prefer. The motorbike will be priced at E12,000 (USD 16,200) which is right in the range of Harley’s custom cruiser motorbikes and will take a step away from Ducati’s current line of sports bikes.

This move may seem a bit risky at first, but the fact that Ducati’s R&D expenses will be fairly low due to availability of high quality engines and large supplier pool; this will not require significant new investment to the current setup.

Additionally, the company will be able to entice new customers in a niche segment with high margins and get a significant opportunity for gaining market share. Also, Introduction of these motorbikes in Europe initially will also reduce the possibility of a backlash from Harley who is the leader in the US market. Ducati can then expand to US once they have acquired some sales momentum. Ducati does not expect retaliation from the low-cost Japanese players as it is still positioning itself as a premium manufacturer. However, there is still possibility of new entrants or Japanese makers to introduce a knock-off model in which case Ducati will be able to distinguish itself on attributes including high performance, customization, brand image and the prestige that it has historically enjoyed and is respected for in the industry as well as the global market.

Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki and few of high end premium manufactures that include BMW, Harley-Davidson, Triumph and Ducati comprised the Global motorcycle Industry. These manufacturers compete in different market segments and select demographics based on different attributes and styles of motorcycles across the product offerings. Our analysis of the industry is summarized using Porter’s Five Forces analysis (Exhibit 1) Suppliers: Recent trends in the motorcycle manufacturing have been leaning towards outsourcing of most motorcycle components and the companies doing the final assembly in-house. Most manufacturers have multiple choices of component suppliers that they may switch at will. This strategy provides them with high negotiation power, reduced fixed assets, and greater flexibility to meet changing market conditions quickly. However, the companies need strong commitment from their suppliers for a quicker turn around, efficiency and quality.

Buyers: Customers/end users have been categorized into different segments such as knee-down riders/fast riders, easy riders, hot rods/urban riders, and weekend riders. These riders choose the bike based on performance, lifestyle, function and comfort. A motorcycle is a highly differentiated product that is used for transport and has lots of alternatives or competitors, and for this reason buyer power is high. Customers have myriad of choices ranging from different styles of bikes such as sports, super sports, off-road/dual purpose, cruisers, naked bikes, etc. to different brands including high end names such as BMW, Harley Davidson, Ducati, and low price options from Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, etc. Entry Barriers: The motorcycle industry is very difficult to enter and compete in due to high capital investments spent on R&D, well-established relationships with suppliers, and strong brand loyalty and recognition that has been established for decades.

Motorcycles are becoming more and more technologically advanced, which makes it very difficult for a new entrants to compete on a similar level without large amounts of capital and innovative differentiators. Rivals: Rivalry between the eight major motorcycle manufacturers can be considered high. The total number of motorcycle manufacturers has declined dramatically, with only one major manufacturer remaining from the US. These major players are fierce competitors and are vying for market share based on the brand, style, attributes, service, and price (especially Japanese companies). As a result of such high competition within the industry, manufacturers constantly need to improve designs and functionality. Substitutes: Lastly, several substitutes are available if we consider motorcycle only as a mechanism of transport.

However, in many cases, a motorcycle is beyond a mere mode of transportation as a curator in the case said, it is a “perfect metaphor for twentieth century.” Riding motorcycles provide a unique experience, and it has been a cultural icon as presented in a number of Hollywood movies. In this sense, threat of substitutes, which may be sports cars and racing cars or other mode of transportation, could be considered fairly low. The following section describes changes in the industry and how that affects Ducati. Industry Changes & Implications on Ducati: The industry is advancing at a high pace today due to technological innovations, such as the introduction of electronic components, advent of CNC and CAD technologies, advances in material science to introduce lighter and stronger composite materials. Superior engine performance combined with lower emissions and fuel consumptions is rapidly changing the face of the industry and competition.

There is also a push from the manufacturers to improve components like sophisticated air assisted forks, mono shock rear suspension, and front and rear disc brakes to meet the customers’ hunger for better quality as derived from market survey results and customer feedbacks. These technological changes and quality improvements are positive for Ducati who is abreast on its technological innovation and performance. Advanced engineering and state of the art technology have always been Ducati’s strengths, as evident by the number of World Superbike Championships won by Ducati between 1990 and 2000 (8 victories). Lighter materials help Ducati to continuously improve its already superior performance and retain its position in the sports segment where it already has a stronghold.

Additionally, the outsourcing of components and in-house assembly platform of manufacturing turns in favor of Ducati as most of Ducati’s suppliers are concentrated in the Emilian district – a major hub of specialized parts and components suppliers. Ducati typically enters into short-term contracts with its suppliers. Effectively, Ducati has enjoyed a strong hold on its supplier base which in turn has made them the most-efficient manufacturer in the industry and this strategy will continue to provide them the flexibility and edge in design and sourcing of new components going forward.

Frederico Minoli, the CEO of Ducati, had two strategic goals in mind when he took over: double digit growth and equaling Harley-Davidson’s profit level of EBITDA margin of 20%, which was the highest in the industry. The challenge was split within the company into polarized directions; Engineers wanted to continue company culture of high focus on product, and Minoli wanted to appeal to broader spectrum of customers and not just extreme riders. The following section provides our analysis of Ducati’s current strategy using Strategy Diamond method (Exhibit 2). Arenas: Ducati primarily offered performance bikes in sports and street category, which are broadly identified as Hyper-sport, Super-sport, Naked and Sport touring. They face tough competition from Japanese manufacturers such as Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki, who have captured the lion’s share of the market.

Research shows that a large number of new registrants are categorized under customs and small motorcycle segments with 32.7% and 22.9% market share respectively in 2000 (Case Exhibit 2). Ducati is lagging behind in this segment as far as the market share goes. In regards to geography, Ducati has distribution through Italy, US, Germany, France, Japan, UK (Case Exhibit 14). Ducati currently attracts and retains young male “knee down” riders and racing aficionados who associate Ducati with extreme performance and functionality, and recently there has been an increase in women customers (who comprise of 8% of their Monster line – their most popular model). This could be a growing segment that Ducati has not yet considered. Lastly, Ducati’s products are in the sports niche; 41% to 54% of its customers own large bikes greater than 500cc. It gradually entered in sport touring category to address older customer base and also entered into accessories and apparel business by acquiring Gio.Ca.Moto which produces line of accessories for Ducati.

Nonetheless, Ducati’s limited editions in 1999 were icing on Ducati’s portfolio. Vehicles: Ducati has excellent engineers and designers who themselves are fanatics of the motorcycle- they are purist “knee down” riders, and have strong beliefs in speed, performance, and passion for races. Ducati invested a large proportion of their revenue in designing new technology, development of products and human resource management. Ducati’s core strengths including the Desmodromic valve distribution system and the technical superiority of its engines, and their collaboration with other firms such as Lamborghini and Ferrari fueled Ducati’s growth. Ducati advertises through specialized magazines and focus on the Italian style, history, young riders, and a sporty attitude.

Ducati.com website used the internet as a vehicle, and sold 500 units of a limited edition in 31 minutes and 2,000 units in 10 days at different times, educated customers, and created awareness about its brand, this has been a real win for Ducati. Differentiators: Ducati’s goal was to improve average quality of dealers and increase competence sales force unlike Japanese manufactures who utilized multi-franchise retailers to sell multiple brands with less specialized knowledge of products. Secondly unlike their competitors, they established Ducati clubs approximately 400 which allowed members to “live” at racing events and get inside access to teams. Ducati also participated in social events and museum tours that has helped Ducati disseminate information about its history and brand which increased customer loyalty and helped acquire new ones.

Ducati is heading in the right direction but is still far from Minoli’s vision to enable and foster dealers to connect with clubs more easily. Staging: Minoli strategized Ducati to turn into a powerful brand and would move away from just competing with Japanese brands. Ducati decided to build museum instead of fixing the raining roof and that’s one key factor in building the brand image of Ducati and sending the right signal to employees and customers. It then identifies the 5 core attributes that Ducati signifies – technologically advanced engine, tubular trestle frame, Italian style and its unique engine sound. Ducati was able to reduce the time to market effort for all its new products utilizing their research centers muscle. Another important decision Minoli took was entering into accessories and apparel producing business.

This created the “world of Ducati” a very successful initiative to build on Ducati brand and strengthen its customer loyalty. Economic Logic: Ducati is a premium brand that consumers appreciate and regard highly. The brand image and legacy allows Ducati to keep prices high and hence reap high profit margins on its motorbikes, accessories, apparel, etc. Ducati motorbike prices can max out at $21,895 compared to $14,350 for Harley Davidson, $9,500 for Triumph, and $9,300 for Honda. Also, its limited edition bikes were sold at world-wide price of E26,000 that made Ducati reap huge profit margins. Ducati’s own marketing and distribution process and exploiting power of internet (Ducati.com) helped it retain most of its profit and have higher margins and they controlled their production costs by standardizing components, (eg: only two crank case and 3 cylinder designs)..

Arena: We recommend Ducati to design and launch a custom sports-cruiser bike targeting sports bike fans, who would prefer the riding comfort, style, and customization of a cruiser. This new product is essentially a fast motorbike that has a sports engine morphed into cruiser style chassis. We also recommend offering customization services to suit the style and needs of our individual customers. This will be introduced initially in Europe and eventually in the US and Asia. Europe is the market where Ducati has experience, design expertise, preferred supplier base, proximity to racing arenas, and association with other world-renowned sporting car companies like Maserati and Lamborghini. Hence, building a strong foundation in Europe first provides the advantage that is very hard to imitate by others.

Our target segment is riders in the age group of 30-50 who like the comfort and the style of a cruiser, and yet prefer the power, speed, and especially the handling that is synonymous to a sports bike. Additionally, there is interest in customization especially for cruiser segment that we would like to exploit and offer as an added benefit to our customers. Furthermore, we will leverage light-weight design components (magnesium alloy frame, carbon fiber body and parts) to provide the performance edge needed in a sports bike. This will attract young riders as well as women, who typically prefer lightweight bikes. Vehicle: Initial launch will focus on current Ducati owned stores. This will help us gauge customers response; provide early feedback from Ducati loyalists, as well as opportunity to attract customers using word-of-mouth advertising. Based on the feedback and learning from this rollout, we would be able to identify other possible locations to open new stores (combination of company owned and single-franchise dealers), starting from Italy, and then expanding out into the European sub-continent.

We do not plan to open any new stores immediately, until the market picks up and demand is more than 25% of existing sales. The assumption is that any increase within 25% of sales volume can be managed via the existing stores. Any franchising will be done through single-franchise dealerships so as to maintain more control and emphasize quality. As a long-term plan, we also would like to add 10 new Ducati owned stores leased at strategically important cities around Europe, which would cost us E10M (E200K/year) over 5 years , and another E5M for maintenance (design, upkeep, staffing, taxes etc.) Differentiators: Customers value Ducati for its brand, high performance engines, strong association with racing, Italian style, and the unique sound of its engine, among other things. We believe that our strategy will help maintain our core competencies and resources intact, while allowing us to expand into newer space as well.

The customization services that we also plan to offer along with our product will be a value-add service to Ducati loyalists, which can be priced at a premium. These customization services include different body styles, paint schemes, accessories etc., which will benefit from the availability of the large pool of supplier base that we have local access to. This large and varied supplier base also provides Ducati with buying power and quick turn-around time of new designs. Advertising expenditure for Ducati comes to about three times that of Harley in the year 2000 alone. About 14.5% of gross revenue is being spent on advertising, marketing and sales effort, close to about what we get in return as our net income. We do not plan to cut down on advertising and marketing but will have to come up creative, more cost effective ways to get our message out there to reach a broader spectrum of customers like Minoli envisioned.

Using channels such as word-of-mouth, social-media, YouTube videos, collaboration with sports bike bloggers, commentators, and also investing and expanding Ducati fan/owners clubs are ways we can leverage cost-effective marketing techniques. Economic Logic: Our R&D team (including HPE) already has several high-end performance engines that can be utilized in designing such a bike, hence we feel our major R&D expenses will be towards the design of the frame and body components. This will reduce our overall R&D spend, as compared to a full blown redesign/production of a new engine technology. Furthermore, we only need about E2M for R&D expenses; E5M for CAPEX, leaving the remaining E12M for advertising. This CAPEX budget covers the additional manufacturing capacity as well as assembly line expenses. We plan to leverage the existing network of suppliers by continuing to outsource.

We forecast a sale of 3,300 bikes to be sold in the first year after launch (initially Europe only), priced at E12,000 ($16,200 per unit), see Exhibit 3, which is 2% of the worldwide cruiser/custom motorbike market, where Harley is the leader. Ducati was able to sell about 3,500 units of its sports touring after launch, so we think that we should be able to meet this forecast of 3,300 for the new sports-cruiser hybrid. Thereafter, we project a 10% growth in sales in the 2nd year, and thereafter about 15% growth in the 3rd, 4th and 5th year. We are assuming that the life-span of a design is typically for 5 years; thereafter, this design/model would be retired or become obsolete. We would price the bike at about E12,000 so that it is not seen to be a cheap bike, while at the same time making sure it is not too expensive for Ducati fans to buy. At a discount rate of about 8% and an initial investment of E17M to launch the product in Europe, we anticipate a net return on investments of about E16.8M in 5 years.

Currently, there is no market research available that shows a segment in Europe and US who would like to have a hybrid cruiser that drives as a sports bike. The retail chain and distribution channels available in Europe and the US are perhaps more familiar with Harley-Davidson dominating the cruiser segment, and the Japanese players competing in both the cruiser and the sports segment in Europe. Ducati is a world renowned Italian sports bike brand and although we are positive that we will have considerable success in carving out a sizable market segment with this new product we plan to launch, there is always a risk in going after a new market segment, especially a niche segment. Significant capital would have to be invested to arrange ad campaigns, events, retail chains to raise awareness, all before a dime is earned. Internal Risks: Ducati’s expertise lies in the sports bike arena, and it has never offered a cruiser style motorbike.

The needs of this customer segment are definitely different than the sports bike segment, and it is possible that Ducati could run short on delivering a product that meets the needs of the segment itis targeting. Ducati may not necessarily have the skills or the expertise to provide this sort of value to its customers. Translating and adapting its core skill-set to a different model type to develop a product more aligned with the cruiser model is not going to be easy. Also, this move could upset hard-core Ducati fans, who would not want Ducati to be associated to anything other than sport bikes. Ducati could possibly risk losing their loyal fan base, if it were to diversify into bike-variants other than sports. Diversifying too far from what Ducati is known for also puts the reputation and prestige of the company and its engineers who have become respected and well-known in the industry for making high quality performance bikes.

The technical excellence and performance that Ducati is so well-known for around the world could well be seen to become diluted by moving into a cruiser bike segment which historically has been associated with a different demographic segment altogether. Yet, by carefully positioning this new product to be a sports bike at its core and by re-establishing our commitment to producing high-quality performance bikes that we have come to be known for, we could potentially re-assure our current fans. External Risks: Harley Davidson has dominated the custom cruiser segment for years with a very loyal fan base and supplier chain. Ducati’s entrance in this segment will be seen as an aggressive move by Harley, and Ducati must be prepared for some backlash. Harley has a strong network of suppliers, and distribution channels in the US, and has set high entry barriers for Ducati in the US market. Ducati’s suppliers are primarily located in Bologna, and hence Ducati has enjoyed the benefit of being in close proximity to a large pool of supplier base and component manufacturers. Going with sports cruiser hybrid could mean that Ducati may need to establish relationships with a whole new set of suppliers based out of the US.

US suppliers might not necessarily have a sense of the Italian style, a core value that the product provides. Therefore, we do not plan to enter the US market just yet, thereby preventing getting ourselves into a face-face with Harley. Once we build some credibility with customers in Europe, where we have a strong supplier base, and a decent distribution channel, we could potentially launch in the US in 2-3 years time frame based on the success of this launch. European markets have been dominated by Japanese players in sales volume, and entering the market could prompt them to bring out a competing product of their own, which could eat into the market share that Ducati is hoping to grab with this hybrid.

If Ducati does not differentiate its product and service offerings enough, there is a risk of being dragged into a price war with the Japanese. However, this is the arena where Ducati shines and has made its name- superb performance, exquisite design, and the racing dominance. By strategically positioning our product for a whole new segment of customers Ducati can protect itself from appearing to start a war. By providing additional customization services, which would be charged at a high premium, we separate ourselves by going after an audience who is not a typical low-cost Japanese bike buyer. BMW successfully launched and defined its own cruiser and so can Ducati!

Exhibit 3: Projected Sales

Unit Sales Growth
Units Sold
Price/Unit (in Euros)
Total Revenue