A lot of things look different in 2021 than they did in 2020. Take the massive rollercoaster ride that Norton Motorcycles went on over the past year and a half, for example. After going into administration, and former CEO Stuart Garner being mired in a pensions scandal, TVS Motors charged up on a white horse bearing bags of cash, to Norton’s rescue. That was all in the first half of 2020.
Since that time, new Norton leadership has worked to right the ship and regain customer trust. They’ve also repeatedly stated that they bear no responsibility for the actions of the past administration. Still, in September, 2020, it emerged that part of TVS’ purchase agreement for Norton included the new owners agreeing to honour previous customer deposits and complete those orders.
In late May 2021, shortly after announcing new long-term leadership at Norton, interim CEO John Russell sent out a letter to Norton V4 SS owners. As you’ll recall, the V4 SS was sold and produced under the Garner Administration. This letter apparently followed a separate letter sent by BDO, the firm responsible for liquidating Garner-era Norton’s assets. Both letters regarded claims that V4 SS owners may be entitled to file over a number of serious defects in their V4 SS bikes.
The letter reads, in part, “the Liquidators have notified you that in addition to the Oil Line recall and the Battery concern, we have found further defects in the V4-SS. The current list of 35 defects, including these two, is attached. As you can see, there are 20 items that we consider to be safety critical and are likely to be referred to the [UK Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency], a further 10 that require a check which could reveal further problems, and the last 5 that are Service Items that should be completed when your bike is being repaired.”
“These issues have been identified during our V4-SS test and evaluation programme, which is now nearing completion; however, there is a possibility that we will find more problems before it is complete. As you know and as confirmed in BDO’s letter, we did not take on the liability for any bikes made by NMUL [the legal name under which the previous Norton iteration went into administration] and that responsibility may remain with NMUL in liquidation, hence the invitation to you from BDO to make a claim in the liquidation,” the letter continued.
“However, because of our commitment to the brand and our desire to assist Norton bike owners we will continue to support you and the Liquidators in the process of both identifying concerns and seeking to find technical solutions but will not take on responsibility by doing so. We appreciate that in circumstances such as this a lack of information is very frustrating. As part of our support both to the Liquidator and affected owners we will send out an update from us on our progress in June,” it went on.
As you may expect, some Norton owners have already been quite vocal about their displeasure at the new administration’s reiteration that it won’t be held responsible for the old administration’s mistakes. From the new company’s public statements thus far, its carefully-worded phrasing appears to constantly hammer home the fact that it’s not legally obligated to help out previous owners, but may continue to do so at its discretion.
That’s an uneasy and perhaps even maddening vantage point to occupy, if you’re one of those owners. Individuals may perhaps feel an obligation to do the right thing, whatever that may be, but companies are another matter.
“Given the number and nature of the defects that have been identified so far, we would like to re-iterate the stop-ride recommendation, and that you should remove your battery using the instructions we have already provided,” Russell’s letter then concluded with “Kind regards,” as well as his signature.
For a full list of all 35 defects found so far, as well as an enlightening interview with John Russell about this development, check out the SuperBike link in our Sources.