BMW may have been the only German auto major with motorcycles in its portfolio. But now other German heavyweights like Mercedes and the Volkswagen group are getting into the motorcycle business as well – and it promises to be a hard fought battle.
In order to understand how high the stakes are, just read the first lines of the joint press release Mercedes and MV Augusta last year to announce the signing of “a cooperation agreement... for a long term partnership. The cooperation between the two high-end brands will include the Marketing and Sales area.”
The press release came after Mercedes acquired a 25% stake in the bike manufacturer. What needs to be highlighted are the concepts of “high-end brands” (from Stuttgart, we refer to AMG) and “marketing activities.” In other words, there are very few technical reasons that led Mercedes to follow Audi 30 months after the latter took control of Ducati in April 2012.
“I don’t think Stuttgart is really interested in using the three cylinder engines of the Italian bikes as range extenders in its electric-hybrid setup. These are engines designed for high performance, which would require a major overhaul to be suited for that purpose. The whole process doesn’t appear to be worth it. After all, not even BMW makes use of its bike engines for the i3 hybrid’s range extender,” underlines Ian Fletcher, analyst at IHS.
The agreement is about image marketing. It’s not a coincidence that after the Volkswagen group acquired Ducati through Audi, Mercedes is doing the same through its AMG brand. “Its positioning as a high performance brand of the mother company will be strengthened even more by the partnership with MV Augusta,” declares Wilko Stark, Vice-President Strategy and Planning for Mercedes. We do remember that Stuttgart had a relationship with Ducati before Audi snatched it away.
WITH MUNICH IN THE WORLD’S SIGHTS
BMW has been manufacturing bikes since 1923 (shown here is the S 1000 XR). Its premium positioning in this sector is obviously linked with the moves made by Audi and Mercedes. But, for both of them, developing their own specific bike brand would be meaningless and uneconomic. It’s much easier to take over brands like Ducati and MV Augusta. The latter (which controls Cagiva) was founded in 1945. Currently owned by the Castiglioni family, it runs both in the Supersport and Superbike segments. With the Stradale 800 and Turismo Veloce 800 models, it’s entered the touring segment for the first time.
Roberto Lo Vecchio
© Riproduzione riservata