Sunday, January 16, 2011

Trivia: Motorcycling's tenth decade - 1990-’99 - Renaissance

Massimo Tamburini created his masterpiece, the iconic Ducati 916, just as the Cagiva Group ran out of money in the early '90s. While still finicky to maintain, the 916's fit and finish was a far cry from the first desmo twins, which were pretty crude. In a test of the Ducati 750GT, one U.S. magazine noted that there was a large fly trapped in the gas tank's fiberglass gelcoat. TPG stepped in to acquire the Ducati brand with perfect timing - thanks to designs like this, the company went from being a niche marque that appealed only to gearheads, to a global luxury brand.

Motorcycle sales peaked in the early 70s when the baby boomers were reckless teens and twentysomethings. The late 70s and 80s saw a long decline that finally reversed itself when the ‘boomers hit their mid-life crises. With a flood of money pouring into both domestic and import dealerships, there was a demand for bigger and more comfortable cruisers as well as faster and more exotic sport bikes.

Harley-Davidson sales increased 400% between ’90 and ’99. The resurgent market came too late for Italy’s Cagiva company, which found itself in a cash crunch. The private investment firm Texas Pacific Group took a controlling interest in Cagiva’s famous Ducati line and turned it into one of the world’s most recognized luxury brands. TPG saved a great company, allowing it to give us some of the most beautiful bikes ever made. In 2005, they took it public at huge profit. As Gordon Gecko said, “Greed is good.”

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