A badge call
3rd Aug 2018 6:00 am
BMW Motorrad India’s two-model range impresses, mostly, but what’s with that price tag? Here’s a theory.
There’s an outcry, and it’s within reason. BMW Motorrad India made you endure a two-year long wait for its G 310 R, which later spawned a G 310 GS variant as well, and when it finally arrived, it came bearing a price tag nobody could call competitive, let alone ‘killer’. Reasonable? Not by a long shot.
The expectation was set firstly by how new BMW Motorrad is to India, even if you consider its big-bike introduction as a starting point. Then, you have its obvious lack of a widespread sales and service network, which, however, may grow to a comfortable expanse eventually. The final nail was that the very same platform, although different (and perhaps more comprehensive) in form, arrived nearly a year earlier at nearly half the price – the TVS Apache RR 310. Is BMW Motorrad riding on a cloud of superiority fuelled by its badge that has enjoyed a reverential status in the car side of things in the Indian market? Or is it, perhaps, a cautious, pre-emptive filtration process, to avoid being perceived as too mass-oriented? On the other hand, maybe BMW simply doesn’t want to rush into the kind of volumes that its currently tiny network is not equipped to handle. More gravely, is it a case of being disconnected from the pulse of the motorcycle market? The KTM 390 Duke, the motorcycle to beat in this segment, globally, was already around by the time BMW and TVS were formulating their plans, and there’s no way anyone could have missed its existence – that is, the sum of its parts, performance and price tag.
For over a year before these new BMWs were launched in India, I found myself advocating them to anyone who appeared to express interest. India, I endorsed, needed to begin appreciating quality motorcycles, rather than just the ones that proved superior in one performance aspect or on specification sheets. That there is a dearth of motorcycles that command lifelong companionship is true, but no one’s really complaining because short-term flings are fulfilling enough. You get to buy a new motorcycle every two or three years, and this comes with a range of emotions – excitement, anticipation and so on – that can get addictive. Your willingness to upgrade is intertwined with the range of upgrades a motorcycle maker is going to give you, and it’s a very consuming cycle. Manufacturers don’t want to change this trend because it’s good for business.
A side effect to this trend is the emergence of the disloyal customer. When relative superiority decides what motorcycle you buy, a brand-neutral motorcyclist emerges. This is great because you can have a KTM one season, a Ducati a couple of years later, and a vastly dissimilar Yamaha next, as long as you can have the best motorcycle you need at that moment. That should explain why my last motorcycle had nothing in common to the one I had before it, except, of course, the intent. But now I’ve had enough, and I am certain of wishing for only those bikes I am sure never to part with. I like giving my motorcycles names, and I have forever had trouble saying goodbye.
This leads me to another theory as to why BMW Motorrad went ahead, unflinchingly, with this sort of pricing. Confidence. It is plausible – even though it is difficult to think a manufacturer would favour this layered and time-consuming a strategy over immediate results – that BMW Motorrrad believes in ‘once a BMW customer, always a BMW customer’. You could buy a G 310 R/GS for Rs 4 lakh or thereabouts today, ride it all over the country for the next five years (of which three are under standard warranty and the next two can also be covered), and spend very little in the process of ownership (assuming a high standard of reliability, something we have come to expect from BMW).
It's 2023. Your G 310 GS looks its age although it may, to be optimistic, not feel so. It’s still a reasonably powerful motorcycle, at least for our roads if not necessarily our palette, and it can deliver the speed you require, if not necessarily the speed you desire. You’ve added the luggage rack, the fog lights, the dual-purpose tyres and that cool Dakar rally sticker over the years, and you can’t find a strong enough reason to let go of ‘Ewan’ or ‘Charley’ or whatever it is that you’d christened it.
You walk into the BMW Motorrad dealership, and buy the motorcycle you’re ready for – an F 850 GS or, if you’re the disproportionate-assets type (this is no jibe at BMW’s motorcycle designs, mind you), an R 1200 GS Adventure. Only, this time, you’re rather impressed with the incredibly value-for-money price tag.
Oh, what a time to be alive!