When is the last time you thought about the Norton Atlas project? Intended as a Norton that would be both modern and affordable, the current incarnation of Norton Motorcycles opened bookings for the highly anticipated machine in December, 2020. 

At the time, interim CEO John Russell said that the company should introduce the Atlas in two forms, Atlas Nomad and Atlas Ranger, later on in 2021. Now, clearly, the whole world got turned on its ear with the ongoing global pandemic, which had a particularly strong grip on things throughout 2020 and much of 2021. Obviously, Norton was going through the same difficulties as everyone else in the world during that time period. 

Time—and circumstances—can change a lot of things. Unfortunately, by September, 2022, it seems that Norton decided to axe the Atlas project altogether. It would have been powered by a Zongshen-developed, 650cc liquid-cooled parallel twin engine. British publication MCN even got to test-ride an early, prototype version of this machine—and felt that it was surprisingly promising.  

In fact, it was MCN that received a message from a reader who’d put down a deposit on a Garner-era Norton back in 2019. As a result of that, he was on a mailing list from the current Norton Motorcycles iteration, now owned by TVS Motors. The email told him that “there are no plans to produce the Atlas,” and further advised that he should file a claim with liquidators BDO (who administered the dissolution of the Garner-era Norton company) to try to recoup his initial deposit of £ 500 in 2019 (which would be worth nearly £ 600, adjusted for inflation as of August, 2022).  

Norton then issued a statement to MCN from current CEO Dr. Robert Hentschel, who confirmed that “there are no plans to produce the Atlas range in the near future” as of mid-September, 2022. It’s not clear if this means that the current incarnation of Norton only plans to stick to building boutique bikes for the foreseeable future, but it certainly looks like a possibility. 

When the company opened its new headquarters in Solihull in November, 2021, the official statement mentioned the capability to produce up to 8,000 new motorcycles per year. While those are hardly the numbers of some of the larger OEMs that currently sell bikes worldwide in 2022, it’s also not exactly a small, boutique-sized number of bikes.  

What are Norton’s plans for all that space and capacity, if it’s not going ahead with the Atlas range? As and when we have more information, we’ll be sure to let you know.

Gallery: Norton Atlas 650

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