1. Audi Buys Ducati

Our pick for the top motorcycle news story of 2012 is Audi‘s acquisition of Ducati from Investindustrial, a deal that took months to resolve and changed the landscape of the motorcycle industry.

Under Investindustrial’s guidance, Ducati saw revenues increase to 480 million euros in 2011 from 305 million euros in 2006 when the investment firm purchased Ducati. At the same time, Ducati expanded into emerging markets and grew its product lineup beyond sportbikes with models such as the Diavel sports cruiser and the Multistrada adventure tourer. With the brand at its highest value, the time was right for Ducati to be sold.

Investindustrial courted a number of suitors but Audi, a member of the Volkswagen Group, quickly became the front runner and in April, announced the acquisition. The deal still faced some regulatory hurdles but in July, the European Union gave its approval and Audi officially took over as owners of Ducati, purchasing the brand for 747 million euros, about three times what Investindustrial originally put into acquiring Ducati.

Audi kept Gabriele del Torchio as chief executive officer of Ducati while also giving him a seat on the board of directors for Audi-owned Lamborghini. Retaining del Torchio was an important move, maintaining Audi’s stance that “Ducati remains Ducati.

There were some changes at Ducati however. Filippo Preziosi was displaced as head of Ducati’s racing program, replaced by former BMW man Bernhard Gobmeier following two disappointing MotoGP seasons and the withdrawal of Ducati’s World Superbike factory team. The company also started new cross-promotional tie-ins with Audi including a promotion for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, and both Audi and Lamborghini had cars on display at World Ducati Week.