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Triumph’s revival at full speed Motorcycles’ comeback starts in Newnan
Atlanta Journal-Constitution ^ | February 1, 2010 | Mary Welch

Posted on 02/03/2010 9:24:50 PM PST by Jet Jaguar

In the 1950s and 1960s, more Triumph motorcycles were sold in the United States than anywhere else.

After all, who didn’t want the bike that Marlon Brando rode in “The Wild One”? And who could forget Steve McQueen, in “The Great Escape,” trying to do just that on a Triumph Bonneville?

Despite a cult following, the brand ran into financial problems and was liquidated in the early 1980s. British real estate developer John Bloor, at first looking to buy the factory’s land, instead purchased the company’s assets to re-establish Triumph. In 1994 the company opened its North American headquarters in Peachtree City.

The office in 2002 moved west a few miles to Newnan.

Today, with overall motorcycle sales down, Triumph is boosting sales and gaining market share. Helping lead the comeback from the Newnan office is Mark Kennedy, Triumph’s North American CEO, who started on the assembly line and was one of the resurrected company’s first employees.

Growing up in England, Kennedy knew the keys to success: drop out of school and get a job.

At 15, Kennedy was working on an assembly line and racing motorcycles. “My whole family was working class,” he said. “The way to make money was to get a job. School wasn’t a means for success. My teachers would be very surprised.”

But he had two passions: racing motorcycles and British automobile manufacturing. Bloor moved the Triumph factory from Kennedy’s hometown of Coventry to Hinckley, and Kennedy went to work at Triumph Motorcycles Limited.

“We were small in numbers but had the excitement of trying to bring this brand back,” he said. “I would ask a lot of questions, like ‘How many of these bikes do we have to make until we make a profit?’ Looking back, it may seem like I was trying to get ahead or suck up to the boss. But I wasn’t. I really wanted to know.”

The first modern line of Triumph motorcycles was introduced in 1990. While Triumph was coming into its own, so was Kennedy. His enthusiasm, work ethic and curiosity got noticed and he soon became the supervisor. After two years he was promoted to quality manager.

With its products becoming successful, Triumph re-established its distributor and dealer networks, first in Germany and France, followed by Italy, Scandinavia, the Benelux union of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, and Japan. Kennedy was named president of the French operation, though he didn’t speak French.

“Well, you really have to learn how to communicate when you don’t speak the same language as your employees,” said Kennedy.

Triumph offers three categories of motorcycle: sport, cruiser and its Modern Classic line. Sport motorcycles are high-powered and lightweight with exceptional handling. Cruisers offer a more relaxed riding position and are heavily favored by Americans. Triumph’s Modern Classic range includes the iconic Bonneville, which blends modern design and technology with a classic motorcycle look.

The sport bike market attracts a younger demographic, typically in their 20s and early 30s, while the cruiser and Modern Classic motorcycles are favored by more mature riders who go from their late 20s through to their 60s.

“We do not compete against Harley-Davidson,” Kennedy said. “Harleys, to those who ride them, represent more than a motorcycle, it’s a lifestyle. It’s very hard to get them to try any other brand. We have much more success taking away from Ducati or Honda.”

Triumph has gained market share in the U.S. each year for the past five years, according to the Irvine, Calif.-based Motorcycle Industry Council. Sales increased 5.49 percent in December 2009 over December 2008; most manufacturers reported double-digit decreases. Canada boasts a yearlong sales increase of more than 20 percent from 2008 to 2009.

The company introduces two new models yearly as well as updates its current line. Last summer the company introduced a 1600 cc parallel twin Thunderbird, which earned several “Best Cruiser” accolades from trade magazines. Sales are reported as strong but Triumph did not disclose numbers.

An important aspect of its sales is accessories, both for the bike and rider. The company has licensing agreements with the Brando and McQueen estates.

Neal Pascale, editor of Powersports Business, said Triumph has done well, particularly in the cruiser market. The challenge is that, for most people, a motorcycle is “more of a ‘want’ product” than a need,” he said. “Triumph is one of the most iconic brands in the industry. They are building bikes and people are liking what they see, especially in the U.S.”

Pascale calls Kennedy a “real unique, real person. I’ve been to the manufacturing plant with him and he just walks up to the workers and talks with them like you would over a drink or dinner. You don’t see too much of that.”

Kennedy is establishing a dealer network and increasing marketing on a national level. He’s about to become a father and fears his British accent is showing signs of a drawl thanks to his Alabama-bred fiancee. He oversees a staff of about 40 people who handle sales and marketing, dealer development and support, along with accounting, legal, and human resources matters.

Meanwhile, Triumphs are making their ways back into movies. Tom Cruise rode Triumphs in the “Mission Impossible” franchise, as did Matthew McConaughey in “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.”

Maybe not McQueen or Brando, but it’s a start.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; United Kingdom
KEYWORDS: motorcycles

1 posted on 02/03/2010 9:24:51 PM PST by Jet Jaguar
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To: Jet Jaguar
Photobucket
2 posted on 02/03/2010 9:28:44 PM PST by rfp1234
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To: Jet Jaguar

Looking at the Rocket III, with a 2300 cc engine. Largest production engine you can get in the US.


3 posted on 02/03/2010 9:33:19 PM PST by Newtoidaho (Liberals are nothing more than drooling buffoons. Spread the word.)
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To: Jet Jaguar
All I ever wanted:


4 posted on 02/03/2010 9:40:23 PM PST by Errant
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To: Jet Jaguar

5 posted on 02/03/2010 9:47:47 PM PST by nralife (Sarah doesn't know it's a damn show! She thinks it's a damn fight!)
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To: Newtoidaho

Get it, I have had one for the past five years, it is one helluva bike, endless power, good handling for a cruiser, unique and eye catching, you will get a lot of questions and comments. And their new model, the Roadster has even more hp and torque.

Enjoy the power before liberals take it away from you!


6 posted on 02/03/2010 9:55:04 PM PST by HerrBlucher (Jail Al Gore and the Climate Frauds!)
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To: Newtoidaho

7 posted on 02/03/2010 9:58:59 PM PST by Jet Jaguar
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To: Newtoidaho

8 posted on 02/03/2010 10:01:11 PM PST by Jet Jaguar
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To: Newtoidaho

Test ride one and you will see that there is little out there that compares to it. I have had one since September of 05, had 21k miles on it in the first 13 months, and will be back on it come springtime. On other cruisers, especially the big v twins, one has to grab the handlebars to get them upright and off the kickstand. One accomplishes this on a RocketIII by simply shifting one’s weight. Also, this is the only bike I have been sufficiently confident on riding in the pouring rain.


9 posted on 02/03/2010 10:02:00 PM PST by StarfireIV (Atlas Punted)
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To: Errant

It’s a looker!


10 posted on 02/03/2010 10:03:39 PM PST by Jet Jaguar
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To: Jet Jaguar
Its a looker

Triumphs look kewl too...

11 posted on 02/03/2010 10:11:54 PM PST by Errant
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To: Jet Jaguar
Good to see someone making a success from an old brand with hard work and innovation.
12 posted on 02/03/2010 10:12:26 PM PST by smokingfrog (You can't ignore your boss and expect to keep your job... www.filipthishouse2010.com)
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I had one of the triple engine bikes, the SPrint 900, with some illegal “off-road” cans on it. At redline, it made a sound like tearing a banshee in half. OTOH, it got 30 mpg when ridden hard, which it was a lot, cuz damn.


13 posted on 02/03/2010 11:02:35 PM PST by Gnomad
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To: HerrBlucher
When the U.S. auto companies started turning to crap in 2008, I was concerned that a similar fate was about to hit the motorcycle industry. I snapped up a few bikes including a 2007 Yamaha/Star Roadliner. It is parked in my garage with about 1600 miles on it. I had to go to San Diego to keep earning a paycheck. A month after I left the Pocatello area, my Yamaha dealer lost all the bikes. I purchased a 2009 Kawasaki Versys to commute 70 miles round trip daily on the San Diego freeways. I purchased that one July 29. 2009. It had 6975 miles on it this evening when I topped up the tank. That mileage is in spite of weeks of rain this year and about 40 days when I wasn't able to ride it last year. It's a 650cc naked sport bike.

I had a BSA 500 single in 1978 just before I got married. It took a little coordination of the compression release and kick starter. Do it wrong and you might launch yourself over the handlebars. It was a fun bike to ride in the dirt. The Bonneville 650 was very favored by my friends at the local flat track (Speedway 117 in San Diego).

I would like a somewhat larger engine in a sport bike format. The Harley XR1200R is on my short list. The new Triumph bikes look great as well. I just need some more space in the garage :-)

14 posted on 02/03/2010 11:31:31 PM PST by Myrddin
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To: Errant
I ran into a guy at Starbucks in Rancho San Diego. He was riding a Norton Commando just like the one in the picture. It has been a restoration project. The one thing he didn't "restore" was tires. It has modern tires that make it handle much better than the originals.
15 posted on 02/03/2010 11:35:57 PM PST by Myrddin
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To: Myrddin

Have you considered the Yamaha Warrior? That may suit your desire too, though I have heard a lot of good things about the xr. You cannot have too many motorcycles.


16 posted on 02/03/2010 11:41:49 PM PST by HerrBlucher (Jail Al Gore and the Climate Frauds!)
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To: Myrddin

“I had a BSA 500 single in 1978 just before I got married”

I’ve got a friend who was motocrossing on a goldstar in the early 70’s. Neat bike but I’m not so sure about moto-xing with it.


17 posted on 02/03/2010 11:45:57 PM PST by Lurkina.n.Learnin (Waste and fraud are synonymous with gov't spending)
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To: HerrBlucher
My wife has been coveting a Warrior. I've had a chance to sit on one at the bike shop in Chula Vista. That "water heater" muffler is huge. The engine is smaller than my Roadliner (1900cc).

There is a video of a stunt rider doing a backflip off a ramp with an XR1200R. That bike fits my preferred riding position. I've made the rounds in the Harley showroom. Many of the seats just don't feel right under my butt. I'm not real enamored of "forward" controls. Perhaps that is a consequence of being a long time rider of the Honda CB175 when I was in high school. It was a "street" bike, but I could easily compete with others in hill climbs, flat track, technical trials and street riding at the limits of the hardware. My preference in bikes is tilted in favor of good riding performance over showroom "pretty" appearance.

One side of my garage is occupied by my 1974 Porsche 914. I haven't had time/money/interest in keeping it running. It isn't a real practical vehicle for me in Idaho. When home, I have a zero commute. My house is my office. Vehicles are strictly for the utility of shopping or pleasure rides.

18 posted on 02/04/2010 12:07:37 AM PST by Myrddin
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To: Jet Jaguar
Despite a cult following, the brand ran into financial problems and was liquidated in the early 1980s. British real estate developer John Bloor, at first looking to buy the factory’s land, instead purchased the company’s assets to re-establish Triumph. In 1994 the company opened its North American headquarters in Peachtree City.

If it doesn't leak oil right off the showroom floor, it's a fake.

19 posted on 02/04/2010 12:10:29 AM PST by ApplegateRanch (Islam: a Satanically Transmitted Disease, spread by unprotected intimate contact with the Koranus.)
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To: Lurkina.n.Learnin
I was thankful for the MX capability of the BSA 500. I headed down a steep hillside on a "bunny" trail. I was doing about 45 MPH at the bottom of the hill. Suddenly, I was facing a pile of broken pieces of sidewalk and curb (concrete) that some jackass dumped right in the middle of the long established trail. Stopping wasn't an option. There wasn't time. I hit the throttle, lofted the front wheel with ease and the rear tire neatly climbed over the crap. If I had been on the old CB175, I wouldn't be alive to tell the story.

I sold the bike in June 1978 when I got married. I didn't have a bike again until August 2008. It's nice to be back on a bike. The Versys is the perfect commuter for my current situation.

20 posted on 02/04/2010 12:14:01 AM PST by Myrddin
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To: ApplegateRanch
If it doesn't leak oil right off the showroom floor, it's a fake.

The fork seals on my BSA 500 leaked oil. Genuine Brit. They do that so they can park the bike in the "garden". The oil seeping down into the ground helps preserve the firearms from rusting.

21 posted on 02/04/2010 12:15:59 AM PST by Myrddin
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