Polaris Really Means it When They Say They’re Building an All New Indian

Indian MotorcyclesEver since Polaris bought the struggling Indian Motorcycle Company, there has been a lot of speculation about what it was going to do. A lot of you have been fearing the new Indian would be nothing more than a fancy and higher priced Victory, which would pretty much seal the fate on another attempt to resurrect the brand, but it looks like Polaris really is serious about Indian being separate.

Polaris already knows what the problems are:

... the bikes are very, very expensive–$37,000 or so–at the high end of what anyone would spend on a motorcycle. And the quality and performance were just okay–not what Polaris wants to stick its name behind.” Polaris made some improvements but produced only about 100 this year, deciding to pour its energy and resources into developing the new models.

The new Indian is going to be new, completely new, new frame and new engine, but carrying styling cues from the originals, in the same way the new Camaro or Challenger carries a strong resemblance to the decades old models from the 60s, even though everything underneath is new.

Now this is the part I found interesting:

With only 20 Indian dealers left in the U.S., Polaris also has to build a new distribution network. Victory has some 450 dealers in North America, many of whom also sell Polaris machines, but Indian will have a separate dealer network

That's going to take an investment, piggybacking on many of those Victory dealers would be a lot easier, but it may be necessary just to make sure no one starts thinking the brand is nothing more than an extension of the Victory line.

Polaris is in a strong financial position and if anyone is going to finally put Indian back on the road for good, the smart money is probably betting on this attempt. We'll find out soon.

Link: Forbes


  1. 7R Pete says

    If Polaris wishes to retain a somewhat tenuous link to the past there may be the possibility of a short stroke, wide bore, fast revving V twin. If I remember correctly Indian tried that once in the early fifties when they were supplied with about twelve Vincent engines from Stevenage. At that time however I believe that they tried to put the new engines in a basically unaltered Indian frame which sounded the death knell for the joint effort. This time with a new idea from the ground up, new engine and new frame might result in the production of a sport/racing model whilst also giving a nod to the past. I look forward to Polaris who have a name for excellence in off road vehicles, producing an equally excellent product for the road (or mebbe another off-roader – now there’s a thought.)

    • JP Kalishek says

      the same thought occured to me.
      Get On It Polaris!
      (not that I’d ever afford one, but still)

  2. says

    Between about 1953 and 1960 all the Indians sold In the US were re-branded Royal Enfields.

    Interestingly, Polaris has recently entered some sort of joint venture with Royal Enfield in India, but I don’t know what the purpose is.

      • says

        As I was reading the post on the main page, I wondered about them making a model with geographically-correct Indian influences, especially given the cash and market for American bikes building in India.

        Don’t think I knew about the deal with Royal Enfield though,



        Polaris seems to make smart moves. The Indian brand in in the right hands, I think.

    • menormeh says

      I suggested this to Aniket a few years ago. As I recall he had already talked to a factory rep and they wanted nothing to do with a v twin. The reason? Apparently they are looking toward a parallel twin and didn’t want to compete with themselves.

  3. Mark says

    Another v-twin cruiser = another doomed effort. You’d think they’d follow the example set by the only commercially successful effort at relaunching a motorcycle brand in history and try to follow in Triumph’s footsteps.

  4. says

    What would be REALLY cool is if they had partnered up with Erik Buell and put the Indian name on a new Ducati Diavel type “power cruiser” so there would be an Indian that would just SMOKE Harleys. This would also be a revival of the Harley-Indian wars of the past and be fitting retribution for Harley dumping Buell. And yes, I own a ’48 Chief and a Buell 1125.

  5. bicho says

    Polaris(Indian) could give us a new 440lbs Standard,V2,1000cc,100Hp SpeedScout,but they wont,they will build us a 700lbs cruisester!WHY?No really,i dont get it…..WHY?

  6. B50 Jim says

    I’m not sure if yet another version of Indian would get off the ground. Triumph is successful in part because plenty of riders remember the Triumph name and the bikes; and newer riders have a strong awareness of the brand. Indian as a manufacturer closed in the early 1950s when I still was in diapers, and the name ended in 1960. That was a long time ago, long enough to be ancient history to most riders, even old dudes like me. I grew up seeing Triumphs roaring around town, but I can’t recall seeing any Indians.

    Also, the motorcycle landscape is littered with the smoking wreckage of so many failed attempts (and outright scams) at reviving the Indian marque and mystique that any potential buyer will think twice before signing on the bottom line. Polaris would need a tremendous product at a reasonable cost to overcome that kind of resistance.

    And I wonder how Native Americans (or First-Nation peoples in Canada) feel about it? I don’t think I would care for a motorcycle made under the “Kraut” or “Schwab” brand.

    • tim says

      Sure, we “newer” riders have a strong awareness of the Triumph brand. I started riding on the road in 1981, and my awareness of Triumphs was old, slow, leaky, unreliable pieces of crap. Justified or not, that was how we thought. We had some gruding respect for Norton, none whatever for Harley Davidson, and it was ALL about the Japanese big 4. We knew about exotica like Laverdas and Moto Guzzis and whatnot, and even Ducati, but they were ultra rare, heard of but never heard.

      The fact that I ride a Triumph today (a Street Triple R) has zero to do with their history though I am a bit of a sucker for the whole McQueen thing, and everything to do with the bike being the right bike for my needs and wants. It has way more in common with the RZ350 I rode extensively in the mid-80’s than it does with a T120 or 140 or whatever.

      My point is that anyone relaunching the Indian brand likely has to defeat just as many bad “Awareness” points as stripmine good “awareness” points.

      I do love the 49-53 Indian Chief though. But they’ll never build it or anything remotely like it, betcha.

  7. says

    Re: how Native Americans feel about the name, I’ve thought about that too. What I find interesting though is that in 1901 when Indian motocycles started, the Native Americans faced a great deal of racist issues from many of the “new people”. But it would seem that Mr. Hendee and Mr. Hedstrom (Indian founders) held the Native Americans in very high regard in that they named the company after them, as such. It seems a sign of great respect, but I can also see how in our modern world it would raise some p.c. thought.

  8. says

    The Indian faithful understand Indian’s heritage is as much (or more) about performance & innovation as it is about the Chief’s skirted fenders.

    @Mark – good point about Triumph. I’d specifically reference the 675.

    Polaris could introduce a sporting twin (850cc) or triple (675-700cc) that has plenty of street & track day performance but doesn’t require the pressures of racing success (at least initially like Triumph did with their 675). Those who are too young to know the Indian heritage will be grateful for an affordable, American performance bike.

    In some ways the above approach would break the “follow HD” habit but it might be easier too since they have the ability to manufacture performance (based on their competitive snow sleds)

  9. Renegade_Azzy says

    I woulndt mind seeing a line of smaller displacement 4-stroke dirtbikes. Lots of old indian and HD dirtbikes laying in junkyards, too bad most only remember the big iron.

  10. Shane Kirstine says

    I think if they manage to do this right we could see HD walk back into the performance sector. They have dabbled the last number of years with the XR1200, the v-rod (great motor ugly bike), the sportster s back in ths 90s, and of course with Erik Buell. I would love to see that rivalery rekindled. and yes a new Indian 4!!!!!!!

  11. Steven says

    It would be nice to see a Vindian. Vincent motors are available I believe. I’d buy one if I could afford it.

    • tim says

      Matt Hotch used one in a biker build off. They said that the motor alone was $85000.

      Not sure how accurate that is (after all, its not a jet engine) they might have exaggerated it for the purpose of televisual entertainment.

      The best thing about that BBO was Roger Goldammer used an RD250 motor if I recall correctly.

  12. says

    They need to design it for reaching a certain target market, and just not care what anybody else says.
    Let’s face it, a guy who wants a 200mph Inline-4 “pseudo works replica” is not the same guy who wants a 55mph V-Twin bagger. There is zero overlap there.

    I’d like to see them introduce something different that wasn’t born out of some comic book.

    • Yeti2bikes says

      Not entirely true Tom. Some of us like it both ways, that’s why I have 2 bikes. One for cruisin’ with the ‘ole lady on the back (Harley) and one for tearing up the twisties all by myself (Buell).

      • says

        I see what you’re saying.

        But what I’m saying is that regardless of how many different kinds of bikes you may have or want, a Repli-Racer and a Road Hog are so diverse in function, that a person in the market for one is very unlikely going to be buying the other..

        That was what I was driving at.

  13. says

    I think part of the problem with these recent efforts, and notably the American efforts also, is that they are unrealistic.

    They assemble a plan with big names to attract a huge amount of capital, spend megabucks trying to get it all done, and by the time they have bikes ready, they have to charge $35-$50k per bike to try to dig themselves out of the financial hole they dug, and they all want to drive Ferrari cars while they are doing it.

    In the real world, the people who succeed live in the closet of the workshop, eat beans for 10 years, get the product out at a viable price range, and then eat beans for 10 more years trying to establish the brand reputation.

    Until people are wiling to sweat some real blood on these projects to keep the costs down and keep the vulture capitalists away, then it won’t be anything more than a parade of bankruptcies and failures.
    It is impossible to dig out of ultra-deep debt by trying to sell $35k+ motorcycles during a depression..

      • says

        I was referring to the previous efforts and also in a general way about how a lot of new vehicle projects get run into the ground.

    • menormeh says

      Part of the problem that Indian encountered was simple manufacturing economics. If you only order 5000 wheels a year from a supplier, you pay a higher price. The cost of tooling etc has to be amortized in the price of each wheel. If tooling costs run say $100,000 and you order 5000 wheels, the added cost to each wheel is $20 or $40.00 per bike. If you don’t buy 5000 wheels, the price is higher. The same thing is true of any OEM part that you purchase from any supplier. At peak production, how many bikes a year did Indian build? I don’t know but I do know in 2006 they only had 60 employees which tells me that it wasn’t very many.

      Another significant cost in vehicle manufacturing today is the cost of Government approval for emissions, safety, etc. Lets say that you have to hand the government $5,000,000 to sell a bike to the public. If you only build 5,000 bikes each bike’s price will have to absorb $1000 to cover those costs. Want to sell it in more than one country, those prices go up regardless of production numbers. And every change you make to a motor or some other significant design change requires you to pay the fees again. Introduce a new model and pay again. This is why the Moto Guzzi Centauro was no sold in Canada. Guzzi couldn’t justify the cost of paying the Governments fees against projected sales volume.

      And what about advertising? The same thing is true again. You could easily spend 10 million on advertising. That would add $2,000 to the cost of each bike produced based on 5000 bikes.

      Back around 1980 Lee Iacocca said in his book of the same name that to develope and market a completely new car from the ground up would cost one billion dollars at that time. I can only assume that today with subsequent inflation and more Government legislation that to produce a new bike for the marketplace would be somewhere around that figure. 500,000,000 for 5000 bikes, equals $10,000 per bike.

      So before you go and paint management with your dirty little brush perhaps you should investigate the simple costs associated with doing business. To do otherwise is simply being irresponsible.

      • says

        My “dirty little brush” happens to know everything necessary to put things into production, and how to do it efficiently and at low cost.
        And I’m actually doing it in the real world out there.

        Obviously something you have no idea or experience in doing.
        That’s why my brush is “dirty” and yours is “clean”.
        You have never used yours.

        • menormeh says

          Actually I have built a number of bikes over the years as a hobby. At one point in time I was a partner in an automotive engineering and rebuilding concern. My daily work though is in the construction industry on major projects. My department considers anything less than 10,000,000 dollars a small project and we have an army of cost accounting people examining everything we do. Part of our work is meeting Government legislation as the oil company I work for is high profile and multinational. If we attempt to cut corners we will quickly find ourselves in hot water accompanied by enormous fines. Most major manufacturers of road legal vehicles are in a similar boat. Remember the recent throttle sticking episode in the Toyota and the subsequent fines and penalties or how about GM’s Corvair years ago………

          Now Mr. Lyons, I am aware of what you do for a living. You are associated with the firm that provides the Ace Fireball kits for the Royal Enfield. Now under the prevailing laws in the U.S. and Canada, there is little if any legislation regarding the manufacture of kits for modifying existing machines. The onus to comply with the law lies with the owner of the machine not the part manufacturer which is why so many after market parts and kits come with a codicil in the warrantee or instructions that states “For off road or racing only”. Some vehicles can escape the long arm of the law by registering a small number of vehicles as “experimental”. Kit cars fall under this umbrella in many places with the concept being promotion of research and development. Now, it is my understanding that Ace uses ceramic coatings known as CerMet to act as heat insulators/reflectors in order to lean out the mixture to derive more power and a cleaner burn. I am going to assume, for arguments sake, that your firm purchases these products from an outside manufacturer such as PPG or ULTRAMET. My questions to you would be simply have you or any other member of your company ever had to comply with the EPA or any other branch of the Government and establish your products to meet all of the legislation required to market CerMet or any other material that you use in your manufacture process? Have you ever had to pay for the testing to prove your products W.H.M.I.S. or DOT compliant? Have you ever had to perform emissions testing on your products in order to comply with emissions law, both Federal and State? Probably not. That’s because the folks that made these products that you use everyday in your operations did it for you and whether you are aware of it or not, you are paying for those services and passing those costs on to your clients. When was the last time you had to evaluate sales projections to establish and maintain “just in time” inventory systems? When was the last time you retained the services of a multinational advertising and marketing firm to get your product out and on the dealers shelves? How many dealers are in your network? When was the last time you had to make a billion dollar decision that could effect the lives of thousands of workers in your facilities, not to mention the demands of the shareholders?

          This is also one of the reasons that many of these products are manufactured in places like China where there are few if any environmental laws and labour costs are low. They can tolerate errors simply because their manufacture costs are far lower and their mark ups far higher. Were you aware of the fact that until very recently that the Chinese manufacturers ate the rising costs of raw materials used in finished and semi finished goods and for over 20 years and never raised their prices to this end? Could it be that Harley Davidson chose to build a huge facility in Taiwan for Screaming Eagle parts for just this very reason? How long would your business survive if Enfield elected to do what you do as an option on their product and cut you out of the loop?

          Now, in light of the fact that you chose to take my comments as a personal attack and rebut in a disagreeable manner there is little I can say that would be of any value to you as it is patently obvious that you have it all figured out.

          I, on the other hand, freely admit I don’t. I only have a small amount of knowledge on what it takes to build a world class company and buddy, nobody I know is driving a Ferrai or lazing around the pool. Warren Buffet, who has amassed a $65 billion dollar portfolio, drove a Lincoln Town Car until recently and Bill Gates a 1999 Porsche 911 convertible. You may recall Buffet. He’s the fellow that bought up $300 million dollars in unsecured notes to keep Harley Davidson afloat in the recent financial troubles when the banks wouldn’t talk to them. But I digress. In fact of matter, most CEO’s these days work and average of 70+ hours a week and is away from home 1/3 of the time on business. This is of course after spending several years in a higher learning institution.

          In any event, I simply do not have the time or wherewithal to educate anyone in the little I know about macroeconomics, global industrial outsourcing, Keynesian economic theory, the science of statistical analysis as it relates quality control as developed and presented by W. Edward Deming or the LEAN principles used in modern day manufacture as proposed by John Krafcik, Jim Womack, Daniel Jones, Daniel Roos, Taiichi Ohno, Shigeo Shingo and Eiji Toyoda. These tools, and many others, are used everyday by companies such as General Motors, Ford Motors, Chrysler Motors, Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Daimler Corporation, Polaris, Harley Davidson, Piaggio SPA, Exxon, and Royal Dutch Shell, to name a few, who simply, due to the size of their operations, are forced to look at the realities of global manufacture and supply and make hard decisions based on the realities of the worlds economic structure.

          But of course Sir, you knew all of that didn’t you.

  14. Seymour says

    At this point in my life, and I am prime target market for someone like Indian, I just can’t imagine what would thrill me enough to buy one. The big fenders are passe’, I have a Drifter. A four cylinder? meh. Unless it’s outrageously cool.

    Indian at this point has to forget about the name’s past and its heritage, and create a bike that can stand on its own merit, as if the name never existed before.

  15. Zippy says

    Realistically (sic) the metrics have cut way back on thier cruiser upgrades. Band aid bat wing fairings on exsisting models and more cheep plastic covers.

    Victory competes well enough head to head with HD. Different enough to get noticed but similar enough to get the same crowd. ie USA production, Air cooled V Twin, BIG- NO HUGE saddlebags, belt drive, etc.

    They have proved they can do it. But thier demographic is a declining metric buyer (ebay is flooded with heavily discounted left overs), the Harley buyer (who is loath to change) and themselves (Victory customers).

    Finally, Triumph succeded for 2 reasons. They are run by folks passionate about thier product and past. And, of course, they build incredible machines that the press loves to rave about. Can either of these things be said about Indian?

  16. steve w says

    Few people even know or care that the CMC Indian was only months away from making a profit and then they fell doom to the the Indian Bottlecap engine which they should have never built. They were so close. Sure a Harley style clone but close just the same. Polaris has to make a classic style V twin at an affordable price but if they don’t offer something else at the same time they won’t get enough revenue or interest to make having a dealership a good idea. If they are willing to make other engine choices then maybe they can close the deal. Just maybe the V twin they have will be still be the V twin and you will see something far different being offered as new.

  17. Bicho says

    The”old project”motoczysz C1,with a steel trellis(no plastic!)frame and aluminium(no plastic!)bodywork,painted in deepred could be the new Indian 4!I can dream,rigt….the fastest Indian on the roads………making a grand ManxTT comeback……….in2013……..there are so many ways to make Indian an exciting motocycle

  18. Bicho says

    So,the american market is”the world”.You know you can export bikes,right……..and the rest of the world needs “standard” bikes,do it all bikes! Maybe a “halo” bike,to show THE WORLD you are still capable to produce hi tec,performance motorcycles.Sorry for the rant,but i really want to see American bikes kick some ass again,and im not even american!