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By James “Hollywood” Macecari
Looks like Harley Davidson might just loose the big “American Made” race to Indian afterall. Let’s take a small crash course in how Indian Motorcycles began.
Indian is an American brand of motorcycles originally produced from 1901 to 1953 in Springfield, Massachusetts, United States. Hendee Manufacturing Company initially produced the motorcycles, but the name was changed to the Indian Motocycle Manufacturing Company in 1928.
The Indian factory team took the first three places in the 1911 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy. During the 1910s, Indian became the largest manufacturer of motorcycles in the world. Indian’s most popular models were the Scout, made from 1920 to 1946, and the Chief, made from 1922 until 1953, when the Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company went bankrupt. Various organizations tried to perpetuate the Indian brand name in subsequent years, with limited success.
In 2011, Polaris Industries purchased Indian Motorcycles and moved operations from North Carolina and merged them into their existing facilities in Minnesota and Iowa. Since August 2013, Polaris has marketed multiple modern Indian motorcycles that reflect Indian’s traditional styling.
That folks, was, and always has been the key for an Indian revival, some one with the powerhouse backing that could give the brand the attention it deserves. Polaris Industries was just what the Indian motorcycle brand needed. It had the money, the technology to compete against Harley Davidson, but more importantly, Polaris went all in to make the Indian Brand. Polaris was the company behind the “Victory” brand, it decided to shutter the brand January 9, 2017 to focus solely on the Indian Brand.
Source : Forbes The move to shutter Victory comes at a time when Indian Motorcycle is on a big upswing in visibility and product cadence. In just three years since Polaris launched the first original Indian motorcycle under its aegis, the Indian lineup has grown to nine models for 2017, with more variants promised later this year. Last year, an attempt was made to distinguish the Victory and Indian brands for consumers. Indian would be the heritage cruiser line; while Victory would transition to a power cruiser, “American Muscle” identity. Evidently, the distinction was not enough to save Victory in the larger Polaris ecosystem. “This decision will improve the profitability of Polaris and our global motorcycle business, and will materially improve our competitive stance in the industry,” said Scott Wine, Polaris Industries Chairman and CEO. “This was an incredibly difficult decision for me, my team and the Polaris Board of Directors.”
I was a big fan of the victory models, especially the “Vegas Jackpot”. But the move was strategic on behalf of Polaris and a right one at that. Polaris putting it’s full focus on the Indian line will bring out the full Indian Motorcycle Brand Potential. The Indian line for 2018 which starts out with the Scout Sixty will be the Harley Davidsons competition for the Sportster. At only 8,999.00 it is a better looking bike then most of the Sportster models and includes 78 hp to the rear.
Here’s what I noticed that Polaris is doing. They are going back to the core customers that Harley Davidson forgot. You don’t see them focusing on making a clothing line and you don’t see them overcharging for their motorcycles. They are making a product that a working man can afford and if they get a full dealership line up and moving it will be hard as hell for Harley Davidson to compete against them. Indian is starting to capture the younger generations attention as evident from the story below. This will be key to do if any of the companies are to be viable in the future. As of now, Harley Davidson is no longer the “King of the Hill”. If it doesn’t get it together soon, Harley Davidson won’t even be an ant at the bottom of that mountain.
Clarksville, TN – I recently wrote an article about why I felt it was important for Harley Davidson to turn their fortunes around. It’s been a rough ride for Harley the past couple of years and since their brand is synonymous with motorcycles, I think it’s important that they remain competitive. After all, that’s what the “other” guys want, is to unseat the king.
During these cold winter months, I’ve had more time to read and research than I’ve had to ride, so, as my journey continues, I’ve been trying to learn more about ALL of the motorcycle brands, just so I can hold a decent conversation with my biker brothers. After all, most of you have about a 30 years head start on me.
Recently, I read a story about the Indian Motorcycle Company, owned by Polaris. I won’t bore you with the history of Indian, but let’s just say that in 2017, they had a KILLER year. Depending on which story you read, Indian has had anywhere from a 3-10% growth spurt in 2017. This coincides with a drop in sales of 8-9% for Harley Davidson.
Personally, I don’t know ANYONE who owns an Indian motorcycle. That doesn’t mean that it’s not a great bike, because, obviously, people are buying them, but I live in Harley Davidson country and the nearest Indian dealership is in Nashville, and there’s one in Hopkinsville KY. Both are about 30-40 miles from here. I HAVE seen Indians here, and there are a lot of Honda Gold Wings, but Harley is the dominant brand in my neck of the woods.
I recently posed the question about Indian on my Facebook page and didn’t get one person to comment on owning one, but again, that doesn’t mean it’s not a popular motorcycle.
So I was curious.
The Indian Motorcycle company line explains their recent growth spurt to the momentum created with the product line including the Scout and Chieftain.
The Scout is an entry-level cruiser with power, engineering and style at a very competitive price. Something that’s been noted that Harley Davidson has fallen short with. That ENTRY level bike that’s affordable (again, just opinion and not necessarily fact).
The Chieftain is touted as a touring bike that does everything it’s supposed to do, which is being big on long distance comfort, technology, style and all the “whistles and bells.”
In talking to other bikers, it’s also to be noted that they think Harley Davidson is priced too high and their “whistles and bells” are all additional and at the end of the day, you’ve spent quite a bit of money.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a Harley guy. I’ve noted from the beginning that I knew this was not a “cheap date” and that if I wanted to surround myself with the best, it wasn’t going to be cheap.
But I don’t represent everybody. We’re ALL different and our comfort level is different.
I will admit that I AM drawn to the Indian Motorcycle brand. I like their touring bikes and I plan to own one someday and by all indications they’re a well run company.
Probably the best thing that happened to them was when they were purchased by Polaris. Polaris had a tremendous track record BEFORE they got into the motorcycle business and were able to transfer that success to motorcycles.
If you ask ten bikers about Harley or Indian motorcycles, you’re likely to get ten different answers. I had a friend remind me, after my Harley story, that I shouldn’t forget Victory which they said was a great bike and very dependable. And while they aren’t in production anymore, they’re apparently a favorite for some bikers.
Competition is good for everybody. I want everybody to succeed and be healthy, wealthy and wise. I want customers to enjoy their experience, no matter what they choose to ride.
That’s why I felt it was important for Harley Davidson to get their bottom line together, because the other guys work harder to knock the big kid off the block.
Indian has a rich history in the motorcycle world and its importance to motorcycling is just as important as Harley. After all, they were the first and it’s the oldest brand in the land.
It boils down to style and performance for me. I want a dependable motorcycle with some style, and yes, a few whistles and bells. I travel A LOT and I want some creature comforts. Indian and Harley have both.
I love the colors and styles of the Indian. I’m attracted to their touring models. I’m almost like a kid in a candy store wanting to get “one of everything” while I know I can’t.
I’m excited over the success of the Indian. It makes the competition work harder and should keep the “big boys” from assuming that they can do no wrong. Once you get comfortable and “cocky” then that’s when you get blindsided with the knockout punch.
What are your thoughts? Have you owned an Indian? Do you ride one now?
I would love your feedback.
Ride safe my brothers and enjoy the open road.
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