There are some people in the history of Ducati whose stories will never be forgotten, no matter how many years have passed. These individuals had a significant impact on the company, not only in terms of management style, but also as individuals. One such person is Giuseppe Montano, the Managing Director of Ducati in the 1950s.
Giuseppe Montano was appointed Managing Director of the Bolognese company in 1952, arriving as the company was undergoing major expansions. Ducati was opening new commercial initiatives in various directions, and the whole place was alive with excitement and activity. Colleagues warmly remember Montano for his authoritative management style, for the strategic changes he implemented, and, above all, for hiring the man who revolutionized Ducati Meccanica: Fabio Taglioni. Montano believed in the mechanical innovations that Taglioni proposed, and gave him the time, space, and resources to transform his ideas into real motorcycles that later became major commercial successes.
Montano's arrival at Ducati coincided with the strains being felt by the European economy in the years after World War II. A year before Taglioni's arrival in 1954, Ducati divided the company into two separate divisions: Ducati Elettrotecnica (electronics and radios) and Ducati Meccanica (diesel engines, boat engines and last but not least, motorcycles). Montano was placed in charge of Ducati Mecchanica, where he was able to express how much he liked motorcycles and loved racing.
With Montano's lead, Ducati was able to create a solid name for itself in the world of competitive motorcycle racing. Montano had a unique and innovative approach to racing: he saw competitive racing as a trial ground to develop Ducati's production models. Other companies typically used an alternative approach: first they made their street bikes, and then used them as racing prototypes. Ducati's alternative approach was a bit more risky, because the failure of a single racing bike meant the failure of a much larger project. As a result of Montano's creative approach, Ducati became famous for creating sports-oriented production models with the same high quality as those used on the competitive racetracks. Ducati's sporty approach has attracted fans who appreciate riding on bikes like those the professionals ride.
Legend has it that Ducati stole Taglioni from one of its direct competitors, Mondial, but this was not really what happened. Although Taglioni had worked for Mondial, he left the company before ever coming to Ducati. Feeling insulted when he was not invited to the company's dinner celebrating its victory in the 1954 Motogiro d'Italia, Taglioni quit the next day without explanation. A few days later, Giuseppe Montano contacted the well-known designer with the following unique offer to join and save the struggling company: "We know your talent and we need you at Ducati. Currently we only have the money to pay our employees for one more month... Our only possibility to survive is if you make a motorcycle that wins the next Motogiro d'Italia. If you succeed, we will be able to produce and sell 100 motorcycles. If you fail, Ducati will close and everyone will have to return home".
His pride hurt by Mondial, Taglioni was ready to take on the challenge.
Under Montano's leadership, Taglioni's 100 cc Gran Sport won the 1955 Motogiro, a success that brought significant economic benefits for the whole company. The Mariannas were unbeatable, and began Ducati's excellent racing record that continues today. Production volume increased, and Ducati grew to become not only one of Italy's biggest companies, but a reference point for motorcycling in Europe and in the rest of the world. Looking back on Montano's illustrious career at Ducati, it surely can be said that his innovative management in the 1950s transformed Ducati into a state-of-the-art firm.
Originally published in the Passione Ducati Encyclopedia by Altaya/De Agostini and reprinted with the publisher's permission.