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.

Graph Data: Ducati Motor Holding; Graph Design: © 2012 Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons – Attribution 3.0

  • Damo

    The 999 is actually my favorite Ducati Superbike. Easily the most unique of the stable.

  • Geist

    916 were low first year because Ducati was cash strapped and could not fulfill demand. Ask any dealer that was around then and you get a pretty good picture of what it was like. Ring up Hayman at Munroe he can tell you people wanted them but Ducati was crap at supplying bikes and parts. There were even pic leaked of bikes almost done but sitting waiting for parts to be shipped since Ducati had not paid the suppliers. Ducati’s own worst enemy for many years was themselves.

  • Jensen, not entirely sure what your chart is saying. What is the red vs grey and why is the red on top for the 1199?

    Whatever lipstick is being applied now, there is no doubt that the 999 was a flop as Ducati was forced to admit at the time when they were a public company.

  • Mark,

    There are two y-axis on the chart (well, three if you count the marketshare line graph).Unit sales were over 7,000 units (red bars), while the market size was 70,000+ units (grey bars).

    It’s a little awkward since for the Panigale, it’s the first time on the graph that the model figures are taller than the market figures. I suppose it would be better to unstack the two bars, but this is how Ducati presented it, and I wanted to stay true to their chart (I took some artistic license to clarify the Panigale figures as best as I could).

    You would be hard-pressed to find a fiduciary duty to disclose a motorcycle model as a flop in terms of sales, so it makes you wonder why they would make such a statement…

  • smiler

    There are two y-axis on the chart (well, three if you count the marketshare line graph).Unit sales were over 7,000 units (red bars), while the market size was 70,000+ units (grey bars).

    If the grey bar is the market size then can you explain the 1098 bar? Do you mean the sale prediction for Ducati or the entire sportbike market?

  • Huh? What’s the question?

    The market during the release of the 1098 was 125,000 motorcycles, Ducati sold 11,500 or so 1098s that year. Does that clarify things?

  • chris

    what’s “an unsurprisingly development” ???

    it might be interesting to see ducati’s revenue per year on a third y axis (selling less of units, but making the same $?).

    also might be interesting to compare total unit sales of the 996 vs 999 vs 1098 etc… as first year sales might not be the best indicator of model success. have 1199 sales plummeted during the second year while 999 sales were constant the second year? dunno.

  • The 999 was well engineered, if over engineered. It may have had more parts than it needed, lots and lots of parts. While the 996 line was the basic body/bracket/bike layout, the 999 had ducts and sub assemblies…and was pretty well made. I would not want to have to repair a crashed 999, but it was big step forward for Ducati

  • Dann-O

    Well, before the 999 to appear to be a true “Ducatisti” you had to know something about dry clutches, springless valves, 90 deg V’s, and maybe even a little italian. After the 999 you merely had to recognize that “a proper ducati does not have stacked headlights” and you had your ticket into being a Ducatisti. Not to mention the market share added by the large number of folks like Damo who were brought into the fold because they saw a company willing to experiment that acually created something they liked. So, as much as the pre-2003 Ducatisti and the post 2003 posers will not want to admit, I believe that the 999 actually did a lot to expand the Ducati brand community. Heck I’d just be happy to own an R-spec Duc, regarless of how the headlights are stacked. They look best at a 45-deg angle to the track either way.

  • I love my 999 05. it has 6010 miles. kept top notch. awesome bike. makes many sad faces out on the road. beautiful.

  • JCB

    Safe to say the 1×98 was a huge success which drove future confidence.

    I’d be most interested to see profit margin along with revenue, but as Jensen said, this data alone is liquid gold.

  • Gerry Tokana

    the 999 might not have been a sales flop but it sold nowhere near
    what it would have if it wasn’t so fugly.

  • How can you compare the success of the 999 on the 998 sales? The 998 was the end of the line of the displacement updates of the 916. The fact that it’s subsequent updates(996, 998) sold consistent numbers for 10 years with only small cosmetic updates and the incremental displacement bump show its timeless lure.
    The 999 wasn’t even accepted for several years by WSB racers who steadfastly raced the 998 against it for years!

    ….and yes, it is the ugly duckling of the lineage

  • In 2005, Ducati Superbike sales were down 36%. The company noted in its annual report that this was at least in part due to the 998FE being discontinued.

  • Another interesting business decision playing a role in sales is how long should the aesthetic last?

    Wait Too long and sales will flatten, but the wait will also raise anticipation for the next “look” (and stoke sales potential). That heightened anticipation can also distort things…

    e.g. If the 1098’s style immediately followed the 916, would people find it too close to the original (which already lasted 10 years) and want something ‘newer’? would that too close of an evolution then result in lower sales than the numbers the 1098 realized coming after the 999?

    I don’t understand the stacked headlight comments…the platform prior to the 916 didn’t have stacked or horizontal.

    A 900 SS FE and a 999 R will make good collectibles

  • Adam

    I love my 749, I have had it for 7 years now. didn’t Suzuki GSX-R’s also have a variation on the stacked headlights for a few model years? but those were ok?

  • JoeKing

    The frameless chassis was no more responsible for the MotoGP bike’s results anymore than cf construction was. The fact that numerous subsequent “conventional” chassis iterations have given comparable results, if anything, proves convincingly that neither the frameless chassis nor cf construction was/is the problem.

    Further, the acceptance of the Pinagale & Ducati’s abysmal MotoGP results proves that Ducati sportbike buyers are either unconcerned about MotoGP racing, or have no idea as to what chassis is under the bodywork & value the Ducati image more.

    Yes, they were competitive in WSBK, but it wasn’t with the new frame.

  • Mark

    Having ridden almost every model in Biposto, Strada, SP, Rs and S’s versions, from 916 – 1098, I should say the road 999 Biposto was HUGELY better than the 998R.

    And my 749R was immense, fastest road bike I’ve ever had – and by that I mean doing a lap of an English county in a personal best, I never knew why people didn’t like the 999.

  • Stacked headlights: pinched from the MV750 – no one complained about them then.

    I wonder how many people came to the Ducati franchise with the 916? The 851 wasn’t a big seller – Ducatis were rare then. The 916 got a lot of people into the marque, but probably not in the first model year. You’d expect the first year 916 figures to be a little feeble. Later of course, the Ducatista is looking to change his bike. It’s no longer a case of conversion but repeat purchase. Any subsequent figures have to be examined in this light.