Monday, 1 August 2011

When the money runs out is Ducati's Diavel the answer?

Well the US has a fudged it's way out of a corner (borrowing another $2.4 trillion, promising to do something about debt levels within a decade) and unemployed Neapolitans are burning their uncollected rubbish rather than wait for the polititians to sort out their woes. It feels so much like the seventies I'm starting to crave Angel Delight and Vesta curries: where will it all end?

In a bad place, I suspect. Those baby boomers who were taxpayers and worker bees way back when are now pensioners and NHS bed-blockers: yes, they paid their taxes but that money's all spent, a huge and growing burden with a (particularly Italian) shrinking birth rate. With inflation outstripping GDP the problem's getting worse by the hour. At least the US can borrow at low interest rates - the Italian Government's having to pay nearly 6% if it can find a willing lender: that's the reason Moto Morini had to close it's doors - a short term funding crisis couldn't be tided over by the Government. If that had happened in the 1970s Guzzi, Ducati and Benelli would have disappeared. As would most of the car industry...

So what of the future? Reading up for a piece on the Guzzi factory in Benzina #6, I wadded through Paiggio's statement to shareholders. Piaggio own Aprillia, Guzzi, Gilera...even the Laverda name I suspect. Already they build their scooters in China, so where do they think the future of biking is?

Scarily but hardly unsurprisingly it precises as "Europe's shot, there's some mileage in big bikes in the US. But South America and Asia? Oh, yes please. That's the future". So they opened an R+D department in China. And Harley's shares went up when their CEO said "We might need to go water-cooled in our old markets, but the iconic air-cooled engines will still sell in emerging markets"

And do those emerging markets crave sportsbikes? No. They want a luxury brand, like Ducati, hopefully like Guzzi, and definitely like Harley-D. So maybe Ducati got it spot on with the Diavel, because although you might not like it, the truth might be it was never aimed at Europeans.

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