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