The automobile industry is hurting right now. With the exception of Ford Motor Co., automobile manufacturers are struggling financially as consumers say no to opening their pocketbooks and the accumulation of more debt.
But do not ever count the car companies out. The economy will turn around at some point, and new plug-in electric hybrid vehicles could very well transform the industry. Now some manufacturers are going back to their roots. Peugeot, which got its start making bicycles in the 1880s, launched a new bicycle line 10 years ago, and after some stumbles, will re-introduce that line into the United States in January. Mini Cooper has a posh collection of bikes. And now BMW launched its line of bicycles, too.
The BMW Cruise Bike boasts a 24 speed derailleur system, designed by BMW’s engineers with sporty day trips in mind. For those who live in cities, BMW’s Touring Bike offers a 9-speed hub system. Both are pricey: the Cruise Bike starts at 849 euros and reaches 1200 euros (US$1175 to $1670); the touring bike will set you back anywhere from 1300 to 1800 euros, or US$1800 to $2500. Both bikes offer a sweet design and maximum comfort for those who want to two-wheel it in the countryside or have to navigate around their crowded urban neighborhoods. They are, however, a wee bit on the high side if you are using a bike for a quick grocery run or spell of exercise.
How well these Beamer Bikes resonate with the public remains to be seen. BMW and other automobile companies offering these bikes are banking on the fact that while more young professionals are moving to the city, they may still want to ride something reliable and well designed. Everyone loves the idea of high-performance braking systems and a wheels that make potholes less precarious. But when bicycle theft is a problem in many cities, urban hipsters may think twice about shelling a lot of coin for an item that can still be easily stolen.
Perhaps the Amsterdam strategy is the path for these companies to market their chic two-wheelers. Most folks in Amsterdam sport the unattractive clunker, with or without plastic flowers, for their commute to work and around town. When it comes to a serious weekend bike ride, the nicer high-performance bike is taken out of hiding, and returned to a safe place on Sunday night.
Some tout this trend as the end of suburbs as we know it or the move to a more sustainable future and a world without cars. That is wishful thinking, unless you can find a city with a pleasant bike-friendly climate year round and a public transport infrastructure that makes it easy for residents to ditch the car. Nevertheless, the new bikes coming out boast a great design, and for those who dream of a posh brand but cannot bear the five- or six-figure price tag for those exquisite set of wheels, a four-figure sum could be a valid and healthy option.