Borile or Ducati – Whose Scrambler is it, Anyway?

Borile Scrambler B450 in Yellow
Borile Scrambler B450 in Yellow

Borile or Ducati?

Umberto Borile is a formally trained artist and recognized classical art restorer. He is also the creator of classical art of his own — in the form of Borile motorcycles.

Since making its first appearance at the Milan Show in 1988, Borile’s marque, Moto Borile, has crafted motorcycles on a virtual one-by-one basis, until a joint venture with Italy’s Bassi family in late 2010 created Umberto Borile & Co., LTD.

This, in turn has resulted in the creation of larger-scale manufacturing infrastructure that frees Borile himself from fabrication and day-to-day operations for more creative pursuits.

In November 2014, Borile announced manufacturing operations had moved to Cinisello Balsamo, at the gates of Milano, with a brand new warehouse and two assembly lines to increase the production and to provide customer support. Research & Development remains in Vò Euganeo, where all the new prototypes are designed and then produced at the Milano facility.

In 2011, the Borile B450 Scrambler premiered at the Milan Show. The bike features a 452cc air-cooled single-cylinder SOHC four-stroke engine that incorporates a Ducati-built barrel and head. It is inspired in large measure by the single-cylinder Ducati scramblers built from the mid-sixties to early seventies.

Hence, Borile’s B450 Scrambler pays homage to those early Ducati Scramblers and even incorporates the Ducati bloodline today in its construction.

But there is somewhat of a weird back story developing as the result of the recent introduction — or, perhaps, re-introduction – of the Scrambler line by Ducati.

Recently posted on the Borile website are some statements that show Borile’s response to an order handed down by an Italian court on December 16 concerning communications about the two companies’ relationship with their respective Scrambler products.

As the Borile site explains it, there was a close, cooperative relationship between Ducati and Borile during the development of the B450, including potential marketing cooperation of the Borile branded scramblers in some Ducati dealerships. Apparently, all that ended abruptly when Audi acquired Ducati.

Quoting the Borile site: “As everyone knows, especially those in the press, our Scrambler project with the Borile-Ducati motor, was born with the full capacity and “encouragement” of Ducati, when the CEO was still Gabriele Del Torchio (later CEO of Alitalia), and just prior to the 2012 Audi buyout of the Borgo Panigale company.

“This operation would have brought about the possibility – at least this was the intention – to sell the model also in the Ducati dealerships. At the time we were at the beginning of constructing our commercial network and no objections were raised at the mention that the largest Ducati dealership in Italy (the one in Florence) would become also a Borile dealership. It was all part of the same wave of collaboration that was underway while the wait was on for the first new Borile-Ducati Scrambler models.”

Then the site’s post goes on to say: “Del Torchio then leaves and Audi arrives and we can’t even manage to get an appointment. However, after some months, rumors are heard about a Ducati Scrambler project.

“Today, the Ducati Scrambler was officially presented; yellow, obviously more finished and more industrially refined than ours, but the idea was ours and we had unveiled it to Ducati long before they decided to redo the Scrambler.

“We tell this story because we owe it to the creative genius and intuition of Umberto Borile and to the valid suspicion that we have been used – because that is exactly how we feel – knowingly and freely, like ‘market research’ or even as ‘testers’” (To view the complete statement click here).

All this seems to point to an unfortunate situation where the working relationship between Ducati and Borile has broken down, or at a minimum, changed dramatically. If the relationship has morphed from collaboration to competition, it clearly would put Borile in a difficult position with Ducati being the much larger of the two in terms of capital, dealer network and marketing reach.

The irony is that Ducati had created the original Scramblers that inspired the Borile product and now it is Borile that feels its product is the one being imitated in the new Ducati Scramblers.

The comparative images of the two yellow scramblers above demonstrate the similarities — but close inspection of the two bikes and their respective specifications show there are major differences, as well.

Time will tell if there is enough room in the scrambler niche of the market for both Italian products; for the sake of all concerned, we can only hope so.