Norton Motorcycles goes into administration

Norton in Beak St, London levis fighting administration

Norton Motorcycles has gone into administration three weeks after being in court for non-payment of £300,000 (about $A570k) in taxes owed to HM Revenue & Customs.

Global accounting firm BDO UK has been appointed administrators of the 122-year-old British company, resurrected in 2008 when business man Stuart Garner bought the company.

Australian customers have been assured their deposits will be returned and service and parts will continue.

Path to administration

Norton was in the Insolvency and Companies Court in London on 8 January 2020 in an effort to avoid a winding-up petition over its tax bill.

Stuart had said some of the money was covered by outstanding research and development tax relief owed to the company.

The company was promised a £4 ($A7.6) million government grant in 2015, but £135,000 ($257k) was still outstanding, having been held back by the HRMC over the unpaid taxes.

Stuart said they had paid £300,000 of a £600,000 bill to HMRC and had asked for 63 days for the outstanding amount to be settled.

The hearing was adjourned until 12 February 2020.

However, BDO was called in yesterday (29 January 2020).

BDO spokesman Lee Causer they will “determine and execute the most appropriate strategy as swiftly as possible to protect creditors’ interests, bearing in mind the need to minimise distress for all parties”.

Norton administration
Lee Causer

“We are currently assessing the position of each of the companies in order to conclude upon the options available to them and the most appropriate way forward.”

We contacted Lee for an update on administration proceedings, whether production had ceased and the order of payment of creditors. We will update when he replies.

As usual, the tax bill will be top of the list.

Motorbike Writer has also tried to contact Norton Global Sales & Marketing boss Kay Johnson for comment, but his emails now bounce back. 

When we contacted her after the court appearance she assured us they were operating business as usual and invited me to visit the historic Castle Donington factory next time I’m in the UK.

Norton Motorcycles Donington Hall factory crowd
Donington Hall factory

Sadly that visit may never happen now.

The factory employs about 100 people and recently opened a new production line.

Meanwhile, the official website is still operating.

In the UK, when a company goes into administration, it is not necessarily the end.

It protects the company from creditors and winding-up proceedings while a solution can be reached.

The administrator is given eight weeks to send out formal administrative proposals to all of the insolvent company’s creditors and repay “without preference”.

Aussie customers

James Mutton Brisbane Motorcycles discounting
James Mutton with Norton motorcycles

Australian importer James Mutton of Brisbane Motorcycles says they have had no official news from Norton UK or Stuart Garner yet.

“It appears that one of the most iconic brands in motorcycling has been unable to survive the current pressures on the industry,” he says.

“Australian and New Zealand customers that have placed deposits for new models with their local dealer will be able to receive a full refund for orders.

“However we are not sure what is in line for those that placed orders prior to our distribution with the factory directly. We will obviously do our best to put those customers in touch with the correct people in the UK.

“In regards to existing Norton owners, we still have good stock of servicing parts, and will still be operating to ensure our customers are looked after.

“Ultimately we hope a larger brand with more experience will come in and continue the brand however this is purely speculation and we have had no official correspondence.”

Turbulent times

Prince William Isle of Man TT
Prince William and Stuart Garner

Norton has been through some turbulent times.

Early last year, Norton said there was “no cause for alarm” when a British notice that Norton be struck off the Register of Companies and dissolved after a late-filing notice.

Then customers started complaining that the V4 and some other models had not been delivered, despite deposits and even full payment being made.

One customer who paid for a V4 even started up a petition to wind-up the company in the Business and Property Courts in Manchester.

Kay says this was a dispute over several months with freight company DHL that was resolved and the action dismissed by “mutual consent”.

“At no point was it ever about a motorcycle, it’s solely over import and export duty on components,” he said.

Mid-year Norton signed a £20m deal with Japan to deliver an extra 1000 motorcycles worth £5m to Japanese riders over the next five years.

Things were looking up.

But in November, the company seemed to struggle for cash and launched a crowd-funding campaign to meet a £30 million order book for V4 and Atlas models.

However, a single, anonymous investor sunk £1m ($1.89m) into the company, pausing the campaign.

Stuart said he has not ruled out returning to the crowd-funding campaign at a later date.

In the same month, Norton announced it would produce the127kW supercharged Superlight SS off the Atlas platform.

Norton adds supercharged Superlight SS
Superlight SS

Kay said in November they were on track with production.

“We are currently making Atlas chassis and other components ready for production/deliveries next month,” she told us in October.

“First customers have been advised and we look forward to deliveries shortly.”

Sadly it looks like those deliveries will not happen, the Atlas will never make it into production and customers who have paid deposits will have to stand in line for a refund.

15 Comments

  1. Norton was a great brand with a racing pedigree that could have helped carry it on to greater things. The wrong guy took on the project. Unfortunately these old British brands are doomed to be resurrected by Indian manufacturing companies. It’s a fact. They have the passion and the heads for this kind of manufacturing and marketing. They also understand the history of British motorcycling. Happy to see Norton made along side Royal Enfield.
    Anyway the new Norton’s looked a bit ”Fake”. You can’t make a mongrel and say it’s pretty. Commandos were like sculptures, the new Norton’s looked like insects to be honest.
    What is it we are saving or resurrecting anyway ? The name, the memory, the passion, the motorcycle or past guilt and loosing a historic British industry.?
    MG is now built by the Chinese and they make little SUV vehicles, the names survive, the price is right and sales are strong on Australia at least. The MG car clubs are accepting new members with these anything but sporty cars. Life goes on…..MG cars are back in the market, maybe they can team up with Mazda and make a sports car again.
    The Norton name can live on but idealists should leave it alone. Let’s just see where it all takes us. I’m a Norton rider and owner and will be happy for someone else to have a go.
    Maybe there will be a Norton in the market one day that we can all afford and enjoy. Doesn’t really matter who makes it or what it looks like. They all go around corners and that is the fun part.

  2. The rabbit hole goes deep with Norton!

    This Guardian article is well worth a read:
    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/jan/30/taken-for-a-ride-how-norton-motorcycles-collapsed-amid-acrimony-and-scandal

    There’s more. Lots more. I’m sure the full story will be revealed in due course. I’m also sure it’s a shocking tale. Not sorry to see the back of Norton. They were inundated with goodwill, including generous govt grants, bike magazines and reviews, the bike community, Prince William, etc. I don’t think they played fair with employees or customers.

  3. Sadly the entire market is not what it was in the nineties and early 2000’s. I love the look but many of us have reached an age where we no longer are purchasing at the rate we did. Young people don’t care about a famous name and rich history. It’s not just them. I’d love to have one and have followed the entire process even before it went back to England. For people like me it’s no longer in the cards. I have 70’s Triumph’s and my own built Custom Harley’s. I’ll wrench to the end of my riding but being in the early 70’s that time is closing.

  4. The exclusivity of the new Norton doesn’t support it’s production, with widespread bread & butter production models that sell more.
    No surprises with the failure, living on borrowed income from investing customers.

    1. Angus I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. The company has been short of cash since it began in Donington. Good intentions, but arrogant personalities at the top (yep, unfortunately I do mean the very top, Stuart Garner) who alienated business people and customers does not help either. I bought a 2015 961 Sport and had a lot of trouble with it, which despite the best efforts of the dealers were never resolved…. not enough time and money in development perhaps? Hand building means a very high price for what was a very simple machine that should have just worked, but didn’t. Other customer have had similar experiences and the word got out. It is really sad, the machines had great potential.

      1. In 1974 a good friend swore by his new Norton Commando, sadly it spent many, many, long hours on the side of dark country roads being repaired by the beam from my Yamaha.

  5. Sadly this is another case of a British motor cycle factory being run by Enthusiast,s and not by a business brain if anyone can rescue this it,s John Bloor if he still has the passion to bring back another great make there was no quick fix with Triumph it took considerable time to come up with modern design,s and equipment but he has now built a lasting copany with great product,s at commercially viable prices . Norton in my eye, s looked kike a failure from the start much like the highly lauded Hesketh some year,s ago , no the motor cycle market is not a place for keen amatuer,s anymore if it ever really was .

  6. Sadly yet another iconic British company may be about to disappear.
    Pity that the government will not support them more.

    Why not stop throwing billions at the HS2 fiasco and of course paying the EU a leaving fee and start building up British companies,restoring this country to a world leading position again?

    Dave

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