Why the death of Victory is great news for Indian
Victory Motorcycles were the cowboys of the American bike market. With steel guts, no roots, and no fear of the establishment, they rode into town in 1998 and started a battle that even they probably never expected to win. And, of course, they haven’t.
Last week parent company Polaris announced the seemingly sudden death of Victory – but it was a well considered move: “This decision was not made on a whim,” says Steve Menneto, President of Motorcycles at Polaris, speaking to MCN last week, “it was painfully and carefully thought out, and took over a year of discussion.”
Although there’s a lot to mourn in the passing of Victory, there’s also cause for celebration. “From the demise of Victory, the big good news story is that Indian will benefit from a wider product range, and is going to be different from what you’ve seen over the last three years,” continues Menneto.
“Within the next two to five years there will a lot of growth – we’ll be close to doubling the Indian range. There will be more investment in the brand globally and in the UK, we will add to the dealer network, and there is opportunity now to make marketspecific product for Europe and for the US. For Europe that means bikes that are not cruiser/bagger/tourers.”
Victory launched in 1998, aiming to be “a significant player” in the world heavyweight motorcycle market, but the market has changed dramatically.
“It’s now tougher to be profitable, and that led to the ultimate decision to close Victory,” explains Menneto. “Over the course of the 18 years we had three years of profitability [2010/11/12], but the amount of investment needed made it untenable. It just doesn’t work at the volumes we had.” Victory were selling around 10,000 bikes globally each year, and Menneto says: “You have to times that figure by two or three to have a sustainable, viable business.”
But without Victory, the phenomenal return of Indian may never have happened. “The learnings we made from Victory have led to the success of Indian. But we couldn’t have Indian go into the performance marketplace, nor have Victory go into heritage. Now we have one brand with Indian, we have the ability to go down the performance path, which is rich in Indian’s history.”
Race for victory
Victory’s demise also means the end of Project 156, the naked sportsbike that assaulted Pikes Peak, and the electric Victory racers that competed there and at the Isle of Man TT.
But there is some redemption. Menneto said: “The particular Victory bikes that have already been developed and raced will not transfer over, but we will pick up the banner and run with electric for Indian, and bikes like Project 156 will be part of the future for the brand, too.
A one-horse town?
But while the market wasn’t big enough for two nascent American brands, that doesn’t mean Polaris won’t expand the motorcycle division again. “The Indian business is growing rapidly and is in profit, so we are clearly not getting out of Indian. We have increased the budget over the combined figure for Victory and Indian, so we can go faster with Indian. When you imagine where Indian would be today if they had been in continuous production, we’d be in a lot of markets with a lot of different types of motorcycle.
“We also get asked ‘how long before you get out of Indian?’ Indian is growing rapidly, and is in profit, so we are clearly not getting out of Indian.
“We will also target growth through acquisition or partnership with brands that are a better fit than Victory was. We are looking for a global opportunity, one that’s not so reliant on the North American market. I’m not going to say which ones, but we know which ones would fit well. Our growth has been tremendous. From 2009 to 2016 we increased the size of the business tenfold – and we’re just getting started.”
‘This decision was carefully thought out and took over a year of discussion’ VICTORY PRESIDENT STEVE MENNETO