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Indian Motorcycle Moving Forward With Polaris

Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Indian Motorcycles debuted its 2013 Chief Vintage Final Edition at the 2012 Long Beach IMS. Beautiful girl not included!
Indian Motorcycles debuted its 2013 Chief Vintage Final Edition at the 2012 Long Beach IMS. The Vintage Final Edition marks the end of the Kings Mountain era of Indian Motorcycle ownership and the start of the Polaris regime.
The 2013 Indian Chief Vintage Limited Edition marks the end of the Kings Mountain era of Indian Motorcycle ownership and the start of the Polaris regime.
And with one final tug, it was done. As the black sheet draped over the 2013 Indian Chief Vintage Final Edition was removed during its unveil at the Long Beach Progressive International Motorcycle Show, the latest chapter in the storied history of Indian Motorcycle symbolically drew to an end. This latest chapter saw private equity firm Stellican Limited buy the rights to the Indian Motorcycle name in 2004, owning the company for a short seven years before selling to industry giant Polaris Industries. It took them five years to get a product to market and they only produced the new models for three years, their re-launch coinciding with a struggling economy mired in recession. Combine the timing with a product that is more of a commodity than a necessity and comes with a premium price and it’s surprising the Kings Mountain crew was able to keep Indian afloat at all.

Regardless of how they did it, Indian Motorcycle’s new owners wanted to pay respect to its predecessors from Kings Mountain and even the Gilroy era with the 2013 Chief Vintage Final Edition.

“What we wanted to do was tip our cap to the people from Gilroy and Kings Mountain that helped us be where we are today. To do that, we took a bike that they largely helped develop which was the Indian Chief Vintage and created this Final Edition model of that bike. This is the last version of the bike that we will produce,” said Indian’s Product Director Gary Gray.

These last visages of styling and R&D from the Kings Mountain era includes plenty of signature traits, most notably the heavily valanced fenders, the Indian Chief head-dress logo adorning the tank, the backlit Indian War Bonnet lamp on the front fender and leather fringes dangling off the leather seat and saddlebag. It features the last of the Kings Mountain-designed PowerPlus 105 engines, a tall, pushrod-operated mill that’s been highly chromed and polished and mated to a Baker six-speed transmission. The Vintage Final Edition has a paint scheme that came from the Indian Chief displayed at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, a blend of Indian Red, Thunder Black and Gold Pinstripe. The classic-styled cruiser is touched off with clean spoked wheels wrapped in whitewalls, the limited edition collectible stamped with a numbered frame badge. Indian believes the history behind the bike and its exclusivity merit a $37,599 price tag, the eye-popping MSRP in line with the pricing established by the Kings Mountain era.

Price points of the new Indians are a hot topic. One of the most notable snippets of info we gleaned from our recent meeting with Polaris execs talking about their intentions with the company moving forward is that it will continue to be a
A backlit Indian War Bonnet lamp dresses up the front fender of the Vintage Final Edition.
A backlit Indian War Bonnet lamp dresses up the front fender of the Vintage Final Edition.
premium product. Polaris has the leverage to do this because it has a diverse motorcycling portfolio, from its investment in electric motorcycle maker Brammo to its own cruiser and touring motorcycle manufacturer, Victory Motorcycles. This isn’t to say that we won’t possibly see a smaller displacement Scout or Spirit somewhere down the line, but don’t expect the Polaris version to deviate drastically from the formula that’s already in place initially. Respecting the brand’s heritage is important to its new owners, as it was for its previous owners Stephen Julius and Stellican.

One thing former owners Stellican can be credited with is recognizing the value the Indian Motorcycle brand still had and for helping them make the company relevant again. Did they save the company outright? No. But they did position it to evolve and potentially flourish thanks to new owners whose pockets are three billion dollars deep. So even though they weren’t able to see out their long-term goals, Stellican Limited’s track record of returning iconic brands to relevance remains intact, as the company is responsible for the return of Chris-Craft boats and Riva yachts to respectability as well.

So as production on the limited edition Chief Vintage models wrapped up November 14, 2012, the beginning of the Polaris epoch of Indian Motorcycle history began. As new stewards of the brand, they are deeply aware of its American roots and have tremendous respect for the brand. For Polaris, acquisition of the company gives them instant history and heritage, something it lacked before as far as the motorcycle market goes. Now they are aiming to develop their motorcycle branches into industry leaders the same way they have their operations in other sectors.

“For the first time in a long time, Indian Motorcycle has the infrastructure to make this brand successful,” said Gray.

Let’s take a look at what Polaris has done since it acquired the company in April 2011. No sooner had the transaction taken place than operations at Kings Mountain ceased July 1st. To Polaris’ credit, they did hire and extend contracts to key Indian personnel.

Their next steps were to develop and build a clear brand strategy. So far that has included expanding their presence at events like the Progressive International Motorcycle Shows and rallies. They transferred production to their Spirit Lake Assembly plant where they began assembling the final Kings Mountain-engineered Indian Motorcycles while
Steve Menneto  L  and Gary Gray  M talk about Polaris plans for Indian Motorcycle moving forward.
Steve Menneto (L) and Gary Gray (M) talk about Polaris' plans for Indian Motorcycle moving forward as they unveiled the 2013 Chief Vintage Final Edition. Indian Motorcycle's has stepped up its presence at rallies and shows with its new 'Indian Motorcycle Experience.'
Indian Motorcycle really stepped up its presence at the 2012 International Motorcycle Shows.
concurrently initiating product design and planning of the first Polaris-engineered models, stating their focus is “to deliver differentiated models with core Indian DNA.” Finally, they’ve been undergoing distribution planning for the marque’s re-launch, focusing on developing and expanding their dealer network while concentrating on the consumer experience. Looking to get the right amount of dealers in the hottest markets, the chart of the “Top 150 Motorcycle Markets” Polaris revealed shows those areas to be heavily based on the Eastern seaboard and in the Great Lakes region.

To meet the demands of creating a new motorcycle line, Polaris announced it is doubling the size of its research and design facility in Wyoming, Minnesota by 144,000 sq. ft., with completion projected by the third quarter of 2013. Polaris is also expanding its liquid paint capacity in its Spirit Lake, Iowa plant, it’s leasing a 380,000 sq. ft. building in Milford, Iowa, to “accelerate adjacencies and add additional capacity,” and is expanding its Roseau, Minnesota facility to support LEAN manufacturing transformation.

The new Indian Motorcycle will undergo stringent testing under the vast network of Polaris’ “Product Development Facilities.” The facility has 17 dynos, including chassis dynos, emissions testing, flow bench and high speed valve testing, powertrain endurance testing, hot/cold testing chambers, a prototype fabrication team and equipment, large and small scale structural testing equipment, noise, vibration and harshness testing chambers and metallurgical labs.

Evidence of Polaris’ influence could already be seen at the recent Progressive IMS in Long Beach in the form of its fancy new event display. The new “Indian Motorcycle Experience” featured Burt Monro’s “World’s Fastest Indian” front and center, the 1920 Indian Scout still a world record holder. The fully-restored 1935 Indian Chief featured on the History Channel’s American Pickers sat right next to it. The Indian display also contains a historical overview of the company pointing out some of the company’s firsts, from building the first V-Twin production engine to winning the inaugural Daytona 200. They’ve also constructed a sound booth where you can hear a sound bite of the new engine Polaris has developed for the next generation of Indian Motorcycles. The note was deep and powerful and indicated a big-bored V-Twin will still be the powerplant of choice for the latest iteration of Indians. While hearing the bellowing new note of the Polaris-engineered V-Twin was a treat, this was eclipsed by the excitement of hearing them fire up Munro’s original 1920 Scout, the historic powerplant raw, raspy and revvy. We captured the moment in video to share with you in the YouTube video posted below, along with an audio clip of the new Polaris/Indian engine.

Polaris’ influence can also be seen in its marketing strategies, like employing enthusiast and Indian loyalist Mike Wolfe as brand ambassador. The American Picker star is a likeable character that is passionate about the brand. He’s a
One of the best things about the IMS is getting to try bikes on for size. The 2013 Indian Chief Vintage Final Edition fit this rider well.
One of the best things about the IMS is getting to try bikes on for size. Judged by his smile, the 2013 Indian Chief Vintage Final Edition seemed to fit this rider well.
virtual walking encyclopedia of Indian Motorcycle knowledge who avidly seeks out Indian relics in barns and shacks across America. Wolfe counts the time he found 10 vintage Indians and a slew of parts in a farmer’s barn as his “best pick – ever.” His type of dedication is contagious, so it’s no wonder he has been an advocate for the new generation at events like Sturgis. Having a high profile character like Wolfe promote the new brand is a savvy marketing move.

So just like you, we are excited to see what direction Polaris takes the historic brand. While they are tight-lipped about specifics, we hope that we do indeed see some variation of important, smaller models like the Scout. If they are truly interested in paying homage to the company’s history, we hope we see a return to its racing roots, as an Indian Motorcycle won the Isle of Man TT in 1911, was the first winner at Daytona and was known to raise hell on the boardtrack circuit. Until then, all we can do is hope Polaris can channel the ambition of Hendee and Hedstrom, to guide them to the heights of the Du Pont era while avoiding the pitfalls of Gilroy. With this, we leave you with this final statement from Polaris.

“We will lead by staying true to America’s first and greatest motorcycle company. Purposeful engineering. Unparalleled craftsmanship. And superior American quality.”




2013 Chief Vintage Final Edition Photos
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2013 Chief Vintage Final Edition Specs
The Indian Red  Thunder Black and Gold Pinstripe paint scheme of the 2013 Vintage Final Edition comes from the Indian Chief that was on display at the 1939 Worlds Fair in New York.
Engine:  PowerPlus 105, Air-Cooled 45º
Displacement: 105 cubic Inches
Bore x Stroke: 3.966 in. x 4.25 in. 
Compression: 9:1
Fuel System: Closed Loop Sequential Port
Fuel Injection with Heated Oxygen Sensors
Drivetrain:
Primary: Chain
Final Drive: Belt
Gearbox: Six-speed
Electrical:
Instruments:
Analog Speedometer &
Multifunction Digital Display
Charging System: 42 amps
Lamps: Teardrop Head Lamp, Fender Light
Chassis:
Frame: High Tensile Steel
Suspension/Front: Dia. 41 mm/Travel 4.25 in.
Suspension/Rear: Single Shock/Travel 2.90”
Brakes/Front: Dual Caliper Floating Rotors
Brakes/Rear: Single Caliper Floating Rotor
Tires/Front: 130/90-16 White Wall
Tires/Rear: 150/80B16 White Wall
Wheels: Wire Spoked
Exhaust system: Two-into-One Stainless Steel
Fuel tank capacity: 5.5 gallons
Dimensions:
Length:
100.5”
Width: 40.5”
Height: 50.5”
Seat Height: 27.25”
Wheelbase: 68.4”
Rake Steering Head/Trail: 34º/5.92”
Weight:
Dry Weight: 753 lbs.
Gross Vehicle Weight: 1220 lbs.
Standard Equipment:
Auxiliary Driving Lamps, Solo Seat with Detachable Passenger Seat, Windshield, Vintage Leather Saddlebags, Leather Fringe, Chrome Grab Rail, Engine Guards, Chrome Fender Tips

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Comments
Nostalgic   March 7, 2013 05:48 PM
For me, and I think it's safe to assume that for most people; what is the most appealing aspect of Indian as a brand, is their unbelievably cool motorcycles produced before they went out of business in the 1950's. From what I have read and seen in interviews the new Polaris ownership seems to understand this fact and truly appreciate Indians real iconic heritage. For me, the newer Indians are basically an untouchable "rich man's" motorcycle priced for the "elite" and It's very hard for the average rider to appreciate something that purposely places itself in that position. Especially when its lacking the very things that made the brand great (true classic looks, raw speed, lean "naked" styling, nimble handling etc.). What we appear to have in the current market is a veritable gas guzzling tank of a bike, seemingly too large for the average proportioned human being, and literally dripping with chrome. Now I know that sounds pretty American from the get go but is it really what the average owner wants? They have made some admirable efforts in their modern lineup to pay homage to the Indian roots through a number of classic paint schemes, that I can definitely appreciate. I've done a fair amount of reading across different threads now and it seams the resounding similarity is that we the buyers want to see a true Indian classic with modern performance. Now I'm not talking about a replica, but I do think Polaris could be extremely successful if they took their main styling cues from the old scouts and board-trackers. Every garage guy (including me) out there can appreciate the raw energy that pours out of the fast and lean Indian classics. Look around online sometime at the staggering number of board-tracker and bobber projects that are constantly being produced by literally every custom builder out there. There is a huge market for these types of bikes. It blows my mind every time I think about it that a major manufacturer hasn't attempted to really tackle this market yet. Of all the brands our there, for me, Indian stands above the rest to draw from its rich heritage and pull this off in a way that would rock the foundations of the motorcycle market and start a whole new wave of classic motorcycle design. Oh and responding to the comment about about "hard bags are all anyone wants in a cruiser". Not to be a pain, but I am a custom leather worker and I honestly think the beautiful leather bags and seats Indian has put out on their latest lineup of bikes is probably the best thing they've had going for them. It's rare to see quality leather in todays market and Indian nailed it on their Cheifs. If anything I would suggest they make their bags smaller like the old ones. There are enough ridiculous, humongous cruisers on the market already, with hard bags big enough for your woman to ride sidecar in. Lets see Indian delve into a market that hasn't been truly tapped in 60 years. Bring back the speed, bring back the raw visceral magic that every classic enthusiast sees in the old Indians! Polaris, you can do it!!
Kropotkin   January 10, 2013 08:22 AM
Does anyone outside Polaris know whether the new engine will be liquid cooled?
48IndianGuy   January 7, 2013 03:51 PM
Will be interesting to see what's up Polaris' sleeve and how committed they are to building something new rather than resting on their laurels. Best Indian bikes out there are being built by Kiwi Indian out of So Cal. No nonsense, kick ass bikes that are quality.
McJitsu   December 24, 2012 09:14 PM
A few things about the "new" Indian. I own and ride daily a 1946 Indian Chief. It is an amazing motorcycle and was owned by a series of terrible corporations. Indians false start in Gilroy, an S&S engine with Indian Style fenders and logo was embarrasing. The "new" Indian seemed to be OK !! The bottle cap engine needed some serious R&D and it seems like it got it. Victory buying the brand puts it in a good position to compete but on a controlled level with the rest of the big cruisers on the market. I find the new price outrageous. If you want people to buy and ride these bikes, which I consider a very good bike/power plant/styling combo, lower the price. Second part - who is the stunning woman next to the bike ;-)
Sumanster   December 21, 2012 11:56 AM
As the article mentions, the 2013 Chief Vintage Final Edition is the last model developed by the *previous* owners. I'm really curious to see what the forthcoming Polaris-designed models will look like (and cost) and how they'll handle. I'm doubtful we'll see Indian "return to its racing roots" as I suspect Polaris will position them as a niche brand without enough product diversity to support sports/racing models. Then again, Victory already caters to the cruiser and cruising tourer market, so I hope Polaris is bold enough to consider a sport model in one of its brands. Resurrecting Indian to cater to the cruiser market might free Victory to pursue additional market areas like sportbikes. Anyone remember the Oberdan Bezzi-designed Victory concept (http://www.motorcycledaily.com/2009/11/20november09victoryconcept/)?
woodco100   December 20, 2012 05:51 AM
They need to understand and define thier market. Who really is thier customer and want do they want? Fancy shows and booty girls are OK, but do they appeal to the Indian rider/buyer? Needless to say companies like HD, BMW and Triumph know exactly who buys thiers bikes and want they want. Ducati also truly understands how thier buyers want the bikes to look, sound and feel. Just adding more fringes and saying Burt Munro over and over again ain't gonna sell bikes. I have been saying this since day one about the latest redo. "Hardbags" sell bikes to this deomgraphic. HD knows this well, Victory figured it out a few years ago and is doing well for it. If they do not put real Hardbags on thier bikes they will sit unsold next to all they $37,999 09s in the warehouse.
Tessier   December 19, 2012 03:15 PM
I would agree with Rocky R. If indian were competing with the XR750's I might pay attention. Instead they create just another typical V-Twin with another run of the mill deep note. Unfortunately what they missed was the sound Bert Munro was able to enjoy. If they made an engine that sounded like that and could compete with the XR750 now i'd be interested.
Rocky R   December 18, 2012 04:50 PM
Indian's "Dog and Pony Show" has deeper pockets for media attention, but as long as they keep kicking out "parts bin" bikes like this latest greatest overpriced machine its hard to be inmpressed. We're dying for something new from Indian. While you're at it, show some stones and develop a v-twin racer to compete against the XR750 in America's favorite racing past time, AMA Pro Flat Track. Make an offering of a unique sport bike (Buell-esque, maybe) How about a smaller cruiser more entry level - think Sportster. Big Fenders, Indian headsets and tassles is not cutting edge or nostalgic. Its....yawn.....boring.