Forty Years of BMW Motorcycle Production in
BMW Plant Berlin, where all BMW motorcycles are built, now looks back at a tradition of no less than forty years, with more than 1,882,400 BMW motorcycles coming off the production lines to date.
What started in 1969 with 400 employees and 30 units of the new BMW /5 model series built per day, had however already contributed through efficient production to the success of the BMW Group in the three preceding decades.
How it All Started - from Aircraft Engines to Motorcycles.
Berlin-Spandau became a BMW AG production plant back in 1939. Up to that time the plant had belonged to Siemens & Halske, which back then had built their new aircraft engine production facility where the BMW Plant is today, producing famous engines such as the Sh-14a radial power unit for the famous German Bücker 133c "Jungmeister" aerobatics biplane.
In 1936 the Siemens Aircraft Engine Plant was transformed into the independent company Brandenburgische Motoren Werke GmbH, which also built aircraft engines now under the name "Bramo". In 1939 Bramo became part of BMW AG and served until the end of the war as the production plant for BMW aircraft engines including the nine-cylinder radial power units for the legendary Junkers JU 52.
After the war the plant in Berlin-Spandau - like other factories and production facilities in Germany - was dismantled by the Allies. But in May 1945 some 100 employees at the plant were already producing various utensils for daily use, and after the currency reform the Berlin Plant began to build tools for BMW AG in Munich.
Production of motorcycles components for the BMW's Main Plant in Munich started in 1949 as the first step in gradually moving motorcycle production from the River Isar in Munich to the River Spree in Berlin. And as of 1958, BMW car components were also built to an increasing extent in Berlin-Spandau.
Motorcycle Production Moves from Munich to Berlin.
When BMW's managers in Munich started to consider the option to move motorcycle production from Munich in the mid-60s due to the significant increase in car production, Berlin with its well-trained workforce was an obvious choice. So in 1969 the Berlin Plant started production of the all-new BMW /5 Series, a completely new design and construction following a modular principle all the way from the suspension to the flat-twin power unit.
BMW Motorrad started out back then with three new models in the market: the 32-hp R 50/5 intended especially for the authorities such as the police, the R 60/5 very popular among touring riders with its 42-hp power unit, and, ultimately, the R 75/5 featuring a 50-hp flat-twin for sporting riding dynamics, a top speed of 175 km/h or 109 mph, and outstanding sales success in the international market.
With the motorcycle - which, in the 1960s, had been almost forced out of the market by the automobile - starting to re-gain popularity in the early 1970s, production figures at BMW Plant Berlin began to increase rapidly. In 1970 no less than 12,287 units came off the production line and by July 1973, when the /5 model series reached the end of production, a significant volume of 68,956 motorcycles had left the Berlin Plant, production increasing five-fold within just three years. Another highlight celebrated at the time was the completion of the 500,000th BMW motorcycle in the history of the Company.
The new /6 model series upgraded in numerous features and, as a particular highlight, the legendary BMW R 90 S, were presented on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of BMW Motorrad in autumn 1973. Displacing 898 cc, the flat-twin power unit featured in this most powerful BMW by far delivered maximum output of 67 hp, sufficient for a top speed of 200 km/h (124 mph) and very sporting riding dynamics, without missing out on the all-round and touring qualities so typical of a BMW.
Rapid Growth - from 0 to 100,000 in Six Years.
The 100,000th BMW built in Berlin-Spandau comes off the production line in January 1975, the famous BMW Boxer flat-twins reaching a new level of development just one year later marked by the introduction of the /7 model series. Apart from the R 60/7 and the R 75/7, BMW Motorrad also introduces the R 100/7, living up to the general trend to build larger motorcycles with a full litre engine capacity. And launching the R 100 RS, BMW also presents the world's first production motorcycle with full fairing able to reach a top speed of 200 km/h or 124 mph with its 70-hp power unit while at the same time offering protection from wind and weather never seen before.
This new model series again achieved outstanding success in sales, making it imperative to enlarge the Plant in Berlin-Spandau. A new Assembly Hall was therefore built to expand the production facilities, construction work starting in a symbolic ceremony in the presence of Walter Scheel, at the time the President of the Federal Republic of Germany. The purpose of the DM 200-million investment is to build up to 60,000 BMW motorcycles a year in Berlin-Spandau from now on, creating new jobs in the process.
In 1978 BMW Motorrad again enlarges its model range through the introduction of the R 100 RT, a full-fairing motorcycle closely related to the R 100 RS, but focusing fully on the needs of the touring rider in terms of aerodynamics, ergonomics and comfort. At the same time the so-called "small Boxer Series" makes its entry into the market in the guise of the R 45 and the R 65, once again boosting both production and sales figures.
The BMW Motorcycle Plant in Berlin-Spandau also helps to use synergies within the BMW Group, taking over the production of brake discs for BMW cars in 1979 as another major activity.
BMW Motorcycles from Berlin-Spandau - Innovation in Technology and Superior Quality.
The 250,000th BMW motorcycle built in Berlin comes off the production line in 1980 - a special machine built for the palace motorcycle escort of King Hussein of Jordan. In the same year Rolf Witthöft brings home the European Offroad Championship on an 800-cc BMW, and shortly thereafter the R 80 G/S makes its debut with relatively modest 50 hp engine output. Combining innovative suspension technology weighing just 186 kg or 410 lb, the R 80 G/S offers outstanding qualities not only in offroad riding, but also in everyday use and as an ideal partner on motorcycle tours.
A particular innovation hitting the headlines at the time is the single swinging arm or BMW Monolever on the rear wheel. The biggest enduro motorcycle at its time in terms of engine size soon sets the foundation for a brand-new segment in the market, the large-capacity Grand Touring Enduro.
Yet a further milestone in the history of BMW Plant Berlin-Spandau is the introduction of the new BMW K Series with its water-cooled straight-four power unit fitted flat within the frame and featuring fuel injection for the first time. This new machine also marks the start of the new Assembly Line and the new Machining Shop, a DM 500-million investment serving to integrate modern industrial production facilities in the buildings protected by the government as national monuments.
Seeking for ongoing innovation in technology, BMW Motorrad subsequently launches the BMW K1 in 1988, a truly outstanding machine offering a whole range of highlights in technology. This is the first production motorcycle from BMW to feature four valves per cylinder, maximum output of 100 hp and sophisticated aerodynamics providing a top speed of 240 km/h or 149 mph. The most important feature, however, is the introduction of ABS anti-lock brakes for the first time ever on a motorcycle as a world-first achievement. To this day, in fact, BMW Motorrad remains the leader in riding safety also through the use of sophisticated ABS technology.
To an increasing extent BMW motorcycles not only have an excellent reputation worldwide in terms of quality, riding dynamics and comfort, but also make a substantial contribution to the image of the BMW brand. Many celebrities enjoy Sheer Riding Pleasure on a BMW, US actor Peter Fonda, for example, very well known to motorcyclists at the latest after his famous film Easy Rider, visiting the BMW Plant in Berlin on 23 February 1990 on the occasion of his 50th birthday.
Reaching Seven Digits in 1992 - the 1,000,000th BMW Comes off the Production Line.
Just one year later the 1,000,000th BMW motorcycle comes off the production line in Berlin-Spandau, with the production of BMW motorcycles in Berlin in the course of the last 22 years now exceeding the mark of 500,000 units.
The introduction of a fundamentally new design and construction principle following the concept and configuration typical of BMW marks the 70th birthday of the BMW Boxer in 1993, the 90-hp BMW R 1100 RS making its debut with a top speed of 215 km/h (133 mph) and full fairing to the benefit of the rider. The flat-twin power unit now comes with chain-driven crankshafts positioned half-way up the engine, four valves per cylinder, and fuel injection.
To this day this construction principle sets the foundation for all BMW Boxers.
The R 1100 RS also introduces outstanding innovations in terms of its suspension and running gear, becoming the world's first production motorcycle to feature the Telelever, a ball-joint longitudinal arm fork separating the spring/damping functions, on the one hand, from the process of wheel guidance, on the other, and thus clearly standing out from the conventional telescopic fork. Indeed, this opens up a new dimension in terms of response and smooth handling, at the same time ensuring very well-balanced brake performance with automatic anti-dive.
The new Boxer series again proves highly successful, BMW Motorrad building and selling more than 50,000 motorcycles for the first time in 1995. A large number of these machines are BMW GS models consistently developed not only in technical terms since their introduction in 1980 and therefore acknowledged the world over as "the" grand touring enduro.
The last BMW with the "old" flat-twin engine comes off the production line in 1996, the R 80 GS Basic concluding the highly successful chapter of BMW's two-valve Boxers after 27 years of production.
Always a Step Ahead - also in Terms of Quality of Work and Environmental Protection.
The innovative power and clear focus on the future of BMW Motorrad is not limited to the Company's two-wheel products alone. On the contrary, quality of work and environmental protection are likewise indispensable parts of the Company's philosophy. So it is no surprise that in 1997 BMW Plant Berlin is acknowledged as the first motorcycle plant in the world to fulfil the international standards for labour and environmental management, after having switched over the in-house supply of energy from oil to gas just one year before.
With the F 650 GS, BMW Motorrad introduces its third model series in 1999, supplementing the Boxer and the K Series. In all the Company invests DM 4.5 million in the expansion of the new Assembly Line for this single-cylinder built in Berlin-Spandau, with more models to follow in future.
Riding pleasure, quality and the image of BMW motorcycles remain appealing to celebrities everywhere, German actor Götz George, to this day a passionate BMW motorcycle rider, visiting BMW motorcycle production in his home city Berlin in the late '90s.
Focusing on the Future - Innovations and Investments.
With the success of BMW Motorrad and BMW Plant Berlin continuing unabated, the foundation stone for a new Production Hall, Building 7 completed just two years later, is laid in May 2001. In all BMW invests Euro 280 million in the new Assembly Hall, an automated Paintshop and new machining facilities from 1999 - 2003, thus making a clear commitment to the Berlin-Spandau Plant as the Group's motorcycle production facility. A BMW R 1100 RT for the Red Cross comes off the production line in the same year as the 500,000th BMW with ABS anti-lock brakes.
In the years to come, not only motorcycles, but also production conditions continue to shape the destiny of BMW Plant Berlin. A new, environmentally friendly Paintshop, for example, is opened in 2004, followed by the introduction of environmentally-friendly one-way and recyclable motorcycle packaging just one year later.
The first version of BMW Motorrad's new, fourth model series - the F 800 GS - comes off the production line for the first time in 2006, featuring a water-cooled straight-two power unit (the parallel-twin) and setting the foundation for future models with this drive concept.
Also in 2006 BMW Plant Berlin for the first time builds more than 100,000 BMW motorcycles within one calendar year - and the introduction of hydro-clear water-based paint in 2008 again confirms the clear commitment of the BMW Motorcycle Plant to the cause of environmental protection.
The 500,000 BMW bearing the famous model designation "GS", a BMW R 1200 GS, comes off the production line on 12 May 2009, with production of the new BMW S 1000 RR, the first supersports from BMW Motorrad, also starting this year.
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