On 8 March the new BMW F 800 GS and BMW F 650 GS two-cylinders celebrated the start of sales. Initial response from the markets makes us very optimistic. In fact, global demand even exceeds our production capacities, with demand particularly from the Southern European markets in Spain, Italy and Greece exceeding our greatest hopes. Particularly the F 800 GS is the choice of many customers who have so far ridden another make.
So much on the new models in 2008 you already know. But let me add that we will be presenting further surprises at the major motorcycle shows in Cologne and Milan, the Intermot and EICMA, which we cannot talk about yet today. So you see that we are well-prepared for the future.
Despite all this good news, the fact remains that BMW Motorrad - like all European motorcycle manufacturers - currently faces special challenges. We see almost daily how conditions are becoming tougher, with the prices of raw materials and energy going up all the time and currency risks becoming greater.
Let me explain briefly just how much the currency issue affects our competitive situation:
In the last seven years alone, the dollar and the Japanese yen have lost about 80 per cent of their value versus the euro. That means that our main competitors are benefiting from even the slightest weakness of the dollar and the yen, from every drop in value even behind the decimal point. They are able to offer their products at lower prices in the world market and make significant profits all the same.
Obviously, we must find answers to these challenges, since we cannot pass on these cost disadvantages directly to our customers in a one-to-one process.
To remain competitive we are therefore continuing to enhance our efficiency in Development, Production and Sales, we are intensifying our international Purchasing activities, and we are creating a very attractive, innovative product portfolio.
This, Ladies and Gentlemen, takes me on to the highlight I am sure you are all looking forward to.
I stated before that we are actively looking for new options, for profitable growth and for the planned increase in volume. Precisely that is why we have decided, among other things, to take on the competition in the Supersports segment on both the road and the race track.
We naturally realise that we are taking on a great challenge. Particularly the Japanese are some 20 years ahead of us in this class and have lots of experience. But even so, the spirit of this competition alone encourages us in our efforts. From the start we wish to be on par with our well-established competitors also in the Supersports segment.
Our development team is highly motivated to achieve our goals. And I can tell you today that the status we have achieved so far is very promising. We are confident that we will be able to start the Superbike World Championship next year with a convincing all-round package, and that our series motorcycle will be just as convincing. In both terms of both its technology and price, our Supersports will be absolutely competitive.
Dear Motorcycle friends, what motivates us to move into this segment in particular?
The very fascination of this motorcycle with its racing DNA expands and upgrades the brand image of BMW Motorrad by offering an additional, sporting and emotional element winning over new customers for the brand. The Superbike World Championship is becoming increasingly popular among motorcycle riders, since here, unlike the MotoGP, they are able to watch and admire their motorcycles in a direct comparison with competitors. And they can enjoy this thrill all around the world! This year the Superbike World Championship is being held on four continents and in 13 countries.
For the first time we are demonstrating the innovative power of BMW Motorrad also in the segment of the most dynamic, top-performance onroad motorcycles, since our Supersports motorcycle is an all-BMW development from the ground up and will be built at our plant in Berlin.
We are expanding our product portfolio also with a view to worldwide growth. Today sales in the 1,000-cc class amount to some 100,000 units worldwide. The vast majority of these motorcycles goes to the USA and Europe. And the four large Japanese manufacturers account for about 85 per cent of the market. BMW Motorrad is looking at a long-term involvement in this segment. Clearly, that means we must speak the language of the segment and follow the usual market standards. And indeed - we are confident that we will set new benchmarks in this scene, winning over an appropriate market share.
This, Ladies and Gentlemen, takes me on to the motorcycle as such. It is our objective to offer the customer a high-performance motorcycle with absolutely outstanding qualities and features on both the road and race track in terms of rideability, performance, and ergonomics. Since we are still in the middle of the development process, it would be too soon to mention any specific technical data. But you naturally know the usual level of performance our competitors have to offer. So with this in mind, I leave it to you today to speculate on what the specifications might be.
Our Supersports is based on a highly proven fundamental concept. Before choosing this concept, we naturally analysed the market and the appropriate technologies with utmost care and precision. And we will use the technical parameters required to develop our own solutions. In the early project phase we checked out various engine concepts. And as you know, we then decided in favour of a four-cylinder, with the straight-four offering the best qualities to meet the power, performance, weight, and package requirements to be fulfilled. In typical BMW style, the engine will of course offer a number of special features, especially on the cylinder head.
For package reasons we have decided against the BMW Duo-Lever on the suspension. Taking up more space, this kind of front-wheel geometry would have presented disadvantages with the very compact structure of BMW's new Superbike.
But you can be sure that the innovations we are introducing are absolutely convincing. One example is the special traction control you will find on the new machine. Again, however, we cannot give you any further information today.
As you may expect of BMW Motorrad, the design of our BMW Supersports will be absolutely unique and very different. While it will of course reflect the usual design language in the segment, it will at the same time offer a strong and powerful message from the BMW brand.
Now let me briefly give you the status of our entry into the Superbike World Championship:
Today I can confirm that our preparations are proceeding according to plan in every respect: In compliance with the rules of the Series, the new motorcycle will be available to customers in 2009 and we will build 1,000 production models by the end of next year.
We are implementing our racing activities in close cooperation with our partner Alpha-Racing, a specialist very experienced in motorsport. Located near Munich, Alpha-Racing have already started work in a special production hall specifically for this purpose. The process of building up the team is proceeding at full swing and we have already filled the key positions.
The team is a combination of specialists from BMW and members of the Alpha-Technik racing crew, as well as further specialists from professional Superbike racing.
Choosing the development and test riders for our racing machine, we are currently operating in a revolving system to gain as much experience as possible. The selection of test riders ranges from experienced riders still active today all the way to young "top guns".
In the upcoming weeks and months we will systematically start production of the racing machine in its individual power and performance stages, testing the new model as we go along.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We naturally realise that the established teams have many years of experience. But we wish to take up this challenge in particular and have put together a highly motivated team precisely for this purpose, a team which will prove the performance of our new motorcycle in professional racing.
Naturally, we will have to go through a certain process of learning - which is precisely why we have set ourselves realistic targets for the time being: In our first year in the Superbike World Championship we seek to bring home several places in the Top 10 and to consistently close the gap to the top teams. In year 2 we plan to catch up with the top teams and to win our first places on the podium. And our medium-term objective, obviously, is to win the World Championship!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
So much on this project, the current status of the project and our preparations for entering the World Superbike Championship next year. You have been speculating a lot on the designation of our new model. So let us put an end to this speculation today. BMW Motorrad's first Supersports will be the "S 1000 RR". In choosing the name and designation of BMW's new Supersports, we are consistently following our nomenclature at BMW Motorrad. In this name, the "S" stands for Supersports, marking a new class of motorcycles from BMW. The "1000" designates the size of the engine, and the "RR" naturally stands for the model itself.
Dear Motorcycle Friends,
Many motorcycle magazines have published photos of a racing prototype which we have tested on several racing tracks. Today we would like to show you this racing prototype, offering you an initial impression of the package and the technology. But when you see the motorcycle in a minute, please note that neither the design nor the impression of quality are the same as on the production model following at a later point.
Thank you for your attention.