Nor­ton have sold rights for a 650cc en­gine to Zong­shen, in a move that se­cures the fu­ture of the Bri­tish busi­ness

Motorcycle News (UK) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jor­dan Gib­bons SE­NIOR RE­PORTER @MCNNEWS mo­tor­cy­cle­news

When news broke that Nor­ton had sold the de­sign for their 650cc par­al­lel-twin en­gine to Chi­nese firm Zong­shen, the re­ac­tion was mixed. Some peo­ple were ques­tion­ing why they’d done that in­stead of fin­ish­ing their cur­rent bikes, while oth­ers were wor­ried that the Nor­ton brand would be wa­tered down. We spoke to CEO Stu­art Garner to find out just what the deal is all about and why they’ve done it.

“Well, we’ve got all the pub ex­perts jump­ing on us and say­ing we’ve sold out to China, which is ab­so­lutely not the case,” says Garner. “It’s ac­tu­ally the re­verse. We’ve been de­vel­op­ing the 650cc plat­form for our­selves and, af­ter speak­ing to Zong­shen, we’ve com­pletely sep­a­rately de­vel­oped a low­per­for­mance en­gine. The mo­tor is de­signed to be cheap and mass pro­duced, with use only in the Asian re­gion or per­haps South Amer­ica. This en­gine and bike are not com­ing to Europe.

“It’s a 100% dif­fer­ent en­gine, that won’t even be branded Nor­ton. We’ve just li­censed the rights to use it to Zong­shen, which will give them Euro4 com­pli­ance. It’s very im­por­tant now be­cause in or­der to se­cure trade deals with Euro­pean com­pa­nies, th­ese fac­to­ries must be ho­molo­gated; Euro4 is now the ac­cepted global stan­dard.”

Back in Blighty

So, if the Zong­shen en­gine is dif­fer­ent to the Nor­ton mill, what’s the deal with the new Nor­ton 650 twin?

“Even five years ago, we knew the su­per­bike would be a V4, so that we could drop the two cylin­ders and pro­duce a par­al­lel twin,” ex­plains Garner. “That’ll give us a very cur­rent and mod­ern plat­form to add to our range. It’s why we made the V4 over­sized to 1200cc, rather than a litre plat­form. We can share pis­tons and just lengthen the stroke for the in­creased ca­pac­ity, while they’ll share the same gear­box, clutch and valve gear.

“The 650 will be the en­try-point Nor­ton, and oc­cupy the same space as the Tri­umph Thrux­ton or the Du­cati Monster. It won’t be a big-vol­ume bike, as that’s not our style, but it will al­most cer­tainly be our most pop­u­lar bike.

“If anything, the Zong­shen deal has sped up the de­vel­op­ment of our 650cc mo­tor, be­cause there was a strong com­mer­cial el­e­ment to it, so we in­vested more re­source than we would have done had there not been this deal. It’s a 20-year deal, too, so go­ing for­ward we get a roy­alty for ev­ery 650 en­gine they make – and last year they made 4 mil­lion en­gines. It means we now have a sta­ble fu­ture for the busi­ness that al­lows us to in­vest and de­velop even more mod­els.”

‘The new Nor­ton 650 will al­most cer­tainly be our most pop­u­lar bike’

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