Time To Be Optimistic About American Motorcycles?

Hell For Leather, HFL -

By

harley-pope

I maybe wrong but I have feeling that finally, after years of stagnation with one player dominating the market, we could be on the brink of seeing something truly interesting about to happen in the American motorcycle industry.

I’ll admit it’s been hard for me not to get swept along in the hyperbole of the recent Indian Motorcycle launch and then last week to listen to Harley-Davidson executives at the 2014 model year launch telling us that it’s going to be upping its game and begin to make innovative, better engineered bikes than it has ever done in its 110-year history.

You could take all this chest-thumping rhetoric with a pinch of salt and say we’ve heard it all before. Tell us something new. But there are some fundamental things that, to my mind, have changed. Which make me optimistic that finally we could see some truly great American motorcycles again.

And here’s why: We’ve not ridden the new Indian Chief yet. We plan to do that in a month or so when we can really take a long hard look and test the bikes over a longer period of time rather than just a quick launch ride.

However, some of our motorcycle media colleagues, who have ridden the Indian Chief range, say they are astonished at just how good they are. Not just in terms of build quality but also at how well they ride. Now this is from a group of persnickety, critical people who very rarely hold back when there is something bad to say about a new motorcycle. One guy in particular, who is known for never being impressed with any new bike, told me: “I tried really, really hard to find something wrong with the Indian. And I just couldn’t.”

Indian Motorcycle has had a pretty rough history with a variety of owners who over promised but delivered very little. It was only when Polaris Industries stepped in three years ago and bought the company lock, stock and barrel that things began to look up.

In just 27 months — I’ll write that again — In just 27 months, Polaris managed to design and manufacture a range of Indian motorcycles that has received rapturous acclaim from everyone for being true to the name, modern, well built, keenly priced and each riding as good as they look.

Polaris is definitely in this for the long haul. Even without Indian Motorcycle it has absolutely nothing to prove. This is a company with a huge portfolio in the powersports industry and as a group made more than $3.2 billion in revenue in 2012 alone. It has the money, the skills and expertise. The consensus is that if anyone is ever going to make money and a real success out of Indian Motorcycle then it’s going to be Polaris.

And, on top of that, it’s using American workers, predominantly American suppliers and it manufactures its motorcycle here in America. And we haven’t even touched on what it has achieved in getting Victory Motorcycles up and running and doing well.

For most companies it would have been more than enough to launch a ‘new’ motorcycle company and a small range of bikes and then sit back and try and keep it ticking over. But Polaris has made it clear that the Indian Chief is just the start. It plans to have a much broader representation in other segments of the market as well. There’s been heaps of speculation. Some of it’s preposterous and some of it’s entirely possible. More knowledgeable people than me have even suggested the next Indian bike could be another Scout, which I sincerely hope is not true, as if my memory serves me correctly they were, at the time, pretty hopeless.

Polaris won’t tell us what the product plan is but they are definitely working on something other than just making big cruisers for Indian Motorcycle.

I think the biggest problem Polaris faces is finding dealers prepared to take on the franchise. They, the dealers, will have to know the market and have a good existing customer base. You can have the best bikes in the world, but if you don’t have the right retail network with the right business ethic to sell them, you’re just not going to succeed.

I know for a fact that Indian Motorcycle is on the hunt right now for the right dealers. I have a number of friends who run non-franchised motorcycle stores that have been approached about becoming Indian Motorcycle dealers. Several of them are cautious and have asked Polaris to tell them more about future product introductions. What is clear, they tell me, is that Polaris is prepared to play the long game. It’s happy to wait and do it right and will pick and choose its dealer network accordingly. And, it has the funding to get those dealers off the ground and up and running and selling Indian motorcycles.

Back over in Milwaukee it’s all change too. Harley-Davidson has had it too good for too long. It’s also an easy target for the nay-sayers to take a swipe at. The current bikes have been called everything from agricultural to hopelessly outdated. I don’t agree with any of that. Overall, its motorcycles are pretty good for what they are. Expensive, sure, but they’re very well built and clearly have some attraction or why else would Harley-Davidson corner 80 percent of the cruiser/tourer market sector here in the U.S. and be the one manufacturer bucking the sales trend in Europe where big motorcycle sales are in a steep decline?

And regardless of what the critics say, Harley-Davidson has been around for 110 years and I am sure will be around for at least another 110.

I don’t always agree though with the way its customer service program works and perhaps the lack of any real competition has bred complacency in Harley-Davidson from the dealer upwards. But, I think all is about to change.

Last week, the highly secretive Harley-Davidson company held up its corporate hands and admitted publicly it needed to change. Its Project Rushmore development plan that began four years ago looked at every aspect of the company from the workforce, manufacturing processes and design to what customers wanted from its motorcycles.

The management team said it’s not been an easy task. And full credit to them too, as it has steered the company back into the black, through one of the worst global recessions on record, and is now making money again. As a company, it’s undoubtedly a little leaner and a little fitter. The arrival of rival Indian Motorcycle in its 110th anniversary year and in its backyard has in part I think made Harley-Davidson stop and take stock of itself and make some really big decisions about its future.

You can scoff at the newly launched water-cooled engines on its 2014 Touring bikes and say Harley-Davidson should have done that years ago. And that everyone else in the motorcycle world has more advanced technology on far better bikes. But, I think you may be missing the point here.

Harley-Davidson has recognized that it needs to do something and has already started (four years ago) to take some serious actions to move the entire company forward. Although it’s not revealing its hand yet, the management team we heard from and talked with last week were deadly earnest when it said these huge changes to its 2014 motorcycles is only the start. And I, for one, believe them.

To cut model cycles from five years to three years, as Harley-Davidson has now done, is huge. To have 30 percent of your engineering staff focus on innovation and engineering technology is huge. To actually stop and listen to your customers and act upon what they tell you is even bigger. And all of this was evident in the detail touches on the Touring bikes we rode last week.

I can’t wait to see what brand new Harley-Davidson motorcycles are going to look like and be like in the next three years because that’s what I think we are being promised.

In both camps — Indian and Harley-Davidson — it’s still going to be a case of wait and see. I’m a cynical industry observer at the best of times, but based upon what I have seen and heard in recent weeks, I really think in the near future there is going to be some great reasons to once again celebrate the American motorcycle industry.

  • susannaschick

    OK, so those are the mainstream, classic American motorcycles. Yawn. I’ll take a Zero, Brammo, Mission or even Lightning (if they ever actually begin manufacturing bikes for sale) any day over some bloated fashion statement. I love my Zero so much!

    • grindz145

      The electric sector and some other niche players (Motus) are now what I think of when I think American Motorcycling. I’m actually very excited and positive about that. Harley and Indian’s offerings are hopelessly backwards. Overpriced nostalgia is what is killing modern motorcycling.

      • Richard Gozinya

        To be fair to Harley, they’ve been able to do the nostalgia thing consistently, whereas Indian went bust in the early 50′s. Looking at companies that have had to shut their doors, Indian doesn’t have any heritage worth mentioning. They’re no Vincent, or Norton. They just made big, tacky, racially insensitive (To put it kindly) land barges, and the Scout.

  • nataku83

    Harley / Indian may end up making the best $20,000, chromed out v-twin cruisers / tourers that have ever graced the planet Earth, but until they make something that weighs less than 500 lbs, costs less than $10,000 and uses a smallish, high revving, well balanced engine – I will not be interested. Buells, especially the ones with the Rotax motor, were very tempting – if a bit too hardcore for me. I haven’t seen any indication that these manufacturers are headed back in that direction.

    • Stephen Mears

      Oh the 1125R is just hardcore enough :)

    • Stuki

      Buell was genuinely pioneering in many ways. I still have fond memories of the first time I rode one, and realized there was no, NONE at all, driveline lash. I figured it was the belt; until I rode an F800… Then there was the mass centralization that everyone is doing now. (I’m sure racing bikes did so pre Buell, but amongst mortals dreaming of era Ducati style underseat cans, it was quite a revelation) And the focus on low unsprung weight. Like you, though; I never really gelled with the obvious racer focus they had. They had kind of an Exceptional American Bikes for Exceptional American Riders (And perhaps Exceptional American Mechanics….)

      • TheBoatDude

        I rode my buddy’s XB12 Lightning…shook like a paint shaker under 2000 rpm…but once you got past that….Mother. Of. God. It made me want to do bad things….

    • Davidabl2

      Since Polaris has not done it in their lineup to date, I suspect that they’ve concluded that competition in that sector is just to stiff. A midsize cruiser(under 600 lbs,under $12,000) from Polaris Indian might make economic sense however

      • Lee Scuppers

        Something new and ineresting in a mid-sized cruiser might sell. But I don’t know if that’s a logical impossibility.

        On the other hand, Triumph sells a lot of Bonnevilles, and Honda saw fit to make the CB1100. HD can’t and won’t make even a lousy American standard, much less a good one, but I’ll confess to a faint hope that Polaris Indian might. They need to be more than The Un-Harley, and I hope they know it.

        I’d never buy a new bike, not with thousands of cool old cheap bikes clogging the barns of Maine, but I’d love to see it happen.

        • Piglet2010

          H-D did make standards with the XR1200 and the Street Rod, but both sold minimally in their second year and were cancelled after that. Based on those and the Buell experience, selling anything but retro-cruisers through the existing H-D dealer network is a lost cause – if H-D wants to move in other directions, they would need to start from scratch with a new marque and dealer network.

          • Lee Scuppers

            They both look kinda retarded to me. But you’re right, nobody who wants that wants it from HD, and nobody who wants a Harley wants that.

            • Piglet2010

              I like the look of the XR1200, but would not walk into a H-D dealer with salesmen who only want to sell cruisers with $10K of accessories and upgrades.

          • Richard Gozinya

            Harley has never really been interested in performance oriented bikes, not really. They’re used to (And good at) selling bikes that are all about image. With performance bikes they have to compete with other brands. The XR1200, decent for a Harley, was always inferior to its competition, same with the Street Rod. compare either one of those to say, an R1200R or Ducati GT1000. Neither bike was able to match the competition, because Harley was unwilling to invest in making them competitive. It’s easier to sell a bike based on image for them, and clearly, it’s worked so far.

    • Piglet2010

      Your criteria sound like a description of the Bonnie. :)

      (At least it is high-revving by cruiser standards.)

      • nataku83

        I just want a decent standard. I’ve thought about a Bonneville, but can’t really justify one. I’m currently riding an ’03 Nighthawk 750 and am very happy with it. If Indian could build a Scout that’s competitive with that, I might take a look at it.

        • Piglet2010

          I was taking an advanced riding class in the parking lot of a Triumph dealer, and bought a purple/white Bonnie on impulse. :)

    • TheBoatDude

      I get the feeling that they’re going to be coming out with their own standard…which I like the thought of. For reasons unknown, “American Motorcycle” has become synonymous with “cruiser” (The aforementioned Buell’s, aside). The XR1200 sort of counts, but not really – it doesn’t look like HD really is pushing that design like it does its other models. But an Indian standard (or sportbike) would be very interesting to see..

  • runnermatt

    How does Eric Buell Racing factor into the change into the future American motorcycle market? Too early to tell or will they have a bigger impact than expected?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      EBR delivered 16 motorcycles last year. Harley sold ~240,000 in the US alone. EBR is not and will never be a significant player in the motorcycle market, even if we all love Erik. It’s just not what he’s doing. A $25mm investment from Hero may sound like a lot to you and I, but it doesn’t produce many motorcycles.

      • Davidabl2

        Now if Polaris were to “adopt’ Erik “things would get interesting” But i guess Hero has got him now :-(

  • Stephen Mears

    I have the same feeling, but it has nothing to do with the grotesque re-treads coming out of Harley and their syncophantic coat-tail riders. EBR, Brammo, Mission, Zero, CCW and the like are companies that capture the innovative spirit and engineering acumen that are prideful hallmarks of America, not the stagnant faux-rebellion marketing trick that is HD.

  • C.Stevens

    Wake me up when one of the American brands make a normal, good handling, mid-sized motorcycle. Sadly, the closest anyone has ever gotten was the ill-conceived Buell Blast.

    • Lee Scuppers

      Yeah, I hate to give the anti-cruiser-tourette’s holy war crowd any encouragement, but there is nothing for me in these announcements.

      CCW seems close to the right track. Subsidized electric toys for rich kids aren’t my thing, what with having to pay my own bills and all. Running a bike off a nuke or coal plant seems silly anyhow, other than as a conspicuous-consumption fashion statement.

      • C.Stevens

        Ignoring everything else, electrics are definitely still in ‘ rich toy’ status. The cheapest Zero is ~$8,000 with a range of 38 miles. You could buy a Ninja 300 and enough gas to ride 52,000 miles for that.

        • Piglet2010

          Or a used Ninja 250 and about 20 track days.

        • grindz145

          You could also buy a very nice road bicycle. What’s your point? A Ninja 300 does not compare in any way to anything that Zero offers. The differential cost premium is roughly $4k, which by my rough estimation mean that after about 40k miles of riding, the electric bike is LESS expensive than the gas bike. Especially for around-town punishment.

          • C.Stevens

            But that Zero still only has a tiny range and that range will only get worse with time and bad weather. I love what they are doing and am glad there are people who will pay a premium for them to subsidize their development, but lets be straight – they are not viable bikes for normal people who don’t have lots of expendable cash to spend on cutting edge stuff.

            An $8,000 bicycle is a great example as a rich persons toy. You are just proving my point with that example.

            • Campisi

              They’re becoming increasingly viable to increasingly “normal” (read: low-income new-economy-job) people. Prices are now at the point where a buyer needs to value the characteristics of electric propulsion independent of the economic benefits of the technology. That said, the price differential has significantly shrunk in the past couple years, enough so that anybody financing their purchase wouldn’t really notice the increased cost.

              Speaking for me (this is the internet, after all), had I been looking to finance my last motorcycle, I’d be riding a Zero. Student debt is enough debt for my tastes, though, so I plunked down cash for a Bonneville.

            • grindz145

              Couldn’t you say the same thing about any motorcycle in that price range though? So long as you use the bike within it’s operating range, it is cheaper to own and operate than a comparable gas bike. Touring is clearly outside of it’s operating constraints. I’m a touring nut but the bulk of my mileage is still commuting/city/ under 100 mile trips. I appreciate your distinction between toy and utility, but I think that the Zero is still firmly in the utility camp, if ridden like it’s meant to be.

            • susannaschick

              My Zero FX is not the Zero with the best range, but 70 miles per charge with 30% freeway and 70% aggressive city riding is plenty for most of what I do. Like most people, I work only a few miles from home. Then I go out with friends, run errands, etc. The only time range was an issue was when I tried to do an 80 mile day in the canyons with some freeway. But now I have a quick charger, so that should be do-able too.

      • Mark D

        Remember, with electrics, the CO2 productions of your local power plant depends on your location. Live in Indiana? Its probably a 60 year old, smoke belching coal fired plant. However, if you live in California, where those bikes are engineered (and, to a large extent, sold), there are NO coal-fired plants in the state. Its all good hydro/solar/wind/natural gas, so you can still feel righteous plugging it in for the night.

        • Kenneth

          If you live in a house. How many of us live in an apartment with no access to an electric charge any time soon. Buy a Zero (etc)? I have zero interest.

        • Lee Scuppers

          I checked on the CA renewable thing this summer. I don’t recall the exact numbers, but according to the state’s most recent numbers, renewables aren’t a major factor there. If the point is merely to produce talking points that help people “feel righteous”, well, I guess you got your money’s worth. Conspicuous consumption can be a lot of fun, I know, and I refuse to call anybody out on their kicks if nobody’s getting hurt. Cheers!

          • Mark D

            “Clean” energy is ~30% of CA’s power grid, Half is natural gas, which when you work out the CO2 emissions per vehicle mile, is a tiny tiny fraction of that from an internal combustion engine. The rest is nuclear, which emits no carbon. Residents can also opt into buying clean energy for their residents through PG&E (with a competing clean energy portfolio from San Francisco’s Public Utilities Commission forthcoming).

            http://energyalmanac.ca.gov/overview/energy_sources.html

            • Lee Scuppers

              That graphic doesn’t address the sources of the 29% of CA’s energy coming from out of state, but it looks like hydro+renewables is 29.2% of 71%. That’s just shy of 21%, which is more in line with the figures I’ve seen elsewhere. Is that 29.2% your “~30%”?

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy_in_the_United_States#Current_trends
              http://www.energy.ca.gov/renewables/

              The more the merrier, though, surely. The theological issues of power generation interest me about as much as the Twelfth Imam’s hat size, so I’m good either way — as long as they leave me out of it. Unfortunately, the faithful have been spoiling a lot of very nice mountaintops here in Maine with those giant Easter Island style windmills they like to pray to.

              In 20 years we’ll look back on this stuff and laugh.

            • Piglet2010

              Lots of carbon emissions in uranium mining, ore transport, ore refining, enrichment, fuel rod fabrication and transport. And what do you do with the waste? – TEPCO is desperately trying to keep a spent fuel pool full of water so the containers do not melt, reach critical mass, burn, and kill a couple of million people with the radioactive oxide cloud.

        • CruisingTroll

          In 2012, California generated .8% of their in-state electricity from coal. That doesn’t sound like much, until one looks at the actual amount of power generated. 1,580 GWhours. Another 21k GWhours of coal generated power was imported from other states, with a net of 7.5% of California’s electricity generated from coal, or likely more, because 16% of their power was imported from “unspecified sources”.

          In total, California imported more than 30% of their power from other states. The facts reveal, once again, that California is a fertile ground for false self-righteousness.

          (Oh, let’s not forget all the birds, including endangered species, being killed by those wind turbines… )

          Source for Electric Power Info: http://energyalmanac.ca.gov/electricity/total_system_power.html

      • susannaschick

        I’m sorry, what was that you were saying about nuclear and coal? I couldn’t hear you over all the construction noise! http://solarlove.org/solar-2-source-of-new-power-in-2013/

        In case you haven’t noticed, nuclear plants are closing, and coal is on its way out, albeit more slowly. San Onofre closed and we’ve done quite well without it. In the meantime, we’re adding solar faster than any of us can burn through a tank of fuel. Welcome to 2013. Enjoy the air, why don’t you?

    • Davidabl2

      Blast not Sportster in recent decades?

      But, Sir, the best “normal, good handling, mid-sized (American)motorcycle” of all time was the Indian Scout 101. The model run ended in 1931. Stunt riders for for those wall of death displays are still riding Scout 101′s to this very day..

      • Lee Scuppers

        Yeah, if the all-time best went out of production in 1931, maybe the optimism is premature…

        • Davidabl2

          Yep, it kinda makes ya wonder..While we’re on the subject Harley’s great Sport
          Bike was the new 1936 El “Knucklehead” which went out of production in 1949, Although it must be said that the Sportster was a ‘contender” from 1957 to about 1962 or so.. On the track of course the flathead (!) XR-750 held it’s own for awhile longer..helped by AMA rules of course.

          • Piglet2010

            The Buell had good success in AMA Supersport, with its 87.5% displacement advantage over the Japanese bikes (and 66.7% advantage of the Triumph Daytona).

            • Davidabl2

              Rightly or wrongly, I guess I never thought of Buells as being Harleys ;-)

  • Robert Horn

    I hate to sound pessimistic, but considering the sneering contempt both companies have demonstrated to anyone who wants a motorcycle rather than a Harley or The Other Harley tells me that this is just a passive agressive campaign to can the negative chatter. That is a whole lot more effective at keeping stock forecasts optimistic than actually doing something.
    What they did to Buell does not paint a forward looking picture.
    I. Do. Not. Trust. H-D. Or. The Other H-D. At. All.

  • Jonny Langston

    Nice job. You’re welcome ;)

  • Davidabl2

    “To cut model cycles from five years to three years, as Harley-Davidson has now done, is huge”
    Some might say that the REAL model cycle for H.D. is when they introduce a new engine..more like one cycle every 15 years
    or so.

  • roma258

    The real radical thing for Polaris would be to produce a competitive world class standard. Something that can go to-to-toe with the Street Triples or FZ-09s of the world. Or at the very least battle it out with the Bonnies and CB1100s. Making a solid cruiser hardly sounds like a game changer. I remain hopeful, Polaris seems to have the engineering expertise, but does it have the will power?

    • Richard Gozinya

      Don’t hold your breath. They sell plenty of land barges, and every time they’ve dipped their toe into anything resembling performance, it just didn’t sell. Probably because they never did a very good job with it, but they’re really more concerned with what their brand loyalists think than with getting new customers. At least with a company like BMW, they’ve found a way to stick to their roots, while moving forward. But then, their roots were always superior to Harley and Indian (American troops in WW2 loved getting their hands on those BMWs, since the bikes they had sucked so much)

      • http://www.racetrackstyle.com/ Racetrack Style

        What is interesting about your BMW reference is that HD’s copied boxer-engine design was chosen by the US govt. instead of the Indian’s longitudinal (and original) 90-degree v-twin

        The history related to the HD XA model vs. the Indian 841 (which pre-dates Guzzi’s jugs in the breeze design) is fascinating. Imagine if HD had developed both engine platforms after the War!

        E Paul DuPont considered the 841 to be his favorite ride.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harley-Davidson_XA
        http://www.mcnews.com.au/ClassicsCustoms/Indian/Indian841.htm
        http://www.motorcyclemuseum.org/halloffame/detail.aspx?RacerID=317

      • Piglet2010

        Raise the seat, up the rear suspension travel, and pull in the rake/reduce trail on the Victory Judge, and you have a potentially well handling and comfortable “retro-standard”. Polaris could do this for minimal R&D costs.

      • roma258

        That’s the thing, I’m not holding my breath. I think it’s great that Rideapart has someone on the cruiser beat, and it’s good to hear that Harley is investing in R&D (what were those percentages before?) and that Indian has built a nice riding cruiser in 27 months. But that still leaves those of us who have no interest in heavyweight cruisers completely out in the cold if we’re looking to buy American. So since the title of the article is “Time To Be Optimistic About American Motorcycles?”, the answer at least for me, is still no.*

        *Niche segments like electric bikes and boutiques notwithstanding.

    • enzomedici

      I have a 2012 Harley Nightster and actually like it. It is a throwback bike and looks cool and has been very reliable. Performance isn’t great and neither is handling, but it is a good bike for commuting and cruising around town and looking old school cool. But…. I would also like to buy a naked or sportbike too. It is too bad we don’t have a real Made In USA option. Harley & Polaris (Indian & Victory) are stuck in the past reminiscing about the glory days and will never move forward. I have no idea why they let the Japanese and Europeans have all of the fun. The Japanese and Europeans have no problem building cruisers, standards, sport & dirtbikes. Why can’t Harley? Old school cool & image, ok, I got it. Now can we move forward too? Why can’t Harley build a line of sport bikes, naked bikes and dirt bikes? It is pretty much the same mentality as the US auto industry that lets Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Bently, Rolls, etc. have all of glory and all we get are more crappy cars. I’m glad Tesla is finally changing that game. The only hope the US has for motorcycles is in the electric market with Brammo & Zero, etc.

  • Sohl

    YES.

  • Dubknot

    I’m optimistic myself. I’m glad that Polaris has a new competitor for HD, and I’ve read that they feel that this will give Victory the opportunity to build different types of bikes, rather that focusing on HD market share. If I was to buy a cruiser, it would be a Victory, but I’m anxious to see what direction they may take now.

    • Davidabl2

      I really hope that they both challenge H.D in the heavy cruiser/ luxury cruiser market(probably not so hard with H.D.’s profit margins)and challenge the Japanese in the middleweight range. Which will be more difficult due to lower margins, but many of the Japanese cruisers seem to be nearly as obsolescent as H.D. And their service networks suck,as far as i can tell, except maybe for Honda(?)
      so there should be a market opening there too..As to sportsbikes, dual sports etc. I think that it will be a long time-if ever- before Polaris is ready to move into those markets. The Sportsbike market has been dead in the water for the last few years, and there’d be massive r&d catchup for Polaris to do.

      • Piglet2010

        Is there not enough brand loyalty among Polaris ATV and UTV owners to create a market for Polaris dirt bikes and dual-sports?

        • Davidabl2

          That hadn’t occurred to me. All the Japanese Big Four mc companies do build ATV’s and UTV’s and Polaris competes successfully with them in that arena,
          so P. does have a natural base there. I think, though, that Polaris acquiring
          Indian now indicates that they’re not going to move into 2 wheel dirt machines for awhile yet.

  • http://www.racetrackstyle.com/ Racetrack Style

    Apparently Tesla is out selling Porsche in CA lately.

    • TheBoatDude

      But apparently because it’s expensive (about the cost of a 7-series) and electric, Model S’s are still considered “toys” regardless of the fact that they seat 4 plus luggage…

      • Campisi

        There are so many Model S sedans driving around in the Seattle area that I’ve become completely accustomed to seeing them, as one is with Accords and whatnot. In that price bracket, you’d be nuts to buy anything else in the sedan category.

        • TheSeaward

          Yeah, why would you want a cheaper, lighter, more powerful E-class?

          • Richard Gozinya

            To get a cheaper E-class, it would be less powerful than a Tesla. The weight difference is only two hundred pounds, but the way the Tesla’s weight is carried gives it a drastically lower center of gravity, and is considerably more aerodynamic.

            That said, the choice between a Mercedes, an Audi, a Cadillac, a BMW, Tesla, or whatever has more to do with emotion than it does with logic. The Tesla’s a damn nice car, highest score by Consumer Reports ever, and I have yet to see any reviewer say they didn’t like it. It’s not going to work for everyone, obviously, but for those who want an EV, and want a luxury/performance car, it’s a perfect choice.

            That said, if you want to attack Tesla, there’s plenty to go after them on. While they build a great car, they’re doing a lot of stupid things. Making their cars non-compliant with either SAE or ChaDeMo ranks right up at the top, and that highly proprietary attitude extends to all of the easily foreseeable problems they’re going to have down the road, as EVs gain acceptance.

            • susannaschick

              which is exactly why they’re outselling EVERY luxury sedan in their class.

      • L.Zach

        Though I’ve only ridden in Teslas, I’d like to point out that they seat 7 without luggage or 5 with luggage.

  • Davidabl2

    You age, sir? Comfort become more important later in life, as does being a socially acceptable faux-outlaw rather than one of those crazed hooligan squids/stunters on sports bikes.

    • Piglet2010

      My Honda Dullsville (NT700V) is very comfortable, practical, economical, and reliable, and looks nothing like anything to ever come out of Springfield, Milwaukee, or Spirit Lake.

      The current sales of adventure touring bikes is driven much more by comfort than any real intent to get off the beaten path – and those bikes could do a track day with a change of tires without embarrassment.

      And since when did spine bending cruisers with minimal rear suspension travel and lots of vibration equal comfort? My pre-gen Ninjette is more comfortable to ride.

      • Davidabl2

        It equals “comfort” for those who can’t assume a sportsbike position anymore.
        I am precluded from ADV bikes because I’m “inseam challenged.” So I’ve got no experience of them.
        Being “inseam challenged” has also precluded any experience of some of the “spinebending’ anti-ergonomic features of many cruisers e.g. apes and forwards..

      • LS650

        You assume that every other rider has the same ergonomics as you.

        • Piglet2010

          No, but I cannot see who has an anatomy that cruisers would favor when actually riding.

          But I would not recommend the NT700V to anyone with less than a 31″ inseam, as they would have real difficulty backing it up, or holding it up on highly cambered or loose surfaces – I can see why so many short-legged people end up on cruisers for these reasons.

    • Campisi

      That’s what I least understand about the heavy-cruiser market: the cruiser riding position sacrifices everything that makes regular motorcycles wonderful things for the sake of a riding position that isn’t even comfortable.

      • Davidabl2

        I’ve never ridden anything with forward controls, and the seating/bars arrangement on the cruiser I do ride doesn’t seem all that different from vintage Triumphs etc, thoughthe c.o.g. is much lower and the steering slower, and the bike is less ‘nimble” overall.

        • Piglet2010

          The seating position on the standard Bonnie is only slightly more upright for me than my Honda Dullsville (NT700V). On a really bad section of road (Route 251 south of Rochelle, Illinois) I rode several miles standing on the Bonnie – try that on a cruiser.

          Go play with this website (if you have not already): http://cycle-ergo.com/

  • http://www.racetrackstyle.com/ Racetrack Style

    Consider the geography & demographic…

    How much of the country is very flat east of Denver & west of Pittsburgh/Atlanta/Knoxville?

    How much of the population within those areas don’t do track days & tend to buy American?

    A dirtbike would appeal to much of that population in those areas (in addition to the other areas). Factor in Polaris’ performance sleds, and they could* build a dirtbike under the Victory brand (there is inherent marketing mileage out of that name if they go racing)

    Indian could tap into their history of innovation & the name “Scout” to bring to market a different kind of Sport Tourer, a hot rod approach that Motus is pursuing.

    * “could build”…look at the transformation BMW underwent in the last 10-12 years! No one would have ever thought they would produce the HP2, let alone the 1000RR back in 2002.

    • TheBigPill

      I’m actually hoping “Scout” will be used as Victory’s answer to the Monster. We shall see.

  • KeithB

    Time To Be Optimistic About American Motorcycles?

    Nope. Too little too late.

    • KeithB

      That was too broad a statement.
      I am very optimistic about the ELECTRIC bikes being developed in the US and Canada,

  • Justin Christenson

    I see the resurgence of Indian as a step in the right direction for the American motorcycle industry. The move to debut the brand with a number of well designed cruisers is a good way to re-introduce the brand with a product that people expect to see from Indian. If they chose to diversify their product portfolio in the future, I suspect that they will do this gradually as time goes on so that people are gently introduced to the idea of a more sporting American motorcycle.

    This was the problem with the XR1200. I own one and I’ll admit that its not without its faults, but all-in-all it is a very durable and capable bike. It did not sell because no one in the market for a standard ever considered that Harley-Davidson made something in that segment. Most people I talk to (fellow riders included) don’t even know what an XR1200 is! They did a poor job of introducing it, and did not do a good job of preparing the community to be receptive to a sporty Harley. Hopefully Indian will not make this mistake, but instead will follow the path of diversification previously laid out by Triumph. I think the true hope here is that Polaris has enabled the reappearance of a full-range American motorcycle manufacturer.

    • Piglet2010

      Well, an XR1200 will not do anything more than a less expensive Bonnie or Monster 696 will. And the Triumph and Ducati have their own significant social status values (greater than the H-D among the non-believers).

  • Phaedrus

    Most of the comments below are about better bikes for the current bikers. Nothing wrong with it,
    but far from being sufficient to spark sustainable growth.

    Long term what is needed is bring new riders into the foray. Unless we can answer the
    question of how to attract teenagers to motorcycling, we are just playing to
    the same aging bikers. And the younger they begin riding, the more loyal they
    become. We are competing with video games an iPhones for their attention. Water-cooled
    HD and Indians won’t do the trick. Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution to it.

    Yet, I can offer an idea to boost the sales beyond our current self-imposed boundaries and
    is more short term in nature.

    Allow Motorcycles to own part of the Transportation/Convenience category currently
    dominated by Cars. Currently, bikes are mostly recreational beast enjoyed on weekends with the occasional die hards commuting with his Gold Wing.
    Why is that? Habits & Practice some may say. I prefer to think the issue is found in structural issues with the biking experience in the USA.

    Go to Europe and you’d find hundreds of mopeds, small and mid-bikes used to move
    around for daily shores. Why? Because it is faster. Why? because you can line
    split, park where cars can’t, and in some places they avoid congestion fees
    and/or tolls. And, you can still use it for the weekend trip.

    I live in Atlanta, and have no incentive to use my bike as transportation. It takes me longer than the car because I need all the safety gear to then wait behind the SUV at any traffic light. The saving in gas is
    negligible because a large bike (GS1200) consume equal or more than a good diesel car or a Prius.

    This is an area where industry needs to get involved because our club efforts are geared to get rid of helmet laws, very much in line with the recreational side of biking, not to make bikes more convenience friendly.

    • Piglet2010

      When I go to Chicagoland, I pay the same toll fees on my 495-pound Bonnie as I do for my 2-ton pick-em-up truck. Hardly seems fair.

  • Davidabl2

    After I took a look at HFL’s CBX500 review it became immediately apparent that neither Polaris nor Harley are going to compete in this market sector. I am reminded of the apocryphal story about Norton’s engineering staff buying an disassembling a Honda in the early ‘sixtie. When they’d got the thing apart they looked at each other, there was a minute of silence. And then somebody said “The game’s over, lads. There’s no way we can build something like this.” I suspect that the same’s true of the entire sportsbike sector, as well as the re-emerging standard bike sector. As exemplified by that “little’ CBX.

    • Piglet2010

      Uh, do you mean Honda CB500X? The Honda CBX was a 1047cc, inline-6 bike built from 1978 to 1982.

  • Eric

    At the rate prices are increasing on everything in this country, my wonder is how HD will be able to attract new buyers 20-40 years from today? When a Sportster today starts at about $8,300 before taxes and fees, that’s already starting to feel a bit rich blooded. What about in the next 10 years? Will shelling out $14-15k for an 883 Sportster be even conceivable to an 18 year old kid? Will they have the credit, be able to afford the insurance? There will always be used bikes, I get that. But sewing the seed into a younger audience to keep them thinking about you when they’re older and have the money. Money to spend on tomorrow’s $65,000 Harley Davidson U-Haul inspired bagger (plus another $45,000 in 2053′s money in accessories). I think Honda has a better plan in action, the Grom, the new 500cc series of bikes, sport bikes, scooters, dirt bikes, light-weight to heavy weight cruisers, faux-chopper… all paving a path towards a Goldwing as the crowning jewel for biker retirement. Get em young, keep feeding them age appropriate toys that appeal to all types, then finally offer em a giant two-wheeled touring sofa to aim towards the grave.

    • BigHank53

      Not to get all political, but Honda has a damn sight more experience selling in economies where people don’t have much money. Someone who’s only earning $14k before taxes…well, it doesn’t matter if your introductory model is priced at $8k or $80. It might as well be $800k because he or she isn’t ever going to see that much money, never mind spend it. There’s a few living-on-the-margins people around here that ride scooters all year, and the $3k Grom is a step up that’s within possibility.

  • Richard Gozinya

    Supposedly they’ll begin shipping this fall. $31k for the MST, and $37k for the MST-R.

    • Chris Cope

      Good Lord, that’s a lot of money. And for a bike that can be had from other OEMs for half the price.

  • Hugo

    I rode the Indian Chieftan this past Saturday, and although I’m not much for classic cruisers, I was very pleasantly surprised. I went to a demo day they had locally and I was really hoping to not get stuck with the fairing’d Chieftain, well guess what that’s what I got and it blew my mind.

    I don’t know how the Indians of the past were but the new one is very feature rich (remote locking for the bags is awesome), and the handling totally surprised me, very nimble and easy to handle at low speed, and I had some real fun on the ride when the road got interesting. The one thing I didn’t like was the throttle-by-wire.

    I’m no expert in the field, I ride a Street Triple R and my dad has a Thunderbird both 2013s. But the Inidan really shattered my negative expectations on a big cruiser.

  • Paolo

    The “american motorcycle industry” as you so call is still far behind their Japanese/European counterparts. More specifically, Harley-Davidson, Rideapart’s favorite “love-to-hate” brand.

    1. Fuel injection (circa 2005) when other bikes have had it for YEARS! (Decades? Not sure)
    2. Liquid cooling: started with the Vrod-and traditionalists hated it. (most people still consider it “not a real Harley…-_- Again, Japanese/Euro bikes have had that for a gazillion years
    3. ABS: kind of the same story

    It’s clear that american motorcycle industry does not care about innovating, but about selling as many bikes as they possibly can while slowly grinding along a “new” feature every now and then. So far that business model based on nostalgia has worked: H-D dominates the american cruiser market, but with the emergence of Polaris’ Victory and Indian motorcycles, it could change (slowly but surely) people are starting to realize they can get more bang for their buck.

    I think the strong selling point of american cruisers used to be the chance of logging as many miles as you could on a single bike – a trend that has sadly gone out of style, and is against today’s corporate business model of “buy new, trade-in, get newer”…basically monthly payments for life! How many of you can say you’ve logged 200,000+ miles on any of your bikes? Only the american cruiser/touring crowd gets to say that, or at least used to (and occasionally a Goldwing-which used to be american made as well). That kind of pride is lost among today’s riders, and is practically unheard of among the modern bike crowd.

    Time to be optimistic? I would say “not quite”…but we’re getting there.

  • CruisingTroll

    I expect that Polaris will now focus their “heavy cruiser” and “traditionalist” efforts on Indian, and use the Victory brand to move into other segments. I really, really hope that they see fit to design and engineer what can euphemistically be called “an enthusiasts standard”. A modern, feature laden, lightweight mid displacement standard. Think “CB500X not built down to a price point.” Something for the up-coming riders AND for the older riders who aren’t willing to wrassle with 700-900 lbs of heavy cruiser, but don’t want a budget bike.

  • Rex Chaney

    For Harley To change, I will have to see it.
    They only know how to take care of large cruisers. they had buell and had mv agusta. they threw them away. destroyed buell, and sold mv for a cup of coffee. what?

    The XR is cool, but was about 100 lbs too heavy. Erik could have made that bike exciting.
    You would walk into a dealership, and if you had a Buell, they would ask if you would like to step up to a real motorcycle? what? Buell parts? I don’t think we carry them….

    The head financial person said they want buell riders to step up to harley? what? If I wanted to step up, I would step up within Buell. LIght weight, good handling motorcycles.

    Think Motus as a different direction Harley Davidson. Good Handling, cool new designed motorcycles. Take that great Vrod motorcycle and put it into a Honda St 1300 type frame. Sport touring. Have you ever sat on a vrod…..great motorcycle. uncomfortable? legs straight out in the wind. what?

    The problem, is that the dealers and current harley customers don’t want to see anything other than the big chromed out cruisers. You see a cool HD that is not a cruiser and it sits in the corner, hidden, covered with dust. Xr’s, Buells, etc.

    you look for motorcycle gear. all cruiser vests and tshirts.

    Now Indian/ Polaris/ Victory. we might see some cool new american made motorcycles. we will see.
    I say take it to them Indian. Go gettum Triumph.

    I think I will go for a ride. Humm, Buell or Triumph…….either is fine