When Minnesota based Polaris announced they purchased Indian Motorcycle, the acquisition raised a lot of questions regarding the way the OEM manufacturer would design the new models, in what range of prices, how the iconic brand would cohabit with Victory and when the new Polaris/Indian motorcycles would be announced?
What we know for sure today is that Polaris is deeply committed to rebuilding the brand with great motorcycles and there is absolutely no doubt in the industry that the company has the capabilities, engineering knowledge, sourcing and design resources to build a quality and strong line up. But the main issue for all of you is not about Polaris technical abilities but about the way to use them to keep the Indian brand true to its long heritage iconic image.
Last week, at the first Polaris Indian meeting in Nashville, a few things were said by the management. It took time to move the Indian factory from Kings Mountain NC. to Spirit Lake, Iowa, so don’t expect any radical announcements in the next few months, probably until Summer next year. The 2012 model Indian Chiefs will not be available until December or January, will keep the same price structure, and being a transition line to the new Polaris/Indian motorcycles, will probably only feature minor improvements or fixes and will be limited to fewer models with only three 2-tone paint combos plus solid black and solid red. Consequently, one can expect 2012 shipments to decline during the transition process, then accelerate once the brand is relaunched. It’s probably the reason why some Kings Mountain Indian dealers have decided to close, unable to financially sustain themselves during one year until the transition is complete.
Regarding the 2013 models, still expected to appear during Summer 2012, Polaris goes in the marketing direction of positioning Indian as a limited edition ultra premium motorcycle brand faithful to its heritage of high performance and reliability. So, don’t expect the new models to compete in the lower end of the market. With its Victory cruisers and touring bikes, Polaris pursues a market of riders putting a lot of miles on their motorcycles. It seems a wise marketing approach to “map” the new Polaris/Indian motorcycles “somewhere else” in terms of riders expectations.
First the new line will have to acquire its own DNA or unique aesthetic, in direct filiation with the “stereotyped” image of the brand. Then, the new models must provide premium qualities of speed, endurance and finition. The following comparison has been used to describe Polaris long term strategy: Volkwagen owns Audi, Lamborghini and Bentley and occupies 4 very different markets never competing with each other. Ok, I am pretty certain that the new Indians will provide premium qualities, but at this time Polaris executives are still brain storming about the right design to package all this (they are right now recruiting a Chief Designer to help.) All designs and drawings published online these last days by some other websites to show the next Indian are fake. Nobody knows, even the Indian engineers are not sure… Regarding distribution, from my point of view and because the new Indian has to become a premium, classic niche brand, I expect Polaris to offer the new models only to its top-tier Victory dealers in the most desirable markets, while keeping some of Indian’s remaining North American and international dealers. Expectations are so high that I would recommend to Polaris to take all the time they feel necessary before announcing anything new, even if it would take 2 or 3 years. There are only 2 options. Reviving Indian to its glory days or definitively killing the brand. Nothing between.