Statistics from the Department for Transport and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency show that there were more than 1.25 million licensed motorcycles, scooters and mopeds in the UK as of March 2020.
They’re a mode of transport that provide pleasure and practicality to so many, but what does the future of the motorcycle industry look like? In recent years, there has been an increase in popularity of electric cars, but will motorbikes follow suit? How will manufacturers adapt to such a shift? Is there still a place in the market for heritage models? And how will the Coronavirus outbreak affect the motorcycling world in the years to come?
To gain some expert insight, Carole Nash sat down with BMW Motorrad’s head of brand and product, Ralf Rodepeter, to get his take on some of the key issues.
Electric motorbikes: the future?
In the United States, general sales of motorcycles have been on the decline but it is hoped that electric models will attract a new generation of riders thanks to being easier to use, quieter and less harmful to the environment. And Rodepeter says it’s certainly an area of focus for his brand:
“Electromobility is absolutely in our focus and I am sure that electric motorcycles and scooters will be very important for the future of motorcycling,” he says. “With the C evolution, BMW Motorrad has indeed been a pioneer in the area of electric mobility and I see us continuing to lead the way here.
“The BMW Motorrad Vision DC Roadster clearly shows how we see what an emotional e-Power Roadster should look like in the future. And in the field of urban mobility I see our upcoming products with a strong focus on electric propulsion. We have a lot planned and will soon present an urban concept. So stay tuned.”
Heritage models: here to stay?
Heritage bikes offer riders a chance to put their own stamp of individuality on their machines, but their specialist nature has led some to question whether they have a long-term future as a financially viable product for manufacturers. Rodepeter, however, remains bullish about heritage bikes and insists they add value for both brand and customer.
“Last year, we were able to hand over almost 13,300 bikes from our R nineT model family to customers. This shows the continued demand for these bikes,” he says. “And I’m also very optimistic about the future with regard to our heritage models. In my opinion, riding such motorcycles is not a short-lived trend, but an expression of a special way of life.
“In our increasingly digital world, motorcycling is more and more seen as a real, pure experience. An experience that is not about speed and the adrenaline kick, but much more about casualness, serenity and deceleration. And that’s exactly what motorcycles like our R NineT models fit perfectly. With their many creative custom versions, they are an expression of an own lifestyle, characterised by individualism and the desire to be real. And we will continue to write our story of success in this segment with our soon-to-be launched BMW R 18.”
The Covid-19 effect: what will it mean?
The Coronavirus outbreak has posed a myriad of challenges, the likes of which we have rarely seen before. As well as the devastating human impact, the financial ramifications have been severe, with businesses of all sizes and across all sectors struggling to cope with the economic downturn. It has been suggested that motorcycles could experience a surge in popularity, as an alternative to travelling on crowded public transport, but Rodepeter warns it is too early to make predictions with any confidence.
“In my view, this cannot yet be estimated at this stage, with the still uncertain further course of the global Corona pandemic,” he says. “What we also cannot know is whether a second wave is coming. By this I am not referring to a second wave of coronas, but rather to a world recession. Even their effects cannot be predicted today.
“But one thing is clear: we will do everything we can to enable as many people as possible today and in the future to have the unique experience and joy of motorcycling.”