TURIN, Italy - There are few genuine 'category busters' these days, but the BMW C1 definitely belongs on the list.
Described by BMW as a cross between a car and a motorcycle - or a 'motormobile' - the C1 goes on sale next spring in Europe.
Italian car builder Carrozzeria Bertone produced the first BMW C1 on Sept. 28. The total investment for the development and tooling of the C1 was about $54 million. BMW paid $27 million and Bertone invested $11 million, while the project's 70 main suppliers raised the remainder.
Although BMW has not yet set final prices, company executives said the C1 will start at $5,900. Ten thousand units are expected to be built next year, and more than 20,000 units are planned for 2001.
Bertone plans to make 100,000 C1s over five years, which will generate estimated annual revenue of $136 million.
The C1 project started in 1992, although the formal contract wasn't signed at Bertone until September 1997. BMW selected Carrozzeria Bertone as the C1's production site partly because of the high number of Italian suppliers chosen for the project. Of the 70 main suppliers, 38 are Italian.
C1 riders will not be required to wear a safety helmet. The C1's seat, which is more like a car seat than a motorcycle seat, has twin safety belts. For added protection, the driver is surrounded by an aluminum roll-bar cage.
Germany and Spain already have homologated the C1 as a no-helmet motorbike. Spain and Italy are expected to follow suit in the near future.
The C1 is powered by a water-cooled, single-cylinder, 125cc, 15-hp Bombardier-Rotax engine. It has a top speed of 62 mph.
The C1 has been designed as a single-seat vehicle, but an optional extra saddle can be installed over the rear wheel. One drawback is that the passenger, not being housed within the roll-bar cage, must wear a crash helmet.