Aside from a sustained slump in sales, what do BMW, Renault, Volkswagen, Peugeot and Cooper have in common? Here’s a clue: it has nothing to do with them not being Ferrari and everything to do with them not being cars.
Confused? Well, you shouldn’t be, as this blog is about bikes and not cars. Still confused? Seriously? Ok, let me end your befuddlement: some of the world’s leading car manufacturers have decided to enter the bike industry. Yes, that’s right, sales in the automotive business are apparently so dire that luxury car makers have decided to produce bikes. As in bicycles!
When I first discovered that some of the most recognisable names in motoring wanted to shift a few bicycles, I became deeply suspicious. It’s all a bit too Machiavellian for my liking. If BMW can sell bicycles to grown-ups, when will Benson & Hedges start handing out lollipops to children (assuming they don’t already)? Imagine my horror, therefore, when I learned that BMW was not only making bicycles for environmentally minded adults who secretly yearn for turbo-engined, fuel-guzzling, planet-destroying monsters, indeed, BMW has also produced a bicycle for children aged 5 years and under (when dreams are first etched into the impressionable human psyche). How diabolical!
Although it would be convenient – and scarily plausible – to pursue a conspiracy theory on the motor industry’s efforts to produce bicycles in order to somehow increase car sales, the more reasoned approach would be to welcome the move towards more environmentally friendly travel – even if there is a catch that has not yet been identified. The car industry’s relationship with bicycles, however, is not exactly new. In fact, Peugeot set up shop as a bicycle manufacturer no less than 128 years ago and Cooper (as in Mini Cooper) released its first efforts on two wheels in April last year.
As stores in the UK prepare for three more Cooper bicycles in the run-up to Christmas, the manufacturer’s chairman, Mike Cooper, who also happens to be the son of the Mini Cooper’s creator, John Cooper, said: “I’m 53 now and I only got back into cycling three to four years ago, but I love it. It keeps you fit and feels great. Since cycling is growing in popularity and we had the engineering know-how behind us, we decided to start making bikes.” Hmm, nothing obviously Machiavellian in that statement.
Ahead of its 200th anniversary, Peugeot is also planning an innovative “green city solution” (unlike all those CO2-emitting bicycles that are currently knocking about the countryside?), at least according to Pasq Bianchi of Cycleeurope, which produces bicycles for the French manufacturer. Bicycles that are produced by the motor industry, however, are likely to fall in line – much as they do in the four-wheeled world – behind the latest offerings from BMW. Priced at a very BMW-like £1,350, the M-Series bicycle, which was actually released in June, comprises a black leather seat and a lovely little BMW badge located beneath the saddle. The 24-speed BMW Cruise, which features an aluminium frame and weighs 13.9Kg, is also likely to enjoy healthy sales this Christmas. The one problem with all of these bikes, however, is that not one of them is a Ferrari.