During the past week I spent two days visiting a company that produces sexy, roaring, speedy beasts, the legendary motorcycle manufacturer Ducati in Bologna as they are a case study in my book on authentic companies. I was visiting creative director David Gross, author of ‘Fast Company” about the turnaround of Ducati in 1997 and the years that followed, and Livio Lodi, curator of the Ducati Museum.
Ducati designs and manufactures the worlds fastest racing motorbikes and are known for their sexy design of fast, red motorcycles with superior technology. But in 1996 things didn’t go too well at the Bologna-based factory. The financial situation was catastrophic and hundreds of unassembled motorcycles were standing around. It was a mess. An American capital fund took over the factory and two consultants were asked to turn around the company. Friederico Minoli and David Gross. They thought they were staying for six months but it turned into years as the world of motorcycles grew on them.
One of the things that turned the company back into a great succes (moving from a production of 11.000 units to more than 40.000 units a year) was the strategic use of the heritage of Ducati. When you ask about company values at Ducati, they will not tell you about “passion” or “service” or other such airy terms. They talk about dry clutches and the desmodromic system. Technical solutions that has helped these 2-cylinder italian beasts run faster than any japanese 4-cylinder machine in the run. The stories of past passion and victories helped the company recreate a strong brand that now attracts thousand of fans from all over the world. Both to online communities, to events (as the Ducati Week) and to the Ducati Museum, a 1.000 square meters of museum space displaying Ducati products from its start in 1926 up to the latest 1098 racing model.
If I wasn’t a fan before (I was), I certainly became one after seeing the factory and the Museum and after talking to several employees and race bike journalists about the exciting world of speed, sexy design and “desmodromic passion”.