The motorcycle world got knocked for a bit of a loop last week when Polaris Industries announced it would be shutting down its Victory Motorcycles division after two decades of trying to cut into Harley-Davidson’s stranglehold on the American cruiser market.

Polaris is Closing Victory Motorcycles

Fans of Victory Motorcycles were saddened, as were proponents of U.S. manufacturing, but let’s not forget Polaris continues to pump out Indian Motorcycles and is doing it at a pace the Victory crew could only dream of.

“(Indian has) been growing rapidly over the last three or four years, and we’ll be putting more investment into the brand in the future,” explained Steve Menneto, Polaris VP of Motorcycles, in a phone call with MO. He added there will be limited cuts at the company’s Spirit Lake, Iowa, factory, but most workers will be absorbed into different areas of Polaris’ businesses or will be offered early retirement.

Menneto told us 2012 was biggest year of sales for Victory, somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 units, with a market share that reached into the high single-digits. But then, he said, Indian debuted, H-D got aggressive, and the whole marketplace became highly competitive.

Top 10 Best Victory Motorcycles Of All Time

Menneto was a key figure in the relaunching of the Indian marque almost four years ago with the debut of the all-new Chief, and he told me then he was intending Indian and Victory to both survive by diverting paths, allowing Vic to angle into more of a performance realm. More from that interview can be seen in the link below.

2014 Indian Chief – Reinventing an icon

011617-menneto-polarisNow, with Victory out of the picture, Menneto says Indian will be able to develop sportier bikes than just cruisers.

“Closing down Victory was a tough decision for us, but it allows investments in Indian to grow in the area of performance,” Menneto told us. “We started to find our customers asking for sportier Indians – they love the heritage style, but they’d like something sportier and with a different look.

“Right now,” Menneto continued, “Indian has been a cruiser/bagger/touring brand. Now there’s nothing constraining Indian to go into new segments of performance and technology.”

Victory Motorcycles is known best, of course, for its cruiser and touring bikes, but it was also making a grab at the future with the acquisition of Brammo’s motorcycle assets and the debut of the electric-powered Empulse TT. Now what?

2016 Victory Empulse TT First Ride Review

“We’re going to continue the electric part of the business,” Menneto responded. “Future products and markets will develop, both on-road and off-road. What will change are those efforts will transfer over time to Indian in the two-wheel space and Slingshot in the three-wheel space.”

When I asked if his response meant we’ll one day be seeing an Indian with an electric motor, he carefully said: “I think that’s a fair assessment.”

Another performance avenue open to Indian is in the area of dirt-track-inspired standards. Keep in mind that Indian is making an assault in flat-track racing this year with the introduction of its FTR750 racebike powered by a tidy little V-Twin.

Indian Scout FTR750 Ride Review

Surely, I posited to Menneto, the dirt-tracker must be capitalized on with some sort of production version?

011617-menneto-polaris-indian-scout-sixty-flat-track

“There will be more focused investment in Indian,” he replied without really addressing the question. “There’s a push to go bigger and faster. There’s some exciting stuff in our future.”

  • Old MOron

    Hmm, did someone actually break in to Brammo HQ, or was it an inside job?

  • clumseyfingers

    Another sharp criminal.

  • dinoSnake

    What a bunch of creeps, stole it so that they could “sell it for parts”.

    I’m glad, and proud, of the police on this one. Great job guys! Throw the creeps into the slammer, greedy and selfish to boot.

  • ADB

    Great news. This is encouraging, especially when it comes from one of the higher ups. Perhaps a nice Standard coming next?

    • ChevalierMalFet

      If they took that Scout Sixty engine and stuck on a Standard body, and put little fringes of Indian style on it – in short, if they took the Triumph Bonneville as their inspiration but made it their own with their own engine – I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

      • Mike Simmons

        For God’s sake no! No more Indian “fringes” puleeeze.

    • Auphliam

      Don’t hold your breath.

  • HazardtoMyself

    I have not been able to spend any time on either, but are the Indian’s really that much better than Victory or is it the nostalgia driving Indian sales?

    I guess you can put me in the minority, but over the last few years when considering a cruiser I was always between the Hammer or the Judge (even with some of the poor reviews). Nothing over at HD, Honda or Suzuki really did it for me and Kawi did away with the only one I liked in the meanstreak.

    Hoping Indian really does diversify their offerings. Maybe we will see some of the more popular Victory styles back with new branding and some overdue upgrades.

    I have to say I am surprised with the amount of effort they have been putting into the slingshot, but it seems to be working. I see at least one a week out on the road. I wonder though if that is one of those vehicles that is hot the first few years out of production but then goes away. Time will tell I guess.

    • Born to Ride

      I have ridden the Judge, I like my dad’s Triumph T-Bird 1700 a whole lot better. The brakes actually work and the engine is smoother and “feels” more powerful.

      • Brett Lewis

        Looking for my first cruiser, I was looking at the Judge and the Gunner, demo’d a couple of Victory bikes, really liked ’em. Then I demo’d the now discontinued Thunderbird 1600 and bought it the same day. Water-cooled parallel twin but with a 270 degree firing order. Accidentally slipped the clutch a couple times early on when getting used to it and after sliding back in the seat and getting my arms straightened out and my heart started beating again I thought “I need to be more in control, but that was awesome.” . Dual brakes up front just like a big bike should have.

    • mikstr

      “are the Indian’s really that much better than Victory or is it the nostalgia driving Indian sales?”

      were it any other (ie. somewhat rationality-driven) segment, there could be some validity to the first part of your question. However, as it’s the cruiser market, the reply is clearly and unequivocally the nostalgia/Americana trip. Heck, Hardley… oops, meant Harley…. built their empire on it… and Indian is the only brand that can take the fight to Milwaukee as a result. Big poser-cycle wars on the horizon… (though I hope the Indian braintrust can find a way to be temporarily un-blinded by the lustre of polished chrome to do something sporty with that interesting Scout engine, or better yet the new 750 dirttrack mill)

      • Born to Ride

        I have to say, as someone who has knocked it before they tried it, that cruisers are a joy to ride when in the right state of mind. Yeah I love slinging my Ducatis into the tightest corners and feeling the front end get light as the rear hooks up and you shift your body for the upcoming turn. However, there is something just pure and right about the low RPM thump of a massive twin pushing you along with your fists in the wind. I would rather ride a Hardley from Death Valley to Zion than my Monster. That’s for damn sure.

        • mikstr

          I test rode every one of the 2008 and 2009 Victorys and can’t say I hated them (the Vision was particularly fun as it was truly comfortable and agile – what a motorcycle should be). On the other hand, I also rode a Suzuki C109 RT a couple hundred miles a few years back and my lower back was sore for days. Perhaps if the cruiser builders built bikes (their tourers excepted) that didn’t have you booking time with the chiropractor after 30 minutes of saddle time I could get into them more. Until then, you’ll never find one of these poser abominations in my garage.

          • Born to Ride

            Well I’m talking about cruisers that have good ergonomics like a Low Rider Dyna, a T-Bird, or a California (the 3 cruisers that I rode and enjoyed), not the abominations with clam shell riding positions, ape hangers, or a strip of leather pretending to be a saddle.

          • Brett Lewis

            As with all bikes, most deficiencies can be fixed by throwing cash at the bike. My T-Bird seat was good for a 200 mile day with breaks along the way, and one day I got a wild hair and did 600. I had to stop every 1/2 hour on the way back, my sit-bones were on fire. Bought a used touring seat on Ebay and ordered a custom made backrest. The touring seat is SO comfy, and the backrest I have adjusted just forward enough to allow me to relax without slouching. I could go for a 10-day tour on the bike now.

      • Sayyed Bashir

        Currently the Indians are too expensive, except the Scout line, so they are not making a dent in Harley’s market share. If they fill out their mid-range, they may have a chance. How many years will Polaris give Indian and Slingshot before they pull the plug?

  • Auphliam

    He’s got the corporate double talk down pat. I especially like this line… “Closing down Victory was a tough decision for us, but it allows investments in Indian to grow in the area of performance”

    Look back through interviews following the Indian purchase and you will find a similar quote, almost verbatim, saying “The acquisition of Indian gives us an established brand in the cruiser marketplace, which will allow investments in Victory to grow in the area of performance”

    As a matter of fact, it was just this past summer, at the dealer meetings, they were reassuring dealers that the brand was strong, safe, and there were big things to come. I wonder how those Mom n Pop shops feel today, knowing they got baited into clinging to a sinking ship while Steve and his buddies snuck off to the life boats? At this point, I’m hesitant to believe anything from anybody with an official Polaris title.

    • spiff

      He essentially said that there are some performance standards in the pipe. They were going to be Victory, but now Indian. Polaris looked at market share and realized Indian was a stronger brand. Maybe those Victory dealers will be given the chance for Indian.

      • denchung

        On that note, Polaris says less than 25% of all of its dealerships actively sold Victory models. This makes about 400 in total including about 150 that sold both Victory and Indian. Polaris says that some purely Victory dealerships may become Indian dealers. There are currently about 350 Indian dealers worldwide And Polaris hopes to increase that by 1.5x in the next 3 to 5 years.

      • Sayyed Bashir

        Victory performance standards cannot be Indian because the engines are different. The Indian performance standards have to start from scratch. They cannot just be re-badged Victorys. The Victory Freedom 106 is dead.

        • spiff

          I am sure Polaris has drawings for the next generation. Erase Victory, write Indian.

      • bill

        The investment requirements are high$$$ to become one.

        • spiff

          Hopefully they would throw them a bone and “geandfather” them in.

    • Rob

      Nice write up. And you hit the nail on the head. This is a company that like to take your money then ignore you when you need customer service. Worse than calling the cable company. There has been lots of double talk for a number of years from Stevie………
      If they treat there Indian customers like they treated there Victory customers this will be a sinking ship…. it seems they don’t understand you can’t hid from the Internet. Bad service will bite you and your sales will suffer. (Think Victory)
      A happy customer is a repeat customer. Something Polaris hasn’t figured out just yet…….

  • Tod Rafferty

    Hate to sound like a broken record… record… but since I been saying it for two years, will prognosticate again – the Sport Scout will be here next year.

    • spiff

      Hopefully based on the dirt tracker.

  • spiff

    As far as an employer Polaris seems decent. They are changing direction, and bring as many troops as they can with them. I think they are responding to the market in the best way you could ask of them.

  • Old MOron

    Thanks for bringing us the interview, Kevdashian. It’s cool that you got time with the Veep. Based on his response to your question about the FTR750, I am not optimistic.

    “There’s a push to go bigger and faster.”

    What? No, no, no. Lighter and more agile. For God’s sake!

    • Kevin Duke

      His use of “bigger” came across to me as a colloquialism rather than a policy direction. And perhaps by bigger he meant model lines or power numbers.

  • DickRuble

    A street version of the FTR750 would be well placed to compete with the Ducati Scrambler 800.. But of course, knowing corporate, the street version will end up with a 21″ seat, ape hangers, and fringes..

  • allworld

    This is bunk, Polaris should have kept Victory and reinvented it into a performance brand. Indian customers like most of the HD loyalist are not interested in performance, for them it’s an image and life style. Sort of “Park and Polish”, at weekend gatherings. Polaris needs a separate brand and showroom for non cruiser performance motorcycles. Can you really see an Indian motorcycle going head to head with a Ducati or Aprilia??

    • Gary Latessa

      They don’t need to go head to head with those brands. And Indian customers do appreciate performance. A flat tracker is inevitable. Triumph builds a Thruxton, and it looks killer and has good enough performace. A Scout with cafe styling and a few more hp would be just plenty.

      • allworld

        “They don’t need to go head to head with those brands.”
        Depends on your definition of performance. The flat tracker is not being offered as a street legal, bike, it is a step in the right direction. Triumph, one of my favorite brands, does offer performance with their parallel twins, but it’s their triples that put them on the tracks.
        Either way you slice it Indian is more viewed as the alternative to HD, and not a performance brand. Victory could have been….

        • Kevin Duke

          Indian, the old company, had a rep for performance. I expect the Polaris Indian will venture further into that theme.

          • allworld

            Hopefully their past will catch up to them.

        • Gary Latessa

          I would expect a flat tracker to look more like the Roland Sands Hooligan bike than the race only bike. I do think Polaris thinks they can go into the performance market, how that is defined remains to be seen .

  • TheMarvelous1310

    ‘Now, with Victory out of the picture, Menneto says Indian will be able to develop sportier bikes than just cruisers.’

    Bullsh–. That’s the same crap they said about Victory. I’ll believe it when I see it… And WHAT ABOUT THE 106?! I want that motor in something, it’s a quantum leap in cruiser engineering even more than the 111. Maybe a Vision-style fixed ‘headdress’ for the Chieftain?

  • roma258

    Did they just cut and paste the Victory responses from 3 years ago, or is this a fresh new corporate non-answer catalogue?

  • Andrew Capone

    Based on the amount of money, marketing, positioning and PR that went into the 2016 Victory TT Zero electric and Pike’s Peak 156 efforts, something must have dropped hard and fast. The US heavy cruiser sector is, at best, flattening out…Triumph’s T-Bird, Honda’s metrics, now Victory…all down or out. Makes sense to corral resources, but it must have been an interesting few months in exec and board rooms at Polaris.

    • spiff

      I think you are correct, Polaris saw the writing on the wall and made the move while they still had cash and options.

    • Rick

      Victory sales rose 11% last year. The most growth of any brand in the industry. So there was something else going on that made them decide to kill the brand.

  • Robert Dos Equis

    I am removing the Victory badges from my both bikes (’13 Cross Country and ’13 Judge) and installing Indian badges and when Polaris also discontinue Indian Motorcycles I guess I will install Polaris stickers/badges. There’s no warranty that Polaris in the near feature will not pull the same stunt and cancel also the Indian brand. Their main business is ATV’s and Snowmobiles. Not motorcycles. Don’t get me wrong I love my bikes and they will stay with me ’till the wheels fell off.

  • Tim Sawatzky

    Seems to be a lot of pessimism here that Indian will actually grow as a brand. But I think Polaris had to choose and couldn’t run 2 companies. If they wanted to go sporty I think they couldn’t spread their development dollars to 2 companies and they had to pick one. Indian was the right choice. I always kinda liked Victories, but they didn’t seem “special” to me. But I was just at the motorcycle show here and Indian stood out as “special”. They have the history and branding to feel different, and to me that’s what it’s about, you have to feel special riding it around. After all, motorcycles are not a necessity, they are an emotional purchase. But I think they need to expand in a couple areas, they need a cafe/standard type bike, and they need something in between the scout and chief, price wise and size wise. Just my 2 cents.

  • spiff

    It was stated in the article, but I feel it is being glossed over: Harley is upping their game. I have a friend that had a 96 Fat Boy, and now has a year or two old Road King. He says it is much nicer, especially noting the brakes. Those aren’t the only bikes he ever rode, just a good comparison. He feels Harley didn’t do anything for decades. I think that Indian was the tipping piont on the scales. Those at HD HQ had to put down the coffee and start improving the bikes. Victory is the odd man out.

  • I have to wonder if he takes the fallout seriously. I have several friends with Victory’s and their bikes lost 50% of their value overnight. They are very unhappy and not so likely to buy Indian. I don’t blame them. I guess they found out that customers don’t come first with Polaris, the stockholders do and even at that, it was a judgement to kill off Victory and based on the reasoning, they didn’t see this coming before the actual purchase of Indian? Something is wrong here. Indian will grow, but trying to disregard the bad will is going to cost them. That said, I don’t own any Polaris products. Probably never will. I am happy to see BMW get some new customers though.

    • Auphliam

      From a PR perspective, they’ve handled this about as poorly as they possibly could have. I don’t think anybody, except for actual Victory owners, really have any idea what it’s been like to support a “New American Motorcycle” in the land of Harley Davidson. A funny thing happens when a customer base is built from the ashes in the American cruiser market and environment. People have been scorned and ridiculed for years. Quite literally, blood has been spilled just to support a brand other than HD. Event organizers that purposefully exclude you if you ride a Victory. Vendors that list your bikes as imports because there’s only room for one bike company in America.
      Victory owners have been galvanized by this for nearly 2 decades. To say your average Victory owner is passionate about the brand is a grand understatement. Most that I know from our owners club either currently own multiple Vics or in the very least, are repeat buyers that have supported them from the ground floor.

      Then one day, the parent company makes a Facebook post at midnight stating “Thanks for everything, but we’re quitting”, with a link to a sterile, Polaris “Official Announcement” telling you how “hard it was” to come to this conclusion. And then, in every subsequent interview, when asked why, they all keep parroting the same ‘we like Indian better’. Yeah, I hope they weren’t banking on any crossover customers from Vic to Indian, because I can tell you for a fact it is not going to happen.

  • Victory

    I read a lot of all of your opinions trying to justify the closing with Victory. As some of stated Polaris had a decision to make and they made it. Yes it’s about profits. As responsible as that sounds it requires footnotes.

    Many years ago Corporate America flushed with cash thought it was a great to expand their “core” businesses into businesses that had nothing to do with the core of the company. It was like Kodak buying a pharmaceutical company then at the stock holder meetings the angry investors would get and and shout, “If we wanted to invest in pharmaceutical companies we would have bought them ourselves!” This backfired across American.

    Scott Wine falls into this old school CEO mentality. Most companies have stopped investing in non core companies but Mr. Wine hasn’t. He just closed on a $665 million acquisition of an auto parts company. He’s admitted it made Polaris strapped for cash because of what he wants. Scott Wine also had such a HO over owning the rights to Indian he didn’t consider what that would mean to Victory until it was too late. Now he’s all in. Name one thing other than that front fender that even remotely brings us back to the Indian motorcycle of old? Yet he’s betting the farm that the new Indian is like riding the old Indian.. It’s not.

    Victory’s demise didn’t have to happen. It was reactionary to Scott Wine’s mismanagement of Polaris. Even if I didn’t own my Victory for that matter, I wouldn’t buy an Indian now because of how the parent company Polaris is ran.

    • You have to look at the nature of leadership and the type of people it attracts. Like the priesthood and other positions attract pedophiles, leadership/executive positions have a disproportionate percentage of narcissistic psychopaths and people in general that score higher on the psychopathy scale than the average bear. They like to take risks, it’s why they get recognized for accomplishments and in general, it’s all about them. Until we continue to pick such people, we’ll have less than optimal results in a modern society.

  • Starmag

    They’ve got to be somewhat leery of the sales numbers Harley produced with the XR1200 and Street Rod, which were less than stellar after Harley listened to those who wanted a sportier American motorcycle. I realize those weren’t sport bikes by any stretch, but they were way more sporty than anything else Harley made at the time and offered, (horrors!), semi-rear set pegs. I certainly hope Indian tries though. A street FTR750 would be in a class of one.

    • spiff

      I think Indian has the opportunity to pull off a sportier model. Their fan base is new, with a bunch of lookie lues. (I’ve never won a spelling bee.) Indian is not painted in a box. They are free to invent themselves anyway they want. They may have started with the safe bet heritage stuff, but if they create a bike similar to the tubed Buell lightnings at a decent purchase price…

      • Starmag

        As John implies, Harley was wise to stick to heritage in the face of passing fad insect/transformer trends. Despite their derision on non cruiser comment sections, they are great at listening to their *paying* customers worldwide. I’m sure Indian is aware that not only Harley, but both Triumph and Ducati’s best selling models, (not only in the U.S.), are their heritage models despite the fact that at least Ducati’s claim to fame is racing and supersports.

        Given Chris Carr’s report in these very pages, and the fact that Indian proved their seriousness about the upcoming season by hiring the podium from the last race, it’s likely they will do well, if not win the championship outright. If so, it seems like it would be a mistake not to capitalize on that by offering for sale a street FTR variant. It would be undoubtedly lighter and more fun than the sales bombs of the XR and SR.

  • Bunkster

    Seems to me that Polaris poured a lot of attention and resources into the resurrected Indian brand, using their experience with Victory in combining modern technology, functional ergos and retro looks to produce baggers that are an appealing alternative to HD’s. And with the Scout they managed to create a smaller, lighter, affordable sporting cruiser that still fit the Indian brand. But in doing so they pulled resources and focus away from Victory, allowing it to stagnate and drift aimlessly, while essentially creating an in-house competitor. Simultaneously, HD was stepping up their game with nice improvements to further challenge Victory. Boom!
    The question is whether Polaris management can do with the ‘retro’ Indian brand what they failed to do with a promising Victory brand.

    • Kevin Duke

      Yep, that’s a reasonable and accurate synopsis! What’s wrong with you? 😉

    • And they didn’t see this as a possibility? Sounds more like a gambler that bet on two horses with the food money and tried to explain it away.

    • Rick

      When the Scout was being developed it was originally going to be a new Victory. Then Polaris saw how successful the Indian brand was in its first year, so they released it as the Scout. Then, after promising Victory owners that something new and different was coming, they released the Octane, which was basically a Scout with a few more horsepower. Polaris has been disrespecting Victory owners for years, and now they think we will all move over to Indian? They don’t seem to have a clue about their customer base.

    • James Edward Zeiser

      I think as moral decision, it stinks, as a business decision it was inevitable. Don’t think, based on Victory sales, that the incredible rise of Indian surprised Polaris. Indian was selling as many units as Victory in just two years, even with all the ad money they pushed into Victory.
      Blame consumers gullible enough to drink the Kool Aid. “America’s Oldest Motorcycle Company” was more important than solid engineering. Indian owners have a name older than Harley on their tanks even though the REAL Indian Motorcycle Company died in 1953. Harley sells on their name, not engineering, Indian is doing the same. Hopefully Polaris issues a well rounded lineup of Dual Purpose, Entry Level and Sport Bikes in addition to the V-Twin Cows they sell now. Two backward American motorcycle companies would be too much to bear

  • CFLAP

    I almost bought a Victory until I saw they wanted as much as a Harley for them. There are some folks who will buy Harley no matter how far they are bent over by HD. Thinking those people would react the same to Victory was foolish.

  • Trav Jones

    I applauded when Polaris picked up the Indian line. I thought it helped to legitimized Polaris as a serious motorcycle builder and would also help the Victory line in the long run. I still think you could have run both lines, but in producing both lines each would have to be paired down. The Victory lineup should have been paired down to the Vision, Cross Country, Vegas and Hammer. I kind of look at this Vic lineup filling the “working rider’s” baggers and bar hoppers. The Indian lineup could have been packaged for the riders who love the nostalgic look and who were willing to spend more money for more bling and bells and whistles much like Toyota/Lexus. In pairing down each lineup, Polaris would/could have eliminated their in house competition. I love the Vics, sexy, reliable, fast, all American motorcycle. I hope the line makes a comeback or somebody buys it. I’ll ride my Hammer and Cross Country for as long as I’m able and smile when someone asks, as they always do, “man that’s a beautiful motorcycle, who makes Victory’s”.

  • Metropolis Fellow

    Was close last year to going over to Victory and I rode them and liked them but I kept thinking, with Indian competing in the same market, I just didn’t trust the salesman saying how solid Polaris was behind the Vic.

  • therr850

    I recently saw an article confirming support of a Victory Prostock Motorcycle in the NHRA dragracing world for 2017. What has become of that?