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Volkswagen buying motorcycle icon Ducati?

Volkswagen's premium car division, Audi, is considering buying Ducati for its light-engine know-how, according to a report. But Volkswagen, Ducati are not commenting.

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At his annual earnings conference on Monday, VW chief executive Martin Winterkorn dropped a hint that Europe's largest auto maker may be on the lookout to snap up the Bologna-based maker of the "Ducati Monster" bike.

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"I like everything that's red," Winterkorn said when asked about Ducati -- a reference to the fire-engine red fuel tanks which have become a hallmark for Ducati bikes.

Ducati would join carmakers Lamborghini, Skoda, Seat, Bentley, Audi and Bugatti, and truck makers MAN and Scania in the VW stable.

VW's Piech has long coveted the Italian company and on repeated occasions lamented missing an opportunity to buy the motorbike maker after it fell on hard times.

In an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung in June 2008, Piech said VW could learn from Ducati's approach to building lightweight engines.

"A 1 liter engine can produce 200 horsepower," Piech told the paper. "Small engines are also lower from the point of view of fuel consumption. We can learn something here."

Tapping motorcycle expertise is not unprecedented for auto makers. BMW bought Husqvarna Motorcycles in 2007, and built a research and development centre in Cassinetta di Biandronno, 300 kilometers north of Bologna, where Ducati is based.

BMW, which makes the Ducati rival S 1000 RR superbike, on Tuesday forecast it would reach its long-term sales target for cars four years earlier than planned, presenting Audi with a bigger challenge to clinch the crown of becoming the biggest selling premium auto maker.

India's Hero MotoCorp, is on a global hunt for technology partnerships and acquisitions to bolster its models before a agreement allowing the company to use Honda Motor Co's technology runs out in 2014.

"Hero is in talks with many companies. Ducati is one of them," a spokeswoman for Hero MotoCorp told Reuters, declining to comment on whether the Indian automaker was interested in a bid for Ducati.

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