BMW’s two-wheeler division plans to increase its sales by 80,000 units from the current 116,000 units by 2020. That’s a near-70 per cent increase in a mere three years. Impossible? Motorrad certainly doesn’t think so. If you take into account that a company like KTM also is targeting a number of 250,000 units in the same year, 2020, it doesn’t seem like a lot. However, the numbers game is a difficult one to play for a company who is usually the bestseller in the ‘more than 500 cc’ segment.
The motorcycle market isn’t growing significantly, but BMW will do this by launching new models, and exploring new markets. Remember, their bestselling model is the R1200GS in some markets – that is their top-of-the-line, full-fat adventure tourer that will be out of the reach of most of the world’s population, so to grow, they’ll need to appeal to wider audience. And that means appealling to more than men who like beards and camping – therefore their sudden resurgence in the scooter segment in Europe. They aren’t Activas, mind: one of their latest offerings, the C650, displaces 650cc, but it has brought them increased numbers in markets like Southern Europe that haven’t otherwise grown.
The other obvious thing to do is downsize. Downsize their engines, at any rate. This will lower the entry price to the BMW owners’ club, which means they can catch ’em young, and keep them as they move up the ladder. This is the same reason Maruti has developed a Nexa (to retain consumers) or Mercedes has developed a CLA (to lower the price of entry to the brand) and BMW is taking this to heart. Another lesson it has learned is that to play the numbers game, you need to have a presence in Asia, especially the South-Eastern bit.
China, India, Thailand and Indonesia must be part of your ‘numbers’ plan, but an R nineT won’t work, and neither will a R1200GS, in markets where a single cylinder and 250cc are seen as premium motorcycles. Hence the G310R.
This new model, the G310R, is as much a dual-purpose motorcycle for BMW as any of its products are for adventure-touring enthusiasts. It lowers entry to the brand all over, yes, but in developed markets where everyone is familiar with the brand, it encourages more people to put their money down on one. It will meet most learner licensing requirements the world over, so it is quite likely that a BMW will enter most people’s ‘first motorcycle’ wishlist, along with the likes of the Kawasaki Z250 and Yamaha YZF-R3. That is one way of gaining numbers, yes – but what the G310R really does for BMW is make the brand accessible to markets like Brazil, China and yes, India, where the profit margins might be slim, but the numbers are staggering in comparison.
The G310R by itself might not be enough to hold the fort, so it will spawn a fully-faired sportbike as well an adventure tourer with long-travel suspension. If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is the same path that KTM has followed with the small Duke platform. Where the two companies differ are in two key areas: one is philosopy. KTMs are designed to be mad machines that hark back to two strokes. They want you to ride them hard, and they’re orange because they are brash and high strung.
Of course, reliability hasn’t been the KTM streetbike’s forte (in stark contrast to the many Dakar wins of KTM, we must point out) but a BMW’s calling card is quality. Quality in construction, refinement of the driveline, and giving the customer a mature motorcycle that doesn’t mind being ridden hard, but prefers to go about its duty with a quiet confidence rather than a blaring soundtrack drawing attention to itself.
The second area where KTM and BMW differ is in their partnership with Indian companies. KTM hasn’t partnered with Bajaj; the Indian has a controlling stake in the Austrian company, and thus can dictate terms if needed. BMW has chosen TVS as a manufacturing partner – yes, they will share technology and avoid competing with each other just as the KTM and Bajaj products do, but it is still a partnership and not a question of one company owning the other.
BMW plans to have a full-fledged Indian operation up and running by 2017, and its plan is to have a pincer movement with its entire range of products – from a G310R all the way up to an S1000RR and R1200GS. If they manage to convince the customer in the various new markets of the value they provide in much the same way KTM has the Indian market, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of BMW hitting that 200,000 mark.