David McMullan's blog
Old European and American brands that Chinese motorcycle manufacturers should revive and restore to former glories
|Posted by Shem on September 7, 2016 at 8:40 PM|
By David McMullan
In a previous issue of China Motorcycle news we reported on the trend for Chinese motorcycle manufacturers to investigate the possibility of reviving old and famous brands. As it is increasingly difficult for motorcycle OEM’s to avoid rebranding in established markets (as entering into those markets with their own brand name would put them in direct competition with their existing customers in that country) it is likely that Chinese manufacturers will look to produce new brand names and what better way to do that than to revive an old and famous existing motorcycle brand?
The state and ownership of some of these brands is unknown, some are well known and some still exist in minimal ways. Some of the brands mentioned here may be still being manufactured but only in small quantities and not restored to their former glories.
Some currently revived brands have their models or at least most of their parts made in China but they are not what we are talking about here as these marques like Fantic, ATK and AJS are still owned by businesspeople and enthusiasts in their home countries.
The best idea for a revived model would be the example of Royal Enfield in India which has seen a huge renaissance all over the world and is set to come into China within the next couple of years.
Although there are literally hundreds of now defunct motorcycle company brands which are ripe for resurrection here we will have a look at some of the more famous brands which are or should be available to revive and develop.
BSA is the marque that most probably deserves reviving on this list. Coming from the golden age of British motorcycles (along with Vincent, Triumph and Norton etc.) BSA was a household name for many years. Starting (like many motorcycle manufacturers including China’s first bike factory Jialing) as a military equipment maker. Wouldn’t it be great to see a rejuvenated BSA Bantam on the roads of Europe and America again? Albeit a 4 stroke version!
Why China? If a Chinese motorcycle manufacturer really wants to increase their world profile there’s no better brand to resurrect properly than BSA
Levis motorcycles were manufactured by Butterfields of Birmingham, were for many years one of England's leading marques of two-stroke motorcycle. Levis built two-stroke machines from 1911, adding a line of four-strokes in 1928, which ran to 1941 when production ceased. The Levis was first made in the Norton motorcycle works and enjoyed success in the Lightweight 250 class within the 1920 Isle of Man TT Junior race with a 247 cc machine, a feat which was repeated in the 1922 TT Lightweight race.
Why China? Because I happen to be a friend of the person that owns the brand now so it would be easy to set this up with a Chinese manufacturer!
Laverda was a famous old high performance Italian brand that was founded as long ago as 1873. During the rise of the Japanese manufacturers on the European and American markets Laverda struggled in the same way as Triumph, Norton and BSA as well as Italians contemporary rival Moto Guzzi. In 2004, the Aprilia Group was acquired by Piaggio who elected to close all activities related to the Laverda brand, and has publicly stated that they would be willing to sell the rights to the brand if an investor should appear.
Why China? Chinese companies have already proved that they are willing to buy out and revive Italian brands (Benelli, SWM and Italjet are testimony to this).
The Dot Cycle and Motor Manufacturing Company were established by Harry Reed in Salford, an area of Manchester, England, in 1903. By 1906 they had built their first motorcycle, using a Peugeot engine. Although ceasing mass production in 1932 The DOT factory still exists at Ellesmere Street, opposite St. George's Church in Hulme, Manchester, and the company produces and sells a range of spares for postwar machines. The DOT Motorcycle Club actively caters for owners and enthusiasts, publishes a magazine, and attends most major classic motorcycle events.
Why China? DOT stands for ‘devoid of trouble’, that’s exactly the kind of legend that Chinese companies love to use on their motto!
Excelsior Motor Manufacturing & Supply Company was a U.S. motorcycle manufacturer operating in Chicago from 1907 to 1931. In 1912, Excelsior was the first motorcycle to be officially timed at a speed of 100 mph. The Henderson Motorcycle Company became a division of Excelsior when Schwinn purchased Henderson in 1917. By 1928, Excelsior was in third place in the U.S. motorcycle market behind Indian and Harley-Davidson. The Great Depression convinced Schwinn to order Excelsior's operations to cease in September 1931.
Why China? For a time Excelsior was one of the biggest names in motorcycle manufacture in the USA and in my opinion ‘Excelsior’ is a great brand name!
Velocette is another one of those old famous British marques which deserves a long overdue revival. Founded in 1904 and running until 1971 Velocette produced all manner of motorcycles and scooters in its 67 year reign including the Velocette MSS which was a successful desert racer in the United States. The late 1960s were the last years of production for Velocette motorcycles, production for the Velocette Viper and Vogue ending in 1968, "Special", Scrambler and Endurance in 1969, and MSS Venom and Velocette Thruxton in 1970.
Why China? Velocette has an already built in fan club of riders and enthusiasts waiting for the revival of this popular brand.
Aermacchi (like BSA, Jialing, Royal Enfield and others) has its roots in the weapons industry and only turned to bikes after WW2 as a way to make ends meet. These days, you’d think a marque linked to fighter planes and race bikes would be hot property, but after Harley-Davidson’s brief ownership, the name was sold to Cagiva. With both the MV and Aermacchi names in its portfolio, Cagiva opted to re-launch the former. So Aermacchi remains dormant.
Why China? Aermacchi has a rich history of Grand Prix racing and a revived machine could prove to be good policy for a Chinese motorcycle factory.
The Scott Motorcycle Company was maintained by Scott Motors (Saltaire) Limited, Shipley, West Yorkshire, England and was a well-known producer of motorcycles and light engines for the automotive industry. Founded by Alfred Angas Scott in 1908 as the Scott Engineering Company in Bradford, Yorkshire, Scott motorcycles were produced until 1978. This famous old brand surely deserves a makeover
Why China? The Scott brand has been defunct since 1978 and with no current plan to revive it the brand could be a cheap purchase for a smaller Chinese company.
Puch is a manufacturing company located in Graz, Austria. The company was founded in 1899 by the industrialist Johann Puch and produced automobiles, bicycles, mopeds, and motorcycles. It was a subsidiary of the large Steyr-Daimler-Puch conglomerate. Puch produced motorcycles for many years and the name was sold on a few times before being taken by Hero in India who produced under the name until wrapping things up in 2003. It is thought that they could be persuaded to part with the brand name.
Why China? In their later years Puch were quite well known for producing lower displacement commuter motorcycles and mopeds not completely unlike the models made in China currently.
ATK is a motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle manufacturer in Centerville, Utah, USA. ATK was founded by Austrian-born engineer Horst Leitner in the 1980s. The name "ATK" comes from Leitner's 1981 patented device to eliminate chain torque for improved handling. Known later as the A-Trax, Leitner originally called the device the Anti-Tension Kettenantrieb (German: chain drive). These days ATK concentrate their technical efforts on electric motorcycles and are looking for a partner to restart the traditional motorcycle manufacture.
Why China? The ATK brand is already recognized in the United States, a buy out of this marque could ensure the success of a Chinese manufacturer in America.