Features 11 Jul 2024

Industry: Triumph Australia's Jonathan Kent

National brand manager on the TF 250-X's arrival in motocross.

It’s safe to say that Triumph has done a fine job of catching the attention of motocross riders globally with the introduction of its TF 250-X, quickly establishing a factory program in American Supercross and Pro Motocross, as well as in MXGP. MotoOnline recently attended the national press launch of the all-new model and while we were there, took some time out to speak to Triumph Australia brand manager Jonathan Kent about the manufacturer’s fascinating arrival in the dirt bike market within one of the most competitive categories of all.

Image: Supplied.

For Triumph to enter the new segment, being motocross, the TF 250-X is obviously a really important model and we’ve seen it already racing globally as well. How important is this entry into the motocross market for Triumph in Australia?

Yeah, it’s super important, like the rest of the world, you know, we’re Triumph. It’s the basis of our new off-road range, and to have the TF 250-X hit the market at this time of the year is an important aspect for the brand because it allows them to grow and jump into the next season, you know? Like it’s the springboard for 2025, really. And when you look at the product coming out now and what it’s doing in the US and in Europe, it’s gone pretty good. But when you look at what we can do here, the bike’s going to be really suited for our conditions and I think today at the launch is a prime example of that.

As a distributor, when you learn about this type of project being in the works, I’m assuming a few years ago now, to see it actually become a reality, it must kind of produce a lot of excitement…

Yeah, absolutely. We’re really lucky as a distributor we get Triumph UK, the factory, almost treat us like a subsidiary and the fact that they’re very open with us, and even by having the guys on the call last night shows the close relationship we have. The relationship is so strong, and yeah, we get a good runway for the model line-up, and when we got wind of the motocross project, we were all in for it as well. It just opens up segments of the brand to people that wouldn’t have ever known the brand. They’ve already seen on our Triumph social media accounts a whole lot of new subscribers and followers, so it’s really interesting, and that hopefully breeds the next generation for us. That’s the important bit. Strategically with the 250, where the entry level is, it really opens the door for future models and longevity for the project because it gets young guys in, and as an industry we need to grow it.

Do you think that’s the attraction and why we’re seeing more and more brands begin to look at motocross? Is that a demographic advantage from a factory’s perspective to kind of get people on the brand, potentially sooner?

That’s an interesting question because motocross is probably the most expensive and the hardest segment to be competitive in. And it’s the fastest-changing out of everything because a road bike generally has a sub-life of two years where you do a small model update and then another model life after that, but motocross, it’s really six-to-12 months before you’re having to change product. So for brands to enter into this segment, especially as the competitors are so good, and to come at a high level immediately is just a testament to the belief in the brand and where we can get those new customers from and new riders from.

Image: Foremost Media.

When you look at the bike, what stands out for you? Because the general response has been quite positive.

Yeah, just the spec level for the price in the marketplace right now, like you look at how good the competitor bikes are, and we’ve just come out with everything with absolutely top-shelf right in the right price point. Trying to bring this bike out now and just have Ricky Carmichael, Ivan Cervantes as lead test riders, and then have Bobby Hewitt as race manager and team owner in the US, there’s a lot of that sort of stuff you go, ‘Well, that flows straight into the bike’. So the project, the team design guys listen so much to the feedback they get, not just from those top-level guys but from all the different testers, to try and make the best product possible, and not just for the experts but for the everyday guy, and that’s who buys the bike, you know? So that’s where we’re at with that.

There’s almost that meeting point of guys like RC and Cervantes, they lift the expectation up, but then there’s a development team in the background working very hard to bring it into production spec for the general rider. Is that how it generally works?

Exactly right. Like with Triumph, one of the real benefits, you look at every model that we’ve got and there’s no bike that’s not within the top three in the category that it’s in. Like they’re all generally class-leading or right up the top, because they know how to build motors, they know how to build frames, and they choose their best partners to go with for the bolt-on components. And when you look at the TF 250-X and who they’ve teamed up with, it’s exactly the same, but they just needed the expertise to guide those developers which direction to go and which is best for market as well, not just racing but for market as well.

How about from a dealer standpoint – are you entering existing dealers or are you finding motocross-specific dealers?

We’re entering our current dealer network, so we’ve got a really strong dealer network of 30 dealers around the country at the moment. Every major city’s got a Triumph dealer and we’ve got some very, very good partners out there, and everyone’s absolutely excited. There’s always an investment required with corporate identity and parts, tooling, things like that, but everyone’s been on board. They know it’s not just a one model thing that they’re investing in and it’s a long-term project. We’re definitely looking for some regional partners as well, because as the model range grows, not just with the motocross and off-road product, but the lower price category of LAMS bikes, and we’ve just released the Speed 400 and Scrambler 400 X, it’s perfect for some of these country regional areas.

You spoke briefly there to the corporate identity. One part of that that I feel like Triumph’s probably really improved upon even in Moto2 or racing different categories via the Triumph Racing division, because we see the bright yellow, the contrasting colours, and that’s obviously in line with having a competition bike like this… Racing in general seems like it’s become more apparent for the brand.

Yeah, exactly, exactly. They knew that if they’re going to enter certain segments, they need the racing to build up the history of brand, to give it more credibility, and Triumph Racing, when you look at Moto2 racing, the reliability of it, it speaks for itself, and that flows through to the other programs that they do. When you sort of look at some of the results at the moment, there’s a lot of the Triumph Racing yellow up the front, which is always just fantastic.

Image: Octopi Media.

On that competitive side, especially in motocross these days, of course the bike itself is important, but then there are the catalogs of purpose-built, brand-specific parts, either developed in house or through partnerships. It looks like Triumph is moving forward in that area, whether it is the accessories or apparel, in addition to entering the market with the TF 250-X.

So for a fair while now, Triumph have had accessories available for every model that they build, and they know that’s a big part of motocross as well. You don’t see the motocross bikes in for servicing as much because a lot of people do their own servicing, so you’ve got to maximise the opportunities, and everyone tends to put these components on, so why not have a factory version of that component, you know? So at least then, it’s all reliable, everything’s tested to the factory specs – not an aftermarket spec that has been suited for one bike and just adapted for another. Everything that we sell in terms of accessories, that is backed by the Triumph program. The Triumph factory have some very good relationships with some major brands and they choose some of the best components. They only want to work with the best, and it’s not necessarily a price-point thing, but what they’re looking for is how it improves the ride.

During the launch, you guys have briefly addressed it that there’s no specific plan to introduce a factory racing program as such in Australia, but at the same time as a distributor, you are aware of the importance of getting the Triumph gate drops. What’s your take on that situation and where do you guys stand on it at this point?

Yeah, good question. It’s an ever-evolving landscape on that one, so as we get more model introductions, that’s where we can start playing with different options. We’ve always supported our dealers, so with our dealer network around the country, they’ve got a lot of contacts in that scene, and we’ll always continue to support those guys. We’ve got a fleet of bikes here at the moment that we’re using for the launch and you’ll probably see them on a race grid somewhere along the line, along the start gate. There’s a lot of opportunities, there are a lot of things that we like to also think outside the square, and sometimes what works for one brand or one team won’t suit someone else, so we’re always happy to look at some options and things like that. I’ve had some very interesting emails over the last sort of 12 months hitting my inbox, so it’s a very, very interesting deal and we’ll see where it ends up.

It’s almost one step at a time, isn’t it? We see the team in America and the MXGP team as well, so it’s clear that the brand is very invested in racing, but it is all so new here for Triumph Australia as a distributor.

It is, it is, but we’re lucky as our group with PS Importers, representing Triumph Australia. We do Fox, which is a massive brand, and obviously, that has high-level sponsorship throughout the country, so we know what it takes to do that sort of level of investment. Then you also look at the cycling aspect of our business as well, we’ve got brands like Cannondale, Schwinn, RockShox, and SRAM, under our banner. So as Triumph Australia, it might look like this fairly small operation, but then when you expand it to the whole of what PS Importers is, it’s actually a really big operation and we’ve got a lot of contacts in a lot of places, so watch this space.