What Indian means for Polaris

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indian lit by polaris

A lot has been written about the acquisition of the Indian brand by Polaris Industries last week, and for good reason. The American motorcycle industrial landscape is in tatters, with the wreckage of failed dealerships, recently deceased OEMs and radically reduced unit sales littering the country. Not one area of the US market is secure, not one corner has shown significant cause for cheer. Everyone, from the local helmet distributor to Harley-Davidson are in damage control mode, waiting. Waiting for a sunnier economic climate; waiting for a sign pointing to the next green pasture. But, instead of waiting, Polaris just did something. Here’s what the Indian purchase means.

Polaris is in a unique position. As I have pointed out on HFL in the past, particularly when HD was making loud noises in press communiques about fantastic turnaround sales and profits, it has been Polaris Industries that quietly got on with the job of simply making good motorcycles, and more importantly, selling them. Victory seems to be a favourite punching bag for many in the mainstream of American cruiser culture, often derided for bland styling, a foggy brand message and lack luster total volume sales (it took Polaris a decade to sell the first 50,000 – a figure so petty as to put in the realm of boutique brands). However, eleven or so years on, Victory is shaping up to have grown into something that most brands fight long and spend obscene advertising dollars for: namely a brand known to a few, happy and devoted customers as trustworthy.

Victory, and its successful parent Polaris Industries, are now poised to do something truly remarkable in American motorcycling, which is to redefine what American motorcycling actually is, as well as what it can be. With the fabled Indian brand in the fold, the group now has the one element that no amount of innovation or stolid success can bring. They now own myth. In buying Indian Motorcycles, Polaris can leverage the fantastic brand equity that a century of roller coaster history has wrought, and marry it to the best run company in the American motorcycle industry. Perhaps now the public will finally be able to see past the faded glamour of Harley-Davidson’s tired myths, and create something new.

It Is What It Was

Indian Motorcycles, sadly like many of its namesake peoples, have not had a easy recent past. The original company, founded by performance oriented enthusiasts, won over millions of fans in the 50 years or so that it operated. The decline of motorcycle sales in general after the Second World War pur the final nails in the coffin of many OEMs, and Indian felt the squeeze like all the rest. While Harley-Davidson tried vertical expansion to escape oblivion -they purchased Aeremacchi of Italy to get into the burgeoning two stroke sport bike market, and even attempted scooters- Indian stoically continued with what industry and consumers where starting to call “heavyweight” touring bikes like the famous Chief, with its comically flared fenders, tassels and plastic native American head ornament. It was not the right decision.

Over the past 40 years, the brand has been bought, sold, bankrupted and rehashed so many times and with so many different levels of incompetence that it is hard to believe that anyone would consider it worthwhile to try again. In brand equity terms, it has been dragged through the mud, with lots of the smell and dirt of previous sick incarnations clinging perilously on. I first became aware of Indian when in the early-mid 90′s some Canadians re-launched the brand as a clothing company, opening a flagship store/restaurant/lounge in a renovated old textile factory in Toronto’s club district. They had a low number of actual motorcycles made, I believe using catalogue parts from OEM suppliers like S&S and the aftermarket, and hung them from the walls and on copper topped counters behind the bar. Briefly, wearing a t-shirt with the Indian logo and the slogan “America’s First Motorcycle” became a must have basic in clubland and trendier venues, of which the Indian bar was one.

Predictably the good times did not last. Once the yuppies all had their $40 dollar t-shirts and had sufficiently mooched off the rebel glow that comes when associating with motorcycles, the party was over. It didn’t help that the owners had no idea how to run a motorcycle company, or any industrial enterprise for that matter, and that the bikes they did sell were rotten. The final insult happened when a group of aboriginal Americans sued – successfully – for infringing on their identity. As a long-time supporter of native rights this final twist warmed me, but it spelt the final death warrant for a company that was very sick, tied up in litigation and up to its eyeballs in debt.

Normally, one would think that after an episode like that, investors would be cool to a restart. But you would be underestimating the persuasive powers of a well presented Excel spreadsheet, and the undeniable lure of the vast amounts of money that was being raked in by Harley-Davidson over in Milwaukee. For a long time in those heady days of the late 90′s and the first decade of this new century, HD was peddling the same fat, heavy, antiquated war surplus designs it had for decades, made with tooling that remembered the Eisenhower administration, and charging a fortune for them. HD was rich, and getting richer all the time because with all that filthy lucre they invested not in new motorcycle technology but in a vast brand building exercise, the likes of which had never been seen in the industry before.

Harley had figured out that the one thing it had in its possession that had any value was the myth, the image that owning a Harley-Davidson seemed to project on a large number of Americans of all stripes, and a significant number of people around the world. Theirs was the “American Dream” vision of motorcycling down a desert highway, tearing a strip of asphalt up with a colossal sized V-twin. It appealed to people on a basic, analogue level in a world that was increasingly sanitized and complex. Harley moved into this space with the gusto of a wild western settler, staking claim to the whole thing and pouring out tons of products that reenforced that image. In the end, owning the brand was more important than owning the motorcycle, so an industry mushroomed around licenced merchandise that allowed anyone with ten bucks to spend on a Harley headband could buy into the myth. The best part? The merchandise was largely made by third party companies that absorbed the development costs, and they paid HD royalties for the privilage. By the time the Great Recession hit, Harley was making all its big money in accessories and financing. The bikes themselves were just a necessary evil.

With this business model in mind, many investors flocked to vintage OEM restarts like dirt attracts children. In Europe, TPG was doing its level best to convert Ducati into what the CEO called “Disneyland” and float an IPO, while in America Henderson-Excelsior, Indians 5 through 7 and even obscure names like Crocker found cash to buy 50,000 square foot premises, hire bodies to man desks and attend events at Pebble Beach to launch their “new” motorcycles. All the time, the eyes were on the prize: build up the brand, get people talking, get into the accessory business to build the momentum, and one day, we’ll list on the stock exchange in New York and you’re made.

Attention! Extremely Fragile! Bubbles Inside

Ducati’s IPO in New York was a smashing success. For a while anyway. It took most investors who stayed in past the first quarter years just to recover the money they put into it, and then very quietly without so much as a whimper, in 2006 Ducati closed down, was sold for ten euros and re-privatized. The hard lesson was that a brand, no matter how deep and delicious is meaningless for an industrial company if the core products and product sales aren’t there. If Ducati, with its stellar history, fanatical devotees and the benefit of some hard core, sexy and high performing motorcycles couldn’t pull it off, then probably no one other than Harley-Davidson could. How do you think Indian and Crocker faired?

Indian, the current, new and improved Indian motorcycles is different, or so they say. Cycle World magazine praised the bikes and offered a healthy prognosis when they featured them last year, and indeed from the way the company has unfolded, it seems that they are at least trying to make a professional go of it. On the bike show circuit last year, I grew suspicious when the stands were filled once again with an excess of accessories including fantastically over-priced leather jackets and hats. More than that, as with any designer or enthusiast, I was hoping to see the next thing in American cruisers, not another regurgitation of an antique theme, thrown together with parts from the usual suspects. In other words, I was looking for another Victory, a genuine OEM that made its own bikes its own way, and actually, you know, designed them.

Victory at Last

When Polaris announced that it had bought Indian, most of the media, including HFL, made the obvious conclusion that Polaris, with its lackluster Victory brand and identity, made Indian an ideal takeover target. I agree that buying into an established brand is the easiest way for any company to gain overnight credibility, and the world is full of examples to support this – such as India’s Tata Group buying Jaguar and Land Rover; or VW’s takeover of Bentley and Lamborghini – but this is not, I believe, the whole story.

Victory is itself established and respectable. Simply applying the Indian nameplate on some full bagger Victory-derived machine and calling it an Indian may work for a short while, but this is not historically been the way that Polaris operates. As a company, they seem to use a cautious, incremental approach to expansion, and always with an eye on keeping the books in the black. Polaris has had many opportunities in the credit-bloated past to over-expand, over-promise and under-develop products, but never did. When a product or even a whole line of products started to hurt the business too much, they weren’t afraid to kill it, as they did with their personal water craft, a sector they had occupied successfully for years. Similarly, when the going got tough and competition increased, as it recently did in the side by side ATV market, Polaris has applied resources and fought it out. My point is that given this past performance as a guide, it is unlikely that they acquired Indian simply to mooch off of what’s left of the brand’s heritage.

It is my belief as a professional industry analyst that in buying Indian Motorcycles, Polaris has made a masterstroke. The scale, industrial and managerial prowess of the company will finally, after a half century of bunglers, provide Indian with an environment in which to flourish properly. For Victory, the pressure to somehow compare with Harley-Davidson is finally off, and that brand can veer off into the vast unclaimed spaces of American motorcycling, such as naked, sports and entry-level motorcycles. This is a direction I suspect the brand has wanted to follow for some time, if past concept models have been any indication. With Indian occupying the “American Myth” domain, with arguably a greater store of history and authentic prestige than Harley-Davidson can itself muster, the stage is clear for a new like of innovative, dynamic and new century American motorcycles, backed by modern engineering and with those boring two things many non-Japanese brands lack but Victory has in spades: established and respectable.

Michael Uhlarik runs Amarok Consultants and designed the Amarok P1.

  • jason

    Such a concise, and educated summary, thank you. Hopefully Polaris will threaten that bloated pig H-D, and make American OEM interesting again.

  • DAVID

    one thing an Indian branded bike has going for it (in that market) is that you would not be ostracized for bringing it to Sturgis. As long as it had the Indian vtwin.

  • bluemoco

    Very nice commentary, Michael.

    It will indeed be interesting to see the direction of Victory’s product development now. I’m sure I’m not the only HFL reader who would like to see some new products in the “vast unclaimed spaces of American motorcycling, such as naked, sports, and entry-level motorcycles.”

  • noone1569

    This is an interesting, forward looking piece, and one of the reasons I subscribe; this is especially interesting coming from a contributor that is also producing motorcycls. Thank you.

    Hopefully Polaris can leverage Indian into the quality production vehicles that it should be.

  • Thom

    I’m just not convinced Polaris/Victory has the $ or the tenacity it’ll take to get Indian back on its feet after the last two abject debacles ( lousy quality , pathetic service , idiot dealerships )

    I’ll hope I’m wrong , but for the moment I wouldn’t be placing any bets on this one working either . Granted Polaris/Victory has a better position financially and marketing wise than the last two Ego Maniacs . But again , will it be enough .

    I’ll keep my fingers crossed .

    • Kirill

      Polaris is a large, diverse, well-run and financially healthy company (just look at their dividend compared to Harley’s, despite the latter’s considerably larger market cap). If there’s any powersports operation in this country that can pull it off, its them.

      • Thom

        I certainly hope you’re right !

        • slowtire

          I hope I’m reincarnated as much as the Indian brand.

  • Kirill

    I hope you’re right, Michael, and Victory will in fact veer off into those “unclaimed spaces.” I’ve ridden a couple Victory cruisers and they felt more refined and modern than analogous Harleys and I’d love for that to be transfered into something like a modern American standard – and maybe, just maybe, a successful Indian will force Harley to update and diversify their bikes as well.

  • Peter88

    Nice article. The company I work for did some work for Polaris and they were extraordinarily professional. The Vision was a big step for American motorcycle technology and design and I believe that is where Victory received alot of credibility. Victory also uses Roland Sands for special projects so I believe the American motorcycle landscape is going to be redefined. And I like the new High-Ball.

  • Cajun58

    Good stuff this is why we subscribe.

    • Sebastian

      Here in Australia, Indian motorcycles hardly rate a mention outside a discussion on the Sir Anthony Hopkins movie; while HD is known for selling a bland shrink wrapped “American Dream” concept.
      This concise and insightful article has got me more interested in Indian’s future than I’ve ever been in Norton’s so-called future.

  • NickP

    What I don’t understand is why they can’t just build sport bikes under their Polaris brand. Yamaha and Honda do it, and Polaris has a good enough reputation with their established products to do it as well.

    • Ceolwulf

      This is a good point; especially here in Canada, Polaris is well known for sleds and quads that are well-made and good performers. Although the Ski-Doo and Arctic Cat die-hards wouldn’t have anything to do with them …

      • NickP

        lol I know what you mean, I ride a can-am ds-450 which is a bit faster than my buddy’s outlaw. :)

        Both great quads but the ds is designed a bit better in my opinion.

  • http://www.muthalovin.com the_doctor

    Competition will be good for the market, and Polaris is in a great position currently. Should be pretty interesting.

  • Robert

    NickP – the supersport and superbike markets are ones to shift technology quickly and typically feature the bleeding edge of technology, only to be abandoned when the next thing comes around. To pull this off an OEM needs considerable profit, and can also bank on considerable bodywork sales – think of this – as a percentage, how many HD cruisers will need a new gas tank due to a crash compared to one Japanese OEM’s sportbike line-up? When you consider a model segment – you have to think of it from the cradle to beyond the grave – and how within a period of time that segment will be in the black.

    Nice article indeed – not just because I work with them – but because it is devoid of spaztic reaction and looks ahead through the googles of Polaris unique history.

    • NickP

      That is true, you would really need to be international to turn that many numbers since USA is such a small market.

      But I guess what I meant was, if their goal is to broaden their scope and build more modern bikes, sport, naked, small capacity, etc., why not just use the Polaris brand and leave Indian out of the equation?

      It may be that I am too young to have any connection at all to the Indian brand and I just think in 2011 it’s an offensive name/logo combination.

      • Robert

        Politically incorrect / Motorcycles / Hell for Leather Magazine is the last place I would expet to hear that comment!

        I believe that since the brand has so much heritage and strength in the minds of those in the know, that the PC-Ness of the brand will ultimately be overshadowed by kick-ass motorcycles.

  • Stacey

    I am not convinced that the way for Polaris is clear.
    From what I’ve seen posted around the web, the purchase of Indian is for going after the ‘premium’ end of the market. The ‘hardcores’ who have the resources to demand a first-class product, i.e. the Cadillac of the motorcycling world.
    Since cruisers represent something like 50% of the North American market, unless the price of an Indian comes down to somewhere between a the Japanese OEMs and HD’s offerings, how would they sell enough to fund new offerings?
    Has anyone even heard from the company that this sort of trickle-down was even in their plans?
    If Victory offered me support and service along with a great line of the types of bike I’d like to ride, they’d have a customer for life.

    I hope something comes of this.

  • Rachael

    Polaris would do well to take a look at Triumph and its business/production plan since its reintroduction in the 1990s.

    Great bikes, a full and diverse line-up from the Vintage Moderns to the urban Street and Speed Triples and high-performance Daytona 675R (with a whole lot in between), and a commitment to reinvesting in R&D, not just t-shirts. And they’ve done it all without destroying the unique history and prestige of the Triumph brand.

    Granted, Triumph is privately held, but is possible to revive a storied, yet defunct moto brand. Good luck, Polaris!

    • http://www.amarokconsultants.com michael uhlarik

      An interesting comparison, Rachael, but the two don’t line up exactly. Triumph has/had the benefit of a genuine past heritage in all segments, from sport to touring and even a kind of cruiser, to draw from. Also, the brand had only been dead for a few years, unlike the decades of rot suffered by Indian.

      What Polaris CAN learn from John Bloor’s Triumph is that leadership and originality are the ingredients that work in heritage brands. Note that every time Trumpet made relatively anonymous products, such as the Tigers, Trophy and TT600, they failed inthe marketplace despite being technically excellent motorcycles.

      Each new Victory must be a stand out design in a standout market, such as Triumph’s Speed Triple and Rocket III.

      • Thom

        I still contend that the biggest obstacle to Victory/Polaris succeeding with this attempt at renewing Indian is the last two attempts that’ve left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth .

      • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

        While the old “anonymous” bikes like the TT600 may have failed in the market place, I their success as reliable, modern, technically sophisticated bikes gave Triumph plenty of street cred, while also giving themselves time to find their “reinvented” self. I suspect the first run of Indians will also be “bland” motorcycles, but if they focus on quality control and execution, they’ll find their niche, too.

        • http://www.amarokconsultants.com michael uhlarik

          There is no such thing as an industrial company that can afford to burn cash with failed products to build up a rep. Not even cash heavy OEMs can do that.

          The fact is that Triumph is a great company but they made mistakes, and spent a fortune and three iterations of middleweights till they got it right. All that time potential sales losses go against the enormous cost of R&D and marketing.

          In any business, you need to be right, right off the line, you risk catastrophic cash-flow problems. Triumph made it this far because of the large market for the heritage line, nothing else.

  • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate BeastIncarnate

    Great article, Michael.

    And entertaining graphic, to boot.

  • Cheese302

    well written, i really enjoyed this and agree. I think buying Indian and making it into a full range company is a good plan. Polaris could go forth and make sport bikes under the Polaris name, but i like using Indian. Just as many said i agree, don’t turn it into a complete Harley competitor, use other niches, and other classes of motorcycle to grow the company. Between adventure touring, sport touring, commuting, naked, whatever motorcycles. I think there are many, many places to become successful other than supersports and cruisers. Hopefully we will see this type of product range. I enjoy some of victory’s machines, but none of them fit my needs for the price they go for.

  • http://theprojectbeta.com/ andehans

    Too many companies get the balance between brand building and product developement wrong. You cannot build a sustainable, strong and long-lasting brand without getting the product just right. Let’s just hope I never see a Indian deoderant in the store..

    • http://www.amarokconsultants.com michael uhlarik

      Deoderant I can handle, it was the Ferrari-Barbie I saw at the Geneva Auto show in ’03 that really pushed my buttons.

      • Thom

        I guess you missed the $400 Ferrari Hair Dryer at the last Geneva show.

        • http://www.lgdm.fr stempere

          Had to google it to believe it.
          They even had “Ferrari designed engine” on the package. Philistines.

      • http://theprojectbeta.com/ andehans

        I visited the Ferrari store in Milan a couple of years ago. Disneyland is right word.

        • slowtire

          But if you have a loyal brand following and you don’t sell that stuff, you’re passing on easy money. If people want to associate with a brand, and they do, they’ll buy anything, no matter what the price or how rediculous. I’m looking at a trio of Teutul bobble-heads right now:)

          • http://theprojectbeta.com/ andehans

            Well, having worked with the developement and design of products and working hard to create a great product and user experience, I find it amazing that companies sell away the rights to use the brand and the logo and give away the control of the use. I think, in the long run, it will destroy the brand. I just don’t like it, just as I don’t like Ducati baby socks.

            • slowtire

              The key is control. It is indeed amazing how many companies give up too much of it.

  • Dumptruckfoxtrot

    Excellent article!

  • T Diver

    Prior to the purchase, 65% of Polaris sales were generated by off road vehicles, 12% snowmobiles, 3% on-road vehicles (the remaining is parts etc.) I believe they can survive if the purchase fails. They, like many other large companies, are sitting on shit-tons of cash. They simply can’t loose. It was a piece of garbage that they bought on the cheap. They have the resources to revive the brand. It’s a win-win in my view.

  • ike6116

    Maybe it’s my Masshole blood showing itself but I’ve long wanted Indian to succeed, despite the fact that a cruiser I actually like is about as common as Haley’s comet. I can’t say there’s a single Victory Motorcycle that looks appealing to me and if I were to ever buy an Indian I’d take that god awful bellbottom looking front fender off (would it even be an Indian any more?) but I’ve also never read an article by Michael on this site that I have disliked or disagreed with, therefore I am excited by this news.

  • Rudyard Crippling

    “Indian Motorcycles, sadly like many of its namesake peoples, have not had a easy recent past.” Jesus, I mean, not that it’s inaccurate or anything, but…jesus.

  • Gregory

    I like the imagery of an Indian staring longingly up at the north star, Polaris. Good art. Subtle. Quite telling. Nice graphic.

  • Thom

    Well I think Ferrari has the award for most Over Marketed ” Brand ” of the Century , beating out H-D’s feeble efforts by a country mile and a half .

    Oh yes … H-D has its T-Shirts n Head Bands etc. But thats a drop in the bucket in comparison to Ferrari’s Over Branding efforts .

    Try matching $400 Hair Dryers, SheikMaranelloLand ( Ferrari’s Theme Park in the Middle East ) The Ferrari Pit Experience ( another theme like ride in Malls all over Italy ) the books , the cloths , $250,000 Books ( thats for one copy ) $500K Jewelry ( yes a half a million ) and on and on and on . Oh… did I mention the $260,000 BBQ ( OK thats a bit of sarcasm aimed at the Self Igniting 458 ) and Harley Davidson looks like a bunch of rank amateurs in comparison .

    Conclusion ;

    Harley Davidson – Bad enough thank you

    Ferrari – Taking it to the Ludicrous Extremes

    Sorry . This is an M/C site . But had to say it .

    • James

      I agree with you for the most part, but I think Ferrari has reasons to need the extra income. Look at the success they’ve had historically and currently in F1 (and to a certain extent in the Le Mans series with the Rissi team) In order to keep that going, they need any extra funding they can get for R and D. Ferrari needs more than just car sales because their cheapest product is a luxury item that retails for $250k and it only sells in low volume, they need other sources of income to fund their racing ventures and if you have any hope of keeping that success going you need very very deep pockets. Look at how much it costs to run a Formula 1 team, it’s astronomical.

      I think H-D is in a very different situation, they have no need for any of the extra income, they’re not developing new product nor do they have a reputation in any sort of racing series that they need to uphold.

      Ferrari may have FIAT backing them, but I don’t think Marchionne is willing or able to fund their F1 team with the cash it needs to sit where it does.

      • slowtire

        HD has a need for extra money. They’re called stockholders. What it’s used for doesn’t matter. Besides, all that stuff (crap) is a huge part of their ‘lifestyle’ marketing plan. I don’t know of any company that doesn’t want extra income.

  • JTourismo

    Excellent write up. Happy to support analysis like this.

  • jason

    I think that you oversimplified the demise of the original Indian company. For World War 2 the military put out to bid specs for a 500cc bike with other weight, etc specs. Indian built a bike to spec. Harley took a current bike and militarized it (a 750, or “45″ in HD talk) to compete. HD got most of the contracts somehow even though the bike was totally out of spec. The same thing happened with the Jeep (another story). So most GI’s were on Harley’s during the war, the surplus bikes were available cheap post war (the original bobbers) and Indian paid the price. Pre-war Indian was THE bike. The 4 cyl. were used by police depts. all over, Indian raced and won and I’m quite sure that they sold more bikes than Harley overall.

    Fastforward to now. I own a Victory. I had to mod the shit outta it to make it the bike I wanted (Kingpin with Hammer front end for dual brakes, Vegas shorter rear fender, blah, blah, blah.) I love the bike. I took it on 3 cross country rides last year. My bike is a 2006. Brembos, decent forks (Marzocchi non adjustable USD), good handling for having floorboards (I dont mind grinding them), etc.
    Then Harley decides to flex it’s muscle-Brembo is no longer the Victory bikes brakes as Harley put it in their contract with Brembo that they can’t sell to Victory, Dunlop develops a great, sticky new tire and it is Harley Only with availability at HD dealers only and with the HD symbol in the rubber….. my point is Harley isn’t making decisions based on good product, they make decisions based on ‘how can we hurt another company’?
    Victory tries to come out with swag and most of the owners I interact with online want that but guys like me want performance and Polaris has people in the Vic division that do too. They had a couple of guys racing an old Vic SC Sport Cruiser, the Core is a cool looking boardtrack bike and could could lead to a Diavel type Vic. And Indian? I think Vic should take the opportunity to embrace Indian’s true heritage with racing and also build a multi-cyl bike but I don’t own the company. Yet.

    • jason

      And I’m a 41 year old, former Marine/now firefighter and I own 2 Kawi 4′s, a old Transalp and a HawkGT in addition to the Vic so I think of myself as fairly unbiased company-wise (owned Zooks and Yamahas too). I ride what I like and could care less about tshirts, rallies, clubs and whatever. Sometimes the Vic sits for 2 weeks, sometimes I take it out every day.

  • Dan

    I am excited about the possabilities here. Wild speculation on my part; the big V twin market is mushy, but a market does exist for something truely special… An inline four, with a nod to Indians heritage and the latest technology would really shake things up.

    I’m gonna look into the stockmarket today.

    • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

      Longitudinal inline 4 maybe? Now THAT would be unique!

      • Cheese302

        bring back the ace

        • jason

          Yup. That should be a direction to go in. Those 4cyl bikes were gorgeous.

  • Dan

    Exactly.

  • Dennis

    Unfortunately, I don’t see any arguments here for why Polaris’s Indians will weigh less than 900 pounds.

    For those that say only a giant cash flush conglomerate can make cutting edge sportbikes, I refer you to Triumph.

    So on on the one hand, there’s no good reason why they can’t put some skin in the game and build an exciting bike. On the other hand, I predict they won’t, because, well, look at Victory.

    • Dan

      Look at Victory? One must look at Polaris. They are very capable.

      • Dennis

        Right. That’s the part of this story I don’t get. “Polaris is very capable. Except for their motorcycle company, Victory. So now their new motorcycle company is going to be great. As long as you go by their non-motorcycle track record.”

        Seems like common sense to instead say that Victory is Exhibit A of what Polaris can do in motorcycles.

  • Dan

    I’m thinkin Triumph Rocket 3 with less freight train and detachable bags.

  • James

    Here’s what I remember about Indian when they were brought back the second time; when they were actually making bikes. In about 2003 I was a junior in high school someone had brought in holographic, foil Indian stickers that we stuck on everything we could, including my bio teacher (he was a pretty cool guy, had a carburetor rebuild shop and had a 9 second alcohol Nova SS. I liked him). Shortly thereafter, a Hummer/Indian dealer opened up in my town. They did brisk sales for a short time, but there was always an air of Vegas, chintzyness to the whole thing, living with my parents at the time in Eastern Long Island the dealership was completely out of place. Smithtown is known for Italian eatery’s and a statue of a bull, this thing was in the absolute wrong place. Even then at 17, I knew that bringing the company back like it was Caesar’s Palace was the wrong thing to do, no new product, living on old glory, where have we seen this before? Look at GM and see how that worked out. It was almost as if the stickers and the dealership were representing “all flash and no substance”. We saw the demise of both Hummer and Indian shortly and now this huge lot sits empty and forgotten.

    Fast forward; Polaris is the complete opposite of what Hummer and Indian were. Victory’s success is the perfect example of how different Polaris operates, they are a company that was not built on accessories but built on creating customers who believe in their product, Buell took this same idea and ran with it to great success until they were bought by a brand that had the opposite ethos and almost killed them off, thankfully Erik Buell and his fans have managed to bring them back from the dead, but it goes to show you how companies with deep pockets and large board rooms of beige driving suits can easily ruin a company. Listening to most motorcycles talk about brand identity usually translates to tee shirts and assless chaps. Look at the success that Polaris has had, they have proved that by sticking by a company you can produce a profit with hard, honest work. Victory started making motorcycles in ’98 and didn’t see profits until 2002. that to me is what America is about right there. Sticking to your guns, no matter what’s said, doing your own thing and being (even moderately) successful at it. You’ve proved a point, you’ve proven your detractors wrong and there is a lot of deserved pride in that. I expect nothing less from their purchase of Indian, I see a company with a track record that shows willingness to make their money on product, not image, not pirates, but good, well built, solid product.

    I know this is long, but my point is this, for too long America has made its money by not actually producing anything, we repackage things and sell them as our own and through financial wizardry make our accounting sheets in the black (with the exception of the car industry, but even then we’re in a similar situation) That’s not a formula for success and I truly hope that Polaris has success actually PRODUCING something, I hope that they can show all of us what real industry is and where America really needs to be heading…

    Rant over, sorry for the long post.