Who Will Be The New Indian Motorcycle Dealers?

Indian-Motorcycle-DealerWhatever the desirability of any new motorcycle model, dealership experience is essential to the success of any brand. So, you may wonder what type of distribution Indian Motorcycle is pursuing and what type of retail experience the company is currently trying to build?

When in 2011 Polaris acquired Indian Motorcycle, there was a total of 14 Indian dealers, all bringing capital for the store, equipment and merchandising. A very costly investment and a strategy that didn’t work very well due to the low sales volume of the Kings Mountain Indian Chiefs launched at the worst time of our US recession. Rod Krois, director of marketing at the Medina, MN-based company already stated that the Indian Motorcycle goal is around 400 retail points in 2014. Although the focus is right now on North America, he also mentioned that the Indian expansion will be global as well.

So, what type of dealers? Not following the single brand line strategy of Harley-Davidson stores. Instead, developing a specific to Indian retail environment within multi-brand stores. A distribution choice relying on the ability of each dealer to create the great brand experience Indian is looking for. Which one? Exactly the same as the new Indian model (s) will be all about: to honor the brand’s historic legacy and provide riders with top quality services and products inside the dealership. And if it would not work the way Indian intends? The only other choice would be to ask potential dealers to bring serious capital in store investment to have the right to carry the Indian brand.

As I mentioned before, especially since the introduction of the new Indian Thunder Stroke 111 last March in Daytona I got many emails and phone requests from here in the US and abroad to know how to pre-order the new Chief before it is officially unveiled and launched in August in Sturgis. Objective? Of course to get a low serial number of what will probably be considered by collectors an historic model… The only official statement I got from Indian Motorcycle is that “Inventory is expected to be available at Indian Motorcycle dealerships throughout North America later in the year.” So, be patient. More news very soon. (picture Indian Motorcycle Charlotte, North Carolina)

46 Responses to “Who Will Be The New Indian Motorcycle Dealers?”

  1. 1 deadwood1783 May 16th, 2013 at 9:07 am

    I suggest taking a look at smaller Dealers, with not only appropriate capital, but with some “sweat equity” as well. Chasing Harley-Davidson Dealers like some in the past have done will only hurt the brand. Riders do not need a boutique experience. They would much rather do business with people who are passionate, who live, eat, breathe, and sleep motorcycles. Dealers who have an incentive to make the brand work. Dealers who don’t just preach “service after the sale” but provide it. As follows the ad campaign, real motorcycle people. Not the hobbiest or the guy with deep pockets who only wants to be a Dealer to feed his ego. I wish Indian nothing but the best. But I hope Robert and company truly realize that no matter how good the product is, the Dealer Network will make or break the relaunch of this Iconic Brand. The Dealership employees from sales to service to parts are your frontline and succesful customer interaction will be paramount to success. HD has forgotten this and there is an opening for a new Ameican Motorcycle Company to capitalize through unparalled CUSTOMER SERVICE. Good luck guys! I can’t wait to see the new Indian on the WARPATH!

  2. 2 Ralph May 16th, 2013 at 9:50 am

    Well said, Deadwood. Agree 100%. Boutique dealerships. People who are passionate, who live, eat, breathe, and sleep motorcycles. Yeah. Not Rossmeyer’s style.

  3. 3 Shifter May 16th, 2013 at 9:51 am

    Cyril is right. Dealers can make or break the Indian brand whatever the products Indian is going to manufacture, even good.

  4. 4 CafeSportyTC May 16th, 2013 at 10:21 am

    lol for a second i thought did they just show us the cheif… then i realized that was a bottle cap motor and a kings mountain chief

  5. 5 P. Hamilton May 16th, 2013 at 10:25 am

    Pre-ordering. I can do it if I have the opportunity to see some good pictures, but not before. Cyril, will you post photography before Sturgis?

  6. 6 Grace May 16th, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Stop the tease. Show the bike.

  7. 7 George May 16th, 2013 at 11:17 am

    How many will be Victory dealers, ATV dealers at the same time?

  8. 8 666 May 16th, 2013 at 11:35 am

    Someone told me how to end up with a million dollars as an indian dealer. Start out with 10 million !!

  9. 9 morpion May 16th, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    for sure indian will be at the the same dealers floors that sells victory and polaris,,,,it,s the same company

  10. 10 Greeko May 16th, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    I guess it;s 400 points of sale in the world.

  11. 11 Fritz May 16th, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    All the best to Polaris/Indian in the future.

    Dealerships will be one of the many tests they have to successfully bring their product to the market.

    Deadwood hit it bang on. Unless Indian has 36 different models why not go with smaller businesses that focus on the bikes themselves? The riding consumer doesn’t really care about the store the stuff comes in, rather the bike itself and pieces to keep it running. Some say the fickle, motorcycle riding fashionista is starting to decline. Hence, the number of shiny, low mileage , low price Harleys on ebay, Craigslist etc.

  12. 12 Joshua May 16th, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    If you want to know what kind of rivalry Indian relaunch is going to create with Harley, read here the comments of the pro-Indian & pro-Harley readers in a couple of months.

  13. 13 Drum101 May 16th, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    I work for a HD dealership. My boss is tired of corporate Milwaukee red tape. Thinking about becoming a smaller size Indian dealer…to enjoy again motorcycles. Says a lot.

  14. 14 BobS May 16th, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Be careful what you wish for. The small mom and pop dealership where you buy from the owner and hang out with the tech after work for a beer…that’s precisely what many of the Victory dealerships are. Small places with people passionate about bikes and didley squat for t-shirts. They might be lucky to have a dozen bikes on the floor but they know them inside and out as well as your name and your wife’s. And, this “dealer network” is one of the biggest complaints against Victory. I love it, but I’m afraid if Indian wants to sell 100,000 bikes a year the dealers better have lots of shelves for t-shirts and trinkets. After all, if you want a bike buy a Victory, if you want a lifestyle…

  15. 15 Terence Tory May 16th, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    An Indian only shop will have to sell 40 coffees and two jackets minimum every hour just to break even and pay the finance company and rent on floor space.I can’t see how a stand alone Indian shop could survive for more than eighteen months unless the merch was popular enough to justify a conveyor belt to the sales point.One ace card as a feather in the Indian cap is H-D won’t be able to wreck the business using sleazy anti-competitive trade practices that were just legal in the first half of the last century.

  16. 16 KneesintheBreeze May 16th, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    I tend to disagree with the thought that Indian should go with smaller, more intimate dealers. Or just have an “Indian section” of a multi-brand dealer. One thing that hurts Victory is the lack of dealers, lack of support because of so few dealers, etc.
    Look at who’s buying the $20k+ motorcycles (yes, I realize the baseline Chief will start at $18.9k). The majority will want the bells and whistles and upgrades and that’ll surely push into the $20k range. Now look at who’s buying $20k plus bikes. Those buyers want the dealer support, they want the t-shirts and parts and accessories, etc. They also want service departments wherever they may go because few of them work on their own bikes. I’m of the opinion that Indian needs to do this BIG! Indian only dealerships in the top markets, combined brand dealerships in smaller markets.

  17. 17 Matt W. May 16th, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Knees. I agree with much of what you say but the practical problem for the time being I think is how to justify focusing an entire dealership around one Indian bike model. I think until more models are released (as Polaris has indicated they plan to over the next 5 years) then there will be more people willing to invest more floor space or entire locations to the Indian brand.

  18. 18 Patrick M May 16th, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    It’s fun to see the comments and thoughts leading up to the big release. As someone working with one of the 10-15 remaining KM Indian dealers transitioning to SL product, we’ve seen a lot of different approaches. What we have learned and stuck with is believing in one product, providing 100% commitment to your customers regardless of challenges (admittedly not perfect) earns a lot of loyalty and the opportunity to grow as a single line dealer, despite everyone telling you it’s not possible. We are in the dark with everyone else who the new dealers will be- and we hope they share a passion for the brand and are not just a me too investor. So far the Polaris folks have been right on the mark with their planning.

  19. 19 J.H. May 16th, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    I was at our local H-D dealership a few Saturdays ago. An older gentleman rode up on an older Indian Chief painted Teal and Cream, with tan leather seat and bags, totally restored. But you could tell by the bluing of the pipes and the road grime, that he road it a lot. He got a free hamburger, didn’t hardly say a word to anybody. Finished his burger, got on his bike, kicked it to start, pushed the foot clutch in, tank shifted it into gear, and of he went.. Everybody just stopped what they were doing and watched him fire it up and ride away . Talk about a bunch of adult “kids”, probably the first “real” Indian they had ever seen. I wonder how many of the lookers changed their minds about which brand of bike to buy?

  20. 20 Steelchoppin May 17th, 2013 at 6:22 am

    Sorry Polaris…but if you want loyal customers, they need their own unique environment not a corner of an existing 4-wheeler dealership or sport bike/cruiser store. Big mistake…big big mistake inserting these dealers into existing stores. You want to foster strong market share…don’t attempt to “share” the market. If Harley has done anything correctly it is distancing itself as far from other lines as possible. There are too many intrinsic benefits to solitude in the V-twin market. Harley customers simply will not spend money voluntarily at a business that doesn’t completely engage in the image component of the brand. This is why Victory isn’t stronger than it is. Victory customers are fiercely loyal but there is zero image associated to them. Indian as a brand name, (lets face it a name is all Polaris actually bought) is not that way and it will falter because of it. I know that that Harley customers are not Indian customers but I have been in the industry long enough to see that if Indian can gain customers like Harley has they will be fine but they can not do it over night. Harley took 100 years to figure that out and no matter what anyone at Indian says…the name is over a hundred years old but this motorcycle company is brand new.

  21. 21 BobS May 17th, 2013 at 7:25 am

    Steelchoppin you are aware that in smaller markets Harley’s are sold in multi line Motorsports dealers and even as part of John Deere dealerships right?

  22. 22 European HD dealer May 17th, 2013 at 8:10 am

    As an outsider I’m just wondering; whats the general consensus with you guys in the States?
    Would you trade your Harley for a new Indian? And will HOG members leave their chapter and hope that Indian get the social side of ownership going?

  23. 23 Art Welch May 17th, 2013 at 8:27 am

    Being one of the last of the 14 Dealerships with actual INDIAN money for backing (Native American Sioux Actually), I can say that I was on the fence about this move. I can proudly say, I’m looking forward to whats coming. KM did have over priced bikes.. and we were one of the few that could hold a torch in selling them. The people that could buy them WITH disposable income were great people to make connections with…… Bankers, Professors, Small Business owners, CEO’s of companies, and so on… but what KM didn’t get is that just reaching out to the not so common Joe, wasn’t going to sell many motorcycles. NOW, priced right for the market, in what will only not be an affordable bike, but a beautiful bike, and a very well performing bike. There will be no doubt, that at take off, the bikes will be in short supply and high demand, but they will not be playing the same KM game.. HOWEVER, the one thing that I had said to KM, time and time and time and time again, was to get the clothing aspect of it all off the ground. They did at first.. but then! Nothing…. well I shouldn’t say nothing.. We had T shirts Galore! T shirts and T shirts and T shirts and MORE T shirts from KM. I repeatedly said, if we can’t sell bikes as fast as we want, give us something we CAN sell.. By the end of KM’s Run.. we had NOTHING BUT T shirts. I’m sure many of you know that HD’s main profitability come from Retail sales.. Even more so than Bike Sales… So with that in mind, with as great as Polaris has been to me…. I can only hope that the Idea of Retail, doesn’t come 3rd or 4th, or 5th down the totem pole. It needs to be equal to #1, making bikes. If they can pull making bikes and great clothing together.. the rest is butter. And i have a very good feeling, they aren’t gonna let anyone down.

  24. 24 Woody's May 17th, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Wise advice from Mr. Welch. I think both stand-alone and combined dealerships will be able to do well because of the price point of the new bikes. A lot will depend on the individual markets. If Indian wants a lot of dealerships they will have to allow combined dealerships in some areas or go without, an easy decision in my book. If/as the brand takes off and the line expands, successful combo dealers will be glad to expand their commitment and floorspace, building separate facilities if/and needed.

  25. 25 Rodent May 17th, 2013 at 9:39 am

    Just wondering what the thinking is in the bowels of Juneau Ave? Are they preparing for battle? Are they going to challenge Indian on the track, on the street, or at the cash register? Or just a t-shirt war?

  26. 26 4Cammer May 17th, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Though I will most likely never buy a new Indian I do watch with much interest to how they are going forward with production and ultimate marketing. My advice is look to how HD marketed and produced Buell and do everything differently.

  27. 27 Kevin Gehr May 17th, 2013 at 11:03 am

    Looks to me like Polaris made so much effort on the new bike that building the dealership network was a little bit forgotten. Anyway, to get started, Indian can use all Victory dealers, ATV dealers if necessary, and wait for applications coming to them from those who want to carry the lone. I also think that Polaris is and must be very flexible, may change, adapt its dealership strategy depending of what they observe with the Chief sales. Who is buying, where, demographics, etc.

  28. 28 Grady May 17th, 2013 at 11:35 am

    Interesting comments… As a Harley rider, I have been following the “re-birth” of Indian with some interest. I am not the true “Die Hard” Harley rider with many on this site are, the one who bash everything not associated with the Mo Co, I am a motorcycle rider who enjoys riding….Period. If Indian can produce a quality product that is true to the name, at the right price point and give the customer quality service before and after the sale, they will grow. As many above have said, the other key to the growth will be the accessories – clothing and custom options. The reason Harley retail sale are so high is that everyone want to customize their bike and make it their own….and Harley knows that. Most buyer spend a large sum on the initial investment of the bike, then another large some on making it their own – new pipes, bags etc. and the Mo Co prices the accessories to make that profit. The old saying comes to mind…”What does H-D stand for? — Hundred Dollars!” cause everything in the retail store for your bike is $100 or more. One of the keys to Indians possible success is not only to keep the basic bike cost at a reasonable cost, but also offers the customizing options at a reasonable cost also. Only time will tell and I wish Indian the best of luck.

  29. 29 Rodent May 17th, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Since all the Hard Rock Casinos are Indian owned there will dealerships at the casino property?

  30. 30 KneesintheBreeze May 17th, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Here’s to hoping we see a Scout style bobber with that Thunder Stroke 111! Now THAT would be a blast to ride!!

  31. 31 Iron Horse May 17th, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    +1 to KneesintheBreeze. As much as I really would like to add a new Chief to the stable, a Scout style bobber with the Thunder Stroke 111 would be even better. How about it Indian, are you listening?

  32. 32 Mike Greenwald May 17th, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    The chassis from the Polaris/Victory stable is being unused. Mount a Thunder Stroke 111 in that chassis and you have a hot rod.

  33. 33 Mike Greenwald May 17th, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    I am talking about the “Core” chassis.

  34. 34 Blackmax May 19th, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Grady is right …..
    the trick is the make the brand intersting enough so they Will be cross traffic.
    Sure aim at the H-D Rider but there are other markets you can draw from also
    Don’t get me wrong there are a LOT of things the the Mo-Co does right
    (Motor clothes for one which I have said on this very blog time & again are the BEST clothes for
    riding, Bar None, Made anywhere. just wish more of it were made here)
    Accesories & advertising the product are well done also.
    But the things that gets most people is the product itself…
    Antiquated, still have to spend 3 to $5000.00 to get it to run correctly and at a price point where you
    wouldn’t think you’d have to spend anything else on it to run right .
    Polaris has shown with Victory that there is a better way & that you can build a good
    “American Made/Assembled” bike & not have to do more than the exhaust changes because it already runs / brakes great . I ride a metric and was seriouly looking at a Vic Cross Country.
    But I’m holding off, waiting to see what Indian bring to the table whth the first model.
    And if the trend holds true, from Victory, new models coming shortly after that

  35. 35 Blackmax May 19th, 2013 at 9:58 am

    If I had the wherewithall, I’d already be signed up

  36. 36 Bigwoody May 20th, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Hope they make it on product.
    Looks good so far. One piece forget crank. Drive is on right side.

    Hope they don’t get into $6o.00 jeans and thirty dollar tee shirts. The last American made Harley shirts were made by Stratman.

    I’m so old my Harley boots sayv made in the USA.

  37. 37 Bigwoody May 20th, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Loks good so far.
    Upscale Victory.
    Forged crank, drive on right side.
    Nostalgic styling.
    Hope they don’t get overboard with the clothing thing.
    Tired of Sixty dollar Chinese Jeans and thirty dollar chinese tee shirts.
    Last harley shirts made in USA were made by Stratman.
    I’m so old my Harley boots have a flag inside says “Made in USA”.

  38. 38 KD May 21st, 2013 at 5:52 am

    As one of the Indian reps said: “Sure, we’ll have 100% American made riding gear and it will be priced at $599. Customers will say ‘GREAT!, Now where are the $299 jackets?'”. Folks, if you ask for it, buy it. Be it at HD or Indian or anywhere else in America.

  39. 39 Hugh May 22nd, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    Personally, I don’t give a damn about how the dealership will look. I want a bike I can ride coast to coast with confidence. If it does need service, I want to know the dealer isn’t going to tell me it will be 3-4 weeks before they can fit it in. And, yes, I would pay $599 for leathers made in the USA!

  40. 40 KP Jun 20th, 2013 at 1:26 am

    Just spoke to a dealer here in Canada that’s taken some deposits. Mine might be next. I’m going to talk to them tomorrow about trading in my 02 Spirit. Then I’ll have to decide if I really want to part with it. My leathers are old and road-weary, but they’re like an old shoe, so I really don’t care if everyone’s wearing an Indian t-shirt, but if that’s what it takes to carry the brand, that’s what it takes. I couldn’t get behind the Victory motorcycles more because of Arlen’s spaceship styling than the fact that they were the new kid. The owners seem loyal enough, but I’d rather push my Indian…

    Even though I ride a Gilroy bike, it still says Indian on it (not Kawasaki drifter) and I know that there was heart and soul poured into the building of it, and that’s enough for me. The new Indian will have to invoke the same emotion, I think, to develop a following. I hope it happens, but I also know that a dealer network can’t explode overnight.

    Hard to say whether the boutique dealerships are the way to go. They may have a little more ‘permanent’ look to them than the street corner shop.?? Perhaps this will instill more confidence in the brand, who knows? Somebody a lot smarter than I will have to figure that out and pretty quickly. Although if I do buy a new Indian, I hope I won’t have to travel 800 miles to a dealer for repairs. Actually, I hope it will be so well put together that it will never have to go back to the dealer!

    One thing I do know is that the motorcycle magazines are gonna be all over this just like they were when the Gilroys came out. Unfortunately, they were generally unkind at that time, criticizing brakes, handling, etc. This may be the opportunity to really kickstart the brand again, provided Indian has done its homework and builds a great bike.

  41. 41 Terence Tory Jun 20th, 2013 at 3:28 am

    Hugh,the statement ” I would pay $599″ is known to marketing people in the same light as “I’m looking at a Lamborghini” .When you have bought the $599 leathers post and tell everybody about action and not just intention.I “looked a Lotus I’m going to get” yesterday.Marketing people are really only interested in the “I have bought” and not the “I will buy”.The savage ring of the Burroughs shouts louder than any man.

  42. 42 Jack Ahearn Jun 22nd, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    After spending 8 days in Laconia N.H. During bike week.It seems that the Mega-super store boutique is the way to go.Bands,burgers and $35. T-shirts.Police details,to move traffic along.Yet 30miles away at a small garage type dealership there was no traffic or people compared to the mega store which had thousands.

  43. 43 Wally1 Aug 11th, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    Well, Well, Well, if Polaris industries has anything to do with Indian Motorcycles it will be a great success, for about 3 years! Polaris has a great record of not warranting anything, just check Polaris snowmobiles and Victory motorcycle customers. Non stop excuses and denials. It’s about trust, and you cannot trust Polaris industries for anything. Please do not take my word, research it yourself. This company does not stand behind their products. Never have, never will. You are wasting your money.

  44. 44 MC-Bill Aug 16th, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    Hopefully, Polaris will find willing dealers. I had applied but they maintain the same mentality that prevented Victory dealers from being profitable. The factory reserves the right to put as many dealers in a geographical area as they desire. One day corporate America will realize that they only have one customer. And that is the dealer that represents them. If the dealer cannot maintain profitablility, the product suffers, the dealership closes, the consumer loses confidence and the product goes dies on the vine.
    In this economy, it will certainly be a struggle. Wake up Corporate America.

  45. 45 Joe P. Aug 18th, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    MC-Bill, I don’t think it’s a “Wake up corporate America” thing. Most franchises DO have geographical limits, from Duncan Donuts and McDonalds to The Lawn Doctor and Molly Maid. I guess they don’t want to limit themselves, at least in the beginning. It’s their right to make the rules–right or wrong.

  46. 46 MC-Bill Aug 31st, 2013 at 7:31 am

    Agree that it is the manufacturers right to put 3 dealers in an 25 mile radius. Also agree that it will fail as a marketing plan. If a dealer cannot make money, he is gone. Nobodyy buys a bike with a failed dealership network. Look at Victory. More dealer failures then any other motorcycle product. That equals, 10,000 units sold per year. Polaris can’t return a decent profit on that and was ready to pull the plug on Victory. The CEO was given a few years to correct it.

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Cyril Huze