Customers that bought a V4SS model Norton during the Stuart Garner era received a note from current CEO John Russell this morning. It’s not looking rosy, have a read for yourself.
The defects that this letter relate to are by no means small. With 20 of the 35 on the list being classified as safety critical. As much as this piece serves as an update on the V4SS models built in a particular timeframe, I think it’s also a reasonable request to ask that you send this to anyone you know that owns a V4 of any description.
Almost a year to the day since we published our interview with John Russell, I found myself back on the phone to him in the rundown to him stepping aside to make way for new CEO, Dr Robert Hentschel.
As per all of my conversations with John, he didn’t dodge, duck, dip, dive or dodge any of my questions. I wanted to understand if Simon Skinner or Stuart Garner could or would be held responsible in any way for the resulting costs that arise from rectifying this new (and sizeable) list of defects. Those two people in particular are relevant here because of the positions they held as directors and as the two most senior members of staff during ‘Garner era’ Norton.
In short and without quoting John directly, there is no feeling from TVS that Simon Skinner (still currently employed as the Head of Design) would be held responsible by TVS era Norton for any other issues that have come to light regarding the V4 and V4SS’ that were built and delivered to customers in 2019 and early 2020. John went on to state that as there was a sizeable list of safety critical issues, it wasn’t safe to assume that the faults were only limited to one or two bikes built and that it must be assumed that these faults could arise across all the bikes produced during the timeframe mentioned. John also said that it was possible that the liquidators (BDO) might want to investigate whether Stuart or Simon were responsible for these new issues but until that happens, Simon would continue to receive the full support of the company.
Here’s the statement I was sent in full from Norton following my conversation with John:
Norton Motorcycle Co Limited (Norton) is supporting the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and the Liquidators of NMUL Realisations Limited (in Liquidation), formerly known as Norton Motorcycles UK Limited) in connection with defects found in V4-SS motorcycles manufactured and sold by NMUL Realisations Limited in 2019 and 2020. Please refer to the statement (below) for more information.
John Russell, Interim CEO of Norton Motorcycles, said:
“As part of an ongoing quality assessment and product development program for V4-SS models manufactured by NMUL Realisations Limited, we have identified certain defects and safety concerns on V4-SS bikes sold to customers in 2019 and in early-2020. Under the guidance of the DVSA, we are in direct contact with all affected registered V4-SS owners to address the safety issues in relation to the faults that have been identified.
“Since acquiring the company last year, we have been carrying out due diligence and product review protocols that we follow to strict measure in order to ensure the safety of the customers that ride the motorbikes which bear the famous Norton name. As a result of that process, we have discovered 35 potential defects in total that fall into one of three categories, either a safety recall, a check and replace if required, or a service action. While the ‘new Norton’ management was not involved in the production and supply of these bikes and is not responsible for the cause of these faults, we are voluntarily taking certain actions under the guidance of the DVSA to assist with potential safety problems and to ensure the good name of Norton continues.
“We appreciate that the owners of these bikes will be concerned. We are advised by the Liquidators that affected owners may be able to make a claim for the costs of repairs to NMUL Realisations Ltd (in Liquidation) as part of the Liquidation and have worked with the Liquidators to ensure that those owners have been told how such claims should be made.”
I asked John if today’s development impacts customers with deposits placed on either variant of V4 in anyway at all? He made it clear that although communications with those deposits holders hasn’t been as fluid as he would have liked, they are all aware that they can still wait for a new bike if they choose to, rather than taking a ticket and getting in line as creditors with the BDO. In terms of timeline, John was confident that now that all of the faults have been identified, building bikes was a matter of weeks, rather than months away.
While I had John on the phone, it made sense to ask if there was any connection with Stuart Garner at all, remember in my previous interview, John had said that they would be neighbours and some cross over was inevitable. In the time since, the short term lease at Donington Hall has lapsed and TVS era Norton moved on to temporary premises elsewhere. The need to communicate with Stuart reduced to zero and he has had nothing to do with the business for quite some time.
The Stuart Garner/Norton story continues to rumble along. I’d already spoken to the Pensions Ombudsman and a senior member of Dalriada Trustees this week in relation to the £14m (now £15m+ with interest) Garner still owes. There’ll be more on that when I understand pensions a bit more.
It’s worth noting a couple of things before we wrap this up. The first is that John Bloor bought Triumph motorcycles in 1983 but didn’t open the new factory until 1991, these things take time to get right and I’m confident that things are still moving in the right direction for Norton under TVS ownership. I think we’ll start to see some new metal from them before the end of the summer.
The next thing to consider is Dr Robert Hentschel’s previous post as the MD at a German business called Valmet Automotive. Valmet has three areas of expertise, manufacturing, electrifying and actuating. They’re industry giants when it comes to building convertible roof motors, producing and managing production lines for high volume vehicles and finally battery systems for electric vehicles. Unless we’re about to see a soft top Dominator, two out of three of those are relevant here and I’m sticking to my guns on the idea of an electric Norton Commando being something we’ll see before long.
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