At the International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach, CA I spoke with BMW Mottorad Vice President Pieter de Waal about where scooters fit into their lineup. He explained that scooters are an important part of their global strategy. They recognize that in megacities, scooters are the most sensible choice for transportation, as this great video from Saigon demonstrates.
Below is the video of our interview, where Pieter also answers my questions about how BMW is working to bring new riders on board. That’s the burning question for every motorcycle manufacturer, as the Baby Boomers they’ve been catering to are getting too old to ride, for the most part. I’ll have more about that from Yamaha tomorrow, as well as interviews with Brammo and Lightning about their plans for the 2012 TTXGP season.
The C 650 GT and the C 600 Sport are not your kid’s first scooter. They are designed to serve as an alternative to your car. I remember when I lived in Barcelona, seeing kids dropped off at school by moms on similar maxi-scooters. Pieter explained that 70% of their scooter sales will likely be in Italy, Spain and France. However, they are an important feature at the US motorcycle show circuit because, as Pieter states in the video, most motorcyclists treat their motorcycles as recreational vehicles. I’m hoping more motorcyclists will discover the joy of commuting via two wheels, especially in Los Angeles, a megacity where traffic is insufferable. According to a recent GOOD report, less than 1% of Angelenos commute via motorcycle. Appalling.
Both models average about 60mpg. Like all BMW’s they also feature standard ABS. Both models have 60hp and 49 ft-lbs of torque from the 8-valve parallel twin motor. These are maxi-scooters designed to be as comfortable on long rides on the open road as they are on short trips to the grocery store. With a storage capacity of 2.1 cubic feet and the blue paint job, the 650 GT could easily be mistaken for a TARDIS. Although only the 600 Sport comes in “Cosmic Blue”, but it too has enough capacity for 2 helmets.
Although the grocery capacity is much better than the Givi top case on my R1, and the mpg dramatically higher, I’d still rather be seen on the R1. Or even the BMW S1000. Both of which are as impractical for daily commuting as a Lamborghini which can split lanes. But that’s ok with me because I can also take my commuter to any of my favorite canyon roads around here without having to first go home and swap bikes. Also, I grew up on vintage Italian scooters, so it’s hard for me to love any scooter that’s not loud, smelly, and steel-bodied with a gearshifter on the handlebar. On the other hand, I’m sure the first truly mass production electric 2-wheelers will be scooters. And of course I’d gladly share the road and send a friendly wave to any scooterist I see in LA, because they’re part of the solution.