Indian Motorcycles. The iconic American brand sales declined in the last 2 years

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Indian FTR1200
Indian FTR1200

Indian Motorcycle has been re-build by Polaris Ind.during the last decade and the custom american brand has been revamped with a robust business model, based on seven motorbike families, apparel, accessories, clubs, mono-brand stores. While the US operations hit the best in the 2017 and then declined, sales are growing in all countries with Europe hitting over 5k units in the 2019

 

Brand Heritage

The “Indian Motocycle Corporation” was founded as the Hendee Manufacturing Company by former bicycle racing champion George M. Hendee in 1897 to manufacture bicycles. The bicycles carried brand names such as Silver King, Silver Queen, and American Indian, which was shortened to simply “Indian” and became Hendee’s primary brand name.

In 1901, George hired Oscar Hedstrom to build gasoline engine-powered bikes to pace bicycle races. The machine he created proved to be powerful and reliable, establishing the company’s reputation for outstanding performance. Later that year the company’s first factory was established in downtown Springfield.

The first Indian Motorcycle was sold to a retail customer in 1902, and later that year an Indian Motorcycle won an endurance race from Boston to New York City in its public racing debut.

The Indian Motorcycle factory team took the first three places in the 1911 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy. During the 1910s, Indian Motorcycle became the largest manufacturer of motorcycles in the world. Indian Motorcycle’s most popular models were the Scout, made from 1920 to 1946, and the Chief, made from 1922 until 1953, when the Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company went bankrupt. Various organizations tried to perpetuate the Indian Motorcycle brand name in subsequent years, with limited success.

The company provided the U.S. military with nearly 50,000 motorcycles from 1917-1919, most of them based on the Indian Powerplus model.

In 1920, the company released the first Indian Scout. This fast, reliable, maneuverable bike enticed many people to start riding. This was followed by the Chief (1922), the best-selling Big Chief® (1923), the Prince® (1925), and, following the purchase of Ace Motor Corporation, the Ace® (1927).

In 1923, the company changed its name from The Hendee Manufacturing Company to The Indian Motocycle Company (without “r”).

In the early 1930s the nation’s poor economy depressed motorcycle sales, including those of Indian Motorcycle. Still, the company continued its pursuit of perfection and introduced the 1936 “upside-down” four, which had an exhaust over intake (EOI) design, as well as models featuring instrument panels atop their fuel tanks.

From 1940 until 1945, Indian Motorcycle focused its efforts on contributing to the Allied cause in WWII, at first building motorcycles for the French government and, starting in 1941, producing the Model 841 for the U.S. Army. Very few bikes were built for consumers during this time.

Unfortunately, Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company ceased operations and discontinued production of all models in 1953. In 1955, Brockhouse Engineering purchased the rights to the Indian Motorcycle name and sold imported Royal Enfield models branded as Indian Motorcycle models until 1960.

For the following 50 years various entrepreneurs failed on revamping the glorious brand, until the 2011 when  Polaris Industries purchased the brand and re-started operations from North Carolina , merging them into their existing facilities in Minnesota and Iowa. Since August 2013, Polaris has marketed multiple modern Indian motorcycles that reflect Indian Motorcycle’s traditional styling.

A decade’s of success

The American brand has been revamped with a robust business model, based on seven motorbike families, apparel, accessories, clubs, mono-brand stores. The motorbikes families have historical nameplate and distributes motorcycles in over sixty countries. The last model launched was the FTR1200 which was in production during the 2019.

Northern American market is the core of Indian re-launch and correlating the  annual growth of  the brand with the annual decline reported by Harley-Davidson provide an immediate view of the results of a well-done job with several customers shifted to the “new” brand.

100 Years ago, Indian was the best-selling motorcycles brand world-wide and the annual record sales is estimated at over 50.000 units. In this century, the record was established in the 2017 with over 30.000 units sold, before to decline in the 2018, when sales in US fell by over 5k, and in the 2019.

While the international operations are growing in all continents, with Europe hitting the record in the 2019 at over 5k units, in US the growing curve is over since the 2017, the year when Royal Enfield started up US operations.