I am in Germany on business. I took time off to visit the BMW factory in Berlin. Here's my report.
Friday, December 7, 2007
I wake up at about 7:15 AM, get showered and head down for a nice breakfast. After confirming directions from the hotel clerk, I step out into a dreary, cloudy, and rainy day, headed towards the Mockernbrucke underground station to take the subway to Haselhorst station in Spandau district, where the BMW plant is located. I walk from Haselhorst station to the BMW plant where I am greeted by a friendly clerk. There are about 10 other persons in my German speaking tour (no English tour on that day). The tour begins promptly at 9:00 AM and we are taken to a reception area where we mingle, have coffee, and see a movie. The knowledgeable tour guide then takes us through most of the plant including fabrication and final assembly. Itís quite a treat to see the highly skilled workers go about building the engines and assembling them into the bikes that you and I ride. A symphony of men, machines, and robots. Iím sure Iím missing out on a ton of information because itís all in German. Although I ask a few questions and the very-helpful tour guide is happy to oblige, I wish the whole tour is in English. I also donít think we get the full tour because we donít get to see the test rides and the dyno testing of the bikes. When asked, the tour guide explains that production is going on at full steam and theyíve temporarily stopped visits of that area. None of the other visitors seem to notice or to mind and so I shrug it off. I get a lanyard as a souvenir and take a few pictures outside and in the showroom but none of inside the plant because pictures are forbidden. Iím determined to see a BMW motorcycle dealership and so, after the two-hour tour ends, I navigate the labyrinth subway system to Turmstrauss station. When I walk up the stairs to the street, itís raining. I pull my hood over my head and make my way towards Huttenstrauss, where one of the biggest dealers is located. Footnote: Thumbs up for my Columbia water-proof jacket and hood...it keeps me dry as a bone: End Footnote. About 15 minutes into my walk I realize Iím going the wrong wayÖnone of the cross-streets match my street map. So, I dive into a coffee shop, have a snack and a cappuccino by which time the rain stops. I head back the opposite way, again passing by the Turmstrauss station. As Iím walking on the streets, I see many middle eastern and Turkish immigrants and people huddled into neat little restaurants and coffee shops. I love ethnic food and tell myself that this is where I want to come back for dinner. There are many vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables and people hustling and bustling everywhere. I stop by one store and buy an orange, peel it, throw the peel on the face of a startled onlooker (just kidding
), and eat it on the way. Most people are wearing jeans (almost like it's a uniform) and layered jackets and I fit right in. I make the observation that I havenít yet seen a single BMW motorcycle on the street. Just as I conclude that winter riding must not be a big thing in Germany, I see a guy sitting back on a beautifully chromed Harley Davidson ride on buy. Good for you, I say to myself, but still, I am puzzled that there are so few BMW motorcycles on the streets. Perhaps the extensive public transportation system is an explanation, but I'd be curious to know what percentage of the BMW bikes are exported. I finally see the old familiar BMW sign that all BMW dealers are supposed to have. I cross the street and enter the showroom. I am greeted by an elderly gentleman and when I tell him I am visiting from the U.S., he is all smiles and ushers me in. I ask him if I can take pictures and he looks at me mischievously and says that Iím not allowed to, but if he doesnít see me taking pictures, then thatís alright. I take that as a subtle endorsement and take a few pictures of the beautiful showroom. Not much different from the ones we have in the U.S., except for the BMW helmets. I try on the Sport Integrals and the System Vs and fall in love with both, but especially the seemingly weightless Sport Integrals. They are so light and comfortable. I am tempted to buy one, but the voice in the back of my head tells me that I need another helmet like I need a hole in the head. Besides, I'm not sure how to carry it back to the U.S. and wonder about the lack of SNELL certification. So, instead, I buy a K1200S cap for my son back home. Meanwhile, the salesman comes up to me and gives me a huge ďUnstoppable: Ride around the worldĒ 2008 calendar and a classy looking tank grip/guard. Iíve attached a picture or two. The tank guard will come in very handy and the calendar should make for a nice gift. We talk shop for a while longer and he tells me that this "branch" will be closed in two years and relocated beside the BMW plant in Spandau. Then itís time for me to go. It's barely 4:00 PM but it's already getting dark as I navigate my way back to my hotel. Tomorrow I take the train (Intercity City Express) for my 4 hours 25 minutes ride back South to Nurmberg and my work begins on Monday. I am very thankful to K12R.Tom of I-BMW.com for giving me very precise information that puts me in a position to know exactly what to expect. The BMW factory tour is worth it simply because itís the only place in the world that BMW motorcycles are assembled (I guess F800 engines are now being manufactured in Austria but still assembled in Berlin), but you should try to get an English speaking tourÖyouíll thank me later!
Here's the next best thing: http://youtube.com/watch?v=LZGTiJxtZCU