Thursday, 23 August 2012

BMW plans to launch Urban Scooter just like Audi

Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW) has long made powerful motorcycles such as the 193-horsepower S 1000 RR that can be seen screaming down the autobahn. Now, as arch-rival Audi roars into the bike market after buying Italy's Ducati, BMW is looking to update its two-wheeler image with scooters designed to appeal to a more urbane rider.

BMW is reviving its scooter ambitions nine years after it discontinued the C1, a model with a roof to keep riders dry in rainy weather. The new line is a far cry from underpowered scooters of yore, featuring speed, power, and creature comforts such as heated seats and grips.

"The new scooters offer us a massive sales opportunity," said Heiner Faust, sales chief for BMW motorcycle. The idea is to attract what the company calls "sleepers"- car owners who rode motorbikes in their youth. "The maxi scooters are the ideal products to activate them," Faust said.

The expansion into scooters maneuvers BMW -- which began building motorcycles in 1923, five years before its first car - away from Ducati. The Italian brand, which enthusiasts consider to be the two-wheel equivalent of Lamborghini, competes at the top end of the market with models such as the 28,690 euro ($35,500) 1199 Panigale S Tricolore.

Since Audi bought Ducati in July, Volkswagen's luxury nameplate has pushed its association with the Italian cycle maker to boost its sporty appeal. This summer, it tied a promotion to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado and it's sponsoring a contest in which the winner will get a free trip to California to drive a souped up Audi and ride a Ducati bike.

Sales of powered two-wheelers in Europe tumbled 38 percent over the past five years to 1.72 million motorcycles and mopeds in 2011, according to data from the region's motorcycle manufacturers association ACEM. Deliveries in the first half dropped 13 percent for the industry.

BMW hasn't been immune to the slump. Its motorcycle sales, including the Husqvarna brand, fell 4.2 percent in the second quarter. Still, the unit managed an operating profit margin of 11.7 percent of sales, edging ahead of the auto operations' 11.6 percent return.


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