Thursday, April 25, 2024

BULLISH BAVARIANS

After a hundred years of practice, BMW Motorrad should know how to polish a turd! And the biker brand definitely added a decent shine to thin 2023 results. Its annual revenue increased by just 1.2% to £2.746bn. Operating profit managed an even weaker 0.8% rise to £221.3m, with operating margin static at 8.1%. RoCE (return on capital employed) declined to 22.1% from 24.3%. 

 

Pre-tax profit fell by 4.1% to £220.5m. The official excuse was that sales volume growth and positive pricing were offset by unfavourable product mix effects and higher material costs, plus a negative impact from interest expenses. Never mind. The woes of BMW Group as a whole were much greater, as combined net profit spanning all of its activities plunged by 34.5% to £10.395bn.  

 

Naturally, to mark the brand’s centennial year, new BMW Motorrad supremo Markus Flasch and his head of sales and brand Stephan Reiff needed some record unit sales data in 2023 with which to justify an outpouring of effusive twaddle. And they achieved that target by a fairly narrow margin, 3.1% up to 209,257 motorcycles and scooters sold. This claim was marginally corrected to a 3% rise to 209,066 in full financial reporting – but that was still the largest annual headcount in their company’s history. Annual production, incidentally, had grown by 2.8% to 221,988 units.

 

European retail volume delivered the biggest slice, rising by 4.7% to 116,011. But although Germany’s domestic performance was the strongest, with customers riding away on 24,176 bikes, that represented a gestural increase of only 0.2%. More notable markets in Europe were France, Italy and Spain, with respective gains of 2.1% to 21,668, 3.3% to 16,179 and 1.7% to 12,716. UK input, based on BDN calculations from MCIA registration figures, put on 8.7% to 9435. A relative side-note was the more than doubling to the rounded number of 6000 bikes sold into unspecified Eastern European countries. Public sector contract?

 

Elsewhere, Asia saw sales lift slightly by 1.6% to 47,061. This total included Chinese consumption 2.8% up to 15,832 and India rising by 20.4% to 8768. Brazilian sales apparently improved by 8.1% to a “record” 14,106 and Mexico advanced by 6.8% to 7088. However, BMW Motorrad sales into the previously substantial US market continued to shrink, 3.8% down to 17,017.

 

As for successful model assessment, a vague tendency crept into the brand’s premium boxer GS range’s scale of contribution. Sales of R1250 GS and R1250 GS Adventure models amounted to 56,007, without detailing year-on-year growth or shrinkage. Once deliveries of some 4528 new R1300 GS models sold in Q4 were added, the annualised tally had risen by just 1.6% to reach 60,535. So R1250 GS uptake was probably flattening prior to the upgrade, bolstered by suspicions of discounting to minimise remaindered stock before the much-trumpeted R1300 GS actually arrived in showrooms, and an aberrant Q3 operating loss.

 

BMW’s sporting four-cylinder segment was certainly an earner. Now spanning S1000 RR and M1000 RR superbikes, M1000 R and S1000 R roadsters, and the S1000 XR, sales stacked on 7.5% to 25,194. Given M-series bikes at the higher end of this spectrum start at above 30,000 quid, Markus Flasch must be laughing all the way to his Bavarian bank.

 

Admirable PR forelock tugging extended to less glamorous ranges as well. F-series parallel twins were applauded for 3.2% growth to 62,834. The F750 GS, with sales 15.6% up to 11,064, was highlighted. G-series singles from India were also hailed for a “significant contribution”. And finally, global market leadership for the CE 04 electric scooter was cheered, its year-on-year retail deliveries apparently booming by 44% to 7,177.

 

On the back of all this hubris, Stephan Reiff ran away with his mouth, spouting an optimistic outlook for 2024. “The sales record in our anniversary year is both an honour and obligation,” he enthused. “With numerous new models, we will do everything in our power to build on this and further consolidate our leading position in the premium segment.”

 

€-£ currency translation at forex rates applicable on 21 March

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