Norton and Triumph

Norton and Triumph

 

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1971. The beginnings of the crisis

Norton and Triumph

 

In the late 70s, BSA launched the 1971 models on both sides of the Atlantic. There was optimism in the company and the presentations were big. Among the new models were Edward Turner’s latest design, the Triumph Bandit / BSA Fury a 350cc two- cylinder that was never built, and the new Bonneville, a model that started very poorly and production suffered many delays and problems.

Norton and Triumph

BSA Fury 1 by Robert Smith | Norton and Triumph

After having a record sales year in 1970, the forecasts for this year were too optimistic; the goal was to reach 50.000 units. In 1971, Triumph / BSA’s combined market share in the USA was only 6.9%, well below expectations and behind all Japanese brands. 

The BSA group was in serious financial trouble, and with a loss of more than 3 million Pounds, a group of bank creditors called for a radical change in the direction of the company. Thornton, Jofeh and Eric Turner resigned following this request, and 3.000 employees at the BSA Small Heat factory were laid off. Although these changes seemed to have infused some optimism into this process, the company’s fate was not good and the worst outcome was approaching.

At the end of 1971 the BSA group accumulated a debt of 22 million Pounds, the activity of Small Heat was significantly reduced and Umberslade Hall closed. BSA was practically dead. Meanwhile, despite the constant industrial and strike problems that threatened every day, Triumph struggled to survive and stay afloat.

After having a record sales year in 1970, the forecasts for this year were too optimistic; the goal was to reach 50.000 units. In 1971, Triumph / BSA’s combined market share in the USA was only 6.9%, well below expectations and behind all Japanese brands.

 

 

 

An unwanted partner. Norton and Triumph

Norton and Triumph

 

The delays generated by the implementation of the new P76 framework caused Triumph and BSA to lose the sales season in 1971. That year, 11,000 vehicles were stored in the US without the possibility of being sold. In addition, the few that were sold had countless warranty problems, the distribution network was getting tired of the brand and little by little it was losing interest in selling it.

Norton and Triumph

BSA Fury 1 by Robert Smith | Norton and Triumph

The 1972 sales season was also a failure, due to continuous industrial problems in Meriden, strikes caused the effective work days to decrease drastically, achieving only 65% ​​of the production target, generating a deficit of 5.000 units.

To raise some cash, BSA sold Armory Road and sports fields in Birmingham, and a future project was also considered with manufacturing licenses from AUDI-NSU for a rotary engine and the development of the Thunderbird III 830cc three-cylinder. But all this was in vain, finally in a desperate move the British government was asked to rescue.

The British economy was not having a good time and the government in the first instance refused to help BSA. But it would contribute 20 million Pounds if it were merged with its main competitor Norton-Villiers. Negotiations began in early 1972, and BSA was clearly at a disadvantage. The good relations of the British conservative government with the managers of Norton raised many doubts in Triumph, it was not a very easy merger to assimilate, and the competition between the two brands had been very tough.

The 1972 sales season was also a failure, due to continuous industrial problems in Meriden, strikes caused the effective work days to decrease drastically, achieving only 65% ​​of the production target, generating a deficit of 5.000 units.

 

 

 

1973. Marital problems

Norton and Triumph

 

In March 1973 a speculation caused a sharp drop in the shares of the BSA group, this immediately affected the production of the factories and accelerated the agreement with Norton. The British government agreed to contribute another 5 million Pounds to the new company. The problems were beginning to be solved, but Norton’s managers had other plans in mind.

Triumph Daytona 500 1973 | Norton and Triumph

It was quickly decided that Meriden was not within the new company’s strategic plan, the factory would be sold to Jaguar, and all motorcycle production would be moved to Small Heath and Wolverhampton. In September the unions were informed that the workforce would be reduced and that the factory would be closed on February 1 of the following year. The workers reacted by occupying the factory and blocking production.

Despite all these problems, the 1973 Triumph range was one of the widest in recent years.

Despite all these problems, the 1973 Triumph range was one of the widest in recent years.

 

 

 

1974. Towards an inevitable end

Norton and Triumph

 

Meriden’s production problems in 1973 caused stock problems in the United States, especially for twin cylinders, and significantly delayed deliveries of the new 1974 models. With the arrival of the Labor Party in February, Meriden workers found a good ally for approach the negotiations from a different perspective.

However, the process was stalled, the conflict was moving very slowly, Norton managed to recover 1,000 units that had been produced before the blockade and the unions received a loan and grants from the British government to establish a cooperative. The blockade was lifted for a few months to return in November during further negotiations with Norton.

With virtually no Meriden deliveries during 1974, the situation in the US was disastrous, dealers gave up selling the vehicles, and the brand’s reputation fell dramatically. Saving Triumph in the US was an almost impossible task.

With virtually no Meriden deliveries during 1974, the situation in the US was disastrous, dealers gave up selling the vehicles, and the brand’s reputation fell dramatically. Saving Triumph in the US was an almost impossible task.

 

 

 

1975. Problems change hands. Norton and Triumph

Norton and Triumph

 

While Meriden remained locked, Norton continued development of the new-generation Trident, which included electric starting and increased displacement to 830cc, but due to a number of problems, development was eventually stalled. Despite the blockade, Meriden was trying to change the gear shift and break position, which should be, the first one to the left and the second one to the right to adapt it to the new US legislation.

Triumph Trident 1975 | Norton and Triumph

Under pressure from the Labor government, Norton’s managers had to accept the new rules of the game, receiving nearly £ 4m from the new workers’ cooperative for the purchase of Meriden and for the manufacturing rights to Bonneville, the situation had changed, the company that was in serious trouble was Norton.

The government refused to renew his export credit guarantee, forcing Norton to close the Wolverhampton factory and subsequently the Small Heath factory, the company was in serious trouble. With the intention of keeping something standing, Norton creates a new company, Norton-Triumph Inc., which would be in charge of selling the Bonneville made in Meriden, for this, they had to sell the Trident stock at a very low price and finalize in this sad way the saga of a model that had become an emblem within the motorcycle world.

Under pressure from the Labor government, Norton’s managers had to accept the new rules of the game, receiving nearly £ 4m from the new workers’ cooperative for the purchase of Meriden and for the manufacturing rights to Bonneville, the situation had changed, the company that was in serious trouble was Norton.

 

 

 

 

Source: “Triumph motorcycles 1937-today” of Ian Falloon

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