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Looking at BMW Motorrad’s 2021 numbers

BMW Motorrad once set goals of selling 200,000 motorcycles and having 2,000 dealers by the year 2020. At the time they set the goals, they didn’t seem unreasonable, as their sales figures were steadily climbing out of the trench dug by the 2008-09 Great Recession.

Then came COVID-19, and everything went out the window. Everything. The one bright spot seemed to be that for a short while – specifically the second quarter of 2020 – motorcycle sales surged as people around the world struggled to find ways to entertain themselves while still maintaining social distancing protocols.

BMW Motorrad obviously had its best year ever in 2021, there’s no doubt about that, and it was a massive increase from disappointing sales figures in pandemic-suppressed 202. When looking at the numbers, it’s important to compare production volume to deliveries; sometimes BMW makes more or fewer motorcycles than they deliver in any given year. There is no indication in BMW’s annual reports if deliveries refers to sales to dealers or sales to individuals. To compare the last five years of production vs. deliveries, refer to the table below.

Year Production volume Deliveries Deliveries vs Production Running surplus
2017 185,682 164,153 -21,529
2018 162,687 165,566 +2,879 18,650
2019 187,116 175,162 -11,954 30,604
2020 168,104 169,272 +1,168 29,436
2021 187,500 194,261 +6,761 22,675

In this table, Running surplus refers to the number of motorcycles BMW produced, but didn’t deliver from 2017 to the end of 2021. Their annual reports do not indicate where these motorcycles might be, in warehouses or in dealerships. Certainly this discrepancy between production and deliveries is why you can sometimes find a great deal on a motorcycle already on the dealership’s floor towards the end of a calendar year. (By the way, BMW reported having 1,200 motorcycle dealers in their 2021 annual report, well short of their 2,000 goal. By comparison, BMW reported 1,600 MINI dealers at the end of 2021.)

Consider as well that BMW Motorrad qualifies as a motorcycle anything with two wheels. While Americans might not consider a C 400 GT (gas) or CE 04 (electric) scooter to be a motorcycle, BMW certainly does. BMW puts these two models in their Urban Mobility line under the overall motorcycle umbrella. Other lines in under the motorcycle umbrella include Sport, Tour, Roadster, Heritage and Adventure bikes; if you’re at all familiar with BMW Motorrad’s lineup, you’ll know which is which, but here’s a handy chart for you.

Line Models
Sport M 1000 RR, S 1000 RR, R 1250 RS
Tour all K 1600s, R 1250 RT
Roadster R 1250 R, S 1000 R, F 900 R, G 310 R
Heritage all R 18, all R nineT
Adventure all GS, GS Adventure and XR
Urban Mobility CE 04*, C 400 GT

* The CE 04 was released in 2022 and does not affect sales numbers for 2021.

BMW doesn’t break down the individual production or delivery numbers for each model, but they do give us some info on which models sell better than others. Typically, sales of Adventure bikes are at least half of BMW’s total annual motorcycle sales, with sport and touring bikes selling well in the remaining half. Their 2021 annual report leaves out this information, but clues to Adventure bikes’ domination of BMW sales can be found in their quarterly reports.

One interesting breakdown BMW does give us in their annual report is where they’re selling their motorcycles, though the “Other” region consumes over 40% of total sales. In 2021, BMW sold one motorcycle in Italy per 3,714 people (population 59.55 million). In the US (population 330 million), that number was one motorcycle per 20,586 people.

2021 Market % of sales Sales % change from 2020
Germany 13.4 25,972 -5.6
France 10.2 19,887 +13.4
Italy 8.3 16,034 +15.2
USA 8.3 16,030 +32.1
China 7.4 14,309 +21.4
Spain 6.5 12,616 +14.4
Brazil 5.7 11,150 +4.1
Other 40.2 78,263

It can be difficult to draw conclusions just from looking at a few tables of numbers and other information, but one thing is for certain: For its size, buying power and overall motorcycle registrations (almost 9 million in 2021 according to the IIHS), the US should be pretty much every motorcycle manufacturer’s top market. That it isn’t for BMW Motorrad is surprising and shows a lot of opportunity for growth.