BMW is one of the few carmakers in the world which also have a presence in the two-wheeler industry. BMW Motorrad, which has a strong presence in the premium motorcycle and scooter range in Europe, has only last month forayed into the maxi-scooter category in India. Its local arm, BMW Motorrad India, aims to make the most of new trends emerging in India’s fast-evolving two-wheeler landscape.
“We are seeing early signs of an emerging category of riders who want to commute but also have fun at the same time. That category is budding and prompted us to introduce our first maxi-scooter in India — the BMW C 400 GT,” said Vikram Pawah, president, BMW Group India, on October 29, the fifth and final day of the Autocar Professional's Two-Wheeler Week.
At Rs 995,000 (ex-showroom), the BMW C 400 GT, which is powered by a 350cc, single-cylinder engine that develops 34hp and comes mated to a CVT drivetrain, is the most expensive scooter in India. But for BMW Motorrad India, “the response we are getting is phenomenal. We are witnessing three to four times the demand of what we expected. Having said that, we are not talking about a volume play here, maybe going to 1,000 units at max."
"It (C 400 GT) will attract a new set of users and address the needs of people who want to ride but are not fully comfortable with a motorcycle. An automatic transmission, under-seat storage, comfort, and ease of riding are factors which are pulling customers towards the premium maxi-scooter,” said Pawah.
A diverse range of 15 models is enabling BMW Motorrad India strengthen its market position. It has sold over 3,600 units in the first three quarters of FY2022, notching its best-ever sales yet. With the speedy market momentum, it will clock a new fiscal sales record.
“The new category will not cannibalise existing premium motorcycle offerings and this segment is certainly bound to grow,” pointed out Pawah, while also highlighting the growing number of women riders too and how the new midsize scooter could be the perfect fit to start off with on two wheels in the premium space.
With the BMW Group having a diverse offering in terms of premium products under the BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce brands, BMW Motorrad does benefit from the rub-off effect of the brand equity of these premium brands. "There definitely is a commonality, and even in India we see that people starting with BMW, also end up with a purchase at BMW Motorrad, or the other way around. That's the power of the BMW brand," remarked Pawah.
BMW Motorrad India, which has all of 15 products in its portfolio and a retail network of 26 touch-points across the country, is now spreading its reach into Tier 2 towns and hinterlands to tap the growing demand.
"While the first couple of years after entering the Indian market in 2017 went into setting up the network, we are still expanding. We are also continuously refreshing our product portfolio," mentioned Pawah. 2021 itself saw BMW Motorrad India bring eight models, including facelifts to the market.
It is also striving to provide easy service packages and offer a seamless ownership experience to customers of these mean machines. With BMW Financial Services, the premium two-wheeler OEM aims to make it easier for its customers to acquire a new BMW. "We have tried to create an entire ecosystem with our services and offerings, and we now aim to welcome more customers into the brand."
BMW C 400 GT is a maxi-scooter powered by a 350cc, single-cylinder engine that develops 34hp and is mated to a CVT drivetrain. It goes from 0-100kph in 9.5 seconds and has a top speed of 139kph.
Sales on the upswing
BMW Motorrad India registered its best performance in CY2020, despite the year being impacted by Covid-19 and there were multiple lockdown across states in India. It sold 2,563 units, up 6.65 percent year-on-year (CY2019: 2,403). In CY2020, 80 percent of the total sales (or an estimated 2,050 units) comprised the new G 310 R and G 310 GS. The balance was made up by the R 1250 GS / GSA, F 750 / 850 GS and the S 1000 RR.
In the first nine months of CY2021, sales are estimated to have crossed the 3,600-unit mark, which means BMW Motorrad India has already notched its best-ever sales and will clock more in the remaining four months of the fiscal.
BMW Motorrad India is also focusing on creating a community of riders and developing an ecosystem that emphasises safe riding.. With programmes like the BMW GS Trophy, the company is imparting riding skills and also offering a global platform for people to show their talent if they qualify for the international rounds. "It gives one a proper professional riding experience while also honing their skills," said Pawah, highlighting the objective of programmes like this.
Similarly, the company is creating a community of 310 R customers with its entry-level GS Cup riding initiative. "It gives people the avenue to attach to proper riding techniques and also ride as a community," he added.
“Our strategy to get into the entry-level segment with the BMW G 310 R has been successful and we have sold over 9,000 units (cumulative). It's no small feat by any means and the motorcycle is certainly expanding the market for us. These riders then upgrade . . . India is one of the fastest growing markets for BMW Motorrad,” remarked Pawah.
The G 310 R, developed in collaboration with Indian two-wheeler major TVS Motor, is locally produced at the TVS manufacturing facility in Chennai, to be sold in both domestic as well as overseas markets under the BMW nameplate. TVS also leverages the platform to retail its flagship model — the Apache RR 310.
Premium biking — an evolution
Giving an overview of the evolution of India's motorcycling and riding ecosystem, Pawah said, “Initially, it all started with sports bikes on tracks, then came leisure or touring motorcycles, and now off-road bikes / adventure tourers are becoming hugely popular. We cater to almost every category of premium motorcycling in India."
Skyrocketing fuel prices is a cause of concern for every Indian today. "But while the commuter segment is more prone to fuel prices, the premium segment is more or less immune to it," said Pawah. "If the cost of ownership rises continuously, it might deter one from getting into the segment and delay a purchase," he added.
Touching upon the aspect of camaraderie in a riding group, he stated that a riding community would often show examples of shunning barriers of class or age, with people coming together to enjoy a group ride.
Pawah added that biking is not about age, it’s about mindset. “It's also all about diversity when we see people across age groups riding together. Therefore, motorcycling cuts across age brackets. Premium biking is a community, it's not a hierarchical society,” he signed off.
This was first published in Autocar Professional's November 15, 2021 issue.