Will Consumers Embrace the Resurrection of Indian Motorcycles or Run Hog Wild with Harley-Davidson?

//Will Consumers Embrace the Resurrection of Indian Motorcycles or Run Hog Wild with Harley-Davidson?

Will Consumers Embrace the Resurrection of Indian Motorcycles or Run Hog Wild with Harley-Davidson?


There was a time when Harley-Davidson ruled the big bike market.

A few years ago if you wanted to buy a Harley, you got in line and used bikes sold for as much, and even at times more, than their original price. Production couldn’t keep up with the demand and the die-hard hog riders would line up at the dealer to sign up on a waiting list that would go for months.

Not a bad problem for Harley-Davidson to have.

It seemed like Harley-Davidson would rule forever as the popularity of the Harley legacy went through the roof and the company stepped up with a match in production pumping out 361,600 bikes in 2006. Upon a series of unfortunate events, Harley eventually crashed during the recession while running full throttle and left the world wondering what they would do next.

Harley-Davidson’s biggest opponent yet.

In 2015 a rival stepped up to the plate to challenge Harley-Davidson for their long standing reign of king in the big bike market. Polaris Industries has found with the successful resurrection of Indian Motorcycles, a rise in demand that production can’t keep up with. With the introduction of the Dark Horse line and the increasing popularity of both the Scout and the Chieftain, Polaris finds itself in a similar predicament as Harley-Davidson in early 2000’s.

While this is not a bad problem to have, Polaris has found troubles along the way that have hindered the plan to scale up production. One of those being the size of the paint facility in Spirit Lake, Iowa. This forced Polaris into costly solutions in 2015 such as outsourcing the painting of the bikes to keep consumers from running to the competition.  Polaris is fighting this problem by adding new capacity to the Spirit Lake paint facility to fight the particularly troublesome bottleneck.

Is Harley-Davidson really that bad off?

To be fair Harley-Davidson still owns almost half of the big bike market even after losing shares to rivals. Harley-Davidson is sticking to their guns refusing to give up the premium it charges for its bikes, bucking the trend of motorcycle manufacturers dropping prices to attract customers.

What does Harley-Davidson have that the competitors don’t? A core of die-hard riders. Harley by far has the most loyal customer base than any competitor on the market. Unfortunately, even with this core loyalty, the truth is in the numbers and Harley-Davidson is losing sales. Despite the adamant refusal to lower shipment guidance after disappointing results shipment forecast has dropped.

With Harley-Davidson struggling to keep up, Polaris has, despite a few bumps along the way, managed to be successful in the big bike market. Polaris has found major success in the ATV and off-road vehicle market and with Harley-Davidson’s mistakes may be able to take the big bike market by storm.

Can Polaris learn from Harley-Davidson’s past? Will they be able to run Harley-Davidson off the throne? Will Harley-Davidson make a comeback with their new marketing efforts and killer 2016 line-up?

So many questions, we will have to wait and see what spring of 2016 brings. With the rally season kicking off soon in Daytona we hope to have some of these questions answered.

Let us know what you think in the comments below! While you’re there make sure you subscribe to our blog either through email or RSS feed!

Also see our thoughts on Harley-Davidson’s proposed marketing changes for 2016


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  1. Mark February 23, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    All things considered, not being familiar with Indian, is this apples to apples? Isn’t the SG in stock form, compromised on ride quality?

    • Dave February 23, 2016 at 2:54 pm

      Mark, Harley Street Glide do indeed ride like a wheelbarrow but neither of my past Electra Glide Ultras rode much better. If you ride on rough roads it makes a big difference in riding enjoyment. Harleys have limited suspension travel and use cheap components. The new Indians use a modern cartridge front fork and an expensive Fox N2 rear shock. Harleys still use the crude washer w/holes in it fork and cheap junk rear shocks. After spending over $1,000 on my ’15 Street Glide’s suspension it still rides poorly; not as plush as the stock Indian (and I went with the longer 13″ rear Bagger shocks for added travel). Both Harley & Indian also benefit greatly from aftermarket seats; both have factory seats that look nice but are too soft for 100+ mile rides. The only areas that the Harley is better than Indian is their navigation system (Indian does not offer one) and there are many more aftermarket parts vendors for HD stuff.

      • Mark February 23, 2016 at 7:26 pm

        I see. I don’t have any issues with my 01 RK suspension, but you are certainly correct about the seats. We have the Mustang one piece touring seat, which rides great, although with 100K+ miles on it, it’s due for replacement.

      • Mark February 23, 2016 at 9:27 pm

        My 10 RK rides great, at least for me. However, you are right about the seats. We use a Mustang one piece touring seat.

  2. Mark February 23, 2016 at 6:24 am

    If HD loses market share, it won’t be because of their core products, or riders. Indian/Polaris only has one model comparable to the “normal” HD, and that is the Chief, in all forms.
    The riders that are buying the new Scout, are not typical air cooled V-twin riders. They are the same riders, that if cost were not a factor, would step up to a HD V-rod. Not everyone wants a Road King or Chief, and that’s okay. If they’re not comfortable riding something that large, then I prefer they don’t do it.
    How HDs “new” Street line does with the younger riders, remains to be seen. Again, the Street or Scout, aren’t your typical touring bike either, so a fair amount of time must pass, to determine just how far, these smaller bikes with take either company.
    I, will always ride HDs for my daily workhorse or vacation travel, but wouldn’t mind an original Indian 4, just for kicks.

    • Dave February 23, 2016 at 8:33 am

      Mark, be careful what you wish for. I recently sold my ’29 Indian 4 and ’47 Indian Chief at Mecum’s Vegas motorcycle auction; both show-quality bikes but very much antiques & less than practical riders. The reverse foot clutch, left hand throttle, right hand ignition advance, and right hand shifter is more than an acquired skill and the poor brakes, inadequate lights, & often difficult starting makes them unreliable & frustrating riders. Old bikes are cool to look at but anything produced after 1970 is so much better for riding. BTW, the ’29 sold for $80,000 & the ’47 $34,000; a lot of money for what quickly becomes relegated to garage sculpture…

      • Mark February 23, 2016 at 2:03 pm

        It’s all a dream anyway. There is no way I could come up with the cash for one, unless I didn’t mind being homeless. I currently have a 01 RK with close to 150K miles, that we vacation on, and my daily rider, weather permitting in KS, is my 63FL.

  3. Dave February 22, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    Having owned a 2014 Indian Chief Vintage & a 2015 Indian Chieftain, and having purchased a 2015 Harley Street Glide Special last summer; I can comfortably say that the Indian is a superior product. Definitely more powerful, quicker revving, and with a vastly superior suspension. Even after $900 ProAction Bagger shocks and $100 Progressive Suspension fork springs, the Indians are still far better riding. The Street Glide is in the shop right now for a Stage 1 hop-up & cam change to increase its performance; something I did not need with either of the Indians. I still like Harleys but Harley-Davidson needs to up their game; their brand loyalty & sales advantage will disappear with a short test ride of the competition.

  4. Rey Solis February 22, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    I own a 2005 Harley Davidson Heritage classic, but after seeing the Indian Motorcycles this past weekend, I plan on buying an Indian. The Indian has zero vibration and out performs my bike. I don’t like how quiet the Indian bikes are. The Indian Motorcycle is also water cooled. Torque on the Indian is superior and so is top speed. The price of Indian accessories is greater than Harley Davidson.

    • Baldhead_J July 1, 2016 at 1:54 pm

      The Thunderstroke 111 motor in all Indian models, not named Scout, are all air cooled 48* V-Twins (most have oil coolers, too). The Scout’s motor is also air cooled.

      Just setting the record straight.

  5. Mark February 22, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    I own a 1984 FXRT I bought new. It is a member of my family and I love Harley-Davidson… However, I learned an important lesson a little ng time ago when they were in their heyday… I walked into Texas HD and was told they would not take my bike as a trade in as it had too many miles… And I guess I understand that… But the sales people were so arrogant and thought their stuff didn’t stink… I said screw’em kept my Harley and bought a BMW… And in my humble opinion the only thing the Beemer lacks is the sound. But it will out perform my Harley all day long… I guess I don’t see them going under or anything but going out of their way and treating the customers with a little extra would be good. I think Polaris making both Indian and Victory is good for everybody because the product gets better…

  6. John February 22, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    I will stay with my 1982 FLT and Harley Davidson. The Indians I have saw seem to be overpriced (some Harleys too). In time if I would run across a used one at a good price maybe I would add it to the garage beside the Harley. Don’t see it replacing it though.

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