Indian Motorcycle has released some photos of the first 2012 Indian Chief to roll out of the company’s Spirit Lake, Iowa plant — the first motorcycle to be produced by the oldest American motorcycle company since its acquisition by Polaris. Nicknamed the “Polaris-Indian Bike #1,” the new Chief is not terribly different from the 2011 Indian Chiefs built under the old regieme, but it does symbolize the next chapter in the iconic company’s history.
Before yesterday afternoon, I had a hard time getting excited about Polaris. I think they make snowmobiles…but I’m not sure. This is how engaged with their brands I was, but of course this has all changed with the news that Polaris Industries, Inc. has acquired Indian Motorcycle for still undisclosed terms. Covering the business strategy side of motorcycling for the past two and a half years, I can tell you that there are few moves or decisions that strike me as truly inspired, but that events of the past 24 hours are surly Mensa-worthy.
Before I can talk about Polaris and Indian, I have to talk about another motorcycle company: Harley-Davidson. Kingdoms are fated to topple, but looking at Harley-Davdion and its dominance in the American motorcycle scene, let alone in popular culture, the legacy of the Milwaukee company seems assured to endure the test of time. So many companies have tried to be the next Harley, and all of their failures reinforce that concept that no company does “Harley” better than Harley-Davidson. Virtually creating the the legacy cruiser segment, and Harley-Davidson’s success in this regard is also the double-edged sword that is slowly prostrating the Milwaukee brand.
If I had to give one piece of advice to a company wanting to compete with Harley-Davidson, it would be real simple: don’t. Seemingly at the risk of painting itself into a corner, Harley-Davidson has refined its marketing message so thoroughly that it has honed in on a particular type of rider, and exhibits such a distinct persona of motorcycling that the company’s identity has found itself heading full-speed down a one-way street of branding. Thus the low-hanging fruit of competing with Harley-Davidson is to go after the brand where it cannot go.
Polaris Industires has just announced its acquisition of the historic Indian Motorcycle company. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but the deal sees one of the most historic names in American motorcycling finding a home with a major player in the motorcycle industry. The move is an interesting one for Polaris, as the company already owns cruiser and touring motorcycle manufacturer Victory Motorcycles.
According to the company press release, Indian will function as an autonomous business unit, but will likely gett help from Polaris’s engineering department, along with the obvious supply chain and purchasing power of the larger brand.
Our friends at IndianCarsBikes.in have spied the KTM 200 Duke again out testing again near Bajaj’s factory in Pune, India. This time riding down the street, we get to see how the 200cc variant of the KTM 125 Duke will sit with an adult on the frame, and the bike looks fairly comfy for a full-sized person (although we have no idea how tall the rider actually is of course). The second spy shot of the KTM 200 Duke in a just a week, Bajaj is either getting sloppy (unlikely), or the debut of this machine could be edging closer and closer to reality.
Is this the KTM 200 Duke? The folks at OverDrive.in were fortunate enough to encounter in Pune what looks like a pre-production KTM Duke destined for the Indian market. Taking the photo above, OverDrive wasn’t certain if this was the KTM 125 Duke that the Austrian company launched at Intermot this year, or if it was a larger displacement version that’s been rumored to be coming from the minds of Bajaj & KTM.
Luckily the guys at IndianCarsBikes.in were able to get Rajiv Bajaj on the line and ask him about the photo, and the son of the Bajaj empire confirmed that what we see here is the 200cc KTM 200 Duke that will be an India-only model. Reportedly a deal hatched between KTM and Bajaj, the Indian market will get a slightly larger version of the new Duke, which will be liquid-cooled, have DOHC, and be positioned on the premium side of the market equation.
Rumors are indicating that KTM has invited Indian manufacturer Bajaj to increase its stake in the Austrian company from the current 30% to up to 90%. While neither party has confirmed the news, it is reported that Bajaj has accepted KTM’s offer, and will immediately purchase an additional 21% of the company’s stock, making it a 51% majority shareholder. Bajaj will then increase its ownership to 90% at a later undecided time.