Even before I left Florida to join the rally, the whisper was that Indian Motorcycle would have a concept bike on display in Sturgis. A concept motorcycle shown to the public at the same time the company is introducing its new 2011 Blackhawk model? It’s a lot for a young manufacturer just entering its third year of production. So, I rushed to their display on Lazelle Street & 4th where I asked Indian General Manager Chris Benauer and Manager of Service & Marketing Marc Pomerantz to give me the full 411 on the solo spring seat motorcycle shown here.
While waiting for a few minutes that both Chris & Marc free themselves from prospective buyers of their bikes, I observed that the red unnamed concept motorcycle in question, even rough on its edges, was competing very well with the Chiefs in terms of interest from the public. So, here is the story given to me.
First, Indian Motorcycle has a young and very passionate team of collaborators who want the company to succeed, not only because it’s their job, love the brand but also (my analysis) because they have been challenged by all past years’ detractors who assumed that Indian could not be revived.
I have been at the Kings Mountain factory in 2008 before the first launch, met with the team, know a few of the key employees, and know for a fact that they are extremely motivated and supported by a management with strong financials. Second, Chris Benauer explained to me that the company will not discourage anyone or group of employees to show through a concept motorcycle what they would love to ride and think is feasible in terms of cost of tooling to make it a marketable motorcycle. So, surprisingly or maybe not, Indian had no specific strategy yet with this model. Just something born from passion in a corner of the factory, a concept motorcycle that they liked to build (doesn’t mean approved) and that they decided to show on their display during this 70th rally.
Nothing revolutionary yet on this machine, most parts already being produced for the Chiefs, but still a few nice one-off touches and a special way to assemble it to make it look more retro, I would say more “Classic Indian” brand. Personally I think that this concept motorcycle is a good approach and told Chris Benauer that I would love that they push further this design by going for an even lighter and more naked look…Evidently, observation of public reactions during the rally will decide if this concept has a future.
Regarding the Chief models, I confirm that Indian sales are exactly what was told to me by Chairman Stephen Julius 2 years ago in his office as the projection for year 2010: 600 units. It’s the level at which the company just turned profitable. I continue to believe that the new Indian Motorcycle Company is there to stay. To follow…Indian Motorcycle.