Indian Motorcycle Company has announced plans to set up shop in Kings Mountain, North Carolina. This attempt to restart the brand under the current ownership of Stellican Limited of London will be difficult as so many resurrections are. The company is counting on the strong Indian brand name to give the company the extra edge necessary, combining it with a well designed and well engineered product.
There is a considerable consumer base for a premium line of motorcycles under the Indian Motorcycle brand, which has an almost cult-like status amongst many consumers.
I wonder if that’s true. There are some riders, well up in years, who have a reverence for Indian based on first hand experience, however, those riders are few and far between. Younger riders, and I would classify that as anyone under 60, have limited experience with the brand except as a well known marque from the past. Having the opportunity to buy an original, restored and brought back to life, would be a treat. But does that affection extend to a brand new Indian? Under new ownership and with brand new motorcycles, what is the connection to those originals except for names like Indian Chief and copies of those beautiful fenders?
Somewhere along the line I think motorcycle buyers develop “resurrection fatigue.” One more company buys a trademark from the past, extolls the virtues and colorful history of the brand and a new motorcycle is built, figuring they will repeat history, after all, it was popular before, why not now? It’s an exciting idea, and swept up in the emotion of bringing back the brand they love, the idea gets a life of its own. From the builder’s view, it’s all about their brand which dominates their thoughts, but from the buyer’s view, it’s one more old brand trying to restart vying for their attention along with all of the current and new motorcycle companies out there now. Unless the restart is truly extraordinary, buyers might step back, wait and see.
Over in the automotive world, there was a recent announcement that MG was coming back to the U.S. Words like “the beloved MG returns” were used to describe this resurrection. But “the beloved MG” that most of us remember was the British sports car from the fifties through early seventies. This returning MG is a Chinese company building brand new MGs in several locations, among them both China and Oklahoma. To me, and probably many others who remember and love the old MG, these new MGs hold zero appeal. I wish them much luck and I hope they do well but if the “beloved MG” idea is a major component of their marketing plan, they’ve got a problem. And I wonder if Indian is going to encounter the same disconnect between idea and product.
Motorcycles, perhaps even more than cars because they are less necessary, are an emotional purchase. Getting the emotions right can make or break a brand. How many buyers have the emotional attachment to Indian the company is counting on? I have no idea and most likely, neither does anyone else. Perhaps the question the company needs to ask is, “Will these motorcycles stand on their own without any emotional attachment to the past?” Will Indian be able to attract brand new buyers who never had any exposure to the originals? If you’re restarting an old brand, I would think that’s a big issue because the number of consumers who hold Indian in a “cult-like status” is most likely small. After that, you’ve got some selling to do, but then, maybe lightning does strike twice.
The Kneeslider: Motorcycle Companies Reborn
The Kneeslider: Indian Motorcycles for sale