After the original Triumph Motorcycle company went under in 1983, Mr. John Bloor, a property devloper, purchased the rights to the Triumph marquee, and started to pull together a team of designers and engineers. Over the next five years Mr. Bloor began investing in the development of a new line of British motorcycles. In order to be successful he felt that he needed to provide a very reliable machine, using as many top-quality off-the-shelf parts as possible, and manufacturing the rest with the most modern tooling and best materials available at the time.
Quality and efficiency have been the watch-words right from the start and continue to be the defining characteristics of the firm. One of the most salient features of the machines and manufacturing process is the so-called 'modular concept', which means that most of the major components are interchangeable across the range. Basic engine configurations are 749cc triple (76mmx55mm); 885cc triple (76x65mm) and 1180cc four (76x65mm). All the frames are basically the same (the differences being to do with the bracketry and such like), as large diameter spine frames with the engines as stressed members.
It has been reported that John Bloor has invested over 76 million pounds, all of it his own money, into the company. He did not go elsewhere to raise the money. All the money invested was his own. He had his own ideas about the direction the company should take and has not risked compromising his vision by pleasing banks/financiers. The new factory was build outside of the town of Hinckley. Hinckley is in Leicestershire and is no more than 20 miles away from Meriden, where the original factory stood (now a housing development with the streets named after famous Triumph models). Construction was started in 1988 and the first motorcycle was built in 1990.
At that time, Triumph had fewer than 50 employees and produced around five bikes a day. The company introduced their new machines at the Cologne motorcycle show. The first model reached the UK dealerships in late May of that year. Currently Triumph employ around 350 people, of whom 36 are occupied full-time in research, development and design. They work in two shifts, from 7am to 11pm, producing around 80 bikes per day for 35 different countries around the world. To date Triumph have produced almost 34,000 machines in their various guises, the majority having been the 'ace in the pack' 885cc 120 degree triples.
More and more of the bikes are made in house every day, but the current 15 acre site is bursting at he seams. Triumph is in the process of building another newer, larger factory on a 40 acre site, which is scheduled to go into production in early 1997. When built it will have a capacity of about 50,000 bikes per year. The present facility has a capacity of around 15,000 bikers per year. Mr. Bloor wanted to control as much of the process as possible, in order to ensure the overall quality of the Triumphs. At present, 80 % of the bikes are made in the factory, and it is increasing as each year passes.
Part of the success of the company is the high level of modularity between the models. Since the designers started with a clean sheet in 1987, they chose a modular design upfront. This means that of the 2500 parts used in say a Daytona, 87% can be used to build a Trophy, Sprint or Speed Triple. The engine comes in either a 3 or a 4 cylinder configuration and either a short or a long stroke.
TRIUMPH, the British motorcycle marque revived by John Bloor, has passed a new milestone. In the first quarter of 1997, according to the industry newspaper Motor Cycle Trader, the group ousted Honda from its long tenure as king of the big-bike sector in Britain, scorching to sales of 525 Daytonas in the 900cc-plus category, writes Matthew Lynn.
Honda's CBR900 RR-T, with 468 bikes sold, came second and Honda's CBR1100 XX third. Neil Asten of Motor Cycle Trader said bike demand was booming, up almost 42% year on year in the first three months. "The market is doing well, and the European manufacturers are gaining share," he said.
The Daytona model was designed to lead the Triumph name back into the market for large sports bikes, the sector's fastest-growing and most profitable area. Many bikes are now for weekend leisure use. The sports market has long been dominated by Japanese makers and by European specialists such as Ducati and BMW.
Bloor took control of Triumph in 1983 after the Meriden workers' co-operative crashed that year. It is estimated that the wealthy property developer has since poured (340m into reviving the company, which manufactures all its bikes at its base in Hinckley, Leicestershire. With the success of the latest models, the company is now estimated to be making profits again.
This year it is expected to sell about 15,000 bikes worldwide, after lifting production rates. About 3,000 bikes are expected to be sold in Britain, with the bulk of the rest in the two key markets of Germany and America. Other European manufacturers have also been clawing back share from the Japanese, who rose to dominance in the global market during the 1960s and 1970s.
Most of the revival at Triumph has come in the past few years; as recently as 1991, it was producing just 2,000 bikes a year. Bloor has said he does not plan to increase production beyond 25,000 a year to keep the company small and flexible.
MOTOR CYCLE NEWS (11/96)
Triumph Boss Hopes To Build On T595 Success
TRIUMPH chief John Bloor claims the all-new T595 Daytona sportster and its Speed Triple sister are just the first in a new breed of exciting new bikes from his all-British company. But in a rare and exclusive interview with MCN, the building magnate reveals a huge expansion of the company itself is not on the cards. He prefers to keep Triumph small and manageable rather than taking on motor cycling's giants in sheer volume of sales. He also reveals that Triumph accessories are set to grow, but a factory World Superbike race effort is definitely out!
* YOUR two new models, especially the T595, are a radical departure from the old Triumph approach of building well-engineered but conservative machines. Do they mark the beginning of a new philosophy?
They are an evolution of our strategy, which is to keep widening our range. The biggest growth in recent years has been the serious sports market, so it was a logical move.
* Do these bikes mean the end of the modular design process, where a wide range of bikes share components? This has given Triumph a lot of flexibility in the last six years.
We will be producing some new versions of the current models, which involve only minor changes, but we need to take away the compromise that's inevitable with the modular approach. For sports bikes especially, you cannot compromise if you are to achieve the necessary performance.
* So why are you doing it now and not right from the start?
Our increased production levels make it possible. Our initial production figures were small and the modular approach made economic sense. But now models don't have to share components.
* How many bikes do you produce? And do you see Triumph threatening BMW's annual 55,000 production or Harley-Davidson at 110,000?
This year we will make almost 15,000 machines, but we're not planning to increase production beyond 20,000 to 25,000 at any point in the future, even if we thought it possible.
* Why not?
Because I prefer it that way. I want to keep Triumph a small, flexible company capable of reacting quickly to our customers and the market.
* So what else are you looking at to continue your strategy and widen the Triumph range? The 600 class must be extremely attractive.
Not in the immediate future - it would be a while before we got there. But we are looking at a range of options we're not covering now.
* Who decides on new models and, where do the ideas come from?
There's no one particular source of ideas. A lot of people in the company thought the T595 concept was what we needed, so it was discussed and we went ahead. The project was started about two-and-a-half-years ago.
* Do you personally make the final decision on a new model?
Yes, I give the final go-ahead on all new bikes.
* How is the Triumph approach to design different now to when you started?
We could only be reactive at first, listening very closely to our customers and dealers and acting on what they said as quickly as possible. This was how colours, ergonomics, specifications and features were arrived at. Our priorities were optimising production processes and improving quality. Now we can be proactive. We have learned a great deal from our experiences and can go our own way. This is especially the case in our manufacturing. The knowledge on getting performance from an engine can be bought, but manufacturing knowledge has to be learnt.
* Who do you buy your performance knowledge from?
There are many engineering consultancies in the UK, such as Cosworth, Ricardo and Lotus. We tend to use people we know are particularly good in very specialised fields. But most of the design - about 90 per cent - is carried out at the Triumph factory in Hinckley, with outside specialists used just in detail areas, such as the port shapes in the T595 cylinder heads.
* You manufacture more components in-house than the Japanese companies do. Around 40 per cent of a Triumph is made at Hinckley, compared with 30 per cent or so for a Honda or Yamaha. Why is this?
Because the Japanese firms have a much larger component supply industry on their doorstep. A lot of these component suppliers are owned by the main manufacturers anyway.
* Will your new factory allow you to continue this policy and expand production?
The new factory we're currently building will increase our capacity to more than 25,000 bikes annually in theory, but we won't use all that. Instead, it will consolidate the production of spares and accessories.
* Harley's accessories make more money than the bikes. Are you heading that way?
Accessories are very much an integral part of the business, along with the new Rider's Association of Triumph owners club and licensed clothing. But our main profit still comes from bikes.
* Will we be able to buy Triumph aftershave?
No, we're sticking just to bike-related products, but with the Triumph name.
* Have you considered acquiring the rights to any old British bike names? Vincent would be ideal for an upmarket superbike.
I can see the logic in it, but no. Our main efforts go into our manufacturing and the quality of our bikes. The name is the magnet and the heritage, but it will just be the Triumph name.
* What about an interest in other manufacturers? A share in Ducati would have given you access to a lot of technology.
We've been touted as potential buyers of Ducati, but the effort that would go into that sort of thing is too much for us. We'd rather concentrate on what we're doing here.
* What about a racing effort, at World Superbike level?
We have no plans to go racing, although some privateers might take T595s on to the tracks. Triumph has to work within its financial and engineering resources. Racing uses up a lot of man-hours as well as money.
* Did you worry a small manufacturer simply couldn't produce a cutting-edge sports bike against the money and technology of Honda or the experience of Ducati?
We've done our best to create a sports bike. I'm not going to stick my neck out and say we have definitely beaten other manufacturers, though. That's for riders out on the road to decide!
by Roger Moroney, Article reproduced curtesy of: Kiwi Rider magazine July 1995 p38-39
Style is a word that emerges a lot when you talk to Triumph's International Marketing Manager Darren Payne; and it's not to do with the well cut suits the globe-trotting 23-year-old wears. Payne, who is based at Triumph's Hinckley headquarters but who spends 80 per cent of his time in other countries, was in New Zealand in March to meet with distributors Northern Accessories and check out the growing number of dealers and dealerships Triumph was attracting
He was also happy to talk about Triumph's latest styling success, and sales sensation, the Thunderbird. "The most important thing about developing the Thunderbird was the style - we had to get it right." The bike, the latest addition to Triumph's three and four-cylinder inventory, and the most radical departure from the modular styling concept of two years ago, was conceived in 1992 as a sort of "Trident with spokes" and got the green light for construction a year later. It's research and development journey was passionately propelled by Triumph's enigmatic chief, John Bloor. He was the man behind the Thunderbird; he drove the engineers and designers to develop what you see today." Style came first. It had to look right . . . it had to look genuine despite what it was going to cost to develop."
Payne said the same philosophy was laid upon other models and would continue to be that way, with Triumph shying away from going head-to-head with other manufacturer's models or engaging in extensive market research programmes to see what people wanted. You get the feeling market research is a taboo phrase within the walls of Hinckley. "We design and build machines we feel comfortable with," he says, adding that 80 per cent of the research and development personnel and everyone in the commercial department were motorcyclists. The "build what we like" philosophy has worked - brilliantly. Not one Triumph model has failed in the marketplace, and the diversity offered through models like the cafe-racer Speed Triple, the gentleman sportster Sprint and the pseudo-Paris/Dakar Tiger has proven to be gilt-edged for the factory.
While not pursuing market research through such agencies, Triumph has built a reputation for being a company which listens. "That's important," Payne says. "We listen to what the people who buy Triumphs tell us and we are quick to respond. Some people say they want the handlebars lower or the seat lower and we note these things - models have changed as the result of talking to owners and listening to them." Triumph, since being unveiled to an initially sceptical marketplace about four years ago, has stormed the market for large-capacity machines. The Sprint is the company's overall biggest seller in Europe, while in markets like Greece and Germany, the Tiger 900 is tops with buyers. Every machine conceived and built has found an insatiable market niche - and naturally that makes Triumph very happy." Anything's a surprise to us if it's a success," Payne said with a smile. "and we've had lots of pleasant surprises.
"The New Zealand marketplace, while small compared with the European and burgeoning American markets, was nevertheless a world leader for the company. It has a 14 per cent market share - the highest percentage of any of the 33 countries Triumphs were now retailing in. "That's a remarkable statistic," he says. "We can learn sales lessons from New Zealand." Firstly, taking into account the "big picture", Triumph had to up its capacity to keep up with a growing international demand - much of it aimed at the Thunderbird.
"We are building 3000 Thunderbirds this year which is 25 per cent of our entire production run," Payne said.Demand for the bike has seen quotas tightened, with the first shipment to New Zealand pre-sold. The second shipment, in April, was also spoken for. Accordingly, the company is working double shifts to produce enough machines as a motorcycling renaissance, particularly for European bikes, smothers Europe. In 1994 Triumph built 7500 bikes; this year 12,000 will roll off the lines, with 18,000 the target for 1996. Extensions to the factory are already under way and new roads are being built to accommodate the increased traffic.
Would that increased traffic have anything to do with the development and unleashing of a Bonneville? Payne smiles, because in the course of his travels he's become used to the 'Bonneville question'. There are no plans at this stage to build a Bonneville," he says, adding quickly that the company is well aware of the status the name gave the former Triumph empire. In saying there are no plans to reactivate arguably the most famous name of all, he also adds the word "yet". Very diplomatic - very Triumph.While the Bonnie does not feature in the company's medium to long-term plans, a smaller capacity machine does. "The 750 market is becoming less relevant while the 600 sector is growing stronger; we are aware of that," Payne says. "We are looking at it," is his succinct summing up of a possible Triumph 600, a machine that, if it were to emerge, would feature a down-scaled three-cylinder powerplant.
As for the existing range of three and four-cylinder modular engines, there are no plans for alterations or new layouts, Payne stressing that the design is perfect. If it's not broken don't fix it.So what does a globe-trotting marketing manager ride when he gets home. "Ride? I don't get to ride enough because I don't get home all that often," he laughs. "I've got a Tiger in the garage and I rode it about a month ago." Payne, who has ridden motorcycles for 11 years, joined Triumph in 1992 after nearly four years with the Rover company in the marketing field. "I went to Triumph as they were starting to expand and I had 100 per cent faith in the company being a success." he says. And more than anything, what he saw at Triumph told him that here was a company which promoted the perfect accompaniment to raw enthusiasm - style. For the record: Triumph sold 100 motorcycles in New Zealand last year, compared to 67 in 1993. For 1995 the sales target is 140.
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