Back in March, Ducati boss Claudio Domenicali announced aggressive expansion plans that would increase the brand’s worldwide sales from 40 to 60,000 unit a year. To achieve that goal, Ducati planned to open up developing markets with two new factories. One in Thailand and one in Brazil. This Ducati Monster 795 is the first physical sign of that expansion. Not because its 796 engine in a 696 chassis makes it cheap enough ($10-12,000, with import duties, est) to sell in India, but because it’s the first modern Ducati to be made, or at least assembled, outside Italy. This Ducati was put together in Thailand.
Of course, Ducati isn’t the first premium manufacturer to manufacture a product in a developing market. The KTM 125 Duke is a notable example, as is the Honda CBR250R. Both manage to package the quality, performance and high-spec components those two brand are known for into bikes that can undercut rivals in traditional markets, but also close to the point of manufacture. By building the 125 Duke in India and CBR250R in Thailand, KTM and Honda are also opening up sales in potentially lucrative markets while avoiding the hefty import tariffs that have traditionally kept their bikes out.
In 2009, 8.4 million motorcycles were sold in India (Indicus Analytics) and about 2.2 million in Thailand (Honda). In the same year, only around 500,000 bikes were sold in the US.
Components like simpler clocks help further reduce cost.
Now, this Monster 795 and even the CBR250R and KTM 125 Duke are considered small volume, premium products in those markets, but with such volume, even a percentage point or two, total, could exceed any of these brand’s US sales. The Monster 795 will be sold in Thailand, China, India, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malysia, the Phillippines, Vietnam and Singapore.
Perhaps most relevant to US enthusiasts, however, is the prospect of bikes made in developing markets reaching US shores. A KTM 350 Duke, presumably taking advantage of 125 Duke production processes and locations, will go on-sale here for model year 2013 and Thai manufacture helped Honda bring the CBR250R into the US this year for just $4k. That’s a brand new bike that’s able to undercut the Kawasaki Ninja 250, which last had an R&D budget associated with it in the 1980s. The Honda’s the higher quality bike, too.
Viewers with small children may want to take them out of the room. This is a Ducati with a double-sided swingarm. Oh, the humanity.
As the emphasis for motorcycle manufacturers shifts away from the US and European premium markets, we’re already seeing less frequent model development of the kinds of big, fast, expensive bikes we’re used to here. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If the 125 Duke and CBR250R are anything to go by, even Ducati could soon be importing smaller-capacity, more affordable bikes to the US, and doing so from Asia.