It's doubtful that the new T-Mobile US campaign flashing a Ducati bike (above) made the difference, but Audi appears poised to snap up the Italian motorcycle brand for about $1 billion, according to Bloomberg News.
Bloomberg hears that the board of Volkswagen AG, Audi's parent, is expected to ignite the deal for the maker of luxury motorbikes at the same meeting on Wednesday where it is set to endorse the choice of a site in Mexico for building its first North American plant. Both moves represent a further coming of age of the nascent Audi brand.
Buying Ducati would mark a significant step toward its goal of becoming the world-leading premium luxury brand, and would give BMW's own venerable cycle brand some competition. Ducati has been the apple of the eye of VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech for some time, and he publicly expressed interest in buying the brand in 2008 before losing out to Investindustrial SpA of Italy.
The T-Mobile campaign certainly seems to agree with Piech about Audi. T-Mobile's pink-clad spokesmodel, Canadian Carly Foulkes, gives up her usual duds for a black leather cycle outfit and a 1000cc Ducati superbike. That's meant to help communicate "the speed and capabilities of our 4G network," Peter DeLuca, T-Mobile's SVP of brand communications, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Audi's overall rise in esteem and matching double-digit sales growth in the U.S. market has been somewhat overshadowed by the recent successes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Audi has been held back even more by volume constraints that make it as prevalent in American garages as VW leadership believes it can be. A handful of Audi models are among the quickest to move off U.S. dealer lots these days.
So VW's luxury brand is copying the strategy pursued by its mainstream brand when the company decided to attempt to make Volkswagen products relevant in the U.S. market again a few years ago: build in North America again. Volkswagen chose a greenfield site near Chattanooga, Tenn., which opened last year, building Passat sedans.
Audi has been considering putting up its own first North American plant right next to the VW facility in Tennessee. But according to Automotive News Europe, Audi CEO Rupert Stadler has been pushing for Mexico while VW AG executives would prefer the U.S. site.
Either way, the move to establish a North American plant, for building the Audi Q5 SUV betginning in 2015, means a higher profile ahead for Audi in the U.S.