Volkswagen Group chairman Ferdinand Piech has been given a special 75th birthday present - the Ducati motorcycle company.
Audi, and by connection the VW Group, has taken a controlling 70 per cent stake in Ducati at the behest of Piech, who is an avid Ducati rider.
The deal was signed and sealed earlier in the week - pending government approval - but the official announcement was early this morning, made at the German automotive giant's annual shareholders meeting.
Audi purchased Ducati from Investindustrial, a private equity firm.
"Ducati is known worldwide as a premium brand among motorcycle manufacturers and has a long tradition of building sporty motorcycles. It has great expertise in high-performance engines and lightweight construction, and is one of the world's most profitable motorcycle manufacturers. That makes Ducati an excellent fit for Audi," Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, declared.
Mercedes-Benz AMG currently has a relationship with Ducati, which spawned the Ducati Diavel AMG motorcycle, but this is likely to be reviewed now that rival Audi has taken control of the company.
Mercedes-Benz Australia's Senior Manager for Corporate Communications, David McCarthy, told motoring.com.au that "I would suggest [the AMG Ducati relationship] is under review. I haven't had any communications from Stuttgart on what this [Ducati sale] means, but we'll get word in the next few days."
The announcement gives Audi owner, the Volkswagen Group, its first motorcycle company and joins a select group of automotive manufacturers who build motorcycles and cars, such as Honda, Suzuki and BMW.
While Audi is not talking numbers, Reuters has reported that the German company paid €860 million (A$1.08 billion) for a controlling stake in the Italian company.
Ducati is believed to owe around €200 million in debt but this will be chickenfeed for the VW Group.
In 2011, Ducati sold roughly 42,000 motorcycles and reported revenue of €480 million, one of its best years on record, thanks in large part to the new Diavel power cruiser which has been a hit with American riders.
The acquisition of Ducati by Audi and the VW Group is certainly not a financial decision, with the motorcycle company not expected to contribute much to the European automotive giants bottom line. Many financial analysts are saying the move has little to do with revenue and more to do with emotion.
"The Ducati acquisition is driven by VW's passion for nameplates rather than industrial or financial logic," said Credit Suisse's Arndt Ellinghorst.
The deal is likely to benefit Ducati, which will soon have access to more capital and have its debts wiped. This may result in a broadening of the Ducati product portfolio, but it's unlikely we'll see Audi-badged motorcycles anytime soon - if ever.
There has been much comment about Ducati motorcycles losing their soul under their new German bosses, but if history is any guide, Volkswagen can be expected to allow Ducati to go about its business. When VW acquired Lamborghini, Bentley and Bugatti it gave them a relatively long leash to develop their own distinctive personalities.
What is more likely is that production processes and management protocol will be tightened up, and technology sharing could deliver a few fillips for both companies.
In its press statement, Audi talked up Ducati engineering, suggesting that its knowledge of progressive control system could be of benefit to Audi passenger cars.
"The progressive control systems and special combustion chamber process of Ducati engines, their resulting sporty character, and Ducati’s extensive know-how in lightweight construction thus offer great potential for AUDI AG and the Volkswagen Group."