BMW plans small bikes

News -



BMW will add sub-500cc models to its range, building them in India in partnership with TVS Motor Company. Those bikes will be sold both in India and in Western markets. This is a huge departure from tradition for the German company, which has typically focussed on high-end, luxury bikes.

“In view of changing motorcycle markets, demographic developments and increasing environmental demands we are expanding our product range so as to tap into fresh growth potential,” states BMW Motoradd president Stephan Schaller. “We have a highly expert and experienced partner in the TVS Motor Company. This means that in future we will be able to offer vehicles in smaller capacity classes in addition to the BMW Motorrad core segments. Various types of motorcycle are conceivable. They will meet the expectations of a BMW motorcycle in terms of riding fun as well as setting a new benchmark when it comes to stability, agility and performance figures. I regard this long-term cooperation as an important step along the road to profitable, sustainable growth.”

TVS currently manufactures over 2 million motorcycles, scooters and auto rickshaws for the Indian market each year.

The move is in-line with wider industry trends, with nearly every manufacturer shifting its focus away from an older generation of western consumer which tends to prefer large, expensive bikes and onto a younger rider who demands affordability and accessible performance, and who likely lives outside the US or Western Europe.

“The aim of the cooperation is to join forces to develop and produce motorcycles in the segment below 500 cubic centimetres,” states BMW. “The various stages through to the finished serial production motorcycle will be planned by both partners but implemented with different focus areas on each side leveraging the strengths of both companies. The cooperation agreement involves the two companies each offering their own vehicle derivatives, which will be sold through their own distribution channels in India and across the globe.”

No details of the future products have yet been divulged, but you can expect to see them covered here in the coming years.

  • Charlie

    Welcome news and makes sense. G450x was a solid effort under 500cc’s. Hopefully we see some of the smaller KTM’s in the US soon

    • Nathan Wiley

      The G450X was a colossal flop. BMW fanboys may have thought it was the bee’s knees, but most of the serious offroad community gave it a thumbs down. The best part of the bike was the engine, which was built by Kymco in Taiwan. Only BMW would build a dirtbike where you have to remove the swingarm to change the coutershaft sprocket.

      • Charlie

        I may have it wrong. I didn’t ride it but most of the reviews I saw were positive – that it was innovative and serious, but pricey. It certainly seemed to be a legitimate attempt, but it was discontinued in a hurry. I agree that I don’t expect it to be competitively priced.

        • Marc Fenigstein

          Legitimate attempt in that it was certainly a big investment by BMW, but misguided by an apparent desire to be innovative. Contrast it with their very conventional approach to sportbikes with the S1000RR – it’s clear they learned some lessons. It’s one thing to create a wholly new space in your image (see Duke 390), it’s another to enter an existing space (XC) that has decades of refinement, and try to beat evolution at the development game. (and yes, I realize that coming from me, I’m inviting debate with these comments)

          • orthorim

            IDK the S1000RR turned the world of liter sportsbikes upside down, never to be the same again. Huge kick in the behind for all the others. Also the S1000RR initially had various handling issues which is why it didn’t do nearly as well on the track as it did in the reviews. Of course the S1000RR was still awesome enough to win an instant following.
            The G450X – I don’t remember exactly but didn’t it have a completely different suspension from other dirtbikes, and in the end that turned out to be really impractical? Maybe somebody can fill me in here…

            • Marc Fenigstein

              Exactly. The S1000RR was successful because it followed the same linear path of the segment, just further – it just delivered more of exactly what the Japanese bikes were doing. It spoke the language sport bike riders were used to, rode the way sportbikes are supposed to ride, just added power. The most radical element was the asym headlight. Twin spar, I-4, telescopic fork… pull the plastics and you’d have a hard time discerning it from a Kawi or Zook.

              It’s worth pointing out that BMW had sportbikes, the R-series R, for a decade with a very loyal following, but no crossover from the mainstream segment. The G450X was the R1200R of the off-road world.

              What was wrong with the G450X? Swingarm pivot to countershaft position is critical to anti-squat behavior – the forces that extend the swingarm under acceleration to counteract weight transfer and optimize traction. A concentric swingarm actually experiences chain squat – the chain tension compresses the rear suspension exacerbating weight transfer and effectively lifting the rear tire at exactly the moment you want it pressed down for traction. You’re trading the elimination of chain slap for drastically reduced traction, increased squat, and pain-in-the-ass sprocket changes.

  • TheBoatDude

    Outstanding. However, I wonder if BMW is going to be able to hit the price point to make their bikes competitive with the Japanese alternatives (in the US, at least).

    • Wes Siler

      That’s the advantage making the bikes in India is going to give them. Think KTM with the 390 Duke and whatnot.

      • Dustin Edwards

        Sorry I might be spacing but have you guys reviewed the 390 Duke yet or is that coming up?

        • Wes Siler

          Not yet, it’s not in America yet.

          • stoleyrbike

            Any thoughts on the Duke 200 as a learner bike?

            • orthorim

              Buy it. Fantastic little machine.

      • Nathan Wiley

        I’m not convinced BMW will offer these at reasonable prices even if they are built with cheap labor. They’ve been building engines for their 650 singles in Taiwan since ’07 and those bikes still sell at a premium.

        • orthorim

          These are for a cost conscious market so maybe BMW is going to change their strategy a little. One would think.
          They’re not going to be cheaper than the competition but I imagine an aggressive price would be to make them just a little more. Pay a bit extra, get a BMW.

  • Troy Rank

    The world needs more well-built small displacement motorcycles. Can’t wait to see it.


    They don’t have to hit a price point, all they have to do is make a quality, attractive bike that we want (styled right) and it will sell. They are always over priced as far as the competioin, but they are worth it in most cases…

    • TheBoatDude

      True, there is always a core group of folks that will buy the BMW, regardless of price. However, I’m assuming that anything <500cc is going to be aiming for the Ninja 250 or CBR 250/500 buyers. If that's the case, then BMW is going to have to make some effort at pricing them accordingly.

  • Robotribe

    Dear BMW,

    Three words: MAKE. THEM. LIGHT.


  • Paul E

    Arrh! Bring back the R26!!

  • Bill

    pounds, watts, cc and range

  • Mark Desrosiers

    It’ll be interesting to see what style they bring to it. The two core BMW “types” would have to be touring and ADV, right? A little <500cc dual-sport would definitely have plenty of profit-making farkles, but would anybody interested in a 1,200cc GS even look twice at the small bikes? Enduros tend to be expensive on a per-cc basis; if its going to be budget, I think they'd have to make it purely a street bike, possibly cribbing design cues from the S1000. Just my two cents, but I don't see them undercutting their own 650cc bikes by making it a "baby GS", falling in the 450x "way-too expensive enduro" trap again, or trying to sell 20 year olds on a bike styled like their grandpa's 600 lb tourer.

    • Robert Peterson

      I would love a small enduro in the 250-350 cc range. It would be a nice complement to my 2009 R1200GS. Something small and light like this would allow me to learn how to ride off road and still keep me with the brand. Otherwise, it’s a Japanese single that goes in my garage.

    • orthorim

      I for one am hoping for an end to the asymmetrical face design language. It’s just wrong. The S1000 still looks badass but the GS over the last few years is pretty much unbearably ugly. One reason I didn’t buy one.

  • Maggio Slooter

    I’ll wait till I see pricing — the world doesn’t need a $10,000 <500cc bike.