This one flew under the radar for a while. Back in 2010, Ducati North America became the subject of a class action lawsuit because of problems with the plastic gas tank in its bikes made between 2003 and 2010. It was initiated by an owner in Florida who had a 2009 model Ducati and found that the plastic gas tanks were being deformed by the ethanol fuel. His tank became deformed after only 2,000 miles. After Ducati replaced his tank, the problem came back after another 2,000 miles or so.
As reported by the web site Ducati News, the lawsuit alledged that
"The plastic used in Plaintiff and class members’ fuel tanks is incompatible with the motorcycles’ fuel, which causes the tanks to rapidly degrade and deform and leads to a number of unsafe conditions. Among other things, as the plastic degrades and deforms, the fuel tanks interfere with the full range of steering, leak fuel onto the engine, and destabilize the motorcycle’s weight distribution – often to the point that the motorcycle cannot be safely operated after only a few thousand miles of use."
Another bike owner described the problem this way and even took the time to make a web site to document the issue:
“The deformation is often cosmetic as seen above on a Ducati Streetfighter…..With some motorcycles the deformation causes the fuel tank to get in the way of the handlebars when making sharp turns, and with Ducati Sport Classics the deformation prevents the tank from attaching to the motorcycle frame correctly (as seen below) which might cause the tank to come off the motorcycle during a crash.”
In other words, the ethanol fuel was destroying the gas tank and making the bike inoperable. Ducati had been trying to fix the problem by simply replacing the gas tanks with identical ones that had longer warranties. But this seems (and seemed) like just a temporary solution, and enough motorcycle owners agreed that a class action lawsuit was filed. It was reported that the ethanol fuel tank problems were so widespread that almost 300 Ducati owners had taken the time to file complaints with the National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration.
The lawsuit took a couple years to wind its way through the courts but earlier this year, a settlement was reached where Ducati gave bike owners extended warranties and would pay for repairs to the fuel tank for tank expansion problems caused by ethanol fuels.
So what should we take away from this? If enough people got together and took the time to file a lawsuit, it legitimizes the ethanol problems that so many other people are complaining about, but which might be dismissed by the industry.
One wonders if any of these problems might have been lessened if they had tried Ethanol Defense or Mix-I-Go? Probably so, since both of these formulations were developed to protect against these very kind of ethanol damage.
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This post was published on August 4, 2012 and was updated on January 9, 2014.