Adam VanderVeen, Marketing Director of Triumph America, was at the inaugural IMS Outdoor show – without any bikes. “Our warehouses are empty,” he explained.
Triumph has had a rollercoaster two years, even considering the ups and downs the company has had in the past. The present-day Triumph company, based in England, got its start when businessman John Bloor bought the intellectual property of the historic Triumph company, which had gone out of business in 1983. After a rocky startup, the new Triumph was motoring along when the factory was hit by a major fire in 2002. Triumph quickly rebuilt and was again on the highway to success until the pandemic reared its very ugly head in England. “We got hit in our fourth quarter – the most important of the year.”
The free fall of sales quickly reversed itself, and the spring of 2020 saw a massive upswing. “We prepared for the worst, but fortunately all the layoffs were short-term about three months. Most people were brought back by July of 2021,” said VanderVeen. Industry statistics show that overall Triumph sales only slipped 2% for 2020. This was also true for 2020 sales in North America.
2021 is continuing the wave of sales, with the result that all Triumphs are shipped to dealers as soon as they leave the factory, and there are no extras for a demo fleet. “We quickly saw trends shift. All recreation boomed. We had prepared for a prolonged shutdown, and now had the challenge of turning the supply chain back on as fast as possible. We were able to do so, because in many cases we control our sources, even though every supplier was crunched. As a result, Triumph has outpaced the growth in the motorcycle industry in late 2020 and to date in 2021.”
Triumph did not furlough its design team during the slowdown so that new models for 2021 were ready when sales picked up again. “We did our new product launches on schedule, starting in the Fall of 2020. We now have an upstanding, solid lineup. We have just introduced new products in the Rocket 3 family. We have a new Tiger 900 lineup, including the Tiger 850, an entry-level adventure bike. We have our new Street Triple. We have the Trident 660 – a completely new model for us that instantly became a best-seller, and the Speed Triple 1200 RS naked superbike, with a long-awaited update. We think of these as “hero products,” because it took some heroics to get them onto the showroom floor. Our dealers are heroes, too – the pandemic hit our dealers at the onset, but they pulled through.”
VanderVeen explained that Triumph did its best to assist its dealers through the pandemic and the current recovery. “Our question when things started to open up was, “How do we conduct business, given current restrictions?” For example, we couldn’t get a press fleet operational. We leaned on the Motorcycle Industry Council to help dealers understand what to do. Our dealers have impressed us with how quickly they evolved their businesses. Starting with necessity, they quickly came up with great services to offer customers. Triumph has shared best practices with its dealers. We publicized the message, “We Are Open Again.” We worked with banks to extend flooring and gave dealers the ability to delay orders. We also shipped bikes around the country in a sneak peek tour. It helped dealers get a lot of deposits.”
The 2021 lineup has gotten good reviews from motorcycle media, even with the problems with providing test bikes. Reviewers pointed out Triumph’s attention to detail, and user-friendly offerings. ”You have to admit that the company has a compelling lineup from the Bonnevilles to the Rocket 3: there’s a lot to gawk at,” says Webbikeworld.
In the late 1950s and 1960s, the original Triumph company decided to concentrate on its premier lineup and discontinue its small machines. Honda took this market over, and Triumph dealers watched in dismay as people who learned to ride on a small Honda traded up to a bigger Honda. Triumph has learned from history, and as a result, Triumph has set its sights on Triumph-badged inexpensive, entry-level models. Two years ago, Triumph partnered with Bajaj, an Indian company, to produce these budget machines.
Despite the events of the last eighteen months, “Our partnership with Bajaj is alive and well,” says VanderVeen. A press release has stated that Bajaj/Triumph motorcycles will introduce its new bikes in 2022. “Our bikes are in progress,” he continues and says that more information will be provided closer to the launch date.
In the meantime, the Modern Classic line is Triumph’s “bread and butter.” “It’s a standard motorcycle, classically styled,” VanderVeen explains. “People want a classic with modern features. We own that segment of the market and defend it by continuous updates. I can tell you that the 2022 Bonneville has significant engine updates. Watch and see.”
Triumph also has two families of motorcycles competing in the very popular adventure bike segment of the market: the Tiger family and the Scrambler family. “Both are capable,” says VanderVeen. “The Scrambler has done well in desert racing. The question comes down to what features does a customer want and aesthetics. A dealer can steer a prospective customer in the right direction by asking them how they intend to ride and what features do they want.”
Like many people in the industry, VanderVeen wants to encourage and nurture new riders. Triumph has a good relationship with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and posts a free link to the e-course, normally costing $20, on the Triumph Rider website (www.triumphrider.com).
“We need to give more people a reason to ride more often,” VanderVeen suggests dealers push rides and rallies. “We need to give excuses to ride. Mentoring is crucial to building enthusiasm. We encourage dealerships to be as welcoming as possible. Riders need to feel they are joining a fellowship.”
Link: Triumph Motorcycles