Saturday, July 29, 2017

Does Ducati have a Chinese suitor?

I recently read that -- despite widely repeated rumors that Harley-Davidson was interested in buying Ducati from the Volkswagen brand -- that H-D had never been in the running.

Although you probably think of Benetton as a fashion brand, the company ran its own F1 auto team throughout the '90s. Best results came in 1995, with Michael Schumacher winning drivers' championship and, with Johnny Herbert's points haul added in, Benetton also won the contructor's title. This would not be bad ownership for Ducati -- they clearly love motorsports and there are some great natural sponsors under the same umbrella.

So who is in the running? Among the contenders are Benetton (or at least, the holding company that owns the clothing brand) and a Chinese motorcycle maker, Loncin. On the face of it, a fashion company's not a perfect fit for Ducati. Or is it? Ducati is a fashionable brand and Benetton has some serious motorsports credibility: They weren't just an F1 auto racing sponsor, they actually built their own car and ran their own team. It was a completely in-house operation.

What about Loncin? It's almost unknown to American riders. But as it happens, I devoted a chapter of my Second Bathroom Book of Motorcycle Trivia to "the biggest motorcycle companies you've never heard of".

From Day 74, here's the Cliff's Notes summary of Loncin:

Loncin is another Chinese motorcycle company headquartered in Chongqing. The founder, Tu Jianhua, started Loncin Holdings Company in the early ‘80s, after he was injured on his previous job, at a state-run coal mine. By 1993, he made gasoline engines. Loncin launched its first complete motorcycle in 1999. In 2002, the company cut the ribbon on a new R&D center. Now, Loncin manufactures over a million bikes a year, at factories in Chongqing, Zhejiang, and Guandong. 
If you’ve traveled in Mexico or Argentina and seen Italika- or Zanella-brand motorcycles, there’s an excellent chance they were actually made by Loncin. The company has also acquired Amino, an Egyptian brand that sells throughout Africa. The company is capable of top-quality manufacturing. Loncin manufactures whole motors for BMW motorcycles in a part of the factory under direct supervision by BMW engineers. It also supplies components for GM, VW, and BMW cars.
This is a 2015 Loncin GP250
Honestly, that 250 doesn't look that bad. Some Ducatisti might chafe at the idea of Chinese ownership, but look on the bright side: Italy and China are both 'noodle' cultures. And more to the point, Loncin would provide a solid financial base to the Italians. Such an acquisition would create opportunities for low-cost/high-quality production in-house that might allow Ducati to either lower costs or increase margins. It would also give the Chinese access to Ducati's hip designers.

If you've got a huge pile of motorcycle magazines on the back of your toilet, do your girlfriend a favor and replace them with one tidy copy of my Second Bathroom Book of Motorcycle Trivia. The first edition was an Amazon best-seller, but you know I'm right when I promise you that when it comes to reading on the john, Number Two is even more satisfying than Number One.

The perfect gift for any motorcyclist who poops (and reads.) Just $12.95 at Amazon today.


  1. Loncin would be a long-game partner and this might be the relationship between east and west which finally breaks the engineering racism China always struggles with. To make it work well, Ducati would have to keep racing and would have to start winning.

    1. I agree, and you're right the Chinese face "engineering racism". Most shit Chinese products are shit because Western companies are asking for the cheapest shit version of their widget. IE, they were specified as shit to begin with. Companies like Loncin certainly *can* make products at least as well as Ducati can.