*Motorcycles Sales Enjoy a Happy Time
*Mammoth to Return
*The Show of Shows
By Victor Wanchena
Norton Heads for the Loo
Norton Motorcycles Inc. is running out of road. The Eden Prairie, Minnesota company has taken a turn for the worst this past month with the announcement that the Nemesis, their flagship model, was not going to be produced, that their line of credit has been withdrawn and that they are being sued. But Robert Kilpatrick, the current CEO of Norton sees this as a step forward for them. He and his partner John Tastad took control of the start up company last July promises to invest millions into Norton. But after looking at the how far the Nemesis was from actual production they determined that it was nowhere near ready and would be economically unfeasible to produce despite previous statements made to investors.
This touched off a lawsuit filed by MCD the design firm that had been working on developing the Nemesis. Norton wants the rights to the designs and prototypes of the Nemesis but MCD claims that the designs are their property and is seeking 1.7 million in damages as well as the plans. The loan package that Kilpatrick and Tastad were offering has been withdrawn and Tastad has resigned as company president.
On top of all these woes comes the news that Norton has now defaulted on loan payments. Their current plans are to produce smaller sport bikes and according to a press release they are contracting with a German firm to design and build the Nortons. The future of Norton seems grim with all major financing gone and cash reserves shrinking.
Motorcycles Sales Enjoy a Happy Time
The sales figures for motorcycles and accessories continue to rise. According to figures released by the Motorcycle Industry Council sales of new road bikes are up 25% for the third quarter of 1999 over the same period last year. The total increase in sales for all types of motorcycles including scooters and off-road bikes is up 23%.
This means that for the seventh straight year motorcycle manufactures and retailers are experiencing a “Happy Time”. The booming economy certainly helps but industry analyst, Don Brown, see other lifestyle and economic factors. “Motorcycling is affordable as transportation and as recreation and it’s loaded with value,” said Brown. “Not only can you get where need to go on a motorcycle, you can get there feeling a sense of freedom, adventure and escape from day to day demands.”
Along with new bikes people are spending money on accessories. The total spent in 1998 for accessories and apparel topped 3.9 billion. That’s a lot of leather fringe and saddle bags and that also means retailers are taking notice of motorcycling consumers. The used bike market is also on the rise with an estimated 1.3 million used bikes sold last year. This is rather apparent looking at the price of the average used bike, gone are the days of high depreciation and 100 buck bargain bikes. As the sport has become more main-stream in American culture we are witnessing a second golden age for motorcycles.
Mammoth to Return
Another marquee from the yester-years of motorcycling is to be resurrected. The Munch Mammoth was the largest and most powerful machine of it’s day and now Munch Motorrad of Wuerzburg, Germany hopes to build a limited number of bikes bearing the Munch name.
The founder of Munch Motorrad, Friedl Munch, originally worked for the German motorcycle maker Horex until it’s demise in 1959. He then started his own company producing motorcycle components. In the mid-sixties he received a commission to build a high performance bike. The bike was built around a 1000cc four cylinder motor taken from a NSU car. Soon dubbed the Mammoth it was the largest, fastest, heaviest and most expensive bike of it’s time.
Skip forward to the present, the Mammoth 2000 will feature an in-line four cylinder turbocharged motor displacing 2000cc and putting out an estimated 260hp. The bike will weigh around 800 pounds and have a limited top speed of 156 mph. Friedl Munch, now in his seventies, is over-joyed to be bringing the Mammoth back. “I wanted to put this Legend on the road once again. Thousands of loyal fans have been me to launch a new edition of the Mammoth in recent years.” The Mammoth 2000 will be built by hand and production will be limited to 250 machines. A prototype is to be unveiled in mid-February.
The Show of Shows
The Cycle World International Motorcycle Show is set to return to the Minneapolis Convention Center on March 24-26, 2000. At the show will be BMW, Buell, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, Suzuki, Triumph, Victory, and Yamaha with all the new models for 2000 as well as a multitude of other vendors.
Always a bright spot in an all to long winter the show will have riding demonstrations by Team Extreme Trials, the observed trials riding group. They will perform all manners of seemingly impossible stunts on there machines. Also Toyota Trucks, a sponsor of the show with be offering a sweepstakes for a new Toyota Tundra and a Yamaha TT-R225. Tickets are available at the door or you can bypass the ticket line and purchase yours on-line at www.motorcycleshows.com. This web site offers not only tickets but directions and travel information to the shows and a list of vendors at the show and links to their web sites. Also AMA members can receive a discount of their tickets by showing their card. And be sure to look for the special show issue of M.M.M. while you’re there.