What next for Norton Motorcycles after TVS Motors purchase?

Norton Motorcycles' future looks brighter following its purchase by TVS Motors - but what can we expect from the revived now Indian-owned company?

Norton Superlight V4

After weeks of revelation after revelation regarding the quagmire Norton Motorcycles found itself in as a result of its former owners, it appears the iconic British marque is looking at a much brighter future following its sale to TVS Motors.

Little more than a week ago it was revealed the firm was in the running to take on the beleaguered brand, but things have moved quickly since then with the confirmation coming over the weekend that Norton was now under Indian ownership.

It’s a move that has been greeted with positivity if a little trepidation about what India’s third largest motorcycle firm plans to do with a storied company that has most recently offered models quite at odds with its own low capacity, urban range.

There wasn’t much to read into the brief statement released by TVS Motors, which said: “This is a momentous time for us. Norton is an iconic British brand celebrated across the world, and presents us with an immense opportunity to scale globally. We will extend our full support for Norton to regain its full glory in the international motorcycle landscape."

So far, so promising, but there will no doubt be plenty of questions to ask over the coming weeks as to where TVS sees Norton’s future as an international brand.

Why has TVS Motors purchased Norton Motorcycles?

As many have pointed out previously, there are some parallels with TATA Motors’ – India’s largest automotive manufacturer – purchase of Jaguar Land Rover from Ford in 2008. That too was met with some nervousness as to whether this would dilute such a premium brand, but 12 years on it has become an example of what can be achieved with an arm’s length approach.

TATA ensured the spend required to develop new models – ones not pulled together from a smorgasbord of different Ford parts – and allowed it to develop its own image. In return, TATA gave it a manufacturing platform to push harder into new markets such as India and China, where the prestige of a historic British brand still holds plenty of showroom appeal.

Given India and China are the world’s two largest motorcycle markets in terms of sales, TVS Motors’ purchase at the very least offers Norton a great platform to push into these sectors and brings with it some gravitas, albeit one damaged by the circumstances around the recent collapse.

While Indian rivals Bajaj has settled more for partnerships with the likes of KTM and Triumph to expand its portfolio, Norton is a halo brand for TVS to establish itself on a global footing.

Suffice to say it's unlikely we'll be seeing low capacity Nortons - TVS have plenty of these already such as the Apache pictured below - but a more versatile use of the existing V4 engines it had developed, such as its 650cc unit.

What models could we expect from TVS Norton?

While Norton certainly developed its business model around the hyper-premium range – regardless of the model’s quality – it’s hard to see how this would factor into TVS’ plans for the company if it wants to go global.

The statement says TVS wants to retain a British manufacturing presence, but it seems unlikely the Donington base is nearly big enough to meet the volume demands it will likely need to target. With this in mind, it stands to reason TVS retains the British base more for R&D purposes, similar to what Royal Enfield does at Bruntingthorpe and Triumph will begin doing when it diverts manufacturing of all but its TFC models out of Hinckley.

Either way, TVS is in discussions to protect those who remain employed by Norton, which can only be a positive thing.

One can imagine future Nortons will be more affordable and targeted at more mainstream rivals, while no doubt retaining that premium image potentially as a more direct rival to Triumph.

That said, this could be a harder sell in Europe where it will need to overcome that hurdle of the past few weeks.

What about the Norton pensions?

There is surely more to come from this tale and it’s unclear whether TVS Motors’ deal will see it assume the debt racked up by previous management.

A report by Livemint suggests TVS Motors’ was already interested in purchasing Norton before its collapse – no doubt unaware of the turmoil Garner et al. had created – but the cut-price £16 million price suggests there could be some form of taking on said debts and paying them off. More will no doubt become apparent in the coming weeks.

Suffice to say we haven't heard to last of this scandalous part of the sorry tale...