by James C. Moore
BMW is outrunning Harley. And in a more important contest than speed. The Motorrad company showed a jump in sales in the first half of 2017 while Harley Davidson was reporting a slump that affected stock price. In a corporate news release, the German manufacturer said it had moved 88,389 motorcycles and maxi scooters by the end of June, which is a 9.5 percent jump over the same period the previous year.
BMW Motorrad continues to have most of its market presence in Europe but is showing interesting growth in countries like Brazil, where 8,306 bikes were delivered, an increase of 16.3 percent over the same six months in 2016. And in the U.S., 7,136 bikes were sold, accounting for a 3.8 percent sales growth in the first half of the year.
What’s BMW Motorrad doing that Harley isn’t? Nothing, in particular, and a lot in general. The German adventure travel enduro touring bikes, the R 1200 GS and GS Adventure sold 17,159 units in the past six months, a total of 17.3 percent rise in sales growth for that bike model. Harley has nothing that competes effectively, if at all, in that market segment.
Although Motorrad has had big bikes fighting for the same dollars as Harley, legacy models like the LT 1200 and the more recent K 1600 GT and GTL and the Exclusive 1600, the company appears to be going after an even bigger piece of the American pie. The K 1600 B, or bagger, is hitting the U.S. market in August. The B will also use the inline six that Motorrad launched on its big touring models in 2012. The bike debuts in a price range just under $20,000, and is likely to carve off a few Harley shoppers.
BMW is also arguing its market strength is built around smaller bikes that appeal to younger buyers. The G 310 GS, which is Motorrad’s smallest vehicle, was designed for city traffic but also unsurfaced roads outside of urban reaches.
The five models of Motorrad’s R Nine T family also are elemental to sustaining the company’s growth. The bikes were designed to evoke the heritage and colors of BMW’s smaller and more versatile machines that rolled through the past half century. The R Nine T Urban GS just hit dealers in June and is already in great demand.
The K 1600 B will be available for test rides in South Dakota at the Buffalo Chip location of the Sturgis Rally from August 4th through the 12th. And it might be a good idea to get in line now.