Visit of the Norton factory and interview with the CEO: can a famous name resurrect? – Geoff Hill

Norton. A name that has always stirred the soul, but more recently has aroused anger and bitterness.

Ironically, a very British motorcyclist name can now rise from the ashes of a financial scandal thanks to Indian money and a German doctor.

The company’s glory days began with its first TT victory in 1907, after which Norton won the Senior TT 10 times between WWI and WWII, including seven out of nine between 1931 and 1939, and between 1930 and 1937, won 78 of 92 Grand Prix races.

This continued into the 1950s, with Geoff Duke winning a series of world championships on legendary machines.

Glory – In the 1950s, Geoff Duke and Norton were an unbeatable combination

My father, who was running at the time, would have given both arms to ride a Manx Norton. Therefore, to say. In 1989 and 1994 Nortons still won the BSB Championships, and in 1992 Steve Hislop’s senior TT victory was the first for a British bike in nearly 30 years.

After that the company moved to the United States and then in 2008 British businessman Stuart Garner bought the rights and relaunched Norton at his Midlands home in Donington Park to develop the 961cc Norton Commando and a new range of motorcycles.

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Unfortunately, the phoenix turned out to be a dead duck. In January 2020, the company went into receivership and Garner now faces jail time after allegations of fraud, stripping bikes from owners of a service to fit new models to meet waiting lists of years.

In April 2020, Norton was bought out for £ 16million by giant Indian company TVS, the world’s sixth-largest motorcycle maker, which manufactures three million motorcycles, scooters and three-wheelers a year and makes an annual profit. of £ 2 billion.

The Boss – Norton CEO Dr Robert Hentschel

In May of the same year, TVS appointed Dr Robert Hentschel as CEO and Vittorio Urciuoli as Technical Director and said production would move to a new, state-of-the-art 75,000 square foot factory in Solihull.

Dr Hentschel was previously Managing Director of Valmet Automotive Holding, the Finnish engineering company whose clients include Mercedes, Porsche, Ford and Saab.

He said the role was a “unique opportunity… to help restore this iconic and highly regarded brand to its rightful place on the world stage.”

He certainly has the money behind him – a former Triumph employee I met on my way said he was one of the scores tempted by Hinckley by offers too good to be turned down.

However, TVS ran into a problem shortly after purchasing Norton when it discovered as many as 35 potentially dangerous flaws in the £ 44,000 V4 SS superbikes produced the previous year.

TVS recalled the 50 bikes sold, and originally owners could claim the cost of repairs through the liquidators of the old Norton.

The owners were understandably very unhappy with this, and in October this year Norton said owners could pick up the bikes and a new V4SV for £ 10,000.

Designed and tested over the past 12 months, the V4SV features a new 1200cc 185hp V4 engine and Öhlins suspension.

Magnificent – The new V4SV superbike

The price will be roughly the same as the V4 SS, and initial production will be 200 machines, with priority given to the 50 V4 SS owners and the 70 who have made down payments for the new machine.

Other bikes in the works include the cheaper Commando 961, Atlas and Superlight 650 twin. Total initial production will be 1,000 bikes per year, up to 8,000.

The factory is extremely impressive – cleaner than Marie Kondo’s kitchen, with cutting edge technology everywhere operated by 142 enthusiastic and professional employees, including 55 from old Norton.

Immaculate – The factory is cleaner than Marie Kondo’s kitchen

The chances of a faulty part slipping here are about the same as Greta Thunberg sitting in front of a nice, juicy steak on her private jet, I thought as I sat down on a giant leather couch with a few questions for Dr. Hentschel.

Norton is a big name that has been tarnished by recent history. Will it be difficult to make it shine again?

We have some image issues with the old Norton, but this factory and the tremendous enthusiasm of staff and customers for the quality of the new Norton makes me very excited to make Norton big and successful again.

So … Herr Doktor, what are my chances of getting a free V4SV

Some buyers who paid £ 44,000 for the V4 SS are unhappy that they now have to pay an extra £ 10,000 for a V4SV. What would you tell them?

It was my decision, even though we had no legal obligation to do so. I just thought doing nothing would be wrong. Buyers of the V4 SS can also get their money back through the liquidators of the old Norton, but there are so many flaws on this bike that the price of the repair would be higher than the price of the bike. I’m not responsible for older Norton products – and I don’t want to be.

Future plans?

We have plans for the next 10 years. In addition to the current type of bikes, I already had a product in mind, I described it to the designer and he produced exactly what I had in mind.

Future products will include gasoline-powered bikes, e-bikes, and bikes to attract younger customers, but all new Norton bikes will be modern and luxurious.

Geoff chats with Dr Hentschel

Race plans?

If you ask me if I want to race and win the Isle of Man TT the answer is yes. It’s in Norton’s DNA, but running costs money, so we’ll decide that when the business plan supports it.

How do you see the future of motorcycles in general?

I’m less enthusiastic about new cars and more about new motorcycles. The emotion is much higher, so the future is very exciting.

And finally, do you ride a motorcycle, and if so, what?

Absoutely. I bought a gold Norton Commando 961 in 2016 and still have it. It’s on its way from Germany for the service technicians here to check it out – and I’ve asked them to treat me like a normal customer.

Detail – Almost Completed V4SVs

Free bike!

Yes, I thought that would get your attention.

Price – Silence SO1 Connected

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