Whither Triumph II

adjSprintwbThe latest incarnation of the Sprint, a venerable but still excellent model.

A few years ago I wrote an article for the magazine of a Triumph owners club and even a blog or two about the direction that Triumph Motorcycles were going. Even though no mountains shook or temples crumbled there was a certain degree of circumstantial evidence that the comments had not gone unnoticed over in Hinckley which in a way was flattering although hardly enriching.

At the time I noted the lack of direction and loss of identity as they seemed to chase whatever BMW were doing and forgetting that they had a core customer base who wanted a British Bike rather than than a poor copy of a German one. The policy was so obviously wrong one can only wonder just why they persuaded them to follow it in the first place and one immediately suspects the dark hand of outside consultants who merely number crunch rather than actually involve themselves in the biking world. Harley Davidson don’t make that mistake and their management teams are often out and about at bike rallies just to gauge reaction and make sure their brand is gaining maximum exposure if nothing else, being hands off is not their style, much to other manufacturers chagrin at times. It has also been whispered that having ditched the Teutonic design bias Triumph are now adopting the American hard sell system which will no doubt prove to be equally as fruitless.

There was also the question of India and also their off road utility vehicle venture the latter of which appears to have faded away and the former has now been declared dead by the Indian authorities if not by Triumph themselves. The Hindu Times* recently had this to say –

The British motorcycle brand, Triumph Motorcycles India, had not paid the full advance to the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board and had withdrawn its investment ‘on its own’, according to Minister for Industries R.V. Deshpande.

So had Triumph just left the venture to whither on the vine while looking for an excuse to drop it? The Hindu Times suggests that may have been the case –

The company now plans to move out, allegedly because of land-related issues and the Karnataka government’s apathy.

The use of the phrase “Move out” is intriguing, are Triumph seeking an alternative or they looking to keep a flame alive? Who knows, Triumph themselves did not appear to have been approached for an explanation but by coincidence just a few days before the article in the Hindu Times the British Motorcycle News was invited around for a cosy chat with the top brass (including Paul Stroud, a name not unconnected with the India venture)  at their Leicestershire base. When asked about the 250cc that was supposed to be built in India, for the Indian market, Nick Bloor, the son of the owner John, had this to say about the demise of the project –

“So, you ask if this was the right thing to do, and I think absolutely – in terms of resources within the business to deliver fantastic product (sic).”

Which I think we can take as an admission that perhaps they had overstretched themselves and had to pull in their horns. While on the subject of coincidences there has still been no public explanation as to why the capacity of the proposed Triumph factory neatly matched that of the Royal Enfield plant that was in fact built and is enjoying great success with increased sales into India during the time of a depressed market. Nor is there any comment on the fact that Royal Enfield have opened a design and development centre just down the road from Triumph and were busily recruiting engineers during April, they already have ex Triumph staff on their books. Eicher Motors, the parent company of Royal Enfield, have also bought out Harris Performance, well known racing parts suppliers and fabricators, the company obviously means business and are not short of a bob or two, will we see them buying out Triumph one day? It is not beyond the bounds of possibility, Triumph are one of the few major European bike manufacturers without a big wallet behind it. John Bloor may have made a fortune building houses but he’s no BMW or Audi (owners of Ducati) and cannot command the technical support that these two major competitors can, and he’s certainly no match for the Japanese four despite the 25m Triumph claim to spend on product development. Indeed, it’s worth noting that VW, owners of Audi, spent nearly €10bn on R&D in 2012.

Triumph admit to a “perceived wobble” but remain upbeat about their prospects and talk of new models and other ventures planned to gain them publicity. As a Triumph owner I for one certainly wish them the very best with it all, but I am not sure that they can do enough on their own to keep up and I’ve no doubt there are others in the ocean who are circling their raft as they paddle into the future