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Elite Motors London Norton Triumph sales manger dies

Mark Gregory

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If you wonder what ever happened to the quality of the British bikes they explain part of the problem here.









I was greatly saddened to hear of the recent death of Ron Welling, who was for many years the personable sales manager at Elite Motors in Tooting, south London.  

Motorcycle sales, especially in the superbike category, were very buoyant during the mid-1970s, in which era Elite Motors was reputedly the country’s most voluminous seller…though possibly matched by George Lloyd in Scotland. Full credit for this achievement should be awarded to Ron and his team, for Elite had strong competition from several other well-known emporiums, mostly located in London, including Coburn & Hughes, Comerfords, Ryes, and so on.

The selling of Nortons and Triumphs to the trade was never quite as easy as it sounds. Yes, our old-fashioned machines were well regarded and had some unique design features. Unfortunately, they were not manufactured to the same high standard as Honda, Yamaha et al, and lacked the desirability of some of the exciting hardware available from BMW, Ducati, Laverda, Moto Guzzi etc. 

Back then [surprise, surprise] a policy of heavy discounting was the order of the day on the majority of London forecourts. Given the necessity that new Nortons and Triumphs required a far more thorough PDI than other contemporary machines, NVT was fully aware that, whenever a vigorous “discount dealer” bought a large number of bikes, there was – shall we say – a likelihood they might reach consumers in a potentially troublesome state. Our sales philosophy, therefore, was something of a balancing act.

The illustration – from early October 1974 – depicts a line-up of recently supplied Commandos and Tridents. While Elite and NVT both needed the 100-bike sale for PR purposes, Ron [pictured on right] only had space to display about 35 “up front”; the residue was in the store.  

Folk with an enquiring mind will be asking “So where’s the great balancing act?” Here was a volume dealer buying a huge stock of “potentially troublesome” bikes in one go – and what’s more – right at the end of the sales season. It’s a long story. In essence, the deal was concluded close to regular trade price, but enhanced with a very lengthy credit period. It was, in fact, NVT’s largest ever home-market order and would effectively pay the wage bill for a fortnight at the two Midlands factories concerned. 

As good as its word, Elite did not disrupt the market by selling this stock at crazy prices, and its workshop also took special care over the PDIs.

Is it any wonder Ron Welling was such a popular figure both with his fellow traders and with Elite’s retail customers?       

Mike Jackson

Pictured are Wally Young (centre) is about to sign NVT’s delivery note, held by Mike Jackson.  Ron Welling (right) contemplates the courage of the photographer, and how he’s going to sell “this little lot”!


Edited by Mark Gregory (see edit history)
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