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Author Topic: What ever happened to the British Motorcycle industry?  (Read 966 times)

mrunderhill1975a

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What ever happened to the British Motorcycle industry?
« on: December 28, 2009, 06:35:50 AM »
I received this book by the late Bert Hopwood on Christmass and have just finished reading it.  I seem to recall this book was at one time available from our host, but cannot seem to find it in the current CMW catalogue.  Anyway, it is 315 pages of very interesting reading and I recommend it highly.  The author was a design engineer for  Ariel, Norton, and BSA.  He has quite a story on the rise and fall of the industry, and puts most of the blame on poor management in the 1950's and 1960's.  Seems the management wanted cosmetic changes to 1930 motorcycle designs and repeatedly shelved and stalled new development  ideas.  1)Disregarded the Japanese entry into the small motorcycle market as a money loser, never considered that the young rider would develop a brand loyalty to the same brand of bike he learned to ride on. 2)Management would continually try to shortcut testing of prototypes and move straight to production, resulting in product failure and warranty losses. 3)Management did not connect with the consumer to find what the rider wanted. 4)Poor scheduling, ie. making sure new models were ready for the showroom during the peak sales period of spring and summer (resulting in empty showrooms during these peak sales periods). 5)Not introducing new technology, resting on old style bike designs (ie, a three cylinder 750 cc engine was ready for production in 1962, but was stalled by management until 1972. 6)Persuit of frivolous fluff items on the bikes(ie the use of oil in frame concept which resulted in a bike that was too tall for the average rider).  8)Managers that had no backround in the product. 9)Govt assistance that required the sale of the most profitable portions of the corporation. 10) Labour strikes at the worst possible time.

The whole story seems very similar to General Motors, many different but competing brands under one corporation, disregard of the small car sector and leaving it to the Japanese, Govt intervention where the govt has an ulterior motive from actually making cars.

Anyway, it is a great read, and if you get a chance to read it , you should.

Chasfield

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Re: What ever happened to the British Motorcycle industry?
« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2009, 10:05:12 AM »
I had a copy of that book a few years back, and a 1972 oil in frame Triumph twin to go with it!

It was a very sad story and illustrates perfectly the type of crack-pot, top-down management that is endemic today.
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PhilJ

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Re: What ever happened to the British Motorcycle industry?
« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2009, 11:31:35 AM »


It was a very sad story and illustrates perfectly the type of crack-pot, top-down management that is endemic today.
That was the start of running the business with an mba and not an engineer who designed the product. The days of earning money the old fashion way were on the way out.
Only the stock market mattered. Get rich today, go broke tomorrow.

ShenandoahThumper

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Re: What ever happened to the British Motorcycle industry?
« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2009, 03:13:32 PM »
Another was their not retooling with modern equipment. Using worn out equipment showed in the fit and finish of their bikes. Another cost cutting measure that helped kill them. Both Japan and Germany had to have new equipment after the war and it showed in the quality of their products.
Two 07 Bullets and other old Brit Bikes.

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1Blackwolf1

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Re: What ever happened to the British Motorcycle industry?
« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2009, 03:20:13 PM »
  Remember that H-D also had these problems, especially when AMF was in charge.  Almost sunk them from their ideas'.  All the glorious old bike companies were run into the ground for whatever reason was deemed appropriate. 
Will Morrison
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ScooterBob

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Re: What ever happened to the British Motorcycle industry?
« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2009, 04:36:18 PM »
The two perfectly timed strokes that REALLY brought the British motorcycling industry to its knees were the Labour Strike in 1968 and the introduction of the Honda's CB750 Four Cylinder bikes. There was enough brand loyalty at that time to sustain the Brit-bike industry IF the production had been there to try and counter Honda's revolutionary new machine ..... and there was new technology in the wings (HAD been, as pointed out in an earlier post ...) but the "perfect storm" beat the remaining life out of the most iconic motorcycles ..... except for our beloved Enfields, whose very survival we owe to the hard-working India fellows who thought enough of the design of the Bullet to keep making them. I TOTALLY agree about the "MBA vs. Engineer" management these days .... C'est la Vie ..... in India, the Engineers still have the say, I think!
Spare the pig iron - spoil the part!

Ice

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Re: What ever happened to the British Motorcycle industry?
« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2009, 05:55:14 AM »
The two perfectly timed strokes that REALLY brought the British motorcycling industry to its knees were the Labour Strike in 1968 and the introduction of the Honda's CB750 Four Cylinder bikes. There was enough brand loyalty at that time to sustain the Brit-bike industry IF the production had been there to try and counter Honda's revolutionary new machine ..... and there was new technology in the wings (HAD been, as pointed out in an earlier post ...) but the "perfect storm" beat the remaining life out of the most iconic motorcycles ..... except for our beloved Enfields, whose very survival we owe to the hard-working India fellows who thought enough of the design of the Bullet to keep making them. I TOTALLY agree about the "MBA vs. Engineer" management these days .... C'est la Vie ..... in India, the Engineers still have the say, I think!

Me thinks so,,,the UCE looks like something made by engineers who understand their customer base, not like some abomination dictated by a board of directors.

I can break it better,,,,at night, in the rain, on the trail,, 20 miles from nowhere.

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single

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Re: What ever happened to the British Motorcycle industry?
« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2009, 04:38:06 PM »
I was a die maker for G.M.I began ,in that trade,in 1974.At that time G.M. had a workforce so huge the numbers do not sound realistic.I saw the company bleed out.Looking back on it,I can say that at the time we thought we were doing our best and whatever was necesary.I t is always thus.When a company loses real vision,if it is huge it can take a long time to fail.It always seems terrible to those close to it,and the closer you are the harder to accept.But it is the way of all things to have a season.There are always the reasons,the missed cues and so forth.What is hanging in the balance here at the moment is our entire western way of life.Manufacturing and profit are what gave us all we had,we are losing it.

PhilJ

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Re: What ever happened to the British Motorcycle industry?
« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2009, 05:09:51 PM »
I was a die maker for G.M.I began ,in that trade,in 1974.At that time G.M. had a workforce so huge the numbers do not sound realistic.I saw the company bleed out.Looking back on it,I can say that at the time we thought we were doing our best and whatever was necesary.I t is always thus.When a company loses real vision,if it is huge it can take a long time to fail.It always seems terrible to those close to it,and the closer you are the harder to accept.But it is the way of all things to have a season.There are always the reasons,the missed cues and so forth.What is hanging in the balance here at the moment is our entire western way of life.Manufacturing and profit are what gave us all we had,we are losing it.

Very Good, Single.

Chasfield

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Re: What ever happened to the British Motorcycle industry?
« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2009, 06:17:01 PM »
Yeah, the days when we played a poor hand at the game of industry are beginning to look like a golden age. Soon we won't even be sitting at the card table. No politician seems to even rate this as an issue of concern as they are all pure bureaucrats and, as far as I can tell, they mostly imagine that money comes from an enchanted well.
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ScooterBob

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Re: What ever happened to the British Motorcycle industry?
« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2009, 12:31:33 AM »
One of the biggest reasons that we are losing manufacturing jobs SO quickly is that the "chosen few" in the country are promoting "intellectual" and "service" trades over the vocational. This country was FOUNDED on the very principles that we have abandoned in the last few decades. Countries like India, Mexico and China are all too ready to take up the slack here. Their manufacturing capabilities have equaled - and some would say, surpassed ours at the present. We still have the upper hand on the engineering, I believe - so we COULD, potentially, get it back. We'd have to get the younger crowd to give up the X-Box for the machine shop - but the dividends could be very real for the long-term of our economy. Just call me "Old Fashioned" ...... or even crusty ...... !
Spare the pig iron - spoil the part!

single

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Re: What ever happened to the British Motorcycle industry?
« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2009, 01:26:21 AM »
I do not know what an x-box is.I have heard the term.I,too,believe the U.S. could get back in the picture,play a big role.But the tipping point is in view.2010 could be a big year.A big year is coming.we can reassert ourselves or live in regret,there are examples of others who went down the road we are now on.I hope I see this happen in my lifetime,a general reawakening to the ideas of our founders,a realization that we must put this nation first in every way possible.Frankly,I think we have a set of perfect fools in leadership on all levels,I don't have a lot of hope for it.

bigedf150

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Re: What ever happened to the British Motorcycle industry?
« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2010, 01:25:19 PM »
i went to college for one year,hated it and entered the fire/paramedic service for mainly one reason, the town i live in of 25000 had companies like rockwell,ppg,babcock and wilcock,employed literally thouseands of people,but by the time it was my turn up to bat, all that was pretty much gone or so minimal it was nonexistant..guys from the rubber shops became fireman and cops so they woudnt get layed off,unfortunatly you cant run a country on providing services to people who dont have a job..and you cant be a superpower of you are not a  manufacturing superpower,at least not for long...

1Blackwolf1

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Re: What ever happened to the British Motorcycle industry?
« Reply #13 on: January 08, 2010, 02:07:49 PM »
One of the biggest reasons that we are losing manufacturing jobs SO quickly is that the "chosen few" in the country are promoting "intellectual" and "service" trades over the vocational. This country was FOUNDED on the very principles that we have abandoned in the last few decades. Countries like India, Mexico and China are all too ready to take up the slack here. Their manufacturing capabilities have equaled - and some would say, surpassed ours at the present. We still have the upper hand on the engineering, I believe - so we COULD, potentially, get it back. We'd have to get the younger crowd to give up the X-Box for the machine shop - but the dividends could be very real for the long-term of our economy. Just call me "Old Fashioned" ...... or even crusty ...... !

  Maybe we can make a come back, computers and technologies seem to be at their individual pinnacles.  The time is right for the good old American can-do attitude of hard manufacturing.  Just need something revolutionary to produce..like John Deere in its' infancy.

  That type of industry basically settled the west..but show me three kids in vo-tech that actually want to get truly dirty to design/produce anything.  They're all going to be computer whatevers.  Right, that ship has already sailed guys.  I do have my fingers crossed for the better, but won't hold my breath yet.
Will Morrison
2007 500 Military
2000 Kawasaki Drifter 1500
2000 Victory V92SC
1976 Suzuki GT185 Rebuilder Special..AKA (Junkyard Dog)
Many, many other toys.
The garage is full.