The following is a commentary by editor Myles Kornblatt
Ducati is being bought by Audi. I’m excited about this Italian going German because it will likely mean the return of one of my favorite brands: NSU.
Audi has carried the torch for a few long dead brands. Up until 1985 it was known as Audi NSU Auto Union AG, even though NSU built its last car in 1977 and Audi replaced DKW as the prominent Auto Union brand in 1965.
Anytime I’ve spoken with Audi’s executives in Germany, they make their appreciation for the company’s history known. NSU has deep roots in both cars and motorcycles, so a purchase of Duacati would give them a long-awaited opportunity to pay tribute to a brand lying dormant.
NSU is a personal favorite because they were the least German of the Germans. They valued engineering like any stereotypical Deutschlander, but they also were spunky like the English or Italians. NSU had some crazy ideas like feet-forward streamlined motorcycles, or allowing their car customers be the guinea pigs with the rotary engine. The former obtained land speed records in the 1950s; the latter killed the company.
Just because I want the return of NSU, doesn’t mean I think that one purchase of a motorcycle company will fully bring back the car/bike brand.
First, NSU is not likely to ever return as a car company, because there is no need for a new NSU car. Sure Audi recently flirted with a rotary engine with the A1 e-tron, but just because Audi is using an NSU idea doesn’t mean the whole name comes back. Just look at the Audi TT — it carries the Audi name but the origin is a sports version of the compact NSU Prinz.
Second, Ducati is already a builder of supreme sport bikes. It doesn’t need the NSU name to help sell high performance machines, and Audi is too smart to try force the NSU name on Ducati without a good reason.
Instead, I’m holding out hope for one of those great ‘ideas from a shed’ stories. The kind of tale that starts with a few Audi engineers getting inspired by the Ducati purchase. They let their hair down into free-flowing mullets, and after a few late nights working in someone’s home garage, a new and cool idea in motorcycles will emerge. Ducati will have the ability to produce it, and Audi will have the power to slap an NSU badge on it.
That’s the realistic dream.