Triumph fulfils visitor's hopes for industry

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Indy Politics
DOUBTLESS it is why he spent an hour and a half there, but the Triumph motorcycle plant in Hinckley, Leicestershire, is undeniably a shining example of the 'quite startling' improvement in British competitiveness referred to by the Prime Minister.

Production of the bike, the oldest motorcycling marque in the world, is poised to rise nearly fivefold from its present level of 9,000 a year under a pounds 70m investment plan.

The expansion will increase Triumph's workforce from 250 to at least 600 and create an estimated 1,000 jobs among suppliers and service companies. In 1997, when a new factory opens next to the existing plant, output should reach 40,000 compared with 2,000 three years ago.

Even that will be a far cry from Triumph's heyday in the mid-1960s when the company, then in Coventry, was turning out 80,000 a year. In the 1960s it was absorbed into Norton Villiers but was unable to withstand the onslaught of the Japanese. Although it was resurrected in 1974 as the Meriden co-operative, this stopped trading in 1982.

Triumph owes its revival to the property magnate, John Bloor, who rescued the marque in 1983 and then spent eight years re-engineering the bikes before their relaunch in 1991.

Mr Bloor took state-of-the-art design and married it with British wage rates and sophisticated Japanese components. About one-third of the bike is assembled from components brought in from outside Europe - mostly Japan, which supplies carburettors, suspension and electronics. But a third is British-built.

The bikes, with the original names such as Tiger, Trophy, Trident and Daytona, cost from pounds 5,000 to pounds 10,000.

Michael Lock, Triumph's sales and marketing director, said: 'The average age of our customers is 39. Generally they are professional people who had a bike 20 years ago, gave it up for a job, a mortgage and a family, and are rediscovering their youth.'

Although Britain is the biggest market for Triumphs, four in five are exported.