After going through administration, and getting bought by Indian motorcycle giant, TVS Motors, Norton motorcycles, now under new management is appointed a new interim CEO to take the lead into breathing new life into the company. However, as John Russell takes on the position, he also takes on a whole lot of challenges and responsibilities that were brought about by the old management. However, he wouldn’t be playing the blame game. He sat on an interview with Superbike and discussed the challenges ahead.
John Russell is no stranger to the automotive industry, he first started working for Land Rover in 1986 back when it was still just a small company before they even launched the Discovery, and played a big part in growing the company into what it is today. Later on, he joined Harley-Davidson Europe as its managing director and vice president who was given the task of leading the European team to grow its market share. During this time, Harley-Davidson was competing with R1’s and GS’s which dominated the market. However, instead of trying to turn Harley-Davidson into a European bike manufacturer, he did it the other way around and tried to focus on turning European bikers into Harley-Davidson riders.
Russell admitted that TVS was already set in acquiring a motorcycle company such as Norton even before they went into administration. However, they weren’t able to manage into arriving at a deal with them. While they admitted that they also thought of acquiring an Italian motorcycle company, when the opportunity arose of buying Norton, they took the chance, even with all its difficulty they’d have to face. As he said, taking on Norton would be like drinking water from a fire hydrant, as Americans would say, in describing its current difficulties. Part of those difficulties is its slow rate of production of allegedly 1.2 bikes per week and its bloated pending orders that the company accepted deposits from hundreds of customers. However, John Russell wants the company to still build the bikes and said, “Under the terms that the company was sold, there’s no legal obligation on any of these deposits. Venu (TVS Motors CEO) has said he wants to get to a point where all of the customers who had placed a deposit are satisfied with the outcome. Our hope is that we get to build the bikes,”.
However, they were even more reports that surfaced about issues of the structural integrity of some of their bike’s frames which appeared to have some cracking at track days. Russel now addresses the warranty claims of such issues.
“In a way, this isn’t too dissimilar to the question of customer deposits in that, according to the way the company was bought, while there are ongoing technical responsibilities in terms of vehicle integrity, the financial aspects of warranty lapsed with the failure of the previous company. We don’t want to leave it there. In parallel with the sales plan we’ve discussed, we’re aiming to get in touch with customers that have problems so that we can develop solutions. We’re open-minded but obviously there’s a limit.”
Obviously, winning back the trust of those who suffered by the outgoing administration of Norton’s former management is the biggest challenge that Russell now faces. Thankfully, he’s willing to face these issues head-on, and TVS appears to be willing to try to make good all the obligations brought by Norton to its existing customers and other stakeholders. John Russel added, “We want to be fair and consistent, the last thing we want is for people to go away with a negative view of Norton. We want to make sure there isn’t a feeling that there are second class Norton owners who feel they missed the boat because they didn’t get the treatment that future customers will get. We’ll go through a technical review to discover what the challenges might be. Future bikes will go through the best quality assurance processes on the planet. If there are historic issues, we’ll seek to do the best we can,”.