It’s been a long, hard road for the reborn Norton marque, but cash from the UK government might help the company mature all over again, providing funds for new staff, new technology and bigger manufacturing facility.
The revived Norton brand has struggled since the early 2000s. The company’s first signs of new life came with Kenny Dreer’s abortive attempt to build a new Commando. By 2008, Stuart Garner had control of the marque and work started on the new 961 Commando models in the UK.
From that point on, fans grew increasingly impatient. Magazines teased the project, downpayments were made, but it took years for the bikes to be delivered. The first machines to make it to Canada didn’t arrive until 2013, and have yet to appear in any real numbers on our streets — or streets anywhere else.
But, the UK government is trying to inject some life into the company, making an announcement of £4 million in funding for the British motorcycling industry that’s supposed to set up 600 new jobs. The money will go to Norton and 11 companies in its supply chain. The cash is supposed to result in 159 jobs at Norton, which is expected to grow into 600 jobs over the next five years.
Currently, Norton has about a hundred employees, so the increased workforce should help address wait times.
A couple hundred of those jobs will go to apprentices, as part of the plan for the money is to start up a new British Motorcycle Manufacturing Academy. This facility will educate engineering apprentices for Norton and its suppliers.
The money will also help fund a bigger manufacturing facility for Norton. They’re planning to build a 10,000 square-foot plant with the money, which should also help reduce wait times, and also likely improve efficiency.
Norton also plans to develop a new motor with the money. The press releases talk about a “cleaner” motor that uses “green” technology, but that’s pretty vague. The current motor in the 961 is definitely a spiritual successor to the VR880s that Kenny Dreer put together, which themselves were refinements of the original vertical twins that powered the excellent Commandos of the 1970s. What sort of new motor could we be looking at – a new vert twin? An electric motor? This powerplant really could be the engine that makes or breaks Norton this time around, and they’re promising it in a very short period of time.