Yes, I have a question: When will Victory/Indian come out with a legitimate sport bike that will rival other naked superbikes?
Hmmm… That was every squid’s hope, that when Polaris bought Indian, it would allow Victory to set out in a sportier direction – a hope that wasn’t dimmed at all by the bike Victory raced at Pikes Peak the last couple of years (lead photo). The basic engine powering that machine is the one Indian uses in the Scout, as well as the one in the Victory Octane. For cruiser use, even sporty cruiser use, it’s fine. To compete with things like the KTM Super Duke, that V-Twin is a bit large and heavy. Does it make sense for Polaris to engineer a lighter, more compact (and way more powerful) one? We bounced your question off Robert Pandya, Victory and Polaris’ press guy:
We don’t speak to future products specifically, so I cannot confirm any speculation about that. I do have a house to pay for after all.
That said – and strictly from a PERSONAL position – the sportbike market has proven difficult for American brands as the revolution in sportbikes was driven in the ’80s by Japanese and European brands historically. Thus “American Sportbikes” is a concept difficult to put into context, thus odd for customers to digest. Sort of like diet Pop Tarts. Or a Ducati Cruiser. Somebody may want that – but do enough people want that to make it a viable investment (globally speaking)?
There are certainly instances where brands have broken away from their traditional base – the Porsche Cayenne comes to mind. Nearly two decades after its introduction, the Cayenne has been the top-selling model despite the cries of enthusiast defenders of the brand. Now Cayenne sales (and Macan to some degree) likely fuel the company and its ability to double down on technology and make better sports cars. Audi’s Q7 exists because of the path laid by Porsche. The issue however is segment size – is it worth the considerable risk to invest in new classes of motorcycles outside of the “usual” expected by the mass consumer? It’s a lower risk for Porsche to try building an SUV due to the opportunity sales than it is for our brands to explore sportbikes due to their relatively limited sales against the dominant classes on the market. Add on to that the consumer appetite (media especially) to lust only after the hottest new technology in the sportbike field, and any unit that does not seem competitive is shunned no matter how good a bike it is for the typical buyer. My friends at Honda would agree with that I think. Ducati saw a successful path to market expansion in the scrambler series (based on an existing engine and their own mastered technology to reduce costs).
Toss in global exchange rates and the considerable cost of development for these great motorcycles, and you cannot blame any product manager for being skeptical of the segment, especially in the wake of other heroic attempts. We have to sell motorcycles globally to be competitive. Brand image has a lot to do with the products we are comfortable with (Mercedes pickup truck anyone?) Given the budget, in that position I would foresee that exploring other growing segments (there are a few) would be more enticing than going into the boss’s office and pitching a sportbike or a superbike.
There are great American Sportbikes out there – new and used. They are being built in Wisconsin and Alabama now. Consumers vote with their dollars no matter how passionate they are – and although it is not out of the realm to see an American Sportbike coming from either of our brands, the stronger business opportunities may lay in other segments. That said – what a great time to ride a motorcycle – never have there been so many capable options on the market – and the technology sportbikes bring has trickled down into ADV bikes, and even cruisers.
Long live the sportbike – and I wish success and twisting roads to every enthusiast out there.
There’s your Official Word, which is of course carefully crafted to keep tightly contained whatever cat might be in the bag. The most obvious cat would be, of course, the new engine Indian revealed, designed in conjunction with SwissAuto, to power its brand-spanking new FTR750 flat track racer.
To squelch conjecture in the bud, Indian used the phrase “race-only” repeatedly in describing that V-Twin, but it’s hard to square that with the Official Word, which just stated that kind of investment must fit within Polaris’ bottom line. In fact, here’s what we wrote in the FTR story from the link above:
Although the FTR is solely a racing machine at this point, we can’t imagine Indian putting a bunch of development work into a new engine family and not leveraging that R&D into a spin-off streetbike at some point in the future, especially as nice as the thing appears to be finished in the photos we’ve seen. We bet we’ll see a concept of such a machine at this fall’s EICMA show in Milan.
EICMA may be a little premature (we get over-stimulated sometimes), but you have to think something is brewing at Polaris, which loves to bill itself as a company of serious enthusiasts. So which will come first, the Victory FT1000 or the Honda VFR1000RR? It’s fun to play the game.