People look at BMW and see 100,000 employees. But only 3000 are motorcycle employees. And of that 3000, 1800 are plant people in Berlin. So, that leaves 1200 people to do everything else that Motorrad does around the world, including engineering. For a team that small to deliver three world-beating bikes [the S1000RR, the six-cylinder K1600s, the new Boxer], it’s easy to see that we’ve been busy. On top of that, we did the scooters.
Two years ago, our planet reached a milestone. For the first time ever, more people lived in cities than in the country. So, what do we do about the increased congestion? I see a huge future for single-track mobility around the world. And our scooter is our first foray into this.
People who ride scooters are more mobility-oriented than motorcycle-oriented. They’re looking for that ease of mobility. Easy to ride, easy to get through traffic. And they love the storage. Scooters are very practical animals. In Europe, they live outside, they don’t get washed, they don’t get a lot of love. They’re utility vehicles. It will be the same here in the U.S.
This is a grand experiment. The scooter’s success is not dependent on it doing well in the U.S. That’s being secured by the European volume. My foremost message is this: A scooter puts time back in your life. In Madrid, I lived about 16 miles from the office. I had a beautiful Laguna Blue M3, and my average speed to work every morning was 18 mph. After about a month of that, I said, “Forget that, I’m riding a motorcycle to work, rain or shine.” The commute that took about an hour in a car now took 20 minutes. And it was a reliable 20 minutes, regardless of traffic.
When you’re selling products at our price points, it’s pretty rare that someone at 18 will pony up to buy a fully loaded 1200GS. But we have lots of re-entry riders. That’s where a lot of the growth is. They’ve got the career, the wife, the kids, the house, the car. What’s next in their life? Those are the guys who are coming back, or coming into, motorcycling.
We’re real proud. Just as I came over to the U.S, my welcome gift was news that my team had passed Germany in sales of S1000RRs. The U.S. is now our biggest superbike market. Not by share but by absolute volume. And in six-cylinder sales, GT and GTL combined, we’re by far number one in the world.
If you took a GTL and stripped it naked, polished up the frame, dropped it, lengthened the swingarm, put a 300-rear-section tire on it and then unleashed all the potential of that engine, you’d have a K1600R. But how many customers would you find for it? It’s a very expensive, very niche, very special motorcycle. And while the concept is absolutely viable, we just don’t see the business potential. Big and expensive naked bikes are just not popular in the U.S.
We never expected the S1000RR to be at the top of the class like it is. When you start the project, you expect everyone else to continue developing. And you’re shooting for a point in the market where you’re expecting everyone else is going to be. Well, that didn’t happen, so we ended up on the top of the heap. And that’s great. We’re happy to be there.
The F800ST really didn’t have an identity. It was neither fish nor fowl. I don’t think people really got it. So we took a long, hard look and turned it into a really good touring bike. The new F800GT is totally appropriate for the U.S. For one-up touring, it’s one of the great ones. With a single-sided swingarm, 90 horsepower, good wind and weather protection, hard cases, there’s nothing else like it.
Husqvarna is doing a great job in the U.S. There’s huge demand at dealers. If you’ve ridden the Terra and a 650, you can see that even though they’re related, they’re different motorcycles for different people. We look forward to doing more of that. But no, Husky will never get the Boxer.