Ducati just announced a good year in 2022. The news didn’t come as a surprise considering current trends involving the Multistrada. But was it good because the segment of the market Ducati as a whole occupies or was it a segment of the motorcycle spectrum (ie sport, naked, ADV) that served the company so well? A bit of both.
How do you break down the market segments in terms of which brands occupy which space? It might be easy to place Ducati in a so-called “premium” class. Ducati’s German owner Audi would certainly like to classify all their offerings as “premium”. Ducati does offer for sale the most expensive motorcycle an enthusiast might buy in Canada – although actually getting your hands on one might be a little tough. Premium does has a nice ring to it but there are other possibilities
Although the largest of motorcycle companies will sell more of an individual model than Ducati will sell across its entire line-up, the Italian brand is too large a company to be called a “boutique” manufacturer. Nor could you call it an exclusive brand even though production numbers are not huge. Should you want to buy a Ducati, barring current limitations due to supply chain issues, it requires walking into a Ducati dealership – of which there are a record number – and dropping enough cash.
How about simply an “expensive” brand? The company does after all offer that V4 Streetfighter Lamborghini Edition bike at $76,600. But one crazy expensive bike doesn’t tell the entire story. Ducati sells the Scrambler 800 family of bikes that start at $12,995 which is about average for their niche (a Kawasaki W800 is $11995) but interestingly, the Scrambler have their own website as though separate from the rest of the Ducati line-up.
Ducati states that the slightly more than 17% of the bikes it sold in 2022 were Multistrada V4 machines making them the best selling bikes in the line-up. There are currently three in the stable for 2023 and range in price from $30,295 to $33,995. The bike falls into the ADV segment with the ADV-Sport niche filled by the Pikes Peak edition. Looking at the same segment from KTM, a 1290 Super Adventure R or S is going to come in about $10,000 less at $21,799. The Ducati is looking a little expensive in that regard. Should you wander over to BMW, a R 1250 GS or GSA is going to be $21,795 and $24,145 respectively. Still substantially less than the Ducati bikes. Visiting Honda, an Africa Twin or Africa Twin AS are $17,119 and $20,919. Interestingly, if we go back to Europe, the Triumph Tiger 1200 models range from $22,795 for the base GT to $29,295 for the Rally Explorer. That top end is definitely getting up into Ducati price territory. But is that top Rally Explorer comparable to the Multistrada V4 Rally?
Does the higher price equate to a higher level of competence in the field? Does the highest price mean it is the best all-around ADV machine? Among these offerings one would be hard pressed to bet against the BMW offerings. The GS created, set and maintained the standard for the ADV segment since its inception over 40 year ago which is why the GS/GSA duo make for a substantial bulk of all BMW sales. Are you going to bet against the Honda? Betting against Honda engineering excellence has only in the very rarest of instances made any sense and you have to go back forty years to find a strong example. Honda did wrestle the Dakar trophy from KTM’s longstanding residency with that title. If you want to ride really hard, Hondas are up to the task – as are obviously the KTMs.
Perhaps there is something to be said for simply pricing your motorcycles higher than everyone else. The old theory that if it costs more it must be worth more. That is shaky ground at best.
But Ducati does have some intangibles on its side. Design for one. As a group, Ducatis are some of the best looking bikes on the market especially in the more stylistic essential segments. Just the name Ducati is synonymous with style – just likes its Italian compatriot Ferrari. But ADV bikes are a unique segment in terms of style. There are expectations of – and an understanding that – utility has to be priority. The Multistrada V4s are attractive but are they that much more attractive than the others when each is trying to serve a definitive and very similar purpose? The style can not detract from getting the job done because if it did the word would soon get around. Most riders are not going to traverse a wild continent on rough dirt roads but every bike in the segment has to be capable of doing so.
And then there is the factor of power. The Multistrada V4 has a lot at 170hp – more than the others. The KTM comes in second with 158hp. That is worth some cash right there even though, and Ducati acknowledge this, all those horsepower are not useable in all places hence the decreasing HP modes.
The Ducati Monster use to be the soul of the Ducati brand – it defined the sporting joy and enthusiasm of motorcycling – and once even perhaps the frugality of motorcycling. But with this news is it now clear that ADV and the Multistrada is the heart and soul of the brand? The Monster hold the second spot at Ducati with 13% of overall sales but the Monster is no longer where all the money is.
You could call the Ducati’s niche the “passion” segment. It is a segment all manufacturers would like to occupy. Passion, and likely from other bikes within the Ducati stable, has helped the ADV line-up at Ducati boost overall sales to record levels.