Ducati is one of the most coveted motorcycle brands in the world. For decades, the Italian brand’s sleek styling, aggressive exhaust notes and successful racing campaigns have earned it the coveted description of “the Ferrari of motorcycles“. This description proved particularly ironic when Ferrari’s main rival, Lamborghini, bought Ducati in 2012, as authorized by Lamborghini’s parent company, Volkswagen AG.
Concerns that Volkswagen ownership would dilute the passion and purity of Ducati proved wrong. In fact, Ducati had record global sales last year, with US sales up 32% to just over 9,000 units. Jason Chinnock has been CEO of Ducati North America since 2016, although he started with the company in 2004 after working at a Ducati dealership in Ft. Collins, Colorado.
Jason has been instrumental in the successful launch of several new motorcycles as the Ducati model range has grown. While superbikes and naked street bikes have a long history with the brand, today’s Ducati includes the Diavel street cruiser, dual-purpose Scrambler, versatile Hypermotard and premium Multistrada adventure bike. Ducati’s most recent motorcycles include the all-new Desert X, inspired by the Dakar desert race, as well as the latest iterations of the Panigale, Multistrada and Streetfighter.
Jason believes the brand’s ability to produce a wide range of motorcycles, all of which remain true to Ducati’s core values, is what drives today’s growth and success. We spoke with Jason about what’s changing within the motorcycle community, where he sees Ducati’s biggest opportunities and how the company is addressing supply chain issues that affect every global manufacturing company. We also ask Jason what models of motorcycles he liked growing up.
Forbes: How has the motorcycle industry changed over the past 20 years and what impact have these changes had on Ducati?
Jason Chinnock: First, culturally, motorcycling has become more inclusive, and there are fewer “cliques” among motorcyclists. There is still a diversity of motorcycle brands and types, but riders are realizing that they don’t need to be fragmented into these subgroups. We’re actually just bikers. Commercially, we are witnessing a return to motorcycling. The pandemic hit and gave a lot of people cabin fever, and they realized that motorcycling was a really healthy outdoor option for getting outside. And people also wanted to live their lives, with motorcycling being on the to-do list for many of them. And if they’re going to do something that’s a bucket list item, they’re
We’re going to do it right, and Ducati has always been at the top of all considerations and aspirations. We have benefited greatly from it.
Finally, many new technologies have been adapted to the bike to help improve rider safety. And when it comes to Ducati, we take safety very seriously, and as part of the Volkswagen Group we have been able to take advantage of many automotive advances, as well as the development of MotoGP and Superbike racing, to improve the safety of our motorcycles. of production and their riders. Yet the difference for us is that we do it without numbing that emotional experience you get from riding a motorcycle, and I think that’s part of our secret.
Forbes: Where do you see the biggest opportunities for Ducati?
Jason Chinnock: Our brand awareness is very high, although without help it is quite low. This means that if you ask a biker to name a motorcycle brand and only 1 out of 4 people is called Ducati. But an awareness helped, that is to say ask them if they know Ducati, and 3 out of 4 say “Oh yes, Ducati”. That tells me that people know who the brand is, but we weren’t a real consideration for a lot of people outside of those in that target audience. We’ve always been an ambitious brand, where there was appreciation and respect for us, but a lot of people thought Ducati didn’t build a bike for them. People think it’s a cool brand that builds sport bikes, that’s the general assumption.
We knew we had a broader product offering, but we had to address misconceptions about our brand. And we work tirelessly on it. I use the example of the Mulitstrada V4, which has the lowest cost of ownership and the highest technical content of any motorcycle in its class. Yet with this bike we have not compromised the things we are known for and what people aspire to when they buy our brand, namely the performance, style and character that are synonymous with Ducati. We will continue to do so, making our brand more approachable and accessible to those who previously valued us from a distance. Now we have the new Desert X coming, which will allow us to open new customer bases for new people to come to our brand.
Forbes: Does Ducati have electrification plans?
Jason Chinnock: Our electric era for Ducati has begun. We have signed to be the sole supplier of the motorcycles for the FIM Enel MotoE World Cup 2023 electric motorcycle series. It is a one-make series, and our prototype has already been unveiled and tested on the track. In fact, we just released a video showcasing the prototype. The goal is to understand and develop this technology to the highest level, in a rolling lab situation so that the technology we develop ensures that we provide that experience that people expect from Ducati. We don’t make a practical sewing machine that goes from point A to point B. It has to look like a Ducati.
Part of that concern is that you don’t lose brand identity. Inevitably, you will lose the sound — it will sound different, no doubt about it. But the challenge is to make a motorcycle worthy of wearing the Ducati badge. It means size, weight, battery saving, practical application of how to integrate into different charging networks. This MotoE gives us the opportunity to support the R&D of the product, as well as the physiological evolution of technology and chemistry. Because we know that in the world of motorcycling, for a motorbike to deliver an experience on par with an internal combustion engine, it’s going to be very heavy. These are the challenges we face, but we also know that this opportunity is before us.
Forbes: What are the biggest challenges currently facing Ducati, and do global supply chain issues play a role in these?
Jason Chinnock: The reality is that we have supply chain issues, primarily with our component suppliers related to what everyone is experiencing with the chip shortage. And having a product that is very rich in technical content has caused delays in the production of certain models. I did business with our dealer network last month and there was this implicit idea that with the unprecedented demand we’ve had over the last 12 to 18 years, demand that we haven’t experienced for many years, it has been compounded by supply chain challenges.
Thankfully, we’ve seen that on the horizon, and we as an organization have made a big shift by investing in tools that help us get a more accurate understanding of what demand really is and how best way to handle it. We understand the entire customer journey, from the request to the desire to buy. It helped us move the business model from walking to a Ducati dealer to pick a bike off the floor, which may or may not be what the customer really wants, to pre-ordering a new model and managing timing expectations. Of course, there will always be people who want something yesterday, but American consumer culture has also evolved. I think consumers now understand that sometimes you have to wait a bit to get what you really want. And as long as you expect you to get an experience on par with a premium product, the customer is generally happy and satisfied.
Forbes: Which motorcycles have marked you the most as an enthusiast?
Jason Chinnock: I was just happy to have something under my butt to ride on. Anything. Because I was not allowed to ride a motorcycle when I was little. In fact, I would slip away to ride. I had a friend who had a Sachs Foxy GT moped that I would take out in the desert and ride it like a dirt bike. And that inspired me as a motorcyclist just because of that concept of freedom. But you could put anything in front of me and I was just excited to be on it, that’s just what happened below me at the time.
From there, motorcycling was romanticized for me through film, with stuff like Mad Max. And I ended up with a Kawasaki KZ750, which was the poor version of the KZ100, which was in this movie, because it has this fierce attitude, which for me was part of motorcycling. There’s the performance and the handling, but there’s that attitude and I’ve always gravitated towards that. And then progressing beyond that is where it came into performance for me, and for performance I would say probably Honda RC30. It was a time when this brand was doing it out of love.