Indian and Victory, the Kwisatz Haderach?

2014 and beyond will surely bring a lot of interesting things in the American Cruiser market segment. That is, Indian Motorcycles is back with a bang, and it looks like the reborn brand is gaining momentum to start nibbling at the cake Harley-Davidson is currently enjoying.
Robin M. Farley, an analyst with UBS Investment Research has predicted that Indian will outsell the other Polaris-owned cruiser manufacturer, Victory. While this could at first look like brother against brother, things are in fact, much different.

First of all, Indian and Victory have different customer pools: Indian lies with the legacy American motorcycles, whereas Victory represents the exact opposite direction, the cruisers who no longer want to be Harley lookalikes.

I've never met a guy to ponder between Indian and Victory: it's like trying to compare apples and oranges and trying to find out which one is better. Most riders in their own (unbiased) mind would go for one or the other: you're either in for the classic styling or for the edgy attire of the Ness design.

All in all, both bikes seem to become better and better at meeting the requirements of their respective customers, so it would be rather weird to see Polaris choosing one over the other.

Some claim that Polaris will be charging with Indian big time, and soon call it quits with Victory, but this would be kind of silly, as Vics do indeed have the very thing which Harley has been afraid to add to their machines since god knows when: true modern looks.

While a discussion over the Victory styling choices would be one based on subjective preferences, solely, it looks like the Vics have managed to raise a solid following, with customers who wholeheartedly embraced the new lines specifically because they were anti-Harley.

We might even say that Victory has a very specific niche in this segment, and looks like becoming better and better at filling the gap Japanese cruisers could not deal with.

More than replacing H-D, which is a completely insane goal, Victory was conceived to offer an alternative, at a time when Indian was low. “There are other cruisers and baggers out there, you know?” seemed to be the message Vics conveyed.

However in a market brutally dominated by Harley-Davidson which sells about half of the new bikes in the US, things are far from easy to be changed.

We might even say that H-Ds are tailor-made for the American market, and when seeing things from this perspective, we must sadly admit that pushing such cruisers has almost nothing to do with technology upgrades, while having everything to do with the way the bikes are marketed.

It's no secret that Harley-Davidson is a master in selling “rideable dreams”: the MoCo's bikes are advertised to bring that mojo others have tried to replicate for quite a long time... and failed.

Harley fans need no approval and no justifications, they don't need demonstrations from other brands, be they Indian, Victory or any other one you wish. They're perfectly happy with what they have and will support the brand no matter what.

I've even met a Harley guy who would argue a metric cruiser owner in absolutely any aspect: noise, heat, maintenance, reliability and whatnot, with his supreme reply: “it's a Harley, nothing else matters!”

But H-D is no longer THE ONE American bike with the said mojo: Indian is back and it's back to stay. Even more, when “heritage” comes into discussion, Indian has a longer history than the MoCo, and even if we're only talking about several years, they can play a major role in the “legacy game” if advertised properly and put to good use.

Inquisitive and not at all afraid to take daring steps on the wild side of life, Polaris is rubbing hands seeing how Harley-Davidson is sticking to pretty much the same bikes.

And Harley fans could do better and not start a fight as to how evolved and new the Milwaukee bikes are today. The bitter truth is that all the novelty and evolution is compared to technology from 30 or more years ago, in a way not unlike the Indian machines. But Indian's advantage is the fact that the Classic, Vintage and the Chieftain ARE new!

Victory dared step away from the classic cruiser. The massive success is yet to be attained, and the fact that one does not simply kick H-D's behind was a lesson learned the hard way. Still, as I was writing above, Victory has become a credible alternative for the Motorcycle Company. A feeble and almost shy alternative, but one that is growing stronger with each passing year.

Indian is regaining the ground it lost over tens of years, and with Polaris' massive investment and determination, things are happening fast. It looks like the heritage was not altered, as far as the collective mind is concerned.

We saw a lot of people pre-ordering the bikes without even knowing what to expect, technically or visually, and this kind of speaks for Indian. The Indian bikes at the end of the 20th century are a thing of the past and will soon be forgotten, I bet on this.

It's the new ones that will connect with the iconic retro machines and build anew the bridge crossing the centuries. And I also bet Polaris will put the pedal to the metal and add to the line-up. Three bikes is not exactly an option when compared to what Harley-Davidson has to offer.

The technology driving Victory will be used to make Indian better and gain even more credit as a reborn American classic. And people DO love re-birth and successful back-to-life stories...

Even more, we might see Polaris actually doing what Harley refuses to do: go sideways with sport-touring, dual-sport, and other segments. Such attempts from Harley have been feeble and failed, in a way proving that “stick with what people buy” was the best way for the Milwaukee manufacturer.

Polaris's huge expertise in the motorized vehicle market is a fantastic resource, which could be used to take both Indian and Victory to the next level. These two brothers will shake hands, instead of fighting a fratricidal war and together they could stare into the future Harley-Davidson cannot even dream of catching a glimpse of.

Much like the Bene Gesserit sisters of Frank Herbert's Dune, who dared not look in the place where the Kwisatz Haderach would stare back at them from. They were extremely powerful, but it was their own conservative habits that turned against them.
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