Norton Motorcycles’ comeback bid could become the focus of a bitter power struggle over rights to sell the bikes in mainland Europe.
Rival backers may emerge this year to develop a new range of Norton bikes, in direct competition to the North American-backed Norton Motors International project, which is centred on British engineer Al Melling’s MCD design facility in Rochdale.
The man behind the threat is head of Norton Motors in Germany, Jo Seifert, who holds the rights to distribute the brand in mainland Europe and some Asian markets.
Seifert told The Engineer this week that he is holding talks with two different medium sized motorcycle manufacturers over a potential deal that would see the Norton brand back in volume production. ‘We are interested in doing something serious about this brand later in the year,’ he said.
His claims follow the breakdown in talks between Seifert and NMI to allow the sale of the Melling-designed bikes on Seifert’s territory in mainland Europe, a key market for the brand.
An NMI executive said he still hopes NMI will strike a deal with Seifert over European rights, but Seifert said: ‘Those talks have ceased. They are history.’
NMI, which has been short of funds after a New York stock market flotation was cancelled last year, said it is ‘a week away’ from an announcement of substantial funding from a single private investor. It has also been looking for interim funding of up to $3m to pay for development work by Melling and his suppliers in the UK.
Start-up production plans for 1999 have been cut back to 50 units of the Nemesis superbike, all built at MCD. Norton’s old plant at Shenstone, Staffordshire, is to be renovated in August, NMI said this week.