IT'S said you can’t buy class but when it comes to bikes there’s no doubt that with enough money you can certainly buy some history. And reports from India say that giant car and bike firm Mahindra and Mahindra wants to do just that by buying a famous old British bike brand.
Reports in India specifically mention Norton and BSA as potential targets for Mahindra, which is a huge name in cars and tractors over there but which has struggled to make a similar impact with its bikes, a market it entered in 2010 when it bought Kinetic. Last year the firm bought a controlling 51% stake in Peugeot Motorcycles and now has its eye on a British company.
Of the two brands mentioned so far, Norton would look the more appealing purchase proposition. Stuart Garner’s revival of the brand over the last few years hasn’t led to astronomical sales but it’s re-established the Norton name in the minds of riders. BSA, meanwhile, still exists as engineering firm BSA-Regal and an electric off-roader is sold under the name, but it would take significant effort to bring the brand back into the limelight.
By buying a British brand, Mahindra would gain a foothold against rival Royal Enfield in the Indian market as well as winning instant recognition in developed markets elsewhere, where the classic Norton and BSA names are well known. Any detailed plans over the future of the brands would depend on which one Mahindra bought. Norton, for instance, would be well-placed to continue to build and sell its existing machines while benefitting from investment that would allow plans for new models to be accelerated. Technology and manufacturing assistance from Mahindra and Peugeot would open the door to hugely expanded production and reduced costs.
Buying BSA would be a different proposition. In that instance it’s likely we’d see new machines developed, using Mahindra and Peugeot know-how, and marketed under the BSA name but with little other connection to past models or the firm’s manufacturing heritage.
Indian reports today claim that representatives of both BSA and Norton have already held meetings with Mahindra and that a deal is likely to be announced within the next three to six months.