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Re: the Cycle World thread
- Subject: Re: the Cycle World thread
- From: "Steve Makohin" <wateredg@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 21 Apr 2005 11:11:35 -0400
"Dancoe, John" <jdan@xxxxxxxx> wrote, in part:
> Much the same argument was the foundation of many rumours which circulated
> the '80s: that BMW wanted to quit producing ANY motorcycles (K or
> because the cycle division was chronically in the red, the core business
> cars, etc.
I can't remember where I read the following historical account of BMW
Motorrad in the late 20th century, but here it goes (according to my memory
of the article):
o In the 1980s, BMW Motorrad sales were way down and showing no signs
o The generally accepted understanding of *why* this was, as stated
by BMW, was because the products had not been updated in a long
time, and they were no longer considered by the buying public to
be "current". According to BMW, they also lacked "excitement."
o Motorrad executives were given the following mandate by the BMW
Ivory Tower: "Revitalize" the line of BMW motorcycles. They had
very little budget with which to work (remember that BMW Motorrad
is a separate Business Unit with its own P&L and Balance Sheet;
it is not subsidized by BMW's automotive division, nor does it
subsidize them). Motorrad was also given a short timeline to prove
o With a short timeline and a limited budget, Motorrad embarked on
a brisk "revitalization" journey that meant updating the then
"current" line of BMW bikes, but not having the time nor funding
to totally revamp all of them.
o As a result of the "revitalization" exercise mentioned above, we
saw the series of R1100 Oilheads which included the R1100R,
R1100RT, the ever popular R1100GS, the R1100RS, and R1100S.
o With new styling, which apparently was to the public's liking,
more power, and a vastly improved Telelever/Paralever suspension,
BMW Motorrad was once again viable, though they were not out of
the woods. Sales increased nicely, but the old "heavy and slow"
reputation followed Motorrad.
o To make matters worse, the "new" generation of bikes had early
teething pains, such as the ubiquitous surging in boxers, three
spoke rims that bent all too easily, and suicidal transmissions.
All were symptoms of getting a considerably revised product out
market on a thin budget and in a relatively short timeframe.
o Motorrad, being a collection of pretty smart fellows (and gals),
decided not to abandon the new line for their issues, but rather,
to address the issues through refinements. The transmissions were
eventually refined to be pretty stable, for the most part. The
three-spoke rims went the way of the dodo and were placed by
firmer five spoke ones. Surging persisted for a long time,
accompanied by annoying vibrations, not to mention the old public
perception of "heavy and slow."
o By the late 1990s, Motorrad sales had achieved all-time highs.
BMW was experimenting with the next generation of motorcycles.
Recognizing that boxers are BMW's bread and butter, Motorrad
wisely decided to continue making boxers in spite of their
physical limitations. In short, boxers sold because lots of
people wanted BMW boxers (this is similar to the appeal of
Harley Davidson's air cooled pushrod V-twins). On the sporting
side of things, Motorrad experimented with blown boxer engines
and even ones with canted heads (a very wide V) to provide
better corning clearance. In the end, they concluded that for
serious power and cornering, boxers were not suitable. As part
of that conclusion, Motorrad wisely decided not to attempt to
make boxers their high-end sporting representation, and to
leave that task to a more suitable inline 4 configuration.
o In the latest incarnation of bikes, the ones you are currently
seeing, Motorrad was given the mandate to preserve the boxers'
"heritage", but to also take it into the 21st century and make
it a thoroughly modern motorcycle. The mandate included weight
reduction, increased power, reduced vibration, and no surging.
Dual-spark boxers licked the surging (in virtually all cases).
The R1200GS was the first boxer to demonstrate the achievement
of these new goals. With competitive peak power and weight,
BMW also dramatically reduced vibration through counter
balancing. They also designed the bikes to be simpler (less
costly) to build, with fewer parts, and less complex parts.
The electrical wiring system embodies this with the CAN-bus
network in which electrical power and computer data flow
through a very few conductors, allowing for "intelligent"
status gathering on components, as well as enabling inter-
The big down-side, in my view, to this latest redefinition of BMW Motorrad's
offerings, is their styling. I realize that styling is a highly subjective
topic. The facts are that a LOT more good things are being said about BMW
bikes. Much more than what we saw just a few years ago. Critics and rags
that used to dump on BMW are now standing up, taking notice, and giving
praise. In some cases, surprisingly flattering praise. All this is in spite
of styling that some folks despise, and many just don't like.
If all this, combined, means more profit and sustained growth for BMW, then
BMW will continue on its current path. The only losers are the very small
minority of riders like me who don't see anything in the BMW line that makes
them want to part with their money. And if that doesn't hurt the over-all
sales and profit picture for BMW, then it really doesn't matter in the grand
scheme of things.
- -Steve Makohin
Oakville, Ontario, Canada