TVS, BMW Motorrad Gear Up For Electric Play

Murali Gopalan
09 Oct 2023
04:59 PM
3 Min Read

The CE O2 will be produced at the TVS Motor plant in Hosur and shipped out to Europe in early 2024.

bmw tvs electrification mobility outlook

Markus Schramm, Head of BMW Motorrad, agrees with the commonly held view that electric mobility is here to stay but it is not as if the internal combustion engine (ICE) will disappear in a hurry.

“Electric mobility will take off for sure and, for BMW Motorrad, every 16-24 months will see action with an electric motorcycle to be launched in 2026. ICE and electric will coexist for a long time to come,” he said during a recent India visit to commemorate 10 years of his company’s partnership with TVS Motor Company.

Whilst on the subject of electric and ICE, Schramm added that over 50% of BMW Motorrad customers back home in Europe generally have two bikes. The ICE option is typically used for long weekend rides while electric is the best bet for intra-city commutes.

The two-wheeler market in Europe is expected to go completely electric two decades from now which means that ICE is going to be around at least till the first half of the 2040s. It is only in cars that the emissions regulations are far more stringent though there has seen some back and forth lately on the deadline for banning ICE over the next decade. Pressure is also coming in from a potential invasion of the European electric car arena by Chinese automotive brands which has left many automakers paranoid about the future.

Youthful Buyers

BMW Motorrad, in tandem with TVS Motor, is now ready to launch the CE O2 electric for Europe from next spring. Priced at around 8,500 euros, it is targeted at the young who are “casual, super cool and believe in the one life” motto. CKD kits from here will be despatched to BMW Motorrad’s Thailand and Brazil units for assembly and retail.

The description of the product, which is almost poetic, is available on the BMW website and quite engaging.  “Electric moped? Pedelec? Electric scooter? Nope! The eParkourer is the icon of the new urban mobility scene. It moves through the city like a traceur. Fast, agile, creative. And takes it by the storm.

“The CE 02 breaks all the rules. Visually loud and electrically quiet at the same time. Revolutionary. Iconic. Being environmentally conscious can be stylish. You shape the day; your eParkourer shapes the ambiance. Wherever you go, you will be seen. That progressive style shows. You're already on your way to the next big thing. Time to move on.”

Reiterating that “CE O2 is very special”, Schramm said it was a perfect fit for those seeking the equivalent of a commuter scooter in an electric form. India, he added, was on the launch radar too and even while it will be pricey at over INR 7 lakh (going by a quick currency conversion), he was confident that it would be successful.

It remains to be seen if customers are comfortable with this price point even while there are no two ways about the fact that the premium motorcycle market is now on a roll. How an electric option works is the million dollar question since this is an arena largely dominated by scooters where the comfortable price point is INR 1.3 lakh.

Strong Partnership

Schramm said the alliance with TVS Motor was the perfect fit in terms of precision in quality, innovation and customer focus. With 150,000 bikes produced over the last decade, the partners are confident that the 200,000 mark will be achievable in the next two years with new products like CE O2 leading the way.

High voltage bikes will come from the BMW stable and, more specifically, accessed from its cars while lower voltage (11 kW with 90 km range and 90 km speed) options will roll out of the TVS Motor facility in Hosur near Bengaluru. Future cooperation “will continue” and there could be new platforms for both EVs and ICE.

Local sourcing from India will also get a fillip as a result and this will be good news to the supplier community which can hope to get more projects from BMW Motorrad as part of the latter’s constant quest for economies of scale. “We are independent, strong companies and will operate in different segments,” said Schramm.

KN Radhakrishnan, Director & CEO, TVS Motor Company, drove home the point that this was not a joint venture but “a long standing partnership between two companies with the same philosophies, aspirations and excellence in engineering”. The 10 years of this alliance, he continued, was testimony to common values, focus on customer delight, excellence in R&D and engineering while striving to deliver on global aspirations.

As for the CE 02, Radhakrishnan said it had been designed jointly by TVS Motor and BMW and marked a “proud moment for atmanirbharta”, the Indian slogan for self-reliance which has gathered ground since the pandemic and, more specifically, with the start of Chinese hostilities along the border in 2020.

“This will be an amazing product for global young people, including those living in  India,” he added. His optimism stemmed from the growing network of roads which encouraged biking as well as higher income levels to be able to afford these premium offerings.

European Alliances

TVS Motor produces 12% of BMW Motorrad’s global volumes and if CE O2 emerges as a success story, the sky could then be the limit in this alliance. “Electric vehicles will play a big role and scaling up is inevitable. This partnership will continue for many years longer and the customer is at the centre of our quality focus,” said Radhakrishnan.

Indian two-wheeler makers are now more aligned with counterparts in Europe in the new mobility era and have moved beyond the Japanese for many years now. It was during the 1980s when the likes of Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki entered India and forged alliances with local companies.

Today, TVS Motor has Norton Motorcycles of the UK in its kitty following an acquisition made in 2020 even while keeping the alliance with BMW Motorrad going for specific midsize bikes and electric. The company has clearly come a long way since its breakup with Suzuki two decades earlier and is now looking at a more premium path going forward.

Bajaj Auto, likewise, has had the most successful collaboration in the Indian two-wheeler space with KTM of Austria in which it first took a 14% stake way back in 2007. The bonding has deepened over the years and today the company’s Pune plant is a manufacturing powerhouse for KTM and Husqvarna (the Swedish brand that KTM acquired from BMW Motorrad) bikes which are shipped out overseas.

Bajaj also has entered into a distribution agreement with Triumph of the UK for developing midsize motorcycles that can be retailed both here and in other parts of the world. As in the case of TVS, it also had a Japanese ally in the form of Kawasaki many years ago but has since moved on to create a new global template for itself.

The writer was in Hosur on an invitation from TVS Motor Company

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