Till about a decade ago, the thought of Indian motorcycles competing with Harley-Davidson in terms of sales and market presence was nothing but laughable. For anybody who knows the history of the brand, this was nothing ironic and sad.
Indian Motorcycles was America’s first registered motorcycle manufacturer.
Yes. Indian has been around for longer than Harley-Davidson, a whole 2 years more. In the beginning of the 20th century, it was actually Indian which was the leading motorcycle manufacturer in the country. It was only in the 1920s, that Harley started to gain strong ground against Indian.
Both the companies have competed in pretty similar segments since the start.
Both of them built track racers, both of them did their duty in the world wars, and both of them were really popular as police motorcycles in the first half of the century. However, it was Harley-Davidson that won the post-war wave of motorcycling. While Harley sales exploded, Indian shut down in 1953.
Since then, the Indian brand and trademark has been passing hands from one investor to the other.
None of them could really give the brand the direction it needed, and Indian was nowhere close to the Harley-Davidson in the race to success. It was only much later in 2011, that Indian Motorcycles finally got the direction it needed.
The paradigm shift for the “once legendary” manufacturer came with its acquisition by Polaris Industries.
Polaris Industries was a company that largely specialized in leisure vehicles and off-road vehicles. By 2011, they had been around for nearly 47 years and knew how things are to be done. What really gave them the experience they needed with Indian was their ownership of the Victory motorcycles brand. They started Victory back in 1997, trying to mimic the success of Harley-Davidson in the later decades of the twentieth century.
And ever since, there has been no turning back.
Polaris Industries used all their know-how in bike building and business-building to make sure that they do all that Harley doesn’t. All the things Harley does right, Polaris does it too. All the things Harley does wrong, Polaris doesn’t. That’s how they went from being a pretty-much defunct brand to one that now holds about a market share equivalent to about a fifth of what Harley-Davidson has.
While they still have a long road ahead, they’re going strong.
Where Harley-Davidson’s sales have been constantly declining over the years, Indian’s sales have been on a constant rise. Harley-Davidson in the past few decades has been a bit too shy of innovation and change. But, Indian isn’t. Indian is more adaptable, more flexible. And it’s not just smart business by Polaris, but also fortunate positioning. Whenever Harley-Davidson tries to go out of the way and do something new, there’s generally a substantial amount of opposition from Harley’s existing customer base. Whether it’s coming out with a bike like the V-Rod, or ABS on the bikes!
This flexibility is what gives Indian its edge.
Ever since the “real Indian” went down in 1953, Harley-Davidson was pretty much the only choice police departments around the country went with. However, it only took Victory Motorcycles, only a couple of years into existence to change that. Many departments across the country began to choose Victory over Harley-Davidson, for they offered better repair support, greater versatility, and more customization options which law enforcement needed. And now that Polaris has wound up the Victory brand, there entire focus is on Indian. The legacy of being a replacement for Harleys that Victory started might very well be carried forward by Indian!
What do you think about it? Do you think Indian can take the lead on Harley? And if so, how long do you think it’ll take the erstwhile legend to do that? Share with us in the comments section below. And don’t forget to share this article with all your biker buddies so they can pour in their views on this too!