TOAD TALKS: Who is going to buy Norton?

Norton Dominator Street

IF one positive has come from the sad demise of Norton Motorcycles, it’ll be the amount of publicity the firm has had in the past month or so. As Oscar Wilde once said: ‘The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.’

But as news stories swirl regarding the Leicestershire based manufacturer, some pretty weird and wonderful claims are being made about who could actually purchase the historic brand.

Could Triumph buy Norton?

Bit of a long shot this one but it’s a common theme among folk on the internet. People are drawing comparisons between what John Bloor did with the failing Triumph brand in the mid-eighties. Bloor dragged the Triumph name kicking and screaming, out of the air-cooled seventies and bang up to date, with computer-controlled manufacturing being one of the main upgrades.

Bloor purchased the firm in ’83, and it’s thought that he has personally poured between £70m and £100m into the company between then and 2000 when it’s thought he broke even.

There are a couple of flags that tell me that Triumph might not be the right owner of Norton. Firstly, Triumph already see themselves as a premium brand, they sell premium products, have a clothing range and are about to release a high-street fashion range. It’d be tricky to have two, supposedly premium brands working under one roof together.

The other factor is whether Bloor himself has it in him to turn another brand around as he did with Triumph. I’m not doubting he has the money to purchase the brand and to make the changes that need to be made – he’s done it all before after all… but does he have the energy?

Could Keanu Reeves buy Norton?

One of the more out-there suggestions is that John Wick, Neo and Bill and Ted actor Keanu ‘The Action Man’ Reeves could step in. Admittedly this is mainly coming from overexcited media colleagues from across the pond.

I feel we have Hollywood to blame for this one, we can’t have a Hollywood blockbuster without an American coming in and saving us hapless Brits now can we!?

I’m going to chalk this up as it’d be nice, but I can’t see it happening. Yes, Keanu owns a shed load of Norton bikes, yes he has helped to build up Arch Motorcycle and yes he is a very personable chap who is greatly respected by the motorcycle industry. But for Norton to survive and even thrive they need to grow; they need an owner who can help increase turnover – bikes not staff! – rebuild relationships with the supply chain and industry as a whole.

Personally, I can’t see it happening - although it'd be really cool if it did!

Could Zongshen buy Norton?

Of the three options here, this is the most viable and possibly not the one the public would want. But it might be the best option.

Like the Qianjiang has done with Benelli, an Asian buyer could be the best choice if they stuck to the Norton principles of bike design and dynamics.

Another reason this could be the most likely option is, as we already know, Norton had dealing with just such a company at the tail end of last year. Striking up a deal with Zongshen which was reported to be worth “millions of dollars” – according to the then Norton CEO Stuart Garner.

Taking the million-dollar price tag out of the equation, Zongshen must have had a long hard look at Norton, their bikes and their business prior to that deal. Would that not make them the number one choice to swoop in and buy it?