I just got my April "Motorcycle Consumer News". Fred Rau's "Contact Patch" column is very interesting this month, and may be related to two threads going in this forum right now: the one about the R1200R, and the new one about faired vs unfaired bikes.
The column concerns industry trends, and the basic thesis is that North America, which was recently and for decades the largest market for single track vehicles, no longer is, and by a wide margin. I'll just quote a couple of lines to give you an idea. This article is not available at the MCN website, but I hope these tidbits will encourage anyone who has not done so to subscribe to this fine publication.
"North America is now third in the world in overall motorcycle sales, lagging behind China and India, and losing ground every day"
"...Last year, Honda's sales in North America dropped by 48%, and yet worldwide, their sales declined by less than 1% from the previous year. That's because their sales in China only dropped 3.5%, and their sales in India increased by 6%."
"... India's total motorcycle sales volume for Honda alone is more than triple their entire sales volume for the US, Canada, and Mexico combined."
"... going by the latest figures, H-D is currently losing $2.4 million per day."
"On July 30, Honda officially produced its last American built motorcycle."
"Sure, we may still be the third largest marketplace for motorcycles, but when you consider that Asia is buying 98.3% of the total output, it puts things in a more logical and understandable perspective."
How does this relate to RT vs R? Or to BMW at all? Here I go out on my own, and please to not assume any intent on my part to put words in Fred Rau's mouth.
It seems to me that if the major motorcycle manufacturers are moving rapidly in the direction of satisfying Third World, or in any case somewhat less affluent markets, then they will move in the direction of smaller, more efficient, more basic bikes intended primarily for transportation as opposed to recreation. Riding long distances will be less of a design concern. Big engines and cutting edge styling will matter less.
I guess, overall, what I'm speculating is that there may come a time when we are all riding smaller, more efficient, more basic bikes.
Maybe BMW will buck the trend. They see themselves as being apart, a niche market now. Perhaps they will go for the wealthy buyer who wants a status symbol, and wants to go long distances. Maybe this will or won't work for them. Maybe they will fall by the wayside. Who knows?
I can't see the future. I will say, though, as an owner of a Suzuki GZ250 as a second bike, there is a large part of me that would welcome more parity with the rest of the world. If I could get an F800R instead of the R1200R I just bought, I probably would have done so. BMW made 250's at one time. Maybe they will again. Maybe they'll get back into the 500cc range. I would welcome that.
There's no doubt that it's more fun to ride an R1200R than a GZ250 on American roads. But I feel better about riding the 250. Do I have a warped or unusual point of view? No doubt! But I have a distinct sense that the world is moving in my direction.