Exclusive BMW Interview
Ultimate MotorCycling recently attended the world launch of BMW’s new 2010 S 1000 RR superbike at Circuit Portimao, Portugal [first riding impression coming soon with a full test in the next issue of the magazine] and had a chance to sit down with Pieter de Waal, Vice President, BMW Motorrad USA. Pieter is an avid motorcyclist and originally a native of South Africa. He spent several years in Berlin at the BMW headquarters and still remains on the board that is responsible for developing new product, so he will have close ties to Germany and to the future offerings of BMW.
Ultimate MotorCycling: Pieter, the new 2010 BMW S 1000 RR is an exciting and radical move for BMW. Explain the genesis behind the corporate thinking for our readers.
BMW’s Pieter de Waal: "Well, back in 2004 we identified three essential challenges for BMW. The first was to get our volume up, but because of our fixed R&D costs which tend to be higher than any other manufacturer, it was interesting to see where that volume would come from. Secondly, our aging customer profile meant we needed to get younger people attracted to our products, and thirdly, we needed to upgrade our image, especially in the US, to get a dynamic image more aligned with the car side"
Ultimate MotorCycling: Sounds reasonable, but how would that be achieved?
BMW’s Pieter de Waal: "There were two fields where we could make that happen-off-road and superbike. For the first we went the Husqvarna way, and that’s allowed us to focus on the second field-on-road-because we didn’t want our brand image to be too wide, so we knew we had to go superbike-a very lucrative segment of the market. We could have taken one of two positions, alternative, say like Ducati or KTM, but in the end we didn’t want to do that because 88% of the total volume in the class are the four Japanese companies. Because we wanted to play a significant role in that class we realized we had to go head-to-head with the Japanese manufacturers; and we set ourselves an objective to get to at least 10% of that market share.
Ultimate MotorCycling: So how did you actually define the superbike segment then?
BMW’s Pieter de Waal: "Knowing that superbike is defined by the Japanese four we then did this whole research project with customers and riders to try and understand how these customers want their bikes and what must they look like. And we quickly found that there are four main rules of that game: 1. performance; 2. looks; 3. price; and 4. financing."
"For performance we knew that 99% of people buying the bike can’t truly ride it to its full potential, so in reality, in the eye of the customer, performance is really decided by power-to-weight ratio figures, comparative lap times in magazine tests, and credibility derived from motorsport. We’ve competed this year (our first year) in World Superbike, and will continue going forward, improving all the time. As far as the other two parts go, you’ve now ridden the motorcycle and you can judge whether we’ve ticked all the boxes."
Ultimate MotorCycling: So that’s the performance story; how did the unconventional looks of the 2010 BMW S 1000 RR come about?
BMW’s Pieter de Waal: As far as the looks went, we realized we had to give the bike its own character. But rather than try to force the difference we decided to make the looks dependent on functionality, with the form following function. For example, more hot air needs to be extracted from the left side of the engine, and that gave us the shark-gills on the right and the large extraction point on the left fairing side. In terms of the lights, the main beam reflector needn’t be as big as the dip beam light so we just made the thing smaller to save weight and a little space-and space is important as well; actually the lap-timer electronics package is hidden behind that space. And so in the end the asymmetrical look is a shape that just came naturally."
Ultimate MotorCycling: BMW is a premium brand, so how competitive can you make the pricing of the 2010 BMW S 1000 RR vs. the Japanese competition?
BMW’s Pieter de Waal: "From day one we said the price can’t be out of range and that’s defined by us as within a thousand dollars in the US or a thousand Euros in Europe. This was a huge challenge from day one. It required working with suppliers, re-designing parts and reworking our methodology and process. The good news is that these new practices will trickle down to our other models too and that can only be good news for the customers."
"But for the BMW S 1000 RR the end result is that it will be launched in America at $13,800, which is certainly on par with the Japanese machines, and then there are some additional extras such as the ABS/DTC electronics package for $14,800, and the power-shift assistant for another $450, and then the motorsport colors [red/white/blue] at $750 extra."
Ultimate MotorCycling: And the financing on the 2010 BMW S 1000 RR?
BMW’s Pieter de Waal: "We worked very hard with our bank to come up with some different responsible financial packages specifically designed so that the customer won’t get into trouble during the life of their ownership of the motorcycle."
Ultimate MotorCycling: Thank you Pieter for your time and for sharing this wonderful insight into the exciting new 2010 BMW S 1000 RR motorcycle.