The Strange Death of the British Motorcycle Industry

Steve Koerner

Date Published :
August 2013
Publisher :
Carnegie Publishing
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding : Paperback
ISBN : 9781905472031

Stock Status : Out of stock. Available in 6-8 weeks


The British motor cycle industry once stood ‘at the top level of world production'. BSA, Ariel, Norton, Triumph, Matchless and Vincent led the world in design, technology, and popularity. After 1945, when the German industry failed to develop, British bikes continued to be untouchable both on the racetrack and in the showroom.

Then it all began to go horribly wrong. Lucrative overseas markets began to decline, and foreign scooters tore into the UK market. At the same time, rates of motorcycle accidents rose and many British consumers were deciding to buy cars instead of two-wheelers.

Finally there came a whirlwind from the East, as fierce competition arrived from innovative, sophisticated and more mechanically reliable Japanese machines. By the early 1970s, with alarming rapidity, the British motor cycle industry had all but disappeared.


Koerner is as much a British motorcycle enthusiast as he is an academic, but he doesn't wax nostalgic about the industry. He is critical in hindsight, and although players in the trade aren't identified as heroes or villains, it's fairly obvious who they are.... Crippled by the early 1970s there is no easy answer regarding the downfall of the British industry, but Koerner's book is one of the better attempts at an in-depth exploration. "Life is complicated,” Koerner says. "And there aren't simple explanations. It wasn't all Bernard Docker's fault, nor was it German or Japanese manufacturers, or the attitude of management. It's simply not that simple to explain.”

- Greg Williams Motor Writer — Automobiles, Trucks, Motorcycles old and new, February 2016

"...packed with information and insights into the demise of the British motorcycle industry. Some of the material we've seen before. ...But mere facts are never enough. It's the analysis that counts, and Koerner has delved deeply into the root causes of the collapse of AMC, Ariel, BSA, Norton, Triumph et al, and has presented his arguments in an intelligent, readable and coherent way. There's plenty of boardroom intrigue and political machinations. And we're taken repeatedly into the filing cabinets and tool rooms and exposed to the atmosphere of an industry that, in hindsight, ultimately had nowhere to go but down.... we especially like is (a) the hard numbers backing up the aforementioned facts, and (b) the contextual information. In other words, this book gives you an all-important sense of time and place, and it highlights many other key issues around the country (and the world) that impacted on British motorcycle manufacture. Actually, there's one other point here worth mentioning. The book has hundreds of notes and references intended to underpin the facts and highlight the sources, and that naturally adds authority to this work."

- Sump Magazine, April 2016

More from this publisher