Sales figures are a closely guarded secret in the two-wheeled realm, especially when it comes to numbers for specific motorcycle models. It is a shame really, as these are the kind of numbers that we here at Asphalt & Rubber love to pour over for hours, looking for insights, trends, and meanings. So for us, the above graph is made of pure motorcycling gold.
Taken from the Ducati 1199 Panigale R international press launch, where Ducati Motor Holding’s General Manager Claudio Domenicali shared with the assembled journalists the first-year sales figures for each of the Italian company’s Superbike models, the above is a direct recreation of the presentation’s slide, which unsurprisingly Ducati didn’t include when it handed us a copy of the PowerPoint presentation.
In the age of computers and smartphones, not to mention a room full of moto-journalist, it is hard to imagine how Ducati didn’t foresee this information being disseminated to the public, but I digress. After the jump are some of my initial thoughts from looking at the data on each model. We’ll be playing more with this information in the coming days as well.
The Ducati Superbike 916/996/998
The first thing noticeable from Ducati’s sales information is the relatively small number of Ducati Superbike 916’s that were sold in the bike’s introductory year. Of course, we all know Massimo Tamburini’s design with the Ducati 916 as being one of the all-time greats, but it is interesting to note looking back in retrospect that a machine with such notoriety wasn’t a home run in terms of units sales at the time of its worldwide release.
Also of note are relatively static sales figures from the Ducati Superbike 996 and Ducati Superbike 998, which benefitted greatly in sales from the surge in the sport bike market at the time. Out-selling the Ducati Superbike 916 roughly 2:1 at their debut, the 996 and 998 actually posted losses for Ducati in terms of big-displacement sport bike marketshare, which sort of muddles the waters when trying to assess the success of any one of the three models.
The Ducati Superbike 999
For all the vitriol that came from Ducatisti when Pierre Terblanche debuted his Ducati 999 design, it is worth noting that the 999 maintained the sales momentum of the 998 (and actually out-sold its predecessor), despite a weaker sport bike market at the time. And before the motorcycling universe collapses in on itself like a dying star, there is also the realization that Ducati gained marketshare (perhaps the more relevant metric) with the “ugly” Ducati Superbike 999.
In fact, the 999 righted a four-year sport bike marketshare tailspin for the Bologna Brand…and yes, Terblanche’s 999 out-sold Tamburini’s original 916 by over two-to-one in first-year unit sales worldwide (continuing the trend from the 996 & 998). Not bad for a Superbike with a double-sided swingarm and stacked dual-headlights.
The Ducati Superbike 1098/1198
Ducati of course returned to the good-graces of its fan base, releasing the Ducati Superbike 1098 in 2007, with a design that looked like a modernization of Tamburini’s 916. Where Terblanche’s design was avant-garde, and pushed the envelope of how far loyal Ducatisti were willing to wade into deeper two-wheeled waters, Giandrea Fabbro’s design of the 1098 was a return to safer harbors for the brand.
As we can see from the figures, the Ducati Superbike 1098 was a huge sales success for Ducati Motor Holding. Out-selling the 999 by more than double in first-year worldwide sales, the 1098 more than quadrupled the mark left by its inspiration, the 916. With 2007 being the last full-breath of the pre-recession sport bike market, Ducati had grabbed roughly 7% of the big sport bike marketshare — a record at the time for the brand.
Of course even Ducati wasn’t immune to the economic recession, and with the 1198 being more of an update to keep in-line with the 1,200cc rule change for twins, rather than a from-the-ground-up new model, its diminutive sales status, when put against the 1098, is to be expected.
The Ducati 1199 Panigale
In 2012, Giandrea Fabbro returned to ink Ducati’s next Superbike design, with his Ducati 1199 Panigale winning an internal design contest and ultimately going into production. Featuring the same “frameless” chassis that was proving to be a miserable failure in the MotoGP Championship, the Ducati 1199 Panigale was by most metrics a sales success…though maybe not as much as was hoped, as our sources tell us.
By this point in time, the big-displacement sport bike market had more than halved itself from 2007’s mark, and new motorcycle purchases in Spain, Italy, and Greece virtually vanished from the European sales charts (a topic we’ll broach in another article). With Europe as a whole shying away from sport bikes as well, the Ducati 1199 Panigale entered a timid market for its debut.
Selling at only ~60% of the volume of the 1098, what the Panigale lacked in outright sales numbers at its premiere, it made up for with captured market share, taking 10.9% of the big-displacement sport bike market in 2012 — the current record for Ducati Motor Holding.
Our Bothan spies tell us that one in every four Panigales found its way to the United States, which helped solidify the American market as Ducati’s number one market for motorcycle sales (an unsurprisingly development considering the previous decimation of Italian motorcycle sales).
This all said, our sources say that early Panigale sales projections had the 1199 meeting or exceeding the high-water mark left by the 1098. But as history has shown us, even another winning Fabbro design, coupled to Ducati’s most powerful and lightest sport bike, could not overcome the recession.
But this was not the first time Ducati over-predicted its future sales, as we were told by our Bothans that Borgo Panigale planned to increase production going into the heat of the recession, before cooler heads prevailed and contrition became an industry-wide practice.
Stay tuned for next time, as we dive into the old “race on Sunday, sell on Monday” adage, which has plagued the motorcycle industry for far too long.