I've had better luck myself, ('98 748 - owned two years with no problems, '04 S4R - owned 6 months and no problems yet), but let's not forget that Ducati isn't the only bike manufacturer that lets you down. I don't consider them to be as reliable as an average Japanese scoot, but I had a recent conversation with the owner of a new ZX-10 - he told me that he liked the bike, but he was nervous every time he rode it due to the front rim recall (he'd been advised not to ride it at all before receiving a replacement, but it had been a couple of months and he was tired of waiting). I also seem to recall '96 GSXR 750s with "piston to head clearance problems" due to faulty base or head gaskets. I'm willing to take a chance as a Ducati owner - what's life without risk? I just don't agree that all Japanese products are perfect.
So Billy found the Duc "light and responsible", huh?
Light is always good in a sportbike but I don't think many MOFOs would consider a "responsible" literbike a plus.
Every now and then I fantasize about owning a Ducati instead of the R1. The R1 is a gorgeous bike but about as common as a stop sign. Hey, my R1100S gets the bulk of the miles so if the literbike department of my garage has a sometimes nonfunctional 996 for sunny days that's OK, right?
Fortunately there are stories like Jeremy's to keep me "sane" (no matter what my wife says).
I live in Belair, MD. I always rode hondas for their reliability and feared Ducatis for maintenance costs. I had a VFR800FI. Put 38,000mi on it. 2 times to Daytona and 3 dozen track days. Replaced suspension, transmission and ended ownership when it caught on fire. Loved the bike, but in the end it was "too smooth."
Now have a ST4S 996. At 13,000 mi. 1 time to Daytona and 3 track days. It had a rough clutch, hard to shift, replaced under warranty. Other odds and ends broke all fixed under warranty. 2 year warranty, pretty nice. Is it as smooth as a Honda? Of course not. It's a race bike with blinkers. Love it. Does it cost more to maintain? Yes, get over it. Reliability a problem? Not for me but if the dealer won't help you, find one that will. I bought mine from Speedscycle.com and got more help than any Honda dealer I've ever done business with. Is a Ferrari as reliable as a Chevy? Talk about apples and oranges. Hope you're problems are over. Cheers.
My Monster's gas tank leaked when fairly new and was replaced under warranty with no questions. The bike stopped running once 2,000 miles ago. I replaced the (filthy) fuel filter. That was it, it now runs fine. It has had no other problems in three years and 12,000 miles of ownership.
I recently switched from a 2003 Wing to a wonderful, lovely, and sexy little ST3. I had my Wing for two years (bought it in the fall of 2002) and only put 25,000 miles on it. It never left me anywhere, but the two recalls did have me worried a bit. For those who might not know the new Wings overheated if you rode them at about 15MPH. At first I figured that would be no problem for me I'll just ride faster. During one of my tours I had to follow several pilot vehicles in construction zones. Guess what the speed was. The other recall was to repair the possibility of the frame breaking.
Ducati's aren't perfect by any stretch, but if think about what you're purchasing the pluses outweight the minuses. At least it does for a lot of Ducati owners.
Regarding the sad tale of the gentleman from Europe with the defective 999S, I am at 3000 miles on a 2004 Ducati ST3. Like my prior 900SS and Monster 750, it has been completely reliable. ST3 is a pretty fabulous ride. Super comfy with great seat, accessory outlet and fabulous bags. My only problem is that it makes you ride crazy due to its sporty nature. Maybe something's wrong with the 999 line.