Saturday, July 12, 2014


The rumors are unconfirmed, but it appears MV Augusta will have a German partner soon, as Daimler is in talks to buy a minority stake of that venerable Italian company.  As you'll recall, MV was owned by Harley-Davidson for two years, did nothing with the brand, then handed it back on a silver platter to the Castiglioni family two years later...strangely, the same family who took Aermacchi from H-D's hands, decades prior.  When Harley dumped MV in 2010, they paid all that company's debt as part of the deal, reportedly losing many Millions in the process.  MV Agusta has been on shaky ground since, but has an excellent engine, chassis, and styling, and does well in World Superbike racing.  The financial strength of Daimler could be a real godsend to the small Italian company.  So, what's up with German auto companies buying Italian motorcycle brands?
The awesome DKW 'singing saw' three-cylinder two-stroke of 1953; part of Audi's DNA
When Audi bought Ducati in 2012, the world scratched it's head - a German car company adding a struggling, small production Italian sportbike to its highly successful line of cars?  It took a deeper look into Audi's DNA to find a connection - the highly successful DKW racers of the 1930s through 1950s, screaming two-strokes on which Ewald Kluge won the Isle of Man Lightweight TT in 1938, with an 11-minute lead over the next bike, an Excelsior. Between 1925 and 1956, when DKW, NSU, BMW, Gilera, and Moto Guzzi disbanded their factory GP teams, DKW won more German championships (38) than any of its rivals.  In the 1930s, of course, DKW was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, and part of the Auto Union (an alliance of Wanderer, Horch, DKW, and Audi), which had a deep interest in motorsport.  Auto Union became simply Audi after Volkswagen acquired the name in 1964.  DKW continued to support racing, in motocross, into the 1970s, with successful ISDT entries and motocross championship contenders, all lightweight two-strokes.
The Daimler Reitwagen; not the first motorcycle, but the first gasoline-powered two-wheelerish thing
So much for Audi.  But Daimler?  It's only motorcycle connection, if you can call it that, was a mobile test-bed for the 1885 'Otto' engine (the first four-stroke gasoline-powered engine) called the Reitwagen.  The Reitwagen had two big wheels, and two smaller ones for balance, and was clearly never intended to be a moto-cycle, ie, a powered vehicle using the unique physics of the two-wheeler.  The Reitwagen was a drais (an early, wooden-framed, pedal-less bicycle) altered to accommodate a platform holding the motor, on which the engine (designed by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach) sat, supported by two smaller wheels.  It was ridden 8 miles on Nov 10, 1885, before the saddle caught fire, and Daimler turned his attention to improving his engine, for installation in carriages, airships, and boats.
The 1885 patent drawing of the Daimer/Maybach engine
So, why take a stake in MV Agusta?  Apparently it's the Mercedes sports-tuning branch AMG which will attach to MV, and with its considerable engine and chassis tuning experience, we may see an interesting cross-pollination of technology between the two companies.  The motivation might be pure jealousy, with BMW's long-standing motorcycle connection, and Audi's return to the fold via Ducati.  Mercedes-Benz has no history with motorcycles, but who can resist the cool of owning a very fast bike?

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Anonymous said...

Noooooo! Why can't those Germans stay out of Italy!? Don't they understand the natural order of things? They make uber expensive, stone cold reliable, engineering masterpiece boxers with cult-like followings. The Italians make two-wheeled art. Never should one contaminate the other. Every Italian manufacturer has been going out of business for the last 100 years. It's how they operate. This makes me ill.

Etz said...

Makes you ill? VW far from ruined Lamborghini and Ducati started winning in SBK again once Audi took over. I wouldn't consider the Karmann Ghia or BMW M1 contaminated products either, I think the cultures complement each other nicely. Italians bring the sex and style, the Germans bring the engineering.

GuitarSlinger said...

A little perspective from the automotive side of things if I may ;

1) Forget about Audi/Auto Unions M/C heritage . The real reason VW-Audi purchased Ducati is because they have a severe case of BMW Envy Syndrome . Period !

2) On Daimler/AMG's possible buying into M/V . Remember first off that AMG previously had a partnership with Ducati ... creating the AMG Diaval as well as sponsoring the MotoGP along with the SuperBike team . Also that Ducati all but begged AMG Mercedes to buy them out right up and until VW-Audi finally came in with their excessive BMW Envy Syndrome and did so . AMG Mercedes declining because they saw no viable profitable future [ nor a past for the last 30 years or so ] for Ducati .

So my guess is ... knowing Daimler Mercedes as I do ... when the opportunity came up to put up a very minor investment into a storied brand they're considering it ... knowing there's little to lose and perhaps a chance to stick it to VW - Audi once again . Those folks on the Daimler Mercedes board having much sharper pencils than their counterparts at VW-Audi if you catch my meaning


As to a previos comment on VW-Audi's having ' improved ' Lamborghini and Ducati . That ... is very much a matter of opinion .. and one of which I do not share . Lamborghini has been turned into overly homogenized AudiGhini bits of automotive jewelry and Ducati is still anything but profitable and only successful in SBK because the rules this year were tilted in their favor .. in a very major way . Thanks to VW-Audi's very deep pockets ;-)

Nik Levy said...

There was an ulterior motive to VW-Audi purchasing Ducati. They wanted a special brake technology for their flagship sports car that Ducati developed . Ducati wanted an exorbitant fee to license it, so VW bought the company instead.

Giolli Joker said...

When Audi bought Ducati the latter was very far from struggling, as in the recent past it's been increasing its revenues each year by consistent percentages.
Makers of powerful, luxury cars like these German brands have to make their products fit in a new European limit of average CO2 emissions. Being downsizing all the engines not an option for such manufacturers, they add bikes to their line-up, that with their relatively small engines lower the average amount of CO2.
That's most likely what's behind these recent acquisitions.
No history and quite surely no passion.

Ducati won much more before Audi's acquiring them but quite frankly I see no relation between race results and company owners.
As said before, Ducati was healthy, Audi needed them more than Ducati needed Audi.
And Ducati (nor MV) needs no German engineering (maybe MV needs German money, that could be).