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A Born-Again Indian Motorcycles Is Here to Dethrone Harley-Davidson

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Legend tells of a time when there existed a big American motorcycle company other than Harley-Davidson. It holds that there was an even older bike maker, one founded at the turn of the century in Springfield, Massachusetts, in what was then the nation’s industrial heartland.

Springfield was also the home of Duryea Motor Wagon Co., the first American car company, launched in 1896. Gunmaker Smith & Wesson is still headquartered there. In 1901, retired bicycle racer turned manufacturer George M. Hendee, who had originally launched his company as a bicycle maker, exhibited his first motorcycle. Hendee Manufacturing Co. began volume production of Indian motorcycles the following year.

While it is commonly associated with art deco streamlining, especially the skirted fenders and a prominent swept-back Indian chief-in-headdress ornament, that styling didn’t arrive on the company’s Chief model until the 1940s.
These are the styling cues that anchor the new Indian Roadmaster Classic, a heavyweight highway cruiser fitted with abundant leather, a large touring saddle, two-tone paint, loads of chrome and, of course, valanced fenders.

“The Roadmaster Classic is an undeniably beautiful motorcycle that our riders have been asking for,” says Indian Motorcycle marketing director Reid Wilson.
 It was the smaller, lightweight Scout that was Indian’s most endearingly popular model. The Scout was the machine that won the very first Daytona 200 motorcycle race in 1937, and it won over riders as one of the world’s first sport bikes. Many of us got our first glimpse of an Indian Scout race bike in the 2005 Anthony Hopkins film The World’s Fastest Indian. But management mistakes doomed Indian to financial collapse in 1953.

Today Indian, a 20th-century hero, is back from the dead, reanimated with modern technology. Outdoor powersports company Polaris Industries Inc. took over ownership of the long-contested rights to the Indian brand name in 2011 and introduced a new top-of-the-line Indian Chief to the public in 2014.

As before, however, a lightweight model is a key component of Indian’s plans, so the company unveiled a new Scout in 2014. It’s a bike that incorporates more modern technology than the traditionalist Chief, and naturally, the new Scout is hitting the racetrack, too.
Today’s Scout model is available as the regular 100-horsepower Scout and the entry-level 78-horsepower Scout Sixty, models that appeal to an entirely different group of customers than those who prefer the massive, old-school Chief in its fully skirted Indian dress.
These new Scouts preserve Indian’s tradition of V-twin engine designs, while updating them with liquid cooling and overhead camshafts for the muscle a Scout deserves.
“We’re really proud of the Scout because it has a great sales performance and has had a great impact on the market,” Wilson explained.

Indian has also introduced the Scout FTR750, which is contesting the AMA Flat Track (AFT) series for the first time since the factory-led “Wrecking Crew” team raced in the 1950s. The company’s stylists toiled to produce a bike that effectively bridges old and new, but any good motorcycle needs to also serve as a suitable canvas for customers to personalize their machines.

Illustrating the Scout’s limitless potential as a custom bike foundation, Indian challenged its dealers to create their own versions of the bike in the Project Scout contest. Interest was so high that fans crashed Indian’s website as they rushed to see the creative results of the shootout.

The customs that emerged from that event should not only inspire prospective owners but also point the way to variants we’ll likely see coming from the factory. “Those designs inspired us,” Wilson says. “We can’t do it next month, but years into the future you’ll see bikes come out based on some of those designs.”

Source: A Born-Again Indian Motorcycles Is Here to Dethrone Harley-Davidson

themotleyfool The Hidden Risk in Polaris Industries’ Motorcycle Sales Strategy #stocks $HOG, $PII

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It’s selling a lot more bikes, but the powersports vehicle maker is cutting off an important profit source.

Since reintroducing the Indian Motorcycle brand to the market in 2013, Polaris Industries(NYSE:PII) has been stealing large swaths of sales and market share from industry leader Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HOG). Its rival may still own the majority of the heavy bike industry, but Polaris has been able to challenge its supremacy all across the board, both on the road and on the track.

Part of Polaris’ success has been a result of introducing a bike in each market and at every price point. From touring and cruisers to sportier models, too, there’s an Indian Motorcycle that can rival a Harley.

The fringe on the handlebars

Though sales of the actual motorcycles bring in the biggest bucks for the bike makers, there’s another component that’s often overlooked but, many times, is just as lucrative, if not more so: the sale of parts, garments, and accessories.

When you buy a motorcycle, you might also buy a helmet, a new leather jacket, chrome handlebars, or new exhaust pipes. Beyond the safety components necessary to ride a bike, many buyers want to look the part, too. In fact, you’ll find many consumers will buy gear before they even own a bike, just for that reason.

Across all of Polaris Industries’ segments, parts, garments, and accessories, or PG&A, totaled $224.4 million in the third quarter, or 19% of the $1.19 billion in total sales it recorded for the period. That makes these ancillary items a bigger contributor to the powersports vehicle maker’s performance than the motorcycles themselves, a division whose sales came in at $183.2 million — inclusive of its respective PG&A sales.

Indian Motorcycle Polaris Industries Pii Helmet Jacket Accessories Safety Equipment Source Indian Motorcycles

A growing part of the business

Such sales are also just as lucrative for Harley-Davidson. For its third quarter, PG&A totaled $296.6 million, or almost 38% of the total $789 million it reported in motorcycle sales.

However, because Polaris also sells ATVs, snowmobiles, and utility vehicles, these parts and accessories sales are not equal for each division. Polaris generates the most money from its off-road vehicles and snowmobiles — $923 million last quarter. As a result, it sells more stuff into the PG&A category for that division than it does for motorcycles or UTVs.

Still, as the motorcycle segment becomes a larger component of its overall business, PG&A sales will grow, and therein lies a problem.

A graying market

The motorcycle industry is changing. According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, the median age of the typical motorcycle owner in 1990 was 32, and the typical owner was a married male who had a high school diploma. Today, the typical owner is still likely to be married, but he’s got at least some college education under his belt, maybe a college degree — possibly even post-graduate. But the median age has climbed significantly, to 47 years old. Just 17% of riders today are under 30, compared to 41% 25 years ago.

That’s a big swing for the industry, and it highlights how it needs to begin attracting younger riders again for the overall health and future of motorcycling. Both Harley and Polaris say they are reaching out to this demographic.

A couple of years ago, Harley-Davidson introduced its Street 500 and 750 models, which were geared to new and urban riders as well as to females, blacks, and Hispanics. Polaris answered that first with its Indian Scout, and then with the Scout Sixty. Both have enjoyed considerable success — perhaps too much.

According to CEO Scott Wine, Polaris is “selling disproportionately more” of its Scouts, Scout Sixtys, and even Victory Octanes, another model targeted to that demographic — but those bikes actually don’t sell as much in PG&A goods as the bigger bikes do, so its segment sales fell for the quarter even though motorcycle retail sales were up.

Screen Shot

IMAGE SOURCE: POLARIS INDUSTRIES INVESTOR PRESENTATION.

A volatile mix

Even though Polaris has suffered a collapse in ATV sales as safety recalls impacted RZR sales — off-road vehicle sales plunged 23% for the period — PG&A sales were off only 3%. In contrast, while motorcycle retail was 3% higher in the third quarter, PG&A sales tumbled 10% because of the product mix. As this is the market Polaris (and Harley) is increasingly targeting, it could carry with it the unwanted side effect of losing on higher-margin parts and accessories sales.

The motorcycle industry is in the midst of a slowdown that’s affecting everyone, but as Polaris Industries gains traction in the heavyweight bike class, it’s selling more smaller models, so it will lop off an otherwise profitable piece of business. It’s a small one still, but investors should recognize the collateral damage the company will suffer for getting a bigger slice of the overall market.

Source: themotleyfool The Hidden Risk in Polaris Industries’ Motorcycle Sales Strategy #stocks $HOG, $PII

Hail to the Indian Chief Motorcycle

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This 1948 Indian Chief is one of the most important Indian motorcycles on the planet.

There’s a good chance, many years from now, that history will judge this particular red-and-white 1948 Indian Chief as one of the most important Indian motorcycles on the planet. No, it wasn’t owned by Steve McQueen or any other celebrity; it’s not a special VIN, not the only or the first or the last of anything; it certainly didn’t win any races or set any speed records either. It’s unremarkable except for one fact: This is the motorcycle that spent two years parked in the Polaris design studio, where it served as the visual inspiration and literal touchstone for the design team that reinterpreted the vintage Indian style for the modern era.

This bike isn’t a static showpiece. It’s fully operational, and Indian Product Director Gary Gray offered us the unique opportunity to ride this vintage classic side by side with the modern Chief that carries so much of its DNA in its lines and design. Gray is the person who actually located this bike for Polaris , negotiating the purchase from a Minnesota collector shortly after Polaris acquired the Indian brand in 2011. It’s a 1948 Chief with the mid-level Sportsman trim package, distinguished by the chromed crashbars, handlebar, headlight and spotlights, and “De Luxe” solo saddle. Riding this bike alongside the 2014 Chief Vintage reveals how far bikes have come in 66 years—it feels like light-years—but it’s surprising how similar the two bikes feel in certain ways. That’s a testament to the fine job Gray and company did translating the old glory to a new generation.

The first difference you notice is scale. Wheelbase and seat height are roughly similar, but the vintage bike, weighing just 550 pounds, is almost 250 pounds lighter than the modern machine. This makes the older bike easier to maneuver, especially pushing it around a parking lot, and it handles well at speed too. Sixteen-inch wheels are concealed under those deep fender skirts, and the ride is surprisingly smooth thanks to the coil-sprung, hydraulically damped girder fork and “Double Action” plunger-sprung rear frame (each shock carries two springs: a top spring for cushioning and a bottom spring for damping) that was a cut above Harley’s then-current rigid frame/sprung saddle combination.

The 74ci (1,200cc), 42-degree flathead V-twin, with roots reaching back to 1920, was already obsolete in 1948 (Harley-Davidson released its overhead-valve Panhead that same year), but with roughly 50 hp and a broad spread of torque it’s adequate for back-road cruising. Top speed is said to be near 100 mph, but it’s happier nearer the double nickel where it doesn’t feel (and sound) like it’s going to shake itself apart. Besides, the drum brakes—the front all but useless and the back not much better—can’t compete with more velocity than that.

Often copied, never equaled (until now): the original 1948 Indian Chief

The control layout is utterly unlike the modern bike. Both grips rotate. The right grip “controls” the Linkert carburetor; the left rotates the automotive-type distributor to manually retard or advance the spark for easier starting. “Controls” is in quotes because any grip input to the crude, poorly atomizing Linkert is a mere suggestion. Engine response lags behind grip input by a few seconds, and the lack of a throttle return spring and a solid throttle wire—not a cable—makes rev-matching during shifting all but impossible. Speaking of shifting, there’s no clutch lever. Instead there’s a foot clutch on the left floorboard (a rocker clutch you have to manually engage and disengage, not a spring-loaded “suicide” clutch) and a hand-shifter on the left side of the fuel tank.

Temporarily rewiring your brain to smoothly manipulate that rocker clutch with your foot and fluidly change the cantankerous, non-synchronized, three-speed gearbox with your left hand is the biggest challenge, but once you get the vintage Chief up to speed it’s a delightful back-road ride, with a perfectly upright riding position that’s more natural and less slouchy than the clamshelled hunch the newer bike demands. It’s a classic American motorcycle experience, and Gray and his team have done an excellent job of transposing this vintage vibe onto the new machine. Starting with such sound genetic material as this, though, how could they go wrong?

Source: Hail to the Indian Chief Motorcycle

Part Two: A Closer Look at Indian Motorcycles – CraveOnline

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A Closer Look at Indian Motorcycles

We wrap the ride today with the input of a veteran bike industry analyst.

October 30th, 2014 John Scott Lewinski

As part of our ongoing automotive and motorcycle coverage, we’re taking a couple days to take a close up look at Indian Motorcycles and the business of challenging an industry giant like Harley-Davidson. Today, we check in with an industry expert for an objective look at Indian’s operations.

Basem Wasef, motorcycle journalist, author and industry expert explained that Polaris’s resuscitation of the Indian brand has been both “brilliant and painfully obvious.”

“Polaris has applied considerable financial investment toward bringing back a legendary nameplate, creating relatively reliable modern motorcycles that pay homage to bikes which were arguably better in nostalgic retrospect than they were in reality,” Wasef said. “But at its core, Indian is less about the motorcycles themselves, and more about the power of a brand.”

Menneto evidently agrees: “We can’t build to match Harley’s capacity, but we can build a brand that’s popular as an alternative — that’s popular with a dedicated customer base with which we can build a relationship. Rather that match the size and capacity of Harley-Davidson, we’d rather compare with premium brands like BMW or Ducati.”

Wasef stressed that challenging Harley-Davidson’s market share would have been unthinkable if Polaris had created a new brand altogether.

“When it comes to brand perception, established Japanese manufactures like Suzuki, Yamaha, and Honda still can’t touch Harley-Davidson in the areas of authenticity and that inscrutable sense of cool,” Wasef added. “But by adopting a nameplate that’s older than H-D and happens to be associated with larger-than-life personalities like Steve McQueen and Burt Munro, Polaris has taken on a serious challenge and dipped their toe into a potentially lucrative business.”

Indian’s slow build is still in effect. For three years, all Indian Motorcycles built were the Chief and Chieftain models — ranging in price from about $19,000 to $23,000. For the first time since the company made its return to business, it introduced new bikes this year — expanding its line at the top and bottom with the $27,000 Roadmaster and the $10.000 Scout.

The latter is especially important as it reaches out to less affluent buyers with its smaller price tag. If Indian wants to compete with H-D, they’re now trying to get to riders when they’re young and equipped with less disposable income.

Steven D. Menneto, Vice President for Motorcycles at Indian, admitted that Indian is still not building to full capacity as that all-important five year business plan unfolds. The next phase for Indian looks to be expanding to more international markets in Europe and South Africa to diversify that brand loyalty. Only time will tell if this classic American make will stand the test of time in a new business era of high-tech and international competition.

Wasef insisted it will still take significant amounts of time to make a dent against the Harley-Davidson juggernaut.

“But, considering the aggressive product development that has occurred since the new Indian models were revealed one year ago, Indian looks like it will be a serious force to be reckoned with moving forward.”

Source: Part Two: A Closer Look at Indian Motorcycles – CraveOnline

Best Cruiser of 2014

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Cruiser of the Year Winner: Indian Chief

By Evans Brasfield

By now you’ve read all of the praise surrounding Indian’s return to selling motorcycles in the 2014 model year. We don’t think the kudos are at all hyperbolic, either. What Polaris accomplished in rescuing the American marque out of the morass of litigation and production of me-too Harley clones bearing the Indian name is notable on its own. Seeing the motorcycles (all three of the models) that came out of a mere 27 months of development has been inspiring. Polaris knows motorsports (being the number-one powersports OEM in North America) and is clearly applying what it’s learned from developing Victory over the past 15 years to the Indian revival.

So, how’d Polaris do it? The key ingredient is the Thunderstroke 111 engine. The 49-degree air-cooled V-Twin perfectly straddled the line between the historic styling of Indian engines (downward-facing exhausts, anyone?) and the requirements of a thoroughly modern powerplant with a ride-by-wire throttle, letting prospective customers know that, while Polaris clearly respects Indian’s past, it plans on producing motorcycles that utilize current technology.

When the motorcycles were revealed to the public, the proof of concept was immediately apparent. Where most manufacturers stick cruisers with tubular steel frames, Indian chose to pursue lightness and strength with an aluminum frame that weighs in at 58 lb. Other systems on the Indian showed a similar level of focus on performance. For example, dual 300mm discs squeezed by four-piston calipers in the front and a 300mm two-piston unit out back – with standard ABS.

Polaris made it very clear that it plans on Indian being seen as a premium brand. The fit and finish of the bikes – from the paint to the quality and amount of chrome – announced that Indian is here, here big, and for the long-term. The same can be said of the Indian logos on just about every visible piece of hardware. The overall feeling is one of quality. Premium is a word that Indian’s representatives like to toss around, and it fits. For example, the entire Indian line comes with cruise control and keyless starting standard.

You may have noticed that, up until now, we’ve been referring to the Indian brand in text that’s supposed to be about the Chief. The reasoning behind this is that all three of the 2014 Indian models were produced around the same platform. Riders have a choice of two Chiefs: the Chief Classic and the Chief Vintage. The Classic is just as the name implies, the archetypical cruiser design: a saddle, floorboards, a pulled-back bar, and deeply skirted fenders. The Vintage takes the Classic and adds supple, tan leather to the seat, a classic cop-style windshield, and leather saddlebags color-matched to the seats.

About the only real complaint anyone had with the Chief (other than your typical moto-journo niggles) was that it required more effort to turn than the Chieftain touring model. How’s that? While the Chief’s rake was 29-degrees, the Chieftain’s was shortened to 25-degrees, bringing about the odd situation where the bigger, heavier bike felt more sprightly than the stripped-down version.

Still, when it comes to riding the Chief, our reviews have been glowing: “These bikes make use of their aluminum-cast frame to dive into corners with nary a bow or flex,” and “You have to give it to Polaris for creating such an authentic machine.” Authentic, that’s the right word for the Indian Chief, the proper blend of history and technology seemingly without compromise. For these reasons, we chose the 2014 Indian Chief our Best Cruiser

Source: Best Cruiser of 2014

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