By now, you’ve probably heard that Minnesota’s Polaris Industries, the builder of Victory Motorcycles, has bought the newest incarnation (launched in 2006) of Indian Motorcycle from Stellican Limited and Novator Partners LLP, which are both UK private equity firms. Indian Motorcycle has been manufacturing in North Carolina, but, according to the conference call regarding the acquisition, production will be moved to Polaris’ Spirit Lake, Iowa, compound sometime this year. Of course, by the time you read this that could have changed, but that’s what we’ve been told at press time.
As we see it, this will give Indian the big lift it needs. One weakness for Indian has been its distribution network, and this purchase means Victory’s vast dealer network will be encouraged to put Indians on their showroom floors. Ironically, if my information is correct, when Polaris tried to buy Indian — back when it was owned by a different parent company and based in Gilroy, California — it wanted access to the Gilroy Indian dealer network. When the Gilroy venture went bust, many Indian dealers started selling Victory motorcycles.
Polaris stated in a press release issued just after the acquisition, that this “adds one of motorcycling’s legendary brands to its strong stable of Victory cruiser and touring bikes.” Very true. While Victory has made some inroads into Harley-Davidson’s traditional market, we think purchasing Indian will give Polaris another strong brand to further grow its share of the heavyweight motorcycle pie. The press release also stated that “Indian will [continue to] operate as an autonomous business unit.”
Unfortunately, a couple of days before we heard the good news about Indian, Big Dog Motorcycle was taken over by the banks holding its debts and closed. I’ve ridden thousands of miles on various Big Dog bikes, crisscrossing the country on my way to Sturgis or Daytona Bike Week. I’m bummed that the company, which I felt made excellent motorcycles, was not able to survive the current economic downturn. Though the fat-tire bike fad has passed, many riders still like the style, and Big Dog did a great job of building this type of bike; at one time, it was the biggest producer of this style of American V-twin. Personally, I think whether you like the brand or not, it’s a sad day for motorcycling whenever any manufacturer passes from producer to a page in history. Let’s hope this is the last one we’ll hear about for a very long time.
See you on the road, Chris Maida.
Story as published in the July 2011 issue of American Iron Magazine.