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‘Designers must understand every piece of the bike’

S Muralidhar | Updated on January 08, 2018

Edgar Heinrich, Head of Design,BMWMotorrad

BMW Motorrad’s Head of Design says Indians have a different approach when it comes to seeking and adjusting quality

Edgar Heinrich is not new to India and its unique challenges. He has ridden down its pothole-riddled streets in his Royal Enfield. During his 2009-12 stint as Vice-President of Product Development at Bajaj Auto, Heinrich was responsible for automotive and motorcycle design. After helping create and launch the Bajaj Pulsar 200NS, he returned to BMW Motorrad as Head of Design in July 2012, the company where he started his career in 1986.

With the BMW G 310 R, Heinrich has added one more feather to his already decorated cap as the person who spearheaded the design of iconic bikes such as the HP2 Enduro, R 1200 GS and the S 1000 RR. He spoke to BusinessLineat BMW Motorrad headquarters in Munich. Excerpts:

At BMW Motorrad, do you need to stick with a BMW Group design language or does it have its unique identity?

Organisation-wise, we are part of the group design. So we are one brand next to BMW cars, Rolls-Royce cars and MINI cars. We at Motorrad are only responsible for motorbikes while our boss Adrian van Hooydonk looks at the entire group design.

In terms of character, motorbike design works a bit different than car design because cars are a lot about brand. But the car is always a little bit of a utility thing too where you want to also invest in style, brand and image.

On motorbikes, it is different because they are basically not about utility, at least these kind of bikes. It is only about image or luxury. We always say a car is the biggest suit a man can wear and I believe a motorbike is the biggest accessory you can wear.

It is essentially about your mindset and image you want to transfer to the outer world, which a bike can probably do very well. With a RR, you say: ‘Hey, I am a racer’ or if you buy the nineT you are a cool guy. And with a GS, you say I could go to Africa next week.

Is your design focus then more on the specific bike and not a family lineage that you need to stick with?

We have both. Our design strategy says there are segments and within that we have certain icons such as the GS and, hence, the 1200 GS, 800 GS or 310 GS. They have design cues, which are our icons and that you will find in every one of them. If you go over the portfolio such as a GS, RR or R or Tourer, again you find BMW icons, which you find everywhere. Any of our motorbikes is a BMW by certain design cues.

What are the basics that you look for in bike design?

Car and bike design are very different. On a car, what you see in terms of basic design, you have a package and put a big cloth over it. On a motorbike, most of the technologies and features are outside, which means you see everything. So it definitely makes a big difference if your swing arm, brake caliper or clutch cover looks cool or normal.

Our designers have to understand every bit and piece of the motorbike and what is inside the engine. If you design an engine cover, I don’t want to have just one without anything on it. I want to see the semantics and, what is inside the engine visible outside too.

This is why it is very important for a motorbike designer to understand the mechanics and all the insides. For a race bike, it makes a big difference since you need a big front and a very strong swing arm because these make it fast, reliable and offer good stability. So you have to focus on these kind of components on the race bike.

Do emerging markets like Asia influence the design of Motorrad bikes?

As of now, these emerging markets are probably following a little bit of the mature ones. They see what is out there, what is cool and they want to have the cool stuff. Over time, when these markets mature, they will develop their own ideas of what they want ,which includes design preferences. This is something take care by going to these markets. We explore how people think, what they like and so on. Those preferences definitely get reflected in choice of trim and colours also.

Look at riding gear for instance. Here in Europe, we have to manage rain, bad weather conditions and the heat. In India your weather conditions are very different and I know this from my experience in Pune where I would ride without riding gear because it was just too hot. This is something we don’t really understand because we don’t have temperatures going beyond 40 degrees celsius.

What was working on the G 310 R for India like?

We just wanted to make it a serious bike. When you make a model and sit on it, you get a certain feeling. It is difficult to describe but you get a kind ofperspective of the size of the bike. The interesting thing is that the G 310 R was meant for emerging markets but we found that Europeans and Americans liked it a great deal too. We were in the Pyrenees with European journalists like Alan Cathcart who loved the bike. Here people have bikes such as the GS and it is good for everything like a holiday or everyday commuting.

Small bikes here are considered very cheap and people think about getting a second one just for flipping through the streets. We feel there is even potential for big demand here.

So, do you believe that this kind of size is substantial for an Indian consumer who is looking for a BMW bike?

I am quite sure they will love it starting with the quality impression.

It was interesting when we presented it at EICMA (or the Milan Motorcycle Shows) last year and some of my ex-Indian colleagues were there too. They looked inside and at the secondary surfaces where the quality is discreetly visible, how the cables or welding were done.

It was very interesting because Indians have a different approach when it comes to seeking and adjusting quality. In Germany, we just take it for granted and are learning from our Indian experience.

Published on October 26, 2017

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