Ducati MotoGP rider Hayden of the U.S. performs a wheelie.
Ducati MotoGP rider Hayden of the U.S. performs a wheelie in August 2011. Reuters

Audi AG, Volkswagen AG's luxury unit, is in talks to buy Ducati Motor Holding SpA, the storied Italian motorbike company from its private equity owner, Investindustrial Holdings Ltd., London, CAR magazine reported.

Ingoldstadt, Germany-based Audi and Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen hope to challenge against arch competitor BMW in the superbike category, and one strategy would be to purchase Ducati.

From 2010 to 2011, Ducati expanded its market share from 8.5 percent to 10.7 percent, Reuters reported. Ducati sells approximately 40,000 motorcycles per year and, within the sports motorcycle subcategory, carries roughly a 9 percent market share.

The price is between $327 million and $393 million, according to CAR magazine, and Ducati's liabilities are approximately $262 million.

Under an exclusivity agreement, Audi has until its annual shareholders' meeting on April 19 to decide about the purchase and is conducting due diligence, Reuters reported. Mercedes-Benz, Mahindra & Mahindra of India and BMW are also said to be interested in the motorcycle manufacturer.

The purchase of Ducati is being reviewed under Project Eagle, a group designed by Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech, CAR reported. Piech reportedly bemoaned not purchasing Ducati when the company was facing bankruptcy in 2008.

Neither Audi nor Investindustrial were available for comment.

Volkswagen stock was down 1.47 percent to €137.75 ($180.19) Tuesday; Audi stock was down 0.33 percent to €598 ($783.80).