Polaris to wind down’ Victory Motorcycles

Andy HVictory Leave a Comment

We are a long way behind the curve on this news, the rest of the media – and indeed a great many die-hard fans of the brand – having had plenty to say since January 9th 2017, and it’s not that we didn’t have anything to add, but that our immediate response would have been a hurt, aggressive knee jerk that would have served no purpose.

It would have been the first of the seven stages of grief – shock – followed very quickly by the other six.

Denial: They can’t be serious!

Bargaining: Surely if we make a big enough noise about it, they’ll reconsider!

Guilt: Did we do enough?

Anger: How dare they!!

Depression: What’s the point in getting excited about the bikes anymore?

Acceptance / Hope: Their decision to make and nothing we can do about it: what are they going to do to fill the gap they’ve left?

Some have come to the seventh step quicker than others: a few are still stuck between bargaining and anger but the vast majority have got over it, there being more to look forward to than to get wound up about and for some very simple reasons.

Indian: No, Indian might not make anything that is comparable with the Victory but guess what? They’d be hardly likely to when they were running the two brands side-by-side: they specifically aimed them at different markets so they wouldn’t tread on each others’ toes.

Case in point: the Chieftain and the Cross Country. We ran them head to head with a Street Glide and three people came away with three different viewpoints: I loved the Chieftain, Boz loved the Cross Country so much that he bought it and Dave was amazed how good the Rushmore Street Glide was. Different tastes, different requirements.

Without Victory to steer round, Indian could easily introduce a new range of bikes – PowerPlus or Tomahawk, or both – which could slot neatly into the gap where Victory used to be, with Victory ride characteristics and power delivery, but perhaps smoother lines and with an Indian badge on the side of the tank. Expect to see sales of Victory branding go through the roof as potential customers buy it to stick onto the side of these new Indians, to make a point.

And whether we like it or not, people have heard of Indian and not Victory, and people buy into what they think they know. We will never know whether an Indian badge on the side of a Cross Country – or even a Vision – would have made it sell better, but the smart money suggests that it would have done. If Victory had sold more bikes we wouldn’t be here, and if Indian hadn’t given Polaris more credibility in the market place, which has a knock on effect on Victpoery sales, there is every possibility that Polaris would have got out of motorcycles altogether.

The Freedom Engine: The Freedom engine might not have been given that name before 2002, but it was basically introduced in 1999 and at 18 years old it was due for replacement. Yes, it is still a strong engine and there is a massive amount of untapped power behind its electronic limiters, but if we are reading it right, it was going to be replaced for MY2018, either as staged upgrade – starting with the tourers – or in one hit. At that point, any aftermarket parts and tuning relating to the Freedom engine would be frozen and the industry would have turned its attention to the new motor, which itself would have offended some people, because it would probably have been water-cooled in an air-cooled market.

The right time: If there is a new engine in the wings – and I think Polaris would have been foolish not to be in that position at this stage – it is far easier to launch that as a new Indian than as a new Victory and then try to rebrand an existing model range part way through.

Engineering: Regardless of what is written on the side of the tank, we know that Polaris can make a motorcycle: Indian and Victory were made on different lines in the same factory, so we can be sure that the quality of an Indian badged successor to the Victory will have the material and built quality that the Victory always had.

Price: some are suggesting that this move will have been made cynically to allow Polaris to hike the prices because the Indian brand is more expensive than the Victory one: price is set by the market.

Indian’s models compete with Harley-Davidson head-on and are priced accordingly – in fact, they cost more than the Harley products they target but they offer more in terms of trim: they could sell them at a lower price if they wanted to but why start a price war?

Victory models didn’t compete with Harley models head on and were priced to other market expectations. There are suggestions that Victorys were sold below cost price, which is as stupid as ridiculous statements that Polaris paid billions for the Indian name: Stellican’s $35k PowerPlus Chiefs were the wrong bike at the wrong price, post 2008, and they wanted out, and Polaris had looked at Indian post Gilroy but were focusing on Victory at the time, missed their opportunity and wanted in.

The 8-Ball models were considered to be ‘loss-leaders’, which in other markets is often considered to be below cost price but in this case simply meant at an artificially low price: below market price.

#tillthewheelsfalloff! This new phrase that is trending reflects a couple of things – quite apart from poor English (till is a cash register and what you do to soil – ‘until’ is abbreviate to ’til 🙂

Victory motorcycles were no less reliable on the 8th January than they were on the 6th, and there are statutory requirements – quite apart from any commitments made by Polaris – to provide parts for at least ten years after a model is superseded or made obsolete. And that these bikes have proved to be supremely reliable, giving existing owners the confidence to commit to keeping them, and encouraging new owners to make purchasing decisions that they had previously deferred.

AND FINALLY At last, went the cry!

For those who are still stuck on ‘Bargaining’ and holding out hope that Polaris sell the brand to a company who can pick up the bike and run with it, that is not going to happen for at least three reasons: Polaris are not going to allow somone else to set up in competition with them as a domestic manufacturer bulding large capacity V-twins – even if they could find a company who had the production, engineering and marketing skills to do so and an established dealer network to sell them – and the other two reasons are Indian and Buell/EBR.

It takes more than passion and rose tinted glasses to run a modern manufacturing operation, and in fact it has done since 1953 when the Indian Motocycle Company closed the doors of its Springfield factory. Indian – one of the strongest brands in motorcycling at the time – spent fifty years in the wilderness and it was sixty years before anything close to a viable operation gave it a chance of a real future.

EBR has since closed their door again, and you have to wonder who would be brave enough to pick up that ball and run with it. Ironically, Polaris probably could, but can you imagine the fall-out if they tried?

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