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Competitive Strategies: Ducati vs. Harley Davidson



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    Determine how each corporate culture differs from the other. Ducati is Italian through and through, and Harley Davidson is American made Muscle. While both are very popular brand name motorcycles, they differ in many ways while still having huge followings. Though the two may differ in their customer base, it is certainly agreed that they are both awe-inspiring works of art. According to Lustgarten (2004) in an article published in Forbes Magazine, the corporate culture practiced at Harley-Davidson is, “a place where workers are customers and leather jackets are more common than neckties, that means a lot.” While casual in attire, the employees also have access to executives with offices without doors, “where workers say they’re free to speak their minds,” providing input and feedback concerning the company (Lustgarten, 2004). The Harley Davidson website uses the following to describe their corporate culture: “Culture as strong as iron and steel in which the employees are the biggest investment in the future of the company and their competitive advantage (Harley-Davidson, 2013)”.

    They also state that with that investment in the employees, they in turn want to provide the best possible service and products to customers. With this style of leadership, success is surely in the path of this company. Ducati culture on the other hand is reflected in the staff that Ducati seeks, such as those with, “passion, an obsession for quality and the pursuit of excellence are the factors which distinguish people who work for Ducati (Ducati USA, 2012).” A representation of the Italian culture that supports performance, aesthetics and status are the marks by which the organization holds itself and chooses its staff. Racing and winning are the focus. Silvano Fini, a manager for the company in Bolonge, confirms that “passion is the driving factor behind the workforce and company culture (Automotive Manufacturing Solutions, 2013).”

    Analyze three ways that each unique culture has benefitted by the other’s competition. Motorcyclist Magazine reports that Ducati riders are celebrating their love of motorcycles in a similar ways to Harley Davidson riders. The World Ducati Week in Misano, Italy is a representation of the growing passion and popularity of the Italian brand (Karr, 2010). Harley Davidson brings a culture of its’ own, immortalized in American history through the motorcycle’s use during wartime. The celebration of the culture goes further to include riders who gather in what are known as motorcycle rallies across the United States. Some of the rallies include Sturgis in Sturgis South Dakota, Bike Week in Daytona Beach, and an even closer event being held yearly in May in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It is said that “Sturgis itself has grown into the largest representation of the Harley-Davidson community” according to Masker (2013). In retrospect, the race that broke the winning streak for Harley-Davidson was pulled off by none other than Ducati, at the US National Grand Flat Track at Yavapai Downs Mile in Arizona Gizmag Team, (2010). After a year of adjustments and qualifying in 2010, Ducati won on a dirt track, upsetting a winning streak that Harley-Davidson held for 17 years. The non-American, non-traditional Ducati was seen as a new racing rival and ally by some folks. One of them was a gentleman named Joe Kopp who was quoted as saying, “Equipment wise, I have the best of both worlds. I will be riding Ducati’s on all the mile tracks and will be able to choose between the Ducati and my XR750 on the half-mile tracks depending on how testing goes (Gizmag Team, 2010).” Kopp, a prior racing winner, has brought together the benefits of two different bikes on the team to win races and gain new fans of both brands.

    As reported by PRNewswire, Harley Davidson and Marvel Entertainment, LLC partnered to bring the Harley Davidson brand to the forefront in the making of the film Iron Man 3. Entrants had the opportunity to create characters paired with Harley-Davidson motorcycles that they had chosen. The grand prize winner was included in the Marvel publication and won the Harley-Davidson motorcycle they had chosen. “Iron Man, one of Marvel’s most iconic creations, truly embodies the rebellious attitude and power of Harley-Davidson,” said Dino Bernacchi, Harley-Davidson Marketing Communication Director, (PR, N, 2013). Mark (2011) states that there is no shortage of movies in which a Ducati has appeared in. The World’s Fastest Indian in 2005 debuted several Ducati motorcycles with the goal of attaining speed for the main character. True to its nature, it also appears in an intense getaway scene by the heroin Trinity in Matrix Reloaded (Herald Sun). According to an article in Complex Rides, “Aside from Harley Davidson, Ducati might be the most distinct and recognizable name in the motorcycle industry”, Jitchovisut, (2012). Speculate how each would continue to thrive if its current corporate culture would change in the near future. Be sure to state what challenge(s) you are speculating on and what led you to identify that possibility. A survey conducted by the Dominion Post (2012, p. 8) revealed readers’ preferences when responding to the question of which Hollywood motorcycle chase scenes were their favorites. The Harley Davidson and Ducati brands dominated four of the ten spots for that category. In their articles, Gerzema et. al (2008, p.128) refer to this as “dynamism.

    Dynamism is a reaction that is evoked by a brand in a consumer. Brands with high levels of Dynamism create persona, community and evangelism among their users. Dynamic brands penetrate pop culture”. Gerzema et. al (2008, p.128). Ducati and Harley Davidson are undoubtedly identified as brands that create dynamism in culture. It would be a self-service if each brand decided to continue some light remodels on their bikes, mainly to appeal to buyers of both brands, but also to keep their most loyal consumers coming back. One of the most profound changes that could be made in the culture of Ducati would be to change the primary goal of speed or winning, and to add comfort. They are known for having lots of power, but are not always comfortable over long trips. Both the Ducati and Harley Davidson brands are ridden and subsequently reviewed, one of the major concerns with a Ducati model, for example, is on a trip taking more than eight hours, with the lack of seat comfort; the comfort of the Harley, although much more comfortable, was overshadowed by the loud and thunderous mufflers tested over the same time and distances.

    Overall both companies have similar idea’s that it is not conducive to change the culture or the products completely, but to add a few new comforts. Harley Davidson’s stance is that there are items that could be improved to help performance, such as the saddlebags being repositioned so that they could be easily secured after checking the air pressure in the tires; additionally, Harley Davidson could consider the enhancement of performance in their culture that has begun to surface in areas such as Project Rushmore for example. With all of the possibilities that have yet to be determined, the 2014 Street Glide Special could be the beginning of a performance change; if changes are to be made they would most likely include braking, styling and performance. These changes will allow Harley Davidson to give their style and comfort a dose of speed, and to appeal to a new market that requires flexibility. This will enable Harley Davidson to be better poised to adjust to the changing demands of customers.

    We may be in for a long, red ride before Ducati becomes as main stream as Harley Davidson is today. When will we know for sure? If a Ford F-150 Desmo Edition comes along to counter the success of the Harley Davidson F150 edition pickup truck that would be a great sign. Exclusivity vs. inclusivity Harley Davidson on the other hand has been able to offer customer items that Ducati could not, according to Karr,J.(2010) Ducati will have arrived when they decide to add a Ford F-150 Desmo to its’ brand line.

    Gerzema, J., & Lebar, E. (2008). The brand bubble: The looming crisis in brand value and how to avoid it. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Gizmag Team. (2010, May 07). Ducati breaks 17 year Harley Davidson winning streak with US Grand National Flat Track victory. Retrieved from High-tech & hand-built. (2013). Automotive Manufacturing Solutions, 14(4), 26-29. Jitchovisut, J. (2012, May 1). The 20 best Ducati’s in movies. Retrieved from Karr, J. (2010). Ducati to replace Harley-Davidson at handlebars of societal downfall. Motorcyclist, (1364), 98. Lustgarten, A. (2004). Harley-Davidson. Fortune, 149(1), 76. PR, N. (2013, April 4). Harley-Davidson and Marvel join forces for Marvel’s Iron Man 3. PR Newswire US. 


    Competitive Strategies: Ducati vs. Harley Davidson. (2017, Feb 05). Retrieved from

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