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Norton Motorcyles administration is a knock for heritage brands

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The news that Norton Motorcycles, a Leicestershire based motorcycle company, has gone into administration might concern other heritage brands operating in the UK today.

The firm, founded in Birmingham in 1898, entered administration this month after it reportedly failed to pay its tax bill.

It was one of the UK’s last remaining motorcycle companies, where its 100 employees, based at the firm’s Castle Donington factory, now face an uncertain future.

Reputed to owe £300,000 in taxes, the firm’s road to decline, however, wasn’t initially inevitable.

The brand’s owner, property developer and entrepreneur, Stuart Garner, reported a good trading climate last year, including the possibility of opening a new factory. Garner gave a lifeline to the business when he took it over, rescuing it from near-collapse in 2008.

Producing models from 1902, the firm formed a definitive part of the UK’s traditional manufacturing landscape that centred on businesses operating in the midlands.

For generations, the hubs of Birmingham and Northampton have produced some of the UK’s best-made heritage products, from men’s shoes to cars and, from 1902, Norton Motorcycles.

The firm’s British-made engineering and heritage focused branding ensured it became synonymous with motorsports, where models made a frequent appearance at high profile racing events such as the Isle of Man TT.

Norton Motorcycles became a British motorbike staple through its many high profile features in major films, such as James Bond’s Spectre, starring Daniel Craig. Its Norton Interpol model was even used by the British police during the 1980s.

News of the firm’s fall into administration has echoes of another heritage brand’s demise, namely Birmingham based car company, MG Rover that entered administration in 2005 and laid off 6,000 employees.

Part of the MG Rover Group, it was “the last domestically owned mass-production car manufacturer in the British motor industry.”

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