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Old 09-24-2015, 04:50 AM   #1
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Does the VW crisis pose a threat to Ducati

Is the smallest part of the car giants empire at risk

IF only one thing is clear from the ever-worsening storm surrounding revelations about VW cheating on the emissions certification of up to 11 million of its cars, it’s that we’re still a long way from seeing the full extent of its impact. But from a two-wheeled perspective the biggest concern is whether VW’s only motorcycle-making subsidiary, Ducati, will get caught in the crossfire.

Of course, Ducati has no involvement in the actual emissions scandal currently rocking VW, but the fact that the parent firm has suffered a 35% drop in its share price in the two days since the news of its emissions test cheating with certain diesel models in America emerged has got to be a concern. Now, with further models being examined for evidence of similar cheats and testing underway in Europe and Asia to see if cars in those markets are also using the same tricks, it seems that there’s a chance even worse news might be around the corner.

Even before this week’s scandal, Ducati’s position in the VW Group wasn’t as clear as it was when the brand was purchased back in 2012. Back then Volkswagen was under the iron rule of chairman Ferdinand Piech, a bike lover who’d long yearned to add a two-wheeler brand to his empire. In April this year, 78-year-old Piech was ousted from VW’s board after an attempt to unseat his former protégé, Martin Winterkorn, from his position as VW’s chief exec backfired. At once, Ducati lost its strongest, and most powerful, supported in the VW group.

Today, Winterkorn has resigned. Chief executive of VW since 2007, his contract was up for renewal on Friday and won’t be renewed. While Ducati is not going to be at the forefront of anyone’s mind at VW right now – they have far more to worry about – Winterkorn’s successor will become the person who ultimately controls Italy’s most famous motorcycle brand.

As of right now there are two front runners as Winterkorn’s replacement. One is Porsche boss Matthias Mueller, while the other is recently-appointed VW head Herbert Diess.

If that second name is familiar, it’s because a decade or so ago (from 2003 to 2007), Diess was the boss of BMW’s Motorrad arm. He moved to VW recently enough (he was appointed in July this year) to be able to convincingly stand aloof from the firm’s current problems. Given his motorcycle heritage, there may be some at Ducati who hope he eventually gets the top job at VW to help cement the continuing support for bikes at the VW Group.
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