Wed, 09 June, 2021
TWI is proud to announce that British motorcycle manufacturer, Norton Motorcycles has joined us as an Industrial Member.
Founded in 1898 by James Lansdowne Norton (known as 'Pa'), Norton began as a manufacturer of "fittings and parts for the two-wheel trade." By 1902 they were producing motorcycles using French and Swiss engines and, in 1907, their reputation for producing high quality racing bikes began when Rem Fowler won the Isle of Man twin cylinder class riding a Norton. One year later, Norton began making motorcycles with their own engines.
More racing success followed over the ensuing decades alongside continued development of faster and lighter bikes. However, the growth of Japanese motorcycle manufacture had pushed Norton and many other British manufacturers to the brink of extinction by the advent of the 1980s. The challenges of the following years were not without successes as, in 1992, Steve Hislop recorded the first victory for a British bike in the Isle of Man Senior TT for 30 years, riding an ABUS Norton. Other developments during this time included the creation of the ‘Classic,’ a civilian model.
UK businessman, Stuart Garner bought Norton in 2008 and relaunched the company in the Midlands at Donington Park, acquiring Donington Hall in the village of Castle Donington as its new corporate headquarters in 2013. More racing success followed, but Norton Motorcycles (UK) Ltd fell into administration on 29th January 2020 and was saved by a £16 million cash buy out by the TVS Motor Company.
Speaking at the time of the buyout, Sudarshan Venu, Joint Managing Director, TVS Motor Company said, "This is a momentous time for us at TVS Motor Company. Norton is an iconic British brand celebrated across the world, and presents us with an immense opportunity to scale globally. This transaction is in line with our effort to cater to the aspirations of discerning motorcycle customers. We will extend our full support for Norton to regain its full glory in the international motorcycle landscape."
We took some time to connect with Chris Temple, who is heading the Norton’s Quality Department, to find out more about the company and their decision to become an Industrial Member of TWI.
Could you start by telling us a little bit more about Norton Motorcycles in 2021? (Direction, aims, what type of bikes you are producing, etc. – a chance to promote the company)
The past year has probably been the busiest I have ever been in my life, but also the most enjoyable and, in that time, we have achieved quite an extraordinary amount. Norton has grown as an organisation of 55 people to a team of over 120 employees and we're heading towards 150. The bulk of that recruitment has been in departments concentrating on the way our bikes are going to be perceived and experienced by our customers. There has also been a big investment in new engineering capabilities, quality, some brand work, and the general facilities around the company. We're building a solid foundation for the future that's in everybody's best interest - the company, team and customers alike.
As shown above, Norton has a rich history, how important is this to the brand today?
Our leadership team are respectful custodians of the Norton brand and are planning for the next 100 years. We are building foundations for the brand that tie in with the ethos that the company employs: customer focus, quality focus, and people focus. Norton’s success was built on innovation and being best in class throughout its history, our future success will be based on the same principles.
You have also just moved to a new headquarters in Solihull, West Midlands – what has this move brought to the company?
Compared to the old Norton factory - which never built more than about 300 bikes a year - the Solihull facility has the capacity to build between 5 and 8,000 a year and we've been working exceptionally hard to get back into production. The first phase of that was the limited run of the Commando 961 Classic. The bikes have been subject to new quality processes, and we've put a significant amount of time and effort into getting the V4SS properly evaluated, conducting quality processes that have never been done before. So, we're confident we'll be back in production with the V4SS soon and able to satisfy outstanding orders in the coming months. It will be subject to the sort of standards that you'd expect from a world-class motorcycle manufacturer, and a statement about the type of bikes that you will see from Norton in the future.
What made you decide to become an Industrial Member of TWI and what do you feel this will bring to Norton?
Delivering design driven quality products our customers expect is deeply engraved in our way of working. TWI provides the consultancy, expert advice and safety assurance related to engineering, materials and joining technologies that supports our objectives.
Thank-you for your time, but before you go, is there anything more you would like to add?
This phase of developing quality foundations is critical to the future success of Norton. The establishment of the quality department is based around four core vision elements; collaborative quality, unrelenting self-reflection, empowerment and ethical quality. These values are key to the delivery of the department aims. I am extremely proud to be playing my part in the exciting journey in returning this much loved and prestigious brand to being a market leader.