New Bikes

MINI and Smart to join bike market

Arch-rivals Mercedes and BMW to compete against each other with the unveiling of two new scooters

ASK A BIKE maker and they'd probably tell you that, with sales going through the floor throughout the western world, now isn't the time to be getting into the two-wheeled business.

But that message doesn't seen to have filtered through to Daimler's Smart subsidiary or BMW's MINI arm, since both have today revealed concept scooters that aim to extend their appeal to two wheels as well as four.

Despite coming from two fierce rivals, the concepts are virtually identical: both a retro-styled, electric-powered machines from designers who clearly have pictures of classic Vespas hanging on their bedroom walls. Both claim to have moped-esque, 30mph performance, and ranges in the region of 60 miles per charge.

Of the two, surprisingly it's the Smart that's closer to being a production reality. Although the concept is packed with oh-so-boring concept cliches – LED headlights, “blindspot warning systems” and an iPhone instead of an instrument panel (has nobody told them of the disaster that ensues as soon as an iPhone gets the slightest whiff of water?) - the firm is seriously considering a production version. Why? Because in many countries you can ride scooters before you're old enough to get a car licence, and given that most people who walk into a Smart dealer are looking for short-range city transport, a scooter might work quite well for them, even if they had never considered it before.

MINI's proposal is yet another crass, overblown attempt to cash in on “cool” British heritage, years after the era of Cool Britannia ended. Clearly the firm's designers have got bored of watching The Italian Job and dug out the DVD of Quadrophenia instead. A German company aping a British fashion that preferred Italian scooters; doesn't sound like a recipe for success. Fortunately, the firm reckons that while it could make the scooter pretty easily – after all, BMW is set to launch its own electric scooter very soon – it will only do it if there's a strong demand from customers, and even then it will take several years.

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