The Strange Death of the British Motorcycle Industry


Steve Koerner

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One industry above all others is cited as the quintessential case study of post-war British decline and failure in manufacturing. For many years dominant around the world, the British motor cycle industry succumbed after a steadily accelerating downwards slide during the twenty years after 1950. Once technically advanced by world standards, British bikes came to be seen as antiquated and mechanically unreliable, and consumers deserted them in droves, deciding instead to buy a car, perhaps an Italian scooter, or one of a long series of more and more sophisticated and user-friendly Japanese bikes.

How did this happen, and so quickly? Why did the whole industry die after such an apparently feeble struggle? Steve Koerner provides compelling reasons in this tightly argued narrative of industrial decline and failure.