Motorcycle legend Indian rides again – The Orange County Register

11 Jun 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Motorcycle legend Indian rides again – The Orange County Register
Indian Chieftain Cruiser

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Indian’s long, winding road

• 1897: George M. Hendee founds Hendee Manufacturing Co. in Springfield, Mass. to build bicycles

• 1901: Hendee and business partner Carl Oscar Hedstrom strap a single-cylinder, 1.75 horsepower engine to a bicycle frame

• 1903: Hedstrom sets the world motorcycle speed record, 56 mph

• 1911: Indian racers place first, second and third in the Isle of Man TT race

• 1922: Indian introduces the Chief V-twin with a 1,000 cc engine

• 1928: Hendee Manufacturing is renamed Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Co.

• 1960: Ace Motor Corp. purchases Indian name

• 1998: Eller Industries purchases Indian copyright

• 1999: Indian Motorcycle Co. of America is formed

• 2003: Indian Motorcycle Corp. declares bankruptcy

• 2006: Stellican Ltd. restarts Indian brand in Kings Mountain, N.C.

• 2011: Polaris Industries purchases Indian Motorcycle

• 2013: Indian Motorcycle begins making Indian Chief Classic, Chief Vintage and Chieftain

Under a wall of video screens declaring choice is here for American motorcycles, three new bikes representing the latest incarnation of Indian Motorcycle rolled into public view for the first time this weekend.

The thousands of enthusiastic bikers who arrived at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota were the first to see the results of Indian’s 27-month ownership by the global power sports brand Polaris Industries. The cruiser and two touring models shown Saturday all come steeped in Indian history and fused with advanced technologies.

Priced from $18,999 to $22,999, the base model is the Chief Classic, trimmed in leather and chrome. The Chief Vintage comes with a quick-detach windshield and a distressed-leather saddle and bags, while the Chieftain is a touring model with a hard fairing, electrically adjustable windshield and Bluetooth connectivity.

Each bike draws inspiration from the iconic Indian Chief introduced by the original manufacturer in 1922, with skirted fenders, Indian head ornamentation and an all-new, 111-cubic-inch engine. That engine retains the look of a vintage 1950s Indian V-twin, with a downward-firing exhaust, but modernizes it with more power and fuel injection.

Indian Chieftain Cruiser

We do believe Indian’s rightful home is with Polaris, said Steve Menneto, vice president of motorcycles for the Medina, Minn. company.

In April 2011, Polaris became the latest in a long line of owners of America’s oldest motorcycle-maker. Since Indian’s founding in 1901 and bankruptcy in 1953, about 10 owners have attempted to revive the brand, only to eventually abandon the effort or declare bankruptcy themselves.

The Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Co. had a reputation for speed and innovation. It introduced floorboards in 1913 and a passenger seat in 1915 and made the electrical round headlight standard in 1923. In the 1910s, it was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world.

But Indian went bankrupt after World War II when its management deviated from the brand’s popular heavyweight V-twin format and began making lightweight machines the public didn’t want. So began a revolving door of ownership that eventually landed Indian in the hands of California Motorcycle Co. in Gilroy, which manufactured a new version of the Chief in 1999, only to declare bankruptcy four years later.

This newest effort is backed by a solidly profitable company with $3.2 billion sales last year – which has motorcycle fans believing that an Indian revival could actually stick.

Steve Otto, 63, of northern Iowa, was among the rally-goers nudging his way through the crowd Saturday to get a closer look at the new Indian Chieftain, with its saddlebags and built-in stereo.

I think this is a good thing. Harley needs a little competition, said Otto. He rides a Harley Limited, but he planned to test ride the Chieftain the next morning. It’s got a good look to it.

Whether Otto and others will buy in to the new Indian won’t be clear until early September, when the bikes are available at dealers. But one thing is for sure: Polaris is betting big.

Polaris has been growing its research and development efforts 20 percent annually since 2009, Menneto said. The company’s goal is to reach $5 billion sales by 2017. A large part of its RD on the motorcycle side has been spent reviving Indian as a brand that can rival Harley, the market giant.

Harley-Davidson, based in Milwaukee, is celebrating its 110th anniversary this year and sells 55 percent of all motorcycles in the U.S. with displacements larger than 650 cubic centimeters. Retail sales of new Harleys grew 5.2 percent globally during the second quarter of 2013 compared with a year ago.

That’s in contrast to much of the industry, which has been struggling. After falling 41 percent in 2009 and 14 percent in 2010, sales of new on-road motorcycles in the U.S. are down 5.2 percent through the first six months of 2013, with 183,332 on-road motorcycles sold so far this year, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council in Irvine.

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