A resurrected but modified Norton motorcycle
Norton Motorcycles has made its mark in the world as a manufacturer of high performance bicycles. Their products were sporty in design and nature. The brand has many TT victories to its name, and this tradition continued well into the 1960s and sometimes later.
But as we all know, the brand has been in serious financial trouble over the years with multiple sales of the company and several cases of company closure.
After the administration of the company under the leadership and criminal activities of Stuart Garner, the Indian motorcycle manufacturer TVS engine purchased what was left of the once legendary company.
Consequences of TVS
TVS is currently investing over $125 million in Norton and building a new state-of-the-art facility in Solihull, England. He also brings his technological expertise, new management and highly trained staff to help Norton reclaim its glorious past.
So that means Norton is going to be building some slick new state-of-the-art machines, right? Well not really. And that’s what will set the new Norton apart from the old ones.
Christian Gladwell is part of the new management team. Christian is Norton’s new CCO and is responsible for the design, development and approval of Norton’s business strategy. It seems his new take on Norton is quite different from Norton’s past.
Gladwell is not your average senior executive. He served eight years as an officer in the British Army and spent three years on Wall Street. He then moved into the mobile and media industries and now finds himself at Norton. Now it’s becoming clear that Gladwell sees Norton’s path quite differently from his predecessors. This became known following an interview with Hot Cars where he is quoted as saying:
“My background is in luxury and digital.” – Christian Gladwell at Hot Cars
But perhaps most telling is his statement about the “new” Norton. Gladwell is quoted as saying:
“We are not talking about supersport, we are talking about exoticism.” – Christian Gladwell at Hot Cars
Hmm… luxury and exoticism, that is, desirable high-end products. Sound familiar? Can you think of another motorcycle manufacturer building their brand around “desirability” and the “premium” brand?
Harley-Davidson business approach?
That’s the Harley-Davidson approach. Under Jochen Zeitz’s leadership, Harley-Davidson scaled back production and made desirability and premium features the selling points of its model line, and for years it worked.
When Zeitz became CEO of Harley-Davidson in May 2020, the company’s stock had fallen to around $20 per share. Now, just over two years later, the company’s stock sits at just over $40 per share. Profitability is also up now, over 11%, with gross profit over $1.8 billion in the last 12 months. So, at least at first glance, Zeitz’s strategy seems to be working and is quite successful.
TVS’ strategy and the future of Norton
TVS’ strategy for the “new” Norton is a long-term one. Gladwell told Hot Cars. It’s great to hear that TVS has a long-term strategy for Norton. But what will he do in the meantime as he builds the business for the future? First, they take the previous Norton V4SS and turn it into V4SV. If you saw the prototype when it debuted, the machine will look significantly different when it’s released. The development team made many changes. But if you think the new Norton V4SV is designed to be a racing machine, it’s not. While the latest Norton is intended to be “fast,” the bike’s target owners are more in tune with the design and details, not faster lap times. Gladwell told Hot Cars:
“It’s about investing in cutting-edge, state-of-the-art technology, with hand-finishing on top of that.” – Christian Gladwell at Hot Cars
Although the V4SV was the machine Norton needed relatively quickly, it did not reflect Norton’s design aspirations.
“The bike is changing. In the 90s and 2000s it was all about head down, ass up, “let’s go real fast”, and now it’s “let’s use this machine to express myself and explore”.
“The [recently announced] Commando will become our motorcycle for people to express their personality, and that means providing the ability to personalize it. – Christian Gladwell at Hot Cars
Personalization. Does that sound like a trait of a well-known American brand? Yes.
Ultimately, it looks like the TVS Norton is headed in a very different direction than its predecessors. The speed is exceeded; luxury is in order. And while the new strategy may displease some Norton loyalists, Norton’s new plan follows the path of at least one successful business. We’ll have to wait and see if the new Norton can bring the brand back to its early prominence.