Shoot for the stars.
It’s been a rebuilding year for storied British motorcycle brand Norton. After going into administration (U.K.’s bankruptcy equivalent) and months of investigations into the company’s pension scandal, Indian giant TVS Motor Company purchased Norton in April, 2020.
Since then, the revived marque went on a hiring spree, set up new digs in Birmingham, and recently named Dr. Robert Hentschel as the new CEO. With all the pieces falling into place and considerable TVS backing, Norton is ready to start a new chapter in the brand’s history. None more so than Norton Motorcycles Head of Design Simon Skinner, who believes the target isn’t the British rival Triumph, but Italy’s Ducati instead.
“The bikes in the ‘lifestyle’ class tend to be more lifestyle-ly than capable,” Skinner told Forbes. “Where the Ducatis are a little bit of both, with the Desert Sled leaning to the more capable end of the spectrum. The Norton Ranger is very similar to the Desert Sled in that way.”
While Norton’s prospective lineup includes old monikers like the Commando, Ranger, and Atlas, the brand wants to forge a new path with its upcoming platforms. Of course, the company will leverage the design cues of its historic models, but it aspires to be a thoroughly modern manufacturer.
Skinner believes Norton needs to be “a modern company similar to the way Ducati is a modern company. They’ve accomplished so much in history, but that doesn’t mean they make every bike look like a 916. We need to go beyond that. To go back to the glory days of Norton, we need to be innovative and right at the bleeding edge of technology and design.”
That leaves the British OEM with a tight line to toe. Many enthusiasts expect aesthetic throwbacks while Norton wants to push for performance. Yamaha’s XSR platform and Kawasaki’s Z900RS pull off the feat, but Norton will have to do the same trick with an entire lineup.
“TVS very much have volume aspirations not far off from the production numbers of Ducati,” revealed Skinner. “However, the current temporary facility can handle up to 7,000 bikes per year.
“Our volume will never be at the level of say, Honda, but to get the combination of luxury and volume we’re chasing, it’ll be somewhere near Ducati pricing.”
Norton achieving those kinds of numbers will take some time, however. Though the brand has made considerable progress in the past year, it still needs to iron out its standards and practices before it can crank out any Nomads or Commandos.
“We have about 18 months before the new product starts to filter through,” Skinner noted. “But we need a bit of time to fully adopt the new engineering quality, procedures and processes. When we launch in May and start production, those bikes will be the highest quality Nortons ever built in over a decade, if not ever.”