Two-thousand-eleven was a successful year for Ducati. Now, we are at the beginning of a new era with the coming of the 1199 Panigale, a prestigious addition and a strong sign of technological evolution and also of our determination to reaffirm our leadership in Superbike racing.
Our plan is to conquer new shares of the market through the expansion of the range of models and of our production numbers. Strengthening of the present Ducati factory in Thailand and the creation of a second one in Brazil will come into play as important additions to our present production capacity. These additional production units will give Ducati more flexibility in terms of model differentiation and also more competitiveness in the markets of the respective areas that are growing fast.
All of the evolutionary steps concerning the present range of models, and also the new models that will be introduced, are fully defined until 2015. Frames, chassis, engines and all major technical components are already in or about to enter their validation stage. I can confirm that in our quest for a higher perceived quality, we are developing diversified settings to obtain a number of versions out of the same basic engine—each dedicated to a specific model.
Take, for instance, the “11 degrees” version of the 1198 Testastretta that powers the Multistrada and the Diavel: A big technical success turned into a big success on the market because that engine has all the charisma and superior performance of a Ducati 90-degree V-Twin, but it is also very tractable, like the missions and the characters that those two models demand. We are working hard on evolutionary steps aimed at returning higher levels of combustion stability to achieve smoother and more consistent throttle response at low rpm with no shuddering.
You would be surprised to see the wealth of technological advantages we have acquired through the MotoGP experience. In a way, the “11 degrees Testastretta” redefined performance and greatly contributed to expand the confidence of the public in a highly emotional motor product like the Ducati models.
We are pondering the possibility of developing a “spring” version to better respond to the challenge represented by the serviceability of our engines in certain areas. In terms of production costs, the advantage would be rather limited, though, because our technology and production procedures ensure a positive containment of the cost inherent to the more complex components and settings of a Desmo valvetrain.
When the last generation of Supersport models fared poorly in the market and was canceled, Ducati lost a sales potential of 10,000 bikes a year, and that was very painful. In the meantime, the motorcycle market changed drastically. Now, it primarily responds to “provocations” like the Diavel. I have strong doubts about the success of a renewed supersport model.
The Panigale 1199 V-Twin is the frame. It was conceived like that to keep the weight down by working on every minor detail of the bike’s structure, mounting bosses included. And, as I said, the 1198 Testastretta engine family will remain in production to fill the role of the “traditional” Ducati-style models. The 1199 Panigale is a superbike-dedicated engine—for now.
An engine is never an “absolute” but a compromise. It would not mean much to have a perfectly conceived engine that is too tall or long—factors that would negatively influence the general design and layout of the bike. We wanted a compact bike sporting a correct weight distribution bias, more compact and better balanced than the 1198. That was a primary issue. I can assure you that the engine performs impeccably the way it is, and the bike is perfectly balanced.