2014 Indian Chief and the War with No Losers
With so many years of decline, Indian's magic may have grown a bit dull, but after all these years, I'm happy to see there's no rust. All that was needed was a little polish and the will to make things bright again.
Polaris brought this polish and its recipe was a dash of care and love, some vision and some hefty money to get things going... and I am happy to see the recipe is good, at least that's how things look so far.
In a way, Polaris is like the very man they've hired for returning the glorious aura to Indian: Mike Wolfe. They're half pickers, half treasure hunters, and this time they're deep into something awesome. Polaris gaining control over Indian Motorcycles was probably one of the most inspired moves in the last few years, surpassed only by the determination to restore the old pride of the Chief.
I should also mention that I'm not a chopper/cruiser/bagger guy so readers should believe me when I say I'm not taking sides in this. My goal is to see the two-wheeled world rich and lush again, with these two historic manufacturers in full throttle and the riders have plenty of choices at hand. In fact, my strongest belief is that this is one of the elements making the “freedom” almost every bike manufacturer has used for advertisement at least once.
It is with joy that I see Indian on the rise again, and I just know a “war” will break out: it has been brewing ever since the idea of acquiring Indian was presented for the first time in Polaris' conference rooms. However, this war will be a positive one, and instead of losing, it is to be expected that everybody has something to win.
The biggest winner is the rider, by all means. “Choice is coming to American motorcycle” is probably as close to the truth as it gets, and Indian chose well when they adopted the slogan: those in search of a heavyweight cruiser do have a choice when it comes to classic American machines.
Of course, there is Victory too, under the same Polaris umbrella, but they're treading on a different path, neither Harley-Davidson nor Indian could follow.
There are a lot of riders who never ceased dreaming a new Indian would come one day... even though it was not exactly prophesied. Their hopes are now fulfilled, and their faith and loyalty rewarded in full. And this means that Indian still has a huge fanbase expecting things to move.
Motorcyclists around the world are on the wait for the new machine, and in some parts of the world, things are going crazy, just like in Oz. The One-Eleven Originals are already pre-sold, with people making deposits and even paying in full, just to make sure a 2014 Indian Chief will be in their garage in August.
With the 111 Oz Originals sold, Indian announced they're supplementing the fleet for the riders Down Under, and that's about two months prior to the official launch. I'm not even sure these guys know exactly how the 2014 Chief looks like... and if this doesn't matter for them, this means things are big.
Indian/ Polaris themselves are the next winner in this fray, for reasons I need not mention. Polaris went neck-deep in this, and two years ago they said the Indian deal was a long-term one and they really meant business. It looks like these were not just vain pretenses and the taskforce they've put up to make Indian float again was indeed brilliant.
According to Cyril Huze, Steve Menneto, vice president of motorcycles at Polaris Industries, claimed that Indian seizing 4-5% of the market share in the heavyweight cruiser segment is breaking even.
Despite the mind-boggling 57% US market share the "enemy" (Milwaukee) has, Polaris and Indian look quite determined to stir things up. With all the waiting and teasing and not-that-subtle ads, we might see Indian reaching the 5% mark pretty soon.
Menneto mentioned no estimations as to how long it would take to reach the breaking even point, but in case the Australian One-Eleven scenario repeats in more countries, we're all most likely in for quite a snowball effect.
Even more, such an in-your-face debut in US and Australia, and possibly other markets, makes a rather solid base for future development and growth. With 5%+ in the US and things on the rise, there is absolutely nothing to stop Polaris taking full advantage of their vast dealership network, is it?
Imagine that you wake up one day and ride/drive to work, and as you pass by the Polaris dealership in the way, you see a huge Indian chief head, right next to the star you've seen so many times, roll-ups, flags and all: the Chief has come to your neighborhood! And this can happen everywhere around the globe where the Polaris star is shining...
In fact, the very Indian website states they're coming soon to the US, Brazil, 7 of the richest European countries, Australia, South Korea, Japan and finally, India and China. The “invasion” has started, and even if I could not predict when the 2014 Chief will be in a showroom in Beijing, I just know it won't take too long.
Finally, even the Motor Company has something to win. Harley-Davidson might lose some of its market share, but nothing will be dramatic: their foothold is way too solid for anything to happen, and they'll be leading the home market for many years to come.
The huge momentum Harley has is impossible to counteract to make it count. Indian should sell the 2014 Chief at one third of its actual base price of $18,999 (€14,417) or something like that to cause a proper earthquake... and they won't.
However, the 2014 Indian Chief means something very real for H-D: a true competitor. No longer being the only solid choice for those in search of the classic heavy cruiser, Harley has to evolve, and this evolution must be a deeper, more comprehensive process.
Even more, I suspect that the 2014 Chief is the reason why Milwaukee discontinued the Road Glide Custom FLTRX and the Road Glide Ultra FLTRU for 2014. As announced by H-D, these two models are up to redesigning and major changes...
With no word on when will they be back, we can only expect that Harley is waiting to analyze the full move Indian is making and then try to find the best response. This means development and better bikes loaded with better, newer technology, if forced by the competition. This brings in more money, so things should be alright.
It's not that long until August, when Indian unveils the 2014 Chief a Sturgis, and a lot of things will surely happen by then. As I've said, this is a war with no losers.