Exclusive Interview: Ducati’s Claudio Domenicali

Claudio Domenicali: The Ducati Newport Beach Interview

For Southern California Ducatisti, Ducati Newport Beach isn’t unfamiliar although the tony Newport Boulevard destination will be getting used to a fresh new look and other welcome amenities as it transitions to an Exclusive Ducati dealer. Ducati Newport Beach Owner Michael Guerin said that it has “basically been a Cinderella ride” since opening in 2008. His dedicated staff had been serving area motorcyclists with a variety of European brands. Now, Ducati Newport Beach is putting it all on red to become an Exclusive Ducati dealership.

It’s a step further than just becoming a one-line dealer. Ducati Newport Beach is one of four flagship Ducati dealerships on US soil, boasting Ducati-centric apparel, accessories, and a state-of-the-art service shop, along with its completely renovated showroom.

In a short time, Ducati Newport Beach made its mark, making itself the top US Ducati dealer three times, as well as the top dealership in California on a few occasions. In honor of its transition to an Exclusive Ducati dealership, Guerin & Co. re-opened the doors to their newly Ducati adorned showroom, inviting friends, family, and the faithful to celebrate the Exclusive Grand Opening. On hand for the festivities were Ducati Global CEO Claudio Domenicali, as well as Ducati North America CEO Jason Chinnock.

Amid the hubbub and excitement from local riders, we took the time to chat with Domenicali, discussing the complexities of the US motorcycle market, racing, future projects, and more.

Ultimate Motorcycling: The first thing I wanted to talk about was the US market, specifically. Ducati of Newport Beach is now the fourth Flagship dealership in the US. Can you talk about the importance of that and how Ducati plan on expanding from there?

Claudio Domenicali: I think that’s part of the development of the brand. Ducati is growing as a company and, really, with the expansion of the motor range we have, it makes it possible for us to create places like here in Newport Beach that are exclusive for the brand and which you can live the whole experience. It’s continued being profitable because it’s possible to sell a good amount of motorcycles and you can get the full experience here. And so, it’s very different when you actually live the brand into a place like here, or just you enter into a motorcycle dealership which has different brands alongside. It’s possible, of course, to have mixed dealerships, but the more we can, we would like to expand this type of single-brand dealership.

UM: What kind of challenges does the US market present in comparison to the Italian, European, or British markets? Is there anything that makes the US market unique in dealing with that customer base?

Claudio Domenicali Interview
From left: CEO Ducati North America Jason Chinnock, Ducati Newport Beach President Michael Guerin, Ducati Newport Beach CFO Judy Guerin, Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali, VP Global Sales & After Sales Ducati Motor Holding (DMH) Francesco Milicia, CFO DMH Oliver Stein

Domenicali: I think in some part, our customer is a passionate customer and are very similar, and so it’s not dramatically different. What is different is because of the distance between here and Italy, and so it’s a bit more difficult, sometimes, to customize the motorcycle and also, the service; to serve the dealership quickly with what is needed in term of products. The US customer is somehow less patient. So, sometimes you want something, and you want it immediately. In Europe, people are more used to kind of ordering the product and then maybe wait for three, four months for that the products come and are delivered exactly to their specification. This is some of the difference, but I would say there are much more similarities than differences.

UM: Many manufacturers and publications talk about bringing new riders into the sport. What are some of the ways that Ducati hopes to develop a new crop of riders and continue not only the growth of the brand but motorcycling as a whole?

Domenicali: Actually, we think that the Scrambler is a good platform to exploit the same type of getting new riders into the brand, and it’s definitely a bike and a brand which is more accessible. So, it’s a perfect platform really to start and join motorcycling.

UM: Following up on that, would Ducati see the Scrambler line as a platform to institute training programs in the US? Currently, the Ducati Riding Experience programs offer trips for licensed riders, but would Ducati be interested in developing rider training and licensing programs in the way that some US motorcycle manufactures put together?

Domenicali: In the case of DRE, yes, we normally take people that already have their license. But, in Italy, we are rolling out a program exactly this year to use Scrambler to have new people to get the license. So, yes, it’s something that we roll out in Italy now, and so possible there is a possibility to roll out even here in the US.

UM: I’d like to pivot a little bit towards the V4 platform. It’s been on the market for a little over a year at this point. Are there any plans to create a lower displacement version of the V4? Is there a middleweight V4 in the future?

Domenicali: Unfortunately, no. That platform, it’s very technological advanced, and very exclusive, and just the production cost would be too high to be sold at a reasonable price for a middleweight or middle-capacity machine. So, I don’t think there will be this possibility for the future. The market would not pay the price for that kind of motorcycle. When you have, let’s say, a customer that has a budget for a 600cc or 750cc motorcycle, they will not pay more than a certain price.

UM: So, with that in mind, that solidifies the permanence of the 959 being a twin-cylinder platform, and continuing in that direction. In a sense, Ducati will always retain an L-twin in their lineup for a sport bike. Correct?

Domenicali: Yeah, for sure.

UM: Currently, the Scrambler Sixty2 is the lowest displacement Ducati in your lineup. Are there any plans to start developing bikes that are lower displacement than that, maybe 250cc, for world markets? Would Ducati need to expand their foreign manufacturing facilities to do something like that?

Domenicali: That’s not in our plan now, but could be in the future. We have a plant in Thailand for several models, which is doing very good. And based on that, we can export in India and China and all of Asia. So, we are happy with what we have so far.

UM: In respect to World Superbike, Ducati and Alvaro Bautista are dominating at the moment with a V4 R platform. The FIM has just announced that Ducati is being hit with a 250 rpm reduction. How do you feel about that? And do you think it’s really going to change anything for Bautista and Davies at this point?

Domenicali: That’s part of the rule, so there is little to say. There is a system that tries to balance performance, and we follow the rule. We started very strong, and Bautista has a very, let’s say, strong feeling with the bike. Yeah, for sure there will be a little reduction in performance. It will depend very much from drag. So, we’ll try to minimize that. It is like it is, you know?

UM: Has any testing been done with the rpm-reduced? In other words, have you tested a V4 R with lower performance figures?

Domenicali: That is part of the process. So there have been, let’s say, some thinking about that. Let’s put in this way (laughs).

UM: I wanted to touch on the US market once again and more specifically, US racing. Kyle Wyman has begun using a V4 R in the AMA/FIM MotoAmerica Superbike class. Is this a series that Ducati would like to explore in the future and is a rider such as Kyle someone that Ducati could support in the future?

Domenicali: Yeah, we, as a philosophy, we try to concentrate on one objective a time. And so we are mainly focused on the world level. But on the other hand, when you already have the product which is developed, as the V4 superbike, actually there is a real possibility to do well even in a national championship. And so, so far, Kyle, which is using the V4 R in the MotoAmerica, it’s a very much a privateer effort. We have support which is much more limited on some technical advice, but we are some thinking for this future. Now, it’s too early to talk about, because it’s some kind of possible development. Let’s put in this way.

UM: Sounds good. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us.

Domenicali: Thank you for having me.