Audi has bought superbike company Ducati, bolstering its plans for total vehicular world domination. It means that Audi can fight BMW on two wheels now, too.
The price is thought to be £700 million plus £150 million of existing Ducati debts. Quite what Audi gets for that price is harder to establish. Ducati is a great brand name for motorcycles, but has limited value for a car manufacturer. Audi says that it enhances its sporting credentials, but that seems a stretch. If someone is interested in an Audi A5, or even an R8, it is hard to imagine the fact that Audi owns Ducati sealing the deal. How many people buy a BMW car because BMW also makes motorbikes?
There have been suggestions that Ducati's clever "Desmodromic" valve system could interest Audi. This is a way of closing engine valves without using springs – a mechanical system closes them instead. However, Mercedes used that system in its 1950s racing cars and no car manufacturer has seen the need to use it since.
It seems more likely that VW Group overlord Ferdinand Piech has always fancied owning Ducati and now he has a chance to achieve his dream. In the overall scheme of things, the best part of £1 billion is loose change to VW, and its management and production engineering knowledge should mean Ducati makes a modest profit in future.
In the UK or the US, such a deal might have problems with shareholders asking what their money is being spent on, but shareholders in VW are simply along for the ride. VW has a weird ownership structure that means one golden share effectively overrules everyone else's votes. In VW, there is one man, one vote – and that man is Piech.