It has been a long and winding road for Norton Motorcycles. Founded in 1898 as a parts manufacturer, and first producing motorcycles in 1902, Norton built a storied history until its first demise in 1975. Along the way, great successes in racing and iconic models such as the Manx and Commando series established the marque’s place in history. Various revivals of the brand have been attempted since the 1980s, with Stewart Garner helming the latest iteration of Norton since 2006, with the manufacturing of new motorcycles in Donington Park. That effort evaporated in January with Norton going into bankruptcy yet again. The next chapter begins now, with the purchase of North Motorcycle Company by India-based TVS Motor Company for £16 million (nearly $20 million).
Based in Chennai, TVS is India’s third-largest motorcycle manufacturer. Displacement of most TVS motorcycles and scooters are in the 90-160cc range. Annual sales hit three million units, with TVS exporting two-wheelers to 60 countries, for revenue in 2018-19 totaling ₹200 billion (about $2.6 billion). A global player, TVS partnered with BMW to develop the BMW G 310 R, and TVS now manufactures the model. At home, its flagship is the Apache RR 310, another collaborative effort with BMW, which has a full-fairing, ABS, EFI, and KYB suspension, and sells for ₹240,000 (about $3125).
“TVS-Norton deal now makes it quite evident that India two-wheeler makers are keen towards opportunities to scale globally and expand horizontally through tech-partnerships, and acquiring manufacturing know-how of ‘classic’ motorcycles,” observes Bakar Sadik Agwan, Senior Automotive Consultant at GlobalData, an international research and consulting company. “The TVS-Norton deal comes after Bajaj partnership with Triumph, a UK marque for premium bikes, in 2017, and Mahindra & Mahindra’s acquisition of BSA, another UK-based classic bikes manufacturer in 2016. Mahindra also acquired the brand license for Czech brand Jawa, which was launched in November 2018 and is now a well-known name in the mid-capacity motorcycle market in India.”
“Norton, which presently has limited production volumes, will leverage TVS’ strong global presence and supply chain capabilities to strengthen its market presence and re-align manufacturing operations,” Agwan continues. “Norton had previously formed [a] joint venture with Kinetic Engineering India to manufacture and supply its 650cc Atlas Ranger and Nomad bikes in India and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) market. However, the plan was hit by Norton’s ongoing financial crisis and controversies.”
“Though the company has not indicated the plans, TVS may bring Norton to India in a significant way and replicate the success of classic brands such as Royal Enfield and Jawa,” Agwan speculates. “However, India expansion may not be an immediate priority. TVS first needs to bring Norton back on the track, and Norton needs to overcome the negative press that it has attracted over the past several months.”
“Apart from getting an entry into the classic segment, TVS is also expected to benefit from Norton’s iconic brand as well as presence in developed markets,” Agwan says. “The acquisition will combine product development capabilities, production capacities, and brings synergies across the supply chain and distribution. Whenever TVS brings Norton to India, it will further enhance the attractiveness of the segment, which has brands like Royal Enfield, Jawa, Bajaj-Triumph, Harley Davidson, and, possibly even, BSA.”
In collaboration with noted Norton collector Daniel Schoenewald, Ultimate Motorcycling reviewed the 2016 Norton Commando 961 SE in our March/April 2015 issue.