Bit long this one....
OK, the Hinckley connection!
I just spent a very pleasant 50 minutes on the phone to Mark Swepson in the Customer Service Dept. at Hickley. He was very amenable and answered my questions without hesitation or any discernable hint whatsoever of caution or wariness that I could detect.
I explained my position and made it quite clear from the start that I would report the conversion here - no problem to him, he said there is no ‘secrecy policy’ (other than the normal trade secrets, I would expect) and no ‘conspiracies’! (His word - not mine!) He is a rider himself and is working his way through the model range and currently has a 675 Street Triple. (Must be worth getting a job there for the staff discounts, if nothing else!) He said that most (virtually all) of his colleagues were bikers and mentioned a run-out the other evening of 10 bikes which were all different Triumph models and stressed that none of them struggled to ‘keep up‘!
The initial 'Q&A' ran along these lines:
Whole bikes made in Thailand? - Yes.
More than 1 Thai factory? - Yes, 3 of them but which do different jobs, only one plant fully assembles ‘bikes. In all of the factories there are always British personnel in key, supervisory, training and QC roles.
Bonnevilles made in Thailand? - Yes, have been for nearly 2 years.
Bonnevilles still made in the UK? - Yes, all current EFI models are but (I got the impression) it is possible Bonnie production could be concentrated in Thailand sometime soon but that would not mean Bonnies will be no longer made at Hinckley ever again. There is only one assembly line at Hinckley which can and does assemble all the models meaning they could drop on and off Bonnies at any time, as required. There are no Thai personnel actually working in the Hinckley factory but they do come over constantly for various purposes.
Thai Bonnies coming to the UK? - Yes, they go everywhere but delivery distances are taken into account for cost, convenience and even carbon footprint purposes.
VIN Nos - factory identifier? - Yes, but the point of origin is not easily discernable in UK VINs which do not have the same requirements as those in the US.
VIN Nos for the US/other countries different? - Yes, totally different from the UK VINs, at least.
US VIN Identifier? - Yes, but Mark said he didn’t know too much about them and stressed that Peter Corleo (whom he knows very well) does know and would always tell the complete truth. The absence of any ‘global secrecy policy was again stressed at this point and it was poited out that factory visits are frequent and not hard to arrange.
‘Brit Bonnie’ engines made in Thailand? - No, all Bonnie engines are made in the UK including the castings, machining and assembly. (So I got that totally arse about face - my apologies!)
After the specific questions, the conversation opened out into some very interesting generalities:
Triumph is a global company, sourcing and supplying like any other, but (important) all design, research and development is done at Hinckley. Triumph is ploughing huge sums (millions) back into continual product development, new machinery, training &c. and fully intends to remain a world class contender, fielding world class ‘bikes.
Components are not bought on the ‘cheapest possible always’ basis and stuff like tyres are not bought from a single supplier who has won an exclusive contract by being the cheapest, but whichever will be the best tyre to suit the particular model of ‘bike. At this point Mark pointed out that something to do with the Yuasa batteries (it was getting a bit complicated) which were actually made in Scotland!
On a personal basis, Mark loves Triumphs and spends his own money on them as do many of his colleagues (yes, they do get ‘some’ staff discount) and yes he did see his own bike coming off the line! (It got specialled for a QC Audit check - which is normally run continuously on a sampled basis).
His last words were that the workforce love the product and consider the ‘Thai connection’ to be part and parcel of the Triumph company. I got the impression they are quite proud of the Triumph name!
I obviously couldn’t resist the temptation to mention my own personal niggles about a) buying instant heritage and b) rubber-stamping the old model names on new ‘bikes which creates an ‘Old vs., New’ situation which didn’t exist before! He took my point and squirmed a bit but said there was some connection with the old models from the past (spiritual, I guess?), I said no there ain’t and it would have been better if they had used new model names from the off. He said that the difficulty is that most suitable names already exist somewhere or other and many are already ‘owned’. I suggested the ‘Triumph Swepson’ but he didn’t think it would sell many bikes!
I’m sorry if it doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know (or had already guessed) but the conclusion was, rather gratifyingly for me, pretty much what I’ve been saying and Mark DIDN’T say (but I bet he would have liked to be able to): Stop bleating about where the bits are all glued together and just enjoy the ‘bikes for what they are, not what they are supposed to be - in any case, it’s all done to (New) Brit Triumph standards wherever the ‘bikes actually come from! What he did say was that he only tells people to go ride ‘em and only buy them if they like them! Which is fair enough in my book - if I didn‘t like my ‘Bonnouvelle‘ as much as I do, I wouldn‘t keep it even if the Queen herself had fettled it in her spare time! (And definitely not if the Mad Cow M.T. had been anywhere near it!!)
PR snow job? No, I really don't think so - the conversation was pleasant, lively and enthusiastic with answers to questions and other responses coming without hesitatation. I didn't bother to tap into the 'Britishness' hype that has (quite rightly) peeved a few people here as I could quite easily tell that Mark's personal enthusiasm had already got him (and, I suspect, his colleagues) completely sold on the idea that they make truly 'British' 'bikes and that they are very proud of them!
Now, on the subject of difficult/stiff petrol tank caps which many of you are struggling with (and Holyman is about to discover) Mark says the quick way out is not to ratchet them up, they don’t need it! (Not sure I agree with that myself - last thing I want is some little bugger getting my cap off while my back is turned!) But a couple of things to check is whether the vent tube is pinched or if the ‘vent hose rollover valve’ in the vent line is anywhere other than in the vertical position as this will cause venting problems and create a vacuum in the tank. (Apparently it’s a little black bodied valve somewhere in the vent line??)
So, there you are - I think I got it all about right (Mark's not hard to get hold of if anyone wanted to check owt) - all comes down to ‘Yes, they are (uniformly) global products produced from global components for global markets in a global world all under rigid British control, so quit worrying, ignore the BS from dealers looking to get iron out the door and just go ride - which is what I will be doing right after I’ve had a spot of lunch! (Nice and sunny now, if not as warm as it has been lately!)
Hope this was of some interest!