Ducati is everywhere. The Italian brand won the constructors' world championship in MotoGP (the equivalent of F1), and a driver from the Bologna team, Francesco Bagnaia, won the drivers' one. To complete this extraordinary season, Ducati achieved the same double in the Superbike championship, reserved for production motorcycles. Finally, the Italian manufacturer has become the official supplier of the entire Electric Motorcycle World Cup line-up. It makes available, from the Grand Prix de France on May 13, twenty-three electric machines from the V21L prototype. Francesco Milicia, Sales Director and board member, explains the strategy of Ducati, the "Ferrari of two-wheelers", and the (uncertain) prospects of the electric motorcycle.
The Point: Ducati is omnipresent in competition, and has won the most prestigious awards. Do street bikes take advantage of these successes?
Francesco Milicia: First of all, I would like to point out that we have also achieved historic results in the last two years. 2021 was Ducati's best year ever, with the rebound following the Covid outbreak, and 2022 surpassed it again. We sold over 60,000 motorcycles worldwide last year, a record. Sales increased by 3.6% compared to 2021 while the global market fell by 4%. If we have so many customers, who come from Japanese brands in particular, it is not by chance. This is the result of the work we have been doing for years. It allows us to produce motorcycles that are easy to ride, smoother, and no longer just for two-wheeled experts. It may seem surprising, but the majority of the advances that have allowed us to expand our customer base come from the racing department. The aerodynamics of certain models is thus developed with Ducati Corse, it offers better comfort on road bikes. There are also fin-developed cooling systems on racing machines, which benefit the Multistrada Peak Pikes, for example. We have also improved engine flexibility with the electronics on the V4 engine, especially at low rpm, which is appreciated by our customers.
Is this good health also due to the arrival of new models?
Yes, but not only. The brand is in a very favorable moment. We have greatly improved the quality of our products and our network all over the world. The Diavel V4 has just been voted the most beautiful motorcycle in the world for the year 2022. This is great recognition of the work of the engineers and designers. We are very strong, with more than a billion euros in turnover.
Is the horizon now the electric market, like for cars?
As you know, we have just been appointed as the supplier of the motoE chainring. From March, all World Cup motorcycles will be supplied by Ducati. But the electric motorization of two-wheelers is very different from that of cars, firstly because the weight is essential. The battery for a car is not a problem, you don't realize that you are carrying an extra weight of 80 kg and more. On the other hand, this weight on a motorcycle changes the whole dynamic. It makes it less pleasant to drive, and even more difficult for less experienced pilots. So we need time. It is also necessary to think about the modes of mobility, to know if the motorcycle is well intended for such or such type of displacement. You may need it to get from point A to point B, but if you want a quality, premium two-wheeler, as our strategy requires, it becomes more complex. We will get there, but it will take more time. We plan to market electric motorcycles in 2027 or 2028. But for now, we can't imagine developing a machine with the same driving pleasure as with a traditional engine.
The weight is the essential brake, more than the autonomy in particular?
The question is how many volts can we supply per kilo. Today, we add more and more volts per kilo, but we are far from reaching the energy density of gasoline. So we track and test all other powertrains, because the goal isn't electric; the goal is to reduce pollution and carbon footprint, and leave our children a better world. Electric motorization is the most developed technical solution to solve this problem, even if the whole life cycle must be taken into account, such as battery recycling. But, at Ducati, we also look at e-fuels (e-methane, e-kerosene, e-methanol, editor's note) and hydrogen. Porsche, which is a VW group company, is developing a plant in Chile for e-fuel. It is very important for us, because it is an energy easily adaptable to motorcycles, especially in racing.
More than electric?
Yes, because you also have to take into account the noise of the motorcycle, and we are working on this on electric motorcycles! But, for the time being, our efforts are primarily focused on electricity. Our vision is to be the most desirable motorcycle brand, and our mission is to provide the most rewarding riding experience.
Can an electric motorcycle be desirable?
Yes ! But there is still work to be done to deliver an amazing experience! We also need to produce a motorcycle that will weigh no more than 200 kg and have a range of up to 300 kilometres.
What is the outlook for the electric two-wheeler market? Aren't you worried that sales will crumble, because motorcycles will become less exciting?
Our strategy is not to make volume. Ducati is called the Ferrari of two-wheelers, and we have a similar strategy with this brand. Yes, we are growing by volume, because there are many requests, but above all we want to be profitable and establish ourselves as a luxury product. We want to fulfill the dream of the Ducatists. We don't want to be the biggest motorcycle brand, but the most desirable.