BMW moves into the scooter market
By Mike Hanlon
November 2, 2010
While the European motorcycle industry is in crisis due to dramatically falling sales, BMW is moving in the opposite direction thanks to its loftier perspective of the mobility (as opposed to motorcycle) industry. After years concentrating on larger capacity two wheelers, it is moving into the scooter field. Having already shown an electric version of its ultra-safe C1 scooter, plus several MINI scooter concepts in recent weeks, BMW Motorrad yesterday unveiled a maxi scooter concept. Two premium scooters will be derived from the concept vehicle in the near future and there’s also an electric version being investigated.
BMW Motorrad’s Concept C study (C stands for Commuter), is yet again embarking on a new path and demonstrating a fascinating mobility option for the future. Here, C stands for "commuter". Particularly in view of the traffic development in urban areas, it presents the prospect of an innovative, sporty big scooter for the future premium segment.
For many years, scooter segment riders were looked down upon by regular motorcyclists, and it was only when Suzuki kicked off the maxiscooter craze with a lively 400cc engine just over a decade ago that the scooter form factor got some respect.
The feet-forward riding position of the scooter offers a combination of the relaxed “chopper” riding position, but with protection from the weather and somewhat greater protection in an accident.
With plenty of storage space, full instrumentation, plus the excellent suspension and running gear of the maxi-scooter, and the form factor becomes a desirable and practical alternative to the motorcycle, particularly for extended commuting purposes.
It was however, the performance of subsequent maxi-scooters which earned them respect at the stoplight GP and a legitimate place in motorcycling.. Yamaha followed Suzuki’s 1999 Burgman 400 with a 40 horsepower 500cc T-Max in 2000, then Honda trumped that with the 50 bhp Silver Wing 600 twin, then in 2002, Suzuki raised the bar further with the Burgman 650.
The Burgman 650’s CVT transmission gets it off the line very quickly and one of the many memorable moments motorcycling has given me was blowing away an “outlaw” on his much larger bad-ass Harley sportster at the stoplight. He was so embarrassed that he rode straight through the next lights (they were red) rather than face the scooter a second time.
In more recent times, the scooter form factor has gained even more power in the form of the Gilera GP 800, an 850cc 75bhp 90 degree V-twin motor with a top speed of more than 120mph.
BMW Motorrad appears set to go straight to the top of the performance scale in the maxi-scooter area, notifying its intention of “combining in these scooters the outstanding handling of the motorcycle with the particular agility and conceptual comfort of the scooter for the maximum experience of dynamic riding.”
Throughout BMW Motorrad’s press communication regarding the Concept C, there are plenty of hints that the BMW Maxi-scooter will be a lot of fun to ride: “There is more to this study than just an attempt to present a big scooter for the highest demands. Rather, the designers and engineers of BMW Motorrad focused above all on the emotive component in addition to the technical function and quality - and the thrill from the very first moment on.”
No details have been divulged on the size of the engine or its horsepower rating, other than that it is a new, two-cylinder inline engine which will deliver its power to the rear wheel via a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
BMW’s quote on engine power, torque, and performance is that it “will be moving towards the top of the segment.” Given that area is currently occupied by Suzuki’s 650, Honda’s 600 and Gilera’s 850, it seems reasonable to expect the bike will have a capacity of 500cc plus, and perhaps as much as 750cc – very sporting performance indeed.
The running gear also looks more like it was borrowed from a supersport machine than the usual scooter fare, even on a maxi-scotter. For instance, the Concept C features a highly complex monolever mechanism with hollowed-out shaft connected to a suspension strut visible from the outside at the rear, while front-wheel control is handled by an upside down fork.
Similarly, the twin disc front end features two radial, triple piston brake calipers with another on the rear disc leaving no doubt about the braking prowess and sportiness of the Concept C.
As with all other BMW motorcycles, a liberal sprinkling of technology has been showered on the Concept machine. The headlamp is LED and conventional rear view mirrors have been replaced with two video cameras in the rear. These cameras feed video to two LCD monitors on the dashboard while a third central LCD monitor displays the usual road and engine speed, and other relevant data.
No time frames have yet been specified but the company’s plans call for the maxi-scooters to be manufactured at the BMW Motorrad plant in Berlin.
Pricing has not yet been mentioned either, though it will clearly be at the very top of the scooter market – expect a price well beyond any scooter yet seen on a showroom floor.