After five years as President of BMW Motorrad, Stephan Schaller is now moving on to pastures new. We caught up with him to see how he looks back on his years in charge of BMW Motorrad.
As well as commenting on the brand’s potential e-MotoGP entry, Schaller also reveals:
Q: You took over as President of BMW Motorrad in 2012 but are now moving on, what has been your biggest achievement in your time at Motorrad?
A: “I look at Motorrad as a company and I see the fact we are employing around 1500 people and have increased sales by 60% during my time in charge as a pleasing achievement. It is not about one or two individual bikes, it is about a sustainable increase in profitable growth.”
Q: You started ‘Project 2020’ with the target of selling 200,000 bikes a year by 2020. With just three years to go is Project 2020 still achievable?
A: “This year we expect to sell over 160,000 bikes and with the new models we have in the pipeline I have no doubt we will achieve our target within the next three years.”
Q: Has the G310-series delivered the sales increase expected of it?
A: “The G310 was never intended to be a volume selling bike. Its plan was to achieve a certain five-digit number, but its role is mainly to attract customers who would not usually go to BMW. These riders now have the option of a light and relatively affordable motorcycle to enter the BMW family and then in time climb up the ladder to the more expensive BMW bikes.”
Q: Other manufacturers are targeting their small capacity bikes at the emerging Far Eastern markets, is this not the plan for the G310 series?
A: “We are a premium brand looking for profitable growth and our small capacity bikes are the G310-series and the new C400X scooter. We will not go any smaller. We are a premium brand and we accept that for our customers we are a leisure toy, we are not offering mobility for those who can’t afford a car. We don’t make low budget bikes and we aren’t looking at selling budget machines, we want to achieve 200,000 units sold through premium models. This is a more sustainable and profitable company direction.”
Q: You sold Husqvarna in 2013, looking at their new emerging model range, do you still believe this was the right thing to do? KTM have since turned it into an exciting brand for younger riders, which was also BMW’s intention.
A: “Husqvarna didn’t fit into BMW at all. It fits into KTM and I believe selling the firm was the right decision. By selling Husqvarna we freed up money as well as the heads of our engineers to focus on the same idea - to attract new customers to the BMW brand – but in a BMW way. Husqvarna is a totally different brand with a strong off-road focus and different dealer structure and customers to BMW. The idea of attracting new customers was right, the product was not, and so we sold Husqvarna and used the freed up money to develop the G310-series and C400X scooter.”
Q: How long until the President of Motorrad has to decide on the future of combustion engines in bikes? Especially considering what is happening in the car world with hybrid and electric vehicles?
A: “Cars will lead the direction and bikes will be watching. I am certain electric mobility is the right direction for cars in the future and this will lead the way for all combustion engines. It will take decades, but I can see a point where there are no more combustion engines in two-wheeled vehicles. However, if I will be alive at that point in time I do not know!”
Q: During your time as President of Motorrad you have canceled the WSB project and opted not to go to MotoGP despite all of your rivals racing in the class. With hindsight, was this the correct decision?
A: “Our position was to enhance the wider base of motorsport activities, which we have done. We race in over 50 countries and are winning a lot, which is better than spending the money on two or three riders in MotoGP or WSB. This racing direction has a wider customer reach than WSB, if not possibly MotoGP.”
Q: What about alternative series such as the proposed electric MotoGP class?
A: “It’s an interesting field and I can’t comment, but it is the right thing and is more beneficial for the company. BMW stands for electric mobility and are entering Formula E in 2018, so it fits with future plans. It is definitely better for BMW Motorrad than MotoGP as it benefits future models and their development.”
Q: What was your leaving gift from Motorrad?
A: “The best sales year ever, our seventh in a row… That is better than a watch, you can buy a watch anywhere.”