BERLIN (Bloomberg) -- Ferdinand Piech has added six brands during his two-decade tenure leading Volkswagen Group. Now he is about to add another with the purchase of Ducati.
This time he risks overreaching.
The 860 million-euro ($1.1 billion) deal for the exotic Italian motorcycle maker, which was approved on Wednesday by the Piech-chaired VW supervisory board, raises the number of VW nameplates to 11 and stretches the automaker's product range from 195-horsepower two-wheelers to 50-ton trucks.
The addition of Ducati isn't likely to add much to the company's bottom line and may prove a distraction for Piech, who is already working on the integration of the sports car maker Porsche.
"The Ducati deal shows that Piech is an engineer and engineers are sometimes like little babies," said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of the Center for Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen. "It's a new toy."
Absorbing Ducati adds another project for VW management, which is already tasked with integrating Porsche Automobile Holding SE's carmaking operations, fashioning a truck alliance with affiliates Scania and MAN and thwarting Suzuki's efforts to force it to return a 19.9 percent stake after their partnership failed.
VW is aiming to overtake GM and fend off Toyota to become the top global carmaker.
From trucks to bikes
VW's diversification and accumulation of new brands counters the strategy at its biggest competitors. Fiat last year spun off its Iveco truck operations into Fiat Industrial to push its integration with Chrysler Group. Ford unloaded Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover to become leaner. General Motors Co. shuttered the Hummer, Pontiac and Saturn brands and sold Saab as part of its bankruptcy reorganization.
"With heavy trucks, and now motorcycles, they may be coming to the limits of the types of products they understand with their car way of thinking," said Christoph Stuermer, an IHS Automotive analyst in Frankfurt. "With trucks, the inside - - the layout of the motor and the transmission -- matters, but the packaging doesn't" unlike cars.
Volkswagen last week raised its stake in Munich-based MAN, the maker of trucks and buses, to 73 percent of the common shares from 56 percent. The move is part of an effort to forge an alliance with Scania, which VW controls through a holding of 71 percent of the Swedish company's voting rights.
MAN and Scania follow Lamborghini, Bugatti and Bentley as brands added under Piech's reign, which dates back to 1993 when he became chief executive officer. Piech, who turned 75 this week, became chairman in 2002.