Why an emboldened Norton wants to lure you from Ducati

Norton Motorcycles knows exactly which manufacturer it has in its sights as it prepares to develop its first all-new models since TVS buyout

2021 Norton V4RR

It’s been a big week for Norton Motorcycles after revealing its new management structure with Dr Robert Hentschel taking the helm as CEO of a company that appears to have returned to rude health.

Norton’s flirtation with collapse in February 2020 amid a pensions fraud scandal was expected to sound the death knell for a company that has found itself in that position a few times in its long history.

However, following its rescue by Indian giants TVS Motors, Norton has steadily been getting everything in place - new management, a new HQ, completing outstanding orders - for what is expected to be an influx of fresh machinery over the next couple of years.

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With a healthy bank balance and a clean sheet of paper, it means Norton Motorcycles has the opportunity to plot a bold new course in terms of design and technology, one that plays on a premium heritage image.

However, after a series of quality control bungles (among others) under ex-head Stuart Garner, Norton became better known for not justifying its upper end price bands, Norton will tackle this head on when it launched with fresh machinery in the coming years.

Leading that modus operandi will be Head of Design Simon Skinner, who considers Norton as occupying ‘the VIP roped off’ segment of the industry he considers ‘lifestyle’ in a manner that sees it better measured against Ducati, rather than Triumph.

“The bikes in the ‘lifestyle’ class tend to be more lifestyle-ly than capable,” Skinner said in an interview with Forbes. “Where the Ducatis are a little bit of both, with the Desert Sled leaning to the more capable end of

“Norton needs to be a modern company similar to the way Ducati is a modern company. They’ve accomplished so much in history, but that doesn’t mean they make every bike look like a 916. 

“We need to go beyond that. To go back to the glory days of Norton, we need to be innovative and right at the bleeding edge of technology and design.”

With Norton’s reputation taking a hammering under the direction of ex-CEO Garner, one of the key critiques of the company was waiting lists lingering on into the months and years after a deposit was taken.

Norton has now fulfilled those existing orders, while it now has a better structure in place going forward to ensure it is able to maximise its 7,000 a year capabilities. However, Ducati is again Norton’s business model inspiration both in terms of value and turnaround.

“The current temporary facility can handle up to 7,000 bikes per year. Our volume will never be at the level of say, Honda, but to get the combination of luxury and volume we’re chasing, it’ll be somewhere near Ducati pricing.”

“We have about 18 months before the new product starts to filter through. But we need a bit of time to fully adopt the new engineering quality, procedures and processes. When we launch in May and start production, those bikes will be the highest quality Nortons ever built in over a decade, if not ever.”