“everything we do at Ducati derives, in one way or another, from racing”

In a class of its own

Ducati Japan offers unparalleled riding experiences


MARCH 2022 Investing in Japan / Text by Toby Waters / Photos by Michael Holmes

With the high speeds, roaring engines, and riders leaning just millimetres over the track during turns, there’s nothing quite as thrilling as a motorcycle race. Last year, the premium motorcycle manufacturer Ducati was responsible for creating a lot of that excitement: for the second consecutive year it won the MotoGP Constructors’ World Championship, after Ducati bikes took their riders to the podium seven times at MotoGP events, the highest class of road races for motorcycles.

“We have a long history of producing racing bikes, so everything we do at Ducati derives, in one way or another, from racing,” says Mats Lindstrom, president of Ducati Japan. “Before putting motorcycles on the market, we develop them for excellent performance, handling, and lightness — and make sure they are fun to ride — and then we build on that. We have to be innovative, sophisticated, and performance-oriented.”

Racing ahead
Founded in Bologna, Italy, in 1926, Ducati made its first motorcycles in 1949 and has grown to become one of the world’s most iconic motorcycle brands. With 59,447 motorcycles sold globally in 2021, last year was the firm’s best year to date.
The firm established its Japan operations in 1998 and, today, has 43 dealerships across the nation. Lindstrom believes that one of the keys to the company’s success here is the passion its employees and the dealer network have for the brand.

“Every one of our business partners is a fan — they’re all Ducatisti,” he says, using a term for Ducati devotees. “The amount of passion that everyone in our network has is amazing. You can tell — whether talking to salespeople or getting service for your bike in a dealership — that they all love Ducati. And their enthusiasm is contagious.”

The number of Ducatisti in Japan is on the rise, which is evident from Ducati’s recent sales growth in the market. According to Lindstrom, the total motorcycle market in Japan grew by a very strong 24%, compared with 2020, and over the same period, Ducati grew 31%. This is not only due to the enthusiasm of the firm’s dealers and employees, but also to its impressive product line-up, which includes the new Multistrada V4.

“Wherever you go [on your Multistrada V4], you know people will look”

In pole position
Described by Lindstrom as the “pinnacle” of the motorcycles available on the market today, the Multistrada V4 — released in Japan last March — is the fourth generation in the Multistrada series and the most advanced bike that the firm has produced to date.

“We call the concept ‘four bikes in one’: you can use it for your commute in town, on country roads, for long tours, and on the racetrack, as well,” says Lindstrom. “Each time we release a new version of Multistrada, it has new technology, and the V4S is the first bike in the world to come with both front and rear radar as a standard. It also has the same V4 engine that superbikes have, with the sound of a V2 but the smooth performance of a V4.”

And the recommended valve-clearance service interval of 60,000km for the Multistrada V4 is proof of its high quality.
“That’s one and a half times around the globe before you need to take it in for maintenance,” says Lindstrom. “That’s unheard of. Nobody else comes near that number.”

Since it was released in Japan a year ago, the Multistrada V4 has proved popular here. Lindstrom attributes this to its cutting-edge technology, comfortable upright seat, sleek design, and reputation for combining the power of a larger sports bike with the handling and easy rideability of a smaller bike. He notes that it is selling even better than previous models of the Multistrada.

“Wherever you go, you know people will look,” says Lindstrom. “The Multistrada V4 is in its own class.”
Ducati is also in its own class when it comes to competitive electric motorcycle racing. Starting next year, it will be the sole provider of bikes for the MotoE, the electric motorcycle version of the MotoGP races. This demonstrates the firm’s ongoing commitment to reduce its carbon footprint during the development and throughout the lifecycle of its bikes.

As soon as the technology allows, the goal is to create a Ducati electric vehicle for road use that is sporty, light, and exciting. At the same time, the firm wants to maintain the brand’s signature “style, sophistication, performance, and trust” so that it satisfies all Ducati enthusiasts.

Crossing the line
Though the firm has an impressive range of bikes, Lindstrom does not consider Ducati to be exclusively a motorcycle company. He cites the broader range of products and services that the company offers to its loyal Ducatisti.

“We’re an entertainment company,” he says. “We’re here to entertain our customers and, though the motorcycle is at the core of this, we also have riding gear, such as helmets and jackets; lifestyle wear, such as T-shirts and caps; and accessories. We also hold local and global events, have an internet radio station, organise Ducati Grandstands — where Ducati fans can together cheer on riders — and so much more. And we do this to give our customers the best possible experience.”

But there is no better example of Ducati’s dedication to ensuring its customers have a great time than its Ducati Riding Experiences (DREs). These are programmes where those with a motorcycle licence have the chance to improve their skills in a safe environment — and try out different Ducati models.

“DREs started about 20 years ago, as a way to get to know Ducati better,” says Lindstrom. “In Japan, we are offering the DRE Racetrack, to enjoy the adrenaline of riding on the track, and DRE Road, to improve riding skills and safety techniques. Soon, we’ll introduce new formats such as the DRE Adventure, focused on the Multistrada and DesertX, where you learn how to get the best out of your Ducati, both on- and off-road.”

All DRE instructors are professional riders who have raced motorcycles competitively and are approved by the DRE Academy team at Ducati headquarters in Bologna. They are carefully screened to make sure that they can effectively teach those on their DRE courses. Each course limits the number of riders per instructor, to guarantee the optimal individual support in every lesson. Instructors are also trained to teach how to handle a bike in less-than-ideal conditions, something they were able to put into practice at the launch of the DREs in Japan in May 2021.

“When we held our first session, it was pouring rain. Some club members asked me if they would only be focusing on theory,” Lindstrom says. “But I thought it was the best kind of day: they could practice slalom handling and emergency braking, or test the ABS system in those wet conditions — and all on a brand new Ducati, rather than risking their own bikes. By the afternoon, everyone was smiling from ear to ear.” •