In my opinion, unequivocally yes. And here’s why.
Kawasaki, during the J300 launch made it clear that scooters account for around 50% of all motorcycle sales throughout europe. So, it’s unsurprising then that they’re finally moving into the market. Since scooters are still not widely accepted by elitist British sports bike riders, that percentage has a lot of growing room thanks to this country and probably quite a few others. By making what in a lot of people’s opinions is one of the best looking scooters available, they’ve got a fairly good chance of changing a few people’s minds. Even if it is a Kymco downtown 300 under the fancy Ninja styling. Even in countries like Italy, where scooters are far more widely accepted and used, there must still be considerable room to grow due to the lower cost and fuel economy of scooters compared to cars.
So, why do I bring up Ducati in all this. Ducati, similarly to Kawasaki up until this point, have been all about performance and fun and not at all about practicality. You could say why stop now since it’s working and being a part of the Audi / Volkswagen group affords you more financial breathing room. Those are both true, but at the same time, it would be foolish of any company to ignore 50% of the market that they compete in. And don’t tell me that scooters don’t belong in the same category as motorcycles. You wouldn’t say automatic hatch-backs aren’t in the same market as sports cars. They are different, but they’re certainly both cars.
Some might be concerned that Ducati might lose what makes them special by caving in and building a scooter, but I disagree. Even if they were making scooters, it’s not like the hardcore fans are going to abandon them in favor of their competitors since they are also all making scooters. Both Yamaha and Honda produce a large number of models of scooters. I don’t see that hurting their sports bike brand whatsoever.
What Ducati should do in my opinion, would be to go further than Kawasaki. The J300 is a nice starting model as its power and size offer a nice compromise between city riding economy and motorway comfort. Ducati would probably be far better served by launching a T-Max style super scooter as their first model. Make a performance scooter with practical elements with Ducati styling and they would be on to a winner. Make it sound nice, make it look nice and make it ride awesomely and they would be instant competitors in the performance Maxi Scooter market. A 600cc or more engine and a superbike style front end would really grab attention from scooter riders, Ducati loyalists and former scooter haters alike. To suggest that we’ll see 50 and 125cc around town models is a stretch to put it mildly, but who knows what the future might hold. Electric bikes and scooters may catch on quicker than some people think. Especially if Harley-Davidson are already throwing their hat in the ring. No one would have thought that a few months ago.
Are we likely to see this mythical bike that I’ve just imagined up? I think so. Maybe not right now, but I would be surprised if we don’t see something along these lines in the next several years from them. If we don’t, then I believe they’ll be throwing away a serious chunk of future profit and growth.