BMW S-Series Product Manager Joseph Machler Talks Small-Displacement Sport Bikes

2015 BMW S1000XR 1 photo
Photo: Catalin Garmacea
It’s been quite a busy year for BMW Motorrad, but it looks like the Bavarians are only getting ready for an even better one in 2015. Many new bikes have been launched as the new liquid-cooled boxer engine replaced the old airhead, the flagship S1000RR superbike was revamped and even got some siblings. There was some stir with the stop riding recall for the R1200RT in the summer, but it looks like the sad days are over.
We were greeted by a huge BMW booth at EICMA 2014 and BMW was not at all shy of showing their full line-up in a flashy display of German engineering. We caught up with Joseph Machler, product manager for the S series, as we had some interesting questions for him, and it’s been quite an informative talk.

autoevolution: Hi there Joseph, you’ve got quite a large presence at the EICMA, it almost looks like your home show. What is the most important bike in BMW’s line-up this fall?

Joseph Machler: Haha, this starts with a difficult question!

ae: It always does!

JM: Yes, it’s true, I know. We have the new RS, the new R1200RS that is, a new interpretation of the previous model. And there’s the new S1000XR but there’s also the RR (S1000RR) because we made a brand new bike. Still, I’d say that the star of the EICMA 2014 for BMW is the S1000XR. It’s a brand new, adventure sports bike, our own vision of how one can side with such a sporty bike on the road.

ae: Where exactly does the XR slot between the sport and the “street” motorcycles?

JM: Finding the exact spot is a bit tricky, because if you’ve been riding the S1000RR you know how the bike is, it’s a pure sport bike. Then there’s the S1000R which is a roadster, whereas the XR is somehow between them, but also with a strong touring component. We’d rather say it’s a new interpretation of sport-touring for the future.

ae: The S1000XR is obviously grinning at the Ducati Multistrada. How do you perceive this rivalry?

JM: I am not sure whether the Ducati Multistrada is a direct competitor for the S1000XR. Our bike has an in-line 4 engine, it’s a different thing. Plus, BMW has a very good tradition with the GS bikes, we have the R1200GS and the GS Adventure, for those who want to go off-road. If you want to stay on the road, then the XR is definitely one of the best choices. We are offering more choices for customers, each for a different type of riding.

ae: Some guys in the media feared that the S1000XR would somehow go cannibalistic with the R1200GS. From what we have seen today, these bikes are very different, however.

JM: It’s definitely like that! The XR is not built to go on off-road. It can do a bit of gravel, just like you can do some gravel with the S1000RR, but the main idea of the bike is road use. The sitting position is derived from that of the GS, but you’ll be using the bike on the road. It matters little whether you’re in the city, winding countryside roads, or in the Alps. It’s a different thing. If the customer wants off-road, he will pick a GS. Long-distance traveling, Africa and so on, the R1200GS is the bike for such dreams. If you fancy a ride in the mountains and having fun on the road, the S1000XR is perfect.

ae: How was the S1000XR born? Did you just go like “hey, let’s build a new bike to fill in this specific slot” or was it something your customers told BMW they would like to have?

JM: I guess it was a combination of both. The customers really wanted a sport-touring bike with something different. We have the K1300S, yet it comes with good road stance but a sporty position. We understood that these guys are looking for a sporty engine and a much more relaxed, touring position, so we tried to figure out which direction should we be heading for. The in-line 4 cylinder engine of the XR and the GS-inspired riding position seemed to be the perfect response for that.

ae: Hearing you saying this makes us believe that the S1000XR will have a long life as a model. Do you believe this bike has enough “lucrative potential” to see new models in let’s say, five years?

JM: Definitely! The XR represents the advent of a new, adventure-sport bike segment and I believe it will be of one the key models for BMW in the future.

ae: Are we by any chance looking at the new BMW bestseller? The R1200GS is the best-selling BMW bike in Europe and the US, do you believe the S1000XR will rival it?

JM: Well, maybe not like the GS, though it would be nice to see it becoming as successful as the GS. It is a much different bike, a sporty in-line machine, as opposed to the flat twin GS, it addresses other riders. The XR is aimed at customers in search of something more dynamic, sportier, and there are a lot of such customers.

ae: Do you believe that the road-adventure/adventure-sport or whatever we might call it is the new fashion in motorcycling? One of your rivals, KTM, has just unveiled their all-new 1050 Adventure bike…

JM: I think it will be so. You can go ride alone or two-up, there’s plenty of comfort, these bikes can go anywhere, you can go to work, you can go for a ride at the end of the week, or as you leave your office in the evening. This is definitely a new segment which is growing rapidly.

ae: KTM have been very bold describing their 1050 Adventure as being capable to blow the competition out of the water with the extreme maneuverability of the bike. This is a grand declaration of war, what’s your response?

JM: For me, their 1050 bike is just an entry-point model, for riders who don’t need all the power the 1290 Super Adventure can muster and who are fine with 95 hp or whatever the new machine can do. As for the maneuverability, I believe we can definitely do better with our 17” wheels as opposed to their 19” rims. The S1000RR is riding very easily, and the S1000XR will be even easier, because of the better, upright position. All you have to do is look into a corner and the bike is already turning into that direction. It’s like a sharp knife.

ae: When can we throw a leg over the S1000XR?

JM: The S1000XR will be in the dealerships in early June, 2015.

ae: Aaand, how much will it cost?

JM: In Germany, the base version will arrive with a €15,200 price tag.

ae: Considering the price of the other big-bore bikes in BMW’s line-up, the S1000XR is rather on the affordable side of pricing. How about entry-point machines? Are you considering offering smaller, less powerful, cheaper bikes for new riders?

JM: It’s been official for a year now that we will be delivering smaller displacement bikes. I cannot tell you right now what our plans are exactly, but we will let you know when we get there. A lot of emerging markets around the world are seeing huge sales for 300-400cc bikes. In South America, India and more, a 400cc bike is considered a big motorcycle. We are looking into this, too.

ae: Will these bikes be true BMW or will they be just a pale copy of the German icon? Harley has cut a lot of corners for their Street 500 and 750 models.

JM: The bikes are definitely going to be BMW machines. In Harley’s case, maybe they just needed a specific product for Asia or something like that. It’s a different story.

ae: It’s time for blunt questions: will we get to see a small-displacement GS?

JM: Hahaha, we can dream!

ae: How important do you believe this segment is? Can it become really profitable? Selling 10 big, expensive bikes with a good profit margin is one thing, but selling 30 or 40 smaller, cheaper ones is a different story.

JM: I don’t want to sound arrogant, but we are BMW. There are a lot of guys who want to ride a BMW, we and our customers have children and wives who want to get on a bike and there are many of them who would go for a BMW. This segment is definitely going to do well, because it will benefit from all the heritage the brand comes with. It will work pretty well.

ae: Talking to younger riders about the new S1000XR, some of them sighed, adding that it would have been really great if BMW had an A2-compliant version. BMW is definitely lacking in this segment, are there any plans to fix this? Maybe arrival for the Honda CBR600 or Yamaha R6?

JM: We have been thinking about this for years. Unfortunately, the 600-700cc sport bikes market is no longer a powerful one. I’d even say it is no more. Of course, young riders dream of owning a sport bike, such as the RR, but the intermediate class sales are so low. This is why we are considering a small-displacement sport bike BMW fans could ride before they can get aboard a liter-class one.

In 2006, the 600cc market sold more than 120,000 units. Now the figures dropped to 28,000 units. Unfortunately, it makes no sense for us to go intermediate.

ae: Low-level logic says that you WILL deliver a small-displacement sport bike soon!

JM: Hahahah, it could be, but please understand that I can’t talk about that now.

ae: You know how it goes, we had to try this anyway! What are your biggest dreams for 2015?

JM: Dreams… I believe it would be really nice if everyone who dreams about an XR could get and XR.

ae: Speaking of getting a bike, Suzuki’s example of doing business comes to mind. They have had quite a rough time during the past couple of years, but it looks like they are doing better and better. They have offered their customers very affordable financing options, a lot of aftermarket choices for low prices… and so far the strategy works. Are you considering such solutions to sell more bikes?

JM:Yes, we have already launched a whole new brand concept “Make Life a Ride,” with new communication strategies, and we plan to extend it. Then, there’s the 3asy Ride program, which lets customers “rent” the bike for a specific rate and you have the chance to give it back, make an additional payment and keep it, or step up for a new one. Maybe “lifestyle” is too big of a word, but motorcycling IS a lifestyle and we are promoting it.

ae: Now, if there’s anything you’d like to add in the end of this interview, please feel free to do so.

JM: BMW is good stuff. Enjoy your life and make life your ride!

Since we mentioned about the huge booth BMW had at EICMA 2014, it was only natural that we took a kazillion photos of the new machines. We have selected the best of them and you can check out the stories below.

2015 BMW S1000RR

2015 BMW R1200R

2015 BMW R1200RS

2015 BMW S1000XR

2015 BMW F800R.

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