An Indian Ride To Polaris Motorcycle Research Development Center And Assembly Line

indianride1indianride3indianride3bisAfter watching the unveiling event and road testing the 3 new Indian Chief motorcycles in Sturgis, S.D., I spent this weekend in Minnesota at the invitation of Art Welch, co-owner of Indian Motorcycle of The Twin Cities in St Paul, MN. In Polaris home-state, he was the first official Indian Motorcycle dealer to offer demo rides of the 2014 models and invited me with a selected group of friends of the industry to ride on Friday August 16 to Polaris Research & Development center, then on Saturday August 17 to Polaris assembly line in Spirit Lake, Iowa where Indians production just got started 10 days ago.

During all weekend 12 sparkling new Chiefs – Classic, Vintage, Chieftain – attracted fans and prospective buyers, not only from Minnesota but also from neighboring states. Anyone with a valid motorcycle driver license could ride. Some already paid a deposit sight-unseen and got a chance to ride it, with others bringing new deposits for a delivery in about 2 weeks, now knowing precisely which model and color scheme they prefer. 10 members of the St Paul police department riding their Harleys also showed up to road test each of the new 3 models. All told me that they were nicely surprised by their power and handling…

indianride2Last Friday, Art Welch, Mike Tomas from Kiwi Indian and myself straddling a black Chief Classic led a group of privileged 10 bikers riding Indians of all generations to a 50 minutes ride to the 700 acres Polaris Research & Development Center in Wyoming, Minnesota. The facility has doubled in size during these last 3 years and includes off-road testing and a close to 1 mile long road track. Although photography is of course strictly limited, we were treated to a slide presentation of the evaluation and testing procedures used for the conception of the all-new Chiefs.

A presentation organized by Indian Motorcycle Product Director Gary Gray and his crew to demonstrate to us that Polaris Industries is fully dedicated to retain the truly iconic characteristics of the brand and combine those elements with advanced technologies to deliver a new Indian Motorcycle offering exceptional performance and truly unsurpassed reliability. As Polaris Industries Vice President of Motorcycles Steve Menneto stated during the Sturgis launch, “We understand that we are the caretakers of one of America’s most storied and legendary brands and we’ve worked tirelessly.” For Example.

indianride8indianride12 indianride10The new Thunder Stroke 111″ (119 ft./lb) 49-degree V-twin, air-cooled with integrated oil cooler, left-side air intake engine has been extensively tested, refined and proven by one of the industry’s most rigorous development and testing programs, accumulating over 2 million miles of testing with 1.5 billion crankshaft turns equivalent to circling the world over 40 times. , including state-of-the-art dyno testing, and hundreds of thousands of miles of on-road testing. It is currently built in Osceola, Wisconsin at the Polaris Engine Assembly Plant. Frame went through a Vehicle Simulator for the equivalent of 200,000 miles in 15 says, then through a Dynamic Shaker for the equivalent of 200,000 miles in 1 day. Sound development for exhaust tone went through multiple iterations of tuning to perfect the Indian exhaust sound while still respecting global emissions in the US and multiple countries.
ride1ride2On Saturday August 17th, under a perfect blue sky, the same trio (Art Welch, Mike Tomas and myself) led a 250 mile ride of close to 100 bikers riding Indians, Harleys and Triumphs from the Indian dealership in St Paul, Minnesota to the Polaris Motorcycle Assembly facility in Spirit Lake, Iowa. Corn fields forever…Arrived just on time for a guided tour focused mainly on the Victory and new Indian assembly line I must say that we felt very privileged to see the fist Indians to be built and to watch the men and women doing the job. Of course, Polaris is equipped with all the up-to-date robotic tools, like welding and powder coating , to produce fast and accurately  most components of a new mass produced motorcycle, but many were surprised by the manual tasks still necessary to install many parts. It’s the beauty of these machines. They will never be fully made by robots…

indianride13indianride14The new Indian assembly line has been built from scratch from a former storage area (watched an accelerated animation showing its construction) , is expandable to ramp up production on short notice to face orders. Most workers are qualified for an average of 3 different tasks, are still tested on each post for time to complete their tasks (a system of lights above each post indicates if a worker takes more time because of unforeseen difficulty), with for final objectives to complete an Indian motorcycle, like for Victory, in less than 4 hours and to be provide a delivery time to the dealer not exceeding 2 weeks in any model or color.

indianride7indianride6The very strict quality control procedures along the assembly line and just before crating to the dealers were also explained to us. Especially important for Indian Motorcycle because the company offers an unmatched in the industry 5-year warranty, the confidence of guaranteeing a 2-year old value of 70%, a 3-year old value of 60%. The company is also offering a $250 credit toward travel paid at time of registration of a new Indian, competitive rates of financing and an Indian specific hotline to all new Indian owners. Seems to me like Indian Motorcycle gave you all the reasons to buy and removed all the reasons to not buy one…

Dealer Indian demo rides also started at the New Jersey dealership and are expanding starting next weekend at almost all US dealerships. Each US dealer just received 7 models and can immediately re-order for each model sold. I got confirmation that Indian Motorcycle expect a total of 140 signed dealers at the end of 2014 and of 250 in 2015. Regarding sales objectives, Polaris remains silent and will not acknowledge or deny any numbers. I bet for 3/4000 worldwide units until December and 12,000 in 2015. Of course, you will remind me if I am wrong, even just a little bit… (Legends. Top pictures. Cyril Huze, Shane McGuire, Mike Tomas before the ride. St Paul Minnesota Police Department. At Polaris R&D, from left to right: Glen Grahleer, Ron Vorndran, Jeff Wolf with Product Director Gary Gray.   Follwing pictures: unknown testers. Below: Cyril Huze with Art Welch. Bottom pictures: left, Polaris Vice President Of Motorcycles Steve Menneto. Right, Indian Marketing Director Rod Krois) 

32 Responses to “An Indian Ride To Polaris Motorcycle Research Development Center And Assembly Line”

  1. 1 P. Hamilton. Aug 18th, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    I think Indian is going to do very well. Good timing for the economy recovery, too.

  2. 2 Sean Fitzpatrick Aug 18th, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    Cyril. I envy you. Always at the greatest motorcycle places.

  3. 3 Brandon Aug 18th, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    Who are the dealers in Arizona?

  4. 4 Kyle Aug 18th, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Did you learn anything about future models?

  5. 5 Greeko Aug 18th, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Who finance? The dealer or Polaris?

  6. 6 Chris Sharp Aug 18th, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    The Chieftain grows on me. Maybe pne for XMas.

  7. 7 courtney Aug 18th, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    “…caretakers of one of America’s most storied and legendary brands…”. Caretakers. Hmmm, I can live with that concept I suppose. Maybe.

    It does appear that Polaris is putting forth a valiant effort to remain true to the brand despite the fact more time has passed since Indian went bankrupt than when it was in business — which can’t be an easy task. We’ll see how it all plays out in the long run.

    Thank God almighty that ridiculous “suspense campaign” is over tho….

  8. 8 Iron Horse Aug 18th, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    Hope my dealer gets theirs next weekend…I’m really looking forward to the test ride.

  9. 9 davidabl2 Aug 18th, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    As you write”Indian Motorcycle gave you all the reasons to buy and removed all the reasons to not buy one” Except that I’m waiting for a SportScout not a Chief! …A better one than my Kawasaki 800 Drifter,
    which Polaris certainly can do. If they want to.

  10. 10 Gophers and Cheese Aug 18th, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    Cyril, it was great meeting you on the ride to the Polaris factory in Spirit Lake. However, you must have had some sort of special VIP treatment at the facility as the vast majority of us on that ride from the Twin Cities dealership were turned away from the factory tour after riding over 4 hours and over 200 miles to get there. The issue seemed to be that it was American Victory Rally weekend and the first-come-first-serve tours had filled up by the time we arrived. We were told we could sign up for tours the following day or wait until 4pm (about 3 hours later) for a tour after all the scheduled tours were done and the lines were shut down. I’m glad you were treated well but most of us who rode with you that day didn’t get a tour and left very disappointed and angry.

  11. 11 Jack Aug 18th, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    Gophers & Cheese – sounds like you went with the herd and didn’t know the details?

  12. 12 Rodent Aug 18th, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    They were demoing Indians in Daytona Beach yesterday and today.

  13. 13 Matt W. Aug 18th, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    Even when striped down to the frame it’s a work of engineering art. Thanks Cyril.

  14. 14 Chris Sharp Aug 18th, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    Whoever at “Gophers And Cheese.” Don’t you expect Cyril to get the VIP treatment?

  15. 15 Gophers and Cheese Aug 18th, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    Jack – Proof that going with the herd is almost always a bad idea. I suppose I put a little too much trust in the dealership that organized and promoted the ride. Everyone on the ride was expecting to be, as Cyril wrote above, “very privileged to see the first Indians to be built and to watch the men and women doing the job.” Sure, we got to see the new 2014 Indian line up in the factory parking lot, but had we simply stayed in St. Paul, the dealership was having demo rides with the new bikes all weekend. The point of the 400+ mile ride (round trip) was the factory tour.

  16. 16 BobS Aug 19th, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Gopher, I myself posted on this site when Cyril reported on the planned ride that it was AVR weekend. I myself told the dealer in St. Paul personally that this was AVR weekend. AVR dates along with a schedule of events and activities was posted on Victory’s facebook and website. Sorry you didn’t get to see the factory, it is impressive. But it sounds like your dealer either didn’t care, or thinks the world revolves around Indian, or both. It does not and your dealer trying to crash the Victory party was a stupid idea.

  17. 17 Art "Loose Cannon" Welch Aug 19th, 2013 at 9:23 am

    Cyril, thank you for stopping out… I’ll be sending something out to you in the next couple of days..

    Gophers and Cheese,
    You have my Apologies, and everyone else that didn’t make it into the Tour Plant. I was aware that there was a Victory Rally, but what i wasn’t aware of, were the Scheduled tours. This is where the miscommunication or lack there of happened. I was told to be there before 2 or 2:30, and we all got there in time. To my surprise, the sign up sheets were on the table when we arrived. I didn’t think anything of it as I signed up and walked across the street to eat (you’re right, not even Hot dogs or ANYTHING to eat there.) A friend ran across the street and told me they cut out the tours for the day. I told him that wasn’t possible as I had just signed up.. and he said, “NO they just told everyone to come back tomorrow… So I went over and talked to a guy named Cory. Who said he would get us in by 4pm, After Media and VIP’s went through (This after a few phone calls) Cory was then able to get us in by 3:15. And actually did a more IN DEPTH Tour of Indian, and nothing at all on Victory.

    The Bottom line is here… I’m sorry that many were turned away. There were 89 registrations.. and thats a big long line of bikes on a freeway for 4 hours. I didn’t want to ride the freeway.. but taking back roads would have taken longer. Only about 30-40 People made it in..

    So since we are a grass roots operation, and since I don’t think I’ve been more embarrassed in my entire life, my goal is to take care of things the old fashioned way.

    Please give me a call at your Earliest convenience and ask for me personally..

    my calls get screened, so please let them know you’re from Gopher’s and Cheese

    And to everyone else that registered that didn’t get to go through, please give us a call and ask for me in regards to this.

    Art Welch
    Indian Twin Cities

  18. 18 bart Aug 19th, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    I like your style Mr. Welsh. The new Indians are very handsome indeed.

  19. 19 Gophers and Cheese Aug 19th, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    Art – Thank you for posting that. I appreciate the apology and I was there as you tried very hard to straighten things out at the factory once you learned things went bad. I appreciated that too. I can even understand the reasoning behind why we took interstate (efficiency over fun). I was simply trying to share how I, and others that I met on the ride, felt who left the factory very disappointed. Cyril’s review made everything about the day sound great so I simply wanted to represent those of us who would not agree with that assessment. Thankfully a few of us rode back together as a small group, found lunch, hit some great roads, and salvaged the day. Others may still have hard feelings, but I don’t.

  20. 20 Art "Loose Cannon" Welch Aug 19th, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    Thanks man, When We get our stock..I’ll invite you out personally, and take you out for a personal demo ride.. and longer than the usual “Demo Ride” unfortunately.. the # of people that were turned away was a sad thing for me…. To me those were all potential Indian Motorcycle Buyers that were enthused to see where they were made and possibly motivate them to buy. Hopefully Corporate takes notice of this and helps out the cause.. I’m sure they will step up as they are an “A” Tier Company. They have gone above and beyond for me, and I’d no doubt expect them to do the same here as well.


  21. 21 Martin Twofeather Aug 19th, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    Great work Cryil and thanks for all the input and out put on the new Indian Motorcycle,she is good looking….

  22. 22 Big Rick Aug 19th, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    The coolest polaris chief I’ve seen is the bare bone rolling chassis in the picture. Send that motherfucker my way and ill put that bitch on the map, fresh new tins, custom made parts, and a wet candy paintjob. I aint bullshitting.

  23. 23 Tooj Aug 20th, 2013 at 10:42 am

    I’ve attended the Annual Victory Rally for four straight years now. The factory tours have always been scheduled from 8 am to 2 pm and this hasn’t changed. This is a rare treat for anyone and many folks plan to attend the AVR for that very reason.

    It has been available on a sign up basis each of those years.

    So a plan to arrive at 2 – 2:30 and expecting the plant to have a nice little dinner set up for y’all? That’s some pretty short-sighted stuff for organizing that large a group. I certainly hope you haven’t turned folks off to Indian by your own lack of foresight.

    But I’m sure it fun for you, Cyril.

  24. 24 Art "Loose Cannon" Welch Aug 20th, 2013 at 11:15 am

    it wasn’t communicated that we were coming… but thank you for the positive remarks.

  25. 25 seefriedm Aug 20th, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    I was fortunate enough to meet Cyril before the ride to the Development Center, which for me was a highlight in and of itself. I as many of you have read his blog for many years and to finally met the man in person to me was an extremely great moment. Cyril is even better and more personable in person than what you read here on his blog.

    My hat is off to Art who was blindsided on the Factory Tour and spent the next 2 hours working with Polaris and Cory specifically to arrange the 3:15 pm tour which was much more in depth than the regular tour (I was able to go on both, sorry guys) and not only were we able to be in the area where the now departed workers were, but were able to walk the line touching each bike at its respective station. From the start of the Indian Thunderstroke 111 being uncreated and placed on the movable assy. line to the frame having its VIN stamped all the way to the end where the limited edition badge was placed on the right side of the motorcycle. I looked for the badges and was told they were put in the vault at night to keep them from walking away. We were able to see every stage of the motorcycle being built as there was a bike at each station ready for the next morning when the workers returned. To me it was a lifetime event, being able to do this tour during the first week of production of the rebirth of such an iconic brand.

    Art I want to convey my heartfelt gratitude to you for working tirelessly not just for this but the entire week of my visit to your dealership, ending Saturday evening at your home for the barbeque. A first class job.


  26. 26 Art "Loose Cannon" Welch Aug 20th, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Thanks Mark. I appreciate the kindness. I always try to go the extra mile..’s never crowded there.

  27. 27 Peet Aug 20th, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    I would have liked to see a modern interpretation on a girder fork, a la Brittan/Confederate. That would have not only been true to the “heritage” but also really been unique.

  28. 28 Tooj Aug 21st, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Sorry if you didn’t feel it was warranted Art. Yes, kudos to you for going the extra mile, but I’d like to point out the more important thing:

    The folks at the Victory and Indian assembly plant in Spirit Lake, Iowa went the extra mile for YOU folks. It was not a case of YOU went the extra mile. This is a prime example of Iowa hospitality and why Victory (and soon Indian) has the following that it does.

    And yes, Cory is pretty damn awesome for doing all that for you at the drop of a hat. But he’s that way with everyone that has attended Victory’s events. You’ll find it to be true of nearly every representative of the company that volunteers their time at these events.

  29. 29 Tooj Aug 21st, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Oh, and be sure to take a good look at what it costs to take a tour of the HD factory. They SELL tickets. How much did your more extensive factory tour in Spirit Lake cost you last weekend?

  30. 30 BigWave916 Aug 21st, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    @Tooj…when did H-D start charging for plant tours and how much is it?

  31. 31 Blackmax Aug 21st, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    Did any one ask about the tour pack for the Cheiftain ????
    Looking for that to be the next thing out

  32. 32 Tooj Aug 22nd, 2013 at 11:13 am

    You can find it on their corporate site. They run from $30 (for an HD Museum member) to as high as $38.

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Cyril Huze