The Anatomy Behind BMW Motorrad’s Sales Dominion

01/16/2012 @ 6:03 pm, by Jensen Beeler16 COMMENTS

We already told you that 2011 was BMW Motorrad’s best sales year ever, and that the BMW S1000RR topped the Bavarian brand’s charts here in the United States. Zie Germans must be feeling rather pleases with themselves right now (and rightfully so), as BMW has released more details about its all-time motorcycle sales record. Pushing out 104,286 units in 2011, BMW Motorrad was up 6.4% in 2011 over 2010, with each of the 2011’s twelve months outselling its 2010 counterpart. Toppling its previous sales record from 2007 (the height of the world economy), it says something about BMW’s current business strategy that it can best that figure in an economy that is still exceedingly weak in comparison.

It is interesting to note in which markets, and in which segments, BMW is finding this growth, because the answers are not necessarily our usual suspects. Basically doubling its worldwide 500+cc market share over the past four years, BMW now accounts for 12% of the worlds “big” displacement motorcycles by units sold per annum. This goes counter to the trend that we’ve seen, where small-displacement are being cast as the sales leaders for large brands (namely the Japanese Four).

“This outstanding sales result shows that we are on the right track in terms of our product and market strategy,” touted General Director of BMW Motorrad Hendrik von Kuenheim in the most German way possible. “We have achieved yet another sales record within a persistently challenging market environment. At the same time we have been able to take on market leadership and strengthen our market position in over 15 countries. In business performance terms we anticipate an all-time high in fiscal 2011 for both turnover and revenue. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our customers worldwide most sincerely for the trust they have placed in BMW Motorrad.”

So where was BMW Motorrad’s market of choice? Why in Germania of course. The backbone of the soon-to-be-in-shambles eurozone, BMW Motorrad found the most sales traction in its home market, selling 20,0002 motorcycles in Germany alone. That number is nearly double the volume done in the United States (10,203 units), but what is more astounding is that nearly one in four “large displacement” motorcycles (500+cc) sold in Germany last year was from the Bavarian brand. In 2011 alone, BMW’s motorcycle sales in Germany went from accounting for 1.7% of motorcycles sold in the that market, to 24.9% (boom goes the dynamite). Certain to be partially due to the decline of other brands’ sales figures, that staggering change in percentage still carries with it a certain astonishing weight.

Further fueling BMW Motorrad’s sales in Europe, Italy stood as BMW’s second-best motorcycle market worldwide, though the boot-shaped country saw an overall decline in yearly sales (-4.5%). Posting 13,600 units (down from 14,234 in 2010), the Bavarians were still able to gain market share in Italy, as the Italian two-wheeled market continued its post-recession tailspin. Accounting for 19.9% of all bikes sold in Italy that were over 500cc, BMW Motorrad Italia grew from its previous position of having 18.4% of the relevant Italian market.

France rounded out BMW’s third top-spot in Europe, with 9,850 units and a 15% sales growth over 2010. Similarly, BMW Motorrad was up 7.4% in the United States, with the BMW S1000RR leading sales here domestically, a change from the usually show-stopping R1200GS, which continues to be the best selling 500cc+ bike worldwide. With no real surprises in the numbers from France and the US, what is interesting is to see the growth in developing countries.

Before you get your Southeast Asia flags waving, BMW Motorrad reports that it found its second-best growth by market in Brazil, not Asia. Up 55.2%, the Brazilian market accounted for only 5,442 units sold, but shows strong potential to grow further in the coming years, as the South American country’s economy continues to gain steam. To side-step tariffs, BMW builds the G650GS, F800R, and F800GS locally in Brazil, and presumably as more models get local assembly in Manaus, BMW’s sales trend will continue with those models. BMW reports that sales in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Asia all grew positively across the board, but declined to mention at what rate or volume those markets faired in 2011.

As far as model go, the BMW R1200GS series still reigns supreme, accounting for 28,866 units in total worldwide (18,413 units for the R1200GS, 10,453 for the R1200GS Adventure). The GS dominance continues with the F800GS selling 9,829 units worldwide, and was followed closely by the BMW R1200RT (9,540 units) & BMW S1000RR (9,044 units). Meanwhile, the recently launched K1600GT/GTL accounted for 8,019 units, while the rest of the line-up broke down as follows; F800R (7,986 units), R1200R (7,310 units), and the F650GS (6,145 units). All very interesting indeed.

Source: BMW Group

  • Austin Tiller

    I really enjoyed seeing these numbers.

  • For me the amazing thing is how stunningly right BMW got the S1000RR right out of the box. When I heard they were doing an I-4 sportbike without all the usual BMW Rube Goldberg bits, I wondered how many iterations it would take before it could go head to head with the GSXR’s and ZX’s, etc. Triumph’s round and round before they hit with the Daytona 675 came to mind. That the S/RR was such a complete package right from jump street was a complete shock. Now, if they’d quit trying to channel HRC and go with Magneti Marelli for their race ECU’s, it would start winning in competition.

    The GS’s still flummox me: Why I’d want to go offroad with an 800 pound beast with the cylinder heads sticking out at ankle/calf height is still beyond me . . . . .

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  • Smitch

    Kudos to them for sharing this kind of info…I’m looking at YOU, every other moto manufacturer!

    But I’m guessing BMW wouldn’t be sharing this numbers if they weren’t so positive.

  • Singletrack

    I’m amazed at how looonnng it’s taken BMW to cater more to the performance motorcycle crowd. For decades they’ve been oddly content building conservative touring motorcycles for ‘suspender wearing geezers’ ;) Or dorky urban commuters ;) ;)

    But conversely, for decades the Auto ‘M’ division has been building snarling 6’s, V-10’s and V-12’s in their class leading performance cars.

    It seems that BMW is quickly becoming a real force in more street motorcycle segments. Now who’s ready for a lightweight, high tech, 4 cyl. 800cc VFR killer? Perhaps the M3 of the motorrad class?

  • kevin


    Strange isn’t it. And if you think about it most of BMW’s auto products are performance oriented. I know the /128328/528 aren’t the most potent but the 135i/335i/535i etc are performance machines (not to mention the M vehicles).

    Then, you look across the aisle at the bikes and nothing. I’m glad BMW has turned the corner. In the past, when they released a “performance” motorcycle they always hobbled it. I wonder what the discussion was like at BMW HQ when plans for the S1000RR we’re announced?

  • Mike H

    Would anyone happen to know the advertising agency that handles BMW’s marketing in the US? Europe?

  • I know the US advertising is handled by KBS&P, not sure on the global.

  • MikeD

    I just wanted to say… Curse you BMW for not selling the K1300R on the U.S.A. and no more R1200S

    I always wanted to own one or the other.

  • MikeD

    …even if it would take me forever to put the $$$ togheter.

  • You know, Singletrack, that’s a great idea: Since Honda WON’T build an Interceptor (‘Hey, have you heard the one about all the new V4 Hondas looking like JetSkis??’), and since BMW HAS a protoype 700cc little brother to the S/RR already up and running . . . .

  • para

    Its not that surprising, from corporate point of view. Sometimes branches of the same brand can have a remarkably strong live of their own and BMW Motorrad, at least in Germany have a very distinct identity from the car branch. Somewhat different example…compare Yamaha NA with say Yamaha Australia or Europe. The NA branch is an old mens club catering to the cruiser crowd, missing out on, in my opinion, quite some money in other areas (say, adventure segment with the Tenere).

    Ironically, ask long term car owners of the brand, and they will tell you, that BMW Automobile has watered down its focus on performance quite a bit in general to cater to a wider customer base, halo models non-withstanding. More understandable though, from a commercial point of view.

  • WetMan

    The author of this piece has been watching too much CNN. We have been hearing for two years now that the Euro is collapsing and that the Eurozone is going down the drain. Meanwhile BMW is selling motorcycles in Europe like hotcakes and the Euro has stabilized at 1.30 to the dollar and is climbing back up again. Maybe it’s time to start playing another tune…

  • mxs

    I doubt that CNN has anything to do with that. BTW CNN is busy reporting about speaker’s open marriage ….

    BMW bikes are not the least expensive and usually their price points are not for people who are not well off. So to me this just proves that the people who have the dough they prefer BMW, especially Germans considered. It doesn’t mean that Europe sold more motorcycles overall in spite of the fiscal they find themselves in nowadays. Also, don’t discount the much more pro-motorcycle culture in Europe versus here in NA …. they will always do better there than here. It will be so, even if Eur drops even more.

  • WetMan

    Unfortunately there is not much of a pro-motorcycle culture in Europe. At least not in the EU. Here the EU bureaucrats make it more and more difficult to even get onto a bike. From 2013 onwards you will need to pass three separate driving tests to be allowed on a R1000SS (one at 18 for 11 kW, one at 21 for 35 kW and one at 24 for 35+). Or wait until you are 24 and then you may, by the grace of the EU, try to pass a single test. Off course you can start driving a SUV monster or a Porsche at 17… In France they now force you to near neon (even on your helmet) and the EU is about to force its member states to put a costly yearly maintenance check for bikes into law. Even though less than 1% of accidents is due to the state of maintenance of the bike… And they will make it illegal to change the exhaust because the few bikes on the road are a enormous hazard to the public’s hearing (aids).
    The reason for the succes of the R1000SS is simple: it is currently about as expensive as the Japanese superbikes (yes really!) but much more powerful and outperforms them in every test. And it’s a BMW…