Why Today is the Most Important Day for Ducati…Ever

01/24/2012 @ 4:13 pm, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

Why Today is the Most Important Day for Ducati...Ever Ducati 1199 Panigale assembly line factory 02 635x418

The first Ducati 1199 Panigale rolled off the assembly line at Ducati’s Borgo Panigale factory today, officially starting production of the Italian company’s flagship model. While maybe the the production of the first Panigale is not the most newsworthy of subjects, make no mistake at how important this motorcycle is for both Ducati and sport bikes in general going into the future. Featuring a new step in production motorcycle chassis design, we’ve also already talked at length about the number of firsts that the 1199 Panigale is bringing to the production motorcycle market.

With a hybrid chain/gear-driven camshaft, titanium valves, a wet slipper clutch, a ride-by-wire throttle, rider-selectable “riding mode” system, and 15,000 mile major service intervals, the Superquadro v-twin motor alone is a major step for Ducati with its Superbike engine design. And, if you add in the first full-LED headlight on a produciton motorcycle, the first electronically-adjustable suspension on a sport bike, the first motorcycle engine braking control system, as well as the first GPS-assisted data acquisition system for a production motorcycle, the total package of the 1199 redefines the word “superbike” and takes the next logical technological step forward in this market segment.

However features aside, what will truly be the most important aspect of the Ducati 1199 Panigale is whether or not the flagship model can live up to the hype that has been generated around the machine. While most of the attention to-date regarding the Panigale has centered on whether Ducati’s monocoque chassis design can work on the production motorcycle, after it has failed so miserably in MotoGP, the real issue for the Italian brand has nothing at all to do with the 1199’s race track prowess.

Taking a step back on our analysis regarding the business case for the Ducati Diavel, what is really the most important aspect about the Ducati 1199 Panigale is that the company’s newest sport bike has to be knocked-out-of-park home run win for the Italian brand if it wants to do right by its loyal cult following. The Ducatisti of the world have endured the addition of bikes like the Hypermotard, Multistrada 1200, and Diavel into their “sport bike company’s” model line-up, fighting each models addition to the brand’s scheme with an audible fervor.

I won’t reiterate in too much detail how Ducati has been transforming itself from a sport-bike-oriented company into a performance-oriented company. Though, I will say that a large portion of that transformation has centered around the idea that by keeping its roots in the sport bike market strong and true to the old brand values, the Ducati can presumably get away with its brand being “diluted” (other critics’ words, not mine) by the addition of new genres to its motorcycle rostrum.

While the push-back against the Hypermotard, Multistrada 1200, and Diavel has largely amounted to pundits in search of headlines running around and yelling that the sky is falling, the stir that could be made if the Ducati 1199 Panigale fails to live up to the expectations of what the Ducatisti deem to be a true Italian superbike is very real. A failure to engage the Ducatisti establishment with the Panigale would signal serious trouble for Ducati, its brand, and the company’s work over the past five years.

Now that the first Ducati 1199 Panigale has rolled out of the door in Bologna, the die is cast, the chips are in play, and our course is set to see if Ducati has created a “massive breach of brand trust and honesty.” The realization of course should be that Ducati’s brand was never in danger with bikes like the Hypermotard, Multistrada 1200, or Diavel. Instead, the danger of serious brand dilution has always rested on how Ducati handled its Superbike line. A failure to produce a two-wheeled machine that is both as striking visually as it is kinetically, could permanently alienate a loyal fan base that has endured a great deal in the past half-decade.

Ducati has built itself into a company that can make virtually any machine it wishes, so long that those products meet a very basic set of criteria, and provided that the company’s center, the Superbike line, remains unwaveringly loyal to the central ethos that has been the Ducati brand for the past 30+ years. How will Borgo Panigale fare? Only time will tell, but we won’t have to wait long for an answer.

Photos: Ducati (Facebook)

Comment:

  1. simon says:

    That title picture pretty much looks like my reaction if the 1199 suddenly appeared in my garage.

  2. jamesy says:

    Great piece Jensen, if the bike is as good as the op-ed they’ll do very well indeed.

  3. Yooperbikemike says:

    “fare”

  4. Mike says:

    I took a trip last year to Italy and spent a couple of days in Bologna and visited the Ducati factory. Awesome to see so many amazing bikes and a pretty decent museum.

    As a side note, Bologna is a beautiful non touristy city. On the down side, everyone seems to ride Hondas :(

  5. John Magnum says:

    I hope the bike will sell its self with its inovative electronics and fresh look.

    The day of the internet has set some goals for the 1199 that consumers will demand answers;
    1. Will it beat the S1K – for the horsepower nut jobs
    2. Has to handle (monocoque), not like the GP bike – for the trackday pro’s
    3. Cost against / Bugs and longevity – for the purists

    I remember a day when you bought a bike cause you fell in love looking at it through a dealer window or a dude rode past on one.

    I hope the 1199 sells cause it engages peoples hearts and not their contradictive marketing, internet opinionated biased ego’s.

  6. mark says:

    I take issue with the assumption that Ducati’s monocoque chassis was a complete failure in MotoGP.
    It seems the bike was no faster with the Aluminum beam frame of the GP0.

    I believe we’ll find that the problem with the Ducati had little to do with the chassis and everything to do
    with the poor weight distribution forced by the 90deg. L engine.

  7. Steve Lang says:

    How refreshing this is. Ducati has stepped it up and put it all on the line here. This is no BNG Bold New Graphic change, toe in the water appeasement test here . This is a 100% commitment to what they believe in and they are all in and on the dance floor. There will be no shortage of naysayers for sure and while I am not a huge fan of Ducati, they have earned my respect and have all my hopes for a home run here. If it works, we will all reap the rewards and it’s great to see. Outstanding Ducati! Good luck.

  8. Bjorn says:

    Those who claim Ducati are losing their focus with anything but a hardcore sports bike are failing to take into account the longer history of Ducati with such bikes as the ST series, the Indiana, the SSD & SD as well as their scramblers and other bikes not specifically built for road racing. But never mind those truths, we love a good panic.

  9. iwc3714 says:

    The dilution of the brand was just a matter of time. In order to grow stronger Ducati needed to expand their line in order to reach more markets.

    Take for example Porsche, back in the day the only car that seemed to be associated with the brand was the 911. This company could not survive on sales of the this car, so they expanded to vehicles like the *sigh* cayenne and rather ugly panamera. This bold marketing decision worked and Porsche has more money for r&d for the 911.

    Ducati is following the same path. I believe their sportbike line will be stronger because of the diavels, multi stadas et al.

  10. Westward says:

    I’m waiting for the 799 Street fighter, or Monster versions… Service intervals at 15,000 is a huge deal in my book…With over 50,000 miles on my Ducati’s, I could use the break in cost…

  11. Dman says:

    When it comes down to it a brand is either cool or it isn’t. And right now, all of Ducati’s bikes are–even the models I don’t want still are pretty bad ass. The 1199 is different, though, because it has to be more than sexy, cool and brutal. It’s got to beat everyone out there on the track, too. Fortunately for Ducati, the Japanese have been conservative enough to effectively seppuku themselves, which leaves only the S1000RR and RSV4 as the main competition. BMWs crunchy, pogo-stick-electronics are archaic enough now that BMW will be no contest and for the street the Aprilia is still (after how many years?) plagued with horrible reliability problems and is still 50lbs overweight.

    As for Ducatiatsi–or whatever they’re called–they can sip their espressos fashionably still on Sunday mornings at Starbucks while espousing the twin trellis and dry clutches while guys like me who aren’t brand slaves, care more about progress than pedigree, take delivery and head to the hills and tracks to enjoy the finest motorbike that man has ever produced.

  12. MikeD says:

    Well…there goes the first Bitch Slap…i wonder who from “The Land of Hello Kitty and Bukkake” will be the first one to return the favor…or will it be Daz Hauz of Daz Motorrad ?

    Steve Lang said it…we’ll be the ones reaping the rewards in no time. Let the Cat Fight begin.

  13. jamesy says:

    When I NEEDED a price performer (translation: couldnt afford a Ducati) I was all over the Japanese superiority in power, reliability, power and power. Then that day came when a bud let me ride his 916 through Mines Rd in NorCal. Once you actually get on one and take the measure of the tough and rough and twisty bits and in minutes you are going faster on a road you’ve ridden dozens of times than ever before REGARDLESS OF POWER. The rocks now seem like pebbles and the potholes? what potholes? Stability brings confidence. They say it is a slow turner? Push the bar a little harder Suzy, these things FLY.
    Got my CL600 now so a Duc isnt too far off. Hell with the Ducatisti, the things work in a very special way that you cant get anywhere else and well, I gotta have it.

  14. Ghost says:

    I placed my order as soon as I could for the 1199, not because Ducati brand slave…lol Because I respect any brand the pushes forward with innovation. All the Jap bikes typically sell the same bike year after year; they change the colors and fairings a little bit, squeeze out a few more horsepower and then add $1500 to the price then state that it’s all new, what a joke. I’ve owned them all Suzuki, Honda, Yamaha etc. after my first Ducati it was all over, I’ll never purchase anything else. Regardless of horsepower, hype or anything in between. 99% it’s not the bike anyway, it’s the unskilled riders that focus on BS stats and numbers.

  15. Damo says:

    “15,000 mile major service intervals” This cannot be stressed enough and is honestly what has got me the most excited.

    I am sure Ducati will have great success with this model, now if I could just fins a place to test ride in the Northeast.

  16. Gpaul says:

    i’m going to play devils advocate on this op-ed and say yes, the panigale is a new model, but so many of the ideas are old hat.

    “frameless” is nothing new, ducati was doing this with the 851/888 bikes using the engine as part of the frame, as well as honda did it for awhile too with the 929/954 superbikes and the VFR800, and superhawk.

    same for the “hybrid” gear-chain valve operation…suzuki TL1000 is one model i can think of right off the bat that had this.

    muffler under the engine….need i say anything more than ERIK BUELL….

    anyways, I love the look of this latest ducati SBK, i just hope it performs in the WSBK series as good as it looks!

  17. John says:

    Gpaul, those bikes used the engine as a stressed member of the frame, but they still had a frame. No modern performance bike has used a perimeter frame for years. The 1199 has *no frame at all*. The swingarm, subframe, and tank/steering stem assembly are all bolted directly to the engine block itself. This is probably the one aspect of the bike that is the most ground breaking and revolutionary. Though the electronics package is pretty amazing, and a 195 HP twin with 15k mile major service intervals is worthy of significant attention in its own right.

  18. buellracerx says:

    very well written, Jensen, on a truly beautiful piece of engineering. just one thing for the engineering purists out there – ‘motors’ convert electrical energy to mechanical, or pneumatic potential to mechanical. ‘engines’ convert chemical to mechanical. these things bother me

    Gpaul – totally agree, a lot of these concepts are already tried and true, so as far as ‘innovative’ goes, no 1 system really is. where I will give Ducati props is integrating them all into a tight package that actually works (& looks sexy…departing somewhat from their past)

  19. Daniel Croft says:

    GPaul – The frameless concept is new on a production bike. You might be getting frameless and using the engine as a stressed member, i.e. contributing to the overall structure/rigidity of the bike confused. The difference with the 1199 is that there is no direct link between the forward “sub frame” (which is the steering head mount and airbox) and the rear “sub frame” which is the seat mount, or in fact the swing arm.

    Frameless isn’t new in race bikes, at least the Britten did the same thing (and I believe there was another) but for Ducati to build this into a production bike (which Bayliss beat his laptime on in testing) is really exciting for Ducati, motorcyclists and the industry in general. It’s pretty rare for technology to be pushed forward in one area, let alone in several areas all at once.

    Personally, I’m waiting for the 899 or StreetFighter 899. :D

  20. Bob says:

    I can’t wait to hear from the person to shell out their own money for service because the front and rear sub frames had to be disassembled from the engine first. Hopefully he’ll share what it cost.

    As someone who not just enjoys working on his own stuff, but also does it to save money which allows me to own more than one bike, I hate to think how difficult and time consuming the Panigali will be to work on.

    Other than that, I like this bike very much and wish it great success. Our local dealer has 6 of them pre-ordered and pre-paid for by customers and 3 ordered for the floor. One of the pre-paid ones is a tro-colore too. Sales success shouldn’t be a problem.

  21. Tentatively optimistic says:

    From the onset, Ducati’s sportbikes have smitten me with their sound, intoxicatingly good looks and power. The sportbike line, from the 851/888, through the 9*6 up to the Panigale, as the piece says, is what the purists look to as evidence of Ducati’s focus as a manufacturer.

    However, in the last 3-5 years, has Ducati spread out its resources to gain segments by offering unique motorcycles (Multi, Hyper, Diavel)? That alone is not a bad thing. What is worrying is that the refinement on any of these cycles is far from acceptable (could it be a reflection of inadequate R&D?). The low rpm fueling on both the Diavel, Multi and Streetfighter has always been at issue. The expandable fuel tanks and resulting settlement in North America did not sit well with anyone owning the affected bikes. And the simple fact that you need to ‘accessorize’ to remedy these issues adds thousands to its cost of Ducati ownership.

    I wish Ducati well with the Panigale. Clearly it’s their answer to the S1000RR and certainly is far more beautiful. Yet I reserve final judgement as it seems to be a ‘systems’ bike with multiple layers of technology (and potential problems). There is no doubt Ducati and their dealers will sort out what’s necessary. But I question the desire for Ducatisti to tolerate ‘down time’ on premium priced motorcycles.

  22. jamesy says:

    So many are sold as Garage Candy to older rich guys (c’mon, you know its true) that “downtime” may not be an issue at least for them.
    I believe the truest test will come in racing this machine. $24k is one thing but $24k worth of mediocrity would not be tolerated except by the most fervent of fans.
    Personally, I hope it runs as good as it looks, that’ll be enough.

  23. mxs says:

    Great looking bike … but I’d disagree with this statement

    ************
    Taking a step back on our analysis regarding the business case for the Ducati Diavel, what is really the most important aspect about the Ducati 1199 Panigale is that the company’s newest sport bike has to be knocked-out-of-park home run win for the Italian brand if it wants to do right by its loyal cult following.
    ************

    If there’s one and only manufacturer who doesn’t have to get it 100% right (forget about knocking it out of a park) because of it’s loyal cult following, it is Ducati. I bet they will sell every single one they can make and deliver (especially in US) in the next couple of years, regardless whether there’s a recall or two or issues of any kind. And I am sure there will be as the bike has too many gizmos and technological advancements which at best were only tested on some sort of simulators without a sufficient mileage on street and colder weather.

    But I wish them luck. The company surely doesn’t mind inventing and taking chances. You have to admire that.

  24. Sid says:

    Is that a red Kawi 636 in the top photo?

  25. MikeD says:

    @Sid:

    LMAO. U are the worst…ROTFL.

  26. digfoto says:

    It’s been said above, but Porsche is a great precedent example. With each generation the Porsche brand (911 and it’s “distant siblings”) –they improve. The Porsche faithful (some) look down their noses at new 911! What ..you want things to just stay the same? Ridiculous, …absurd! Porsche and Ducati know and respect their base, but they will always be out front.

    I believe the new 1199 Panigale will be big success this year, and the years to follow. Ducati is one of the most “in touch with their customers” builders in the world. They will keep their existing base and, in fact, grow it with new riders and converts. As many will and have attest ..once you ride a Ducati –you may own or buy other motorcycles, but you will always own a Ducati.

    Congratulations to everyone that put the deposit on a 1199! I hope to join you next year!!

  27. I have mixed feelings about this bike. First of all, it is beyond doubt the most achingly beautiful motorcycle I have ever seen. Follow that up, however, with the fact that I was a complete hooligan on my RD400 and I suspect that owning a Panigale would have me very dead in short order. Shame, but I don’t think I’m even remotely responsible enough to own one. LOL

  28. Eric says:

    Great article, as always, Jensen. Some people around here need a bit of a history lesson, though; the first production ‘frameless’ bike far predates any of the bikes discussed here…. The Vincent Black Shadow, produced in the early 1950’s, was built around precisely the same concept that the Panigale uses. Kudos to the guy who mentioned Britten’s brilliant bikes from the early 1990s.

    The significance of the Panigale is how many new and updated technologies have been integrated into this bike; it truly is a watershed design – if it works.

    +1 regarding the 15,000-mile service intervals, too! I used to own a ’97 M750 Monster, and the 5k valve-adjust intervals were a giant pain in the keister. Let’s not talk about the failed timing belt, either – gear/chain driven cams are WAY OVERDUE!!!!

  29. GeddyT says:

    And when I need to order parts for this bike, will I be able to get them in less than six weeks? Or will I be forced to pay stealership prices and wait for them to be shipped on the slow boat from Italy?

    Oh, still the latter? Never mind then. Been there, done that.

  30. johnc says:

    in other news today from borgo panigale … an errant champaign cork hit a ducati factory worker in the eye, causing the entire production line to come to an immediate halt, and a strike by workers.

    union representatives will be meeting with management next week, to discuss re-opening the production line if workers are provided eye protection.

  31. Adrian Sin says:

    what most of the fans don;t get it is the need to step forward. you can’t win the present if you don’t poses future’s inovations.

    many swear about the clutch not boing dry – ok, i also loved that, but take this as a whole picture, this new engine must have been produced as a real blas out in terms of power but also reliability so.. you can be happy about the 15 000 miles service.

    this V 2 needen a major rebuild to deliver these performances, this is the way you must see it, a Ducati today.

    ducatiblog.net

  32. john says:

    the front row looks like they are black, I thought production was red only?

    great writing, as always;

  33. Tony says:

    Looking forward to it in my garage next to the monster and 1198!