An 'Indian' comes to India to take on Harley-Davidson

Last Updated: Tue, May 21, 2013 04:06 hrs

Its origin dates back to 1902, even before the US iconic super bike maker Harley-Davidson was founded. The century-old cult American brand 'Indian', is now planning to enter the Indian market by mid-2014, pitting its premium cruisers against the market leader, Harley-Davidson.

One of the two motorcycle brands owned by US-based Polaris, the Indian is aggressively venturing beyond the US to push volumes and sees India as a key market.

Though the name might suggest, the brand has no link with the country. Originally called the 'American Indian', it is inspired by America's indigenous tribe, Red Indians. The name was later shortened to 'Indian'.

The company has had a chequered history, with numerous owners. It was acquired by DuPont Motors in 1930 and sold as many units as Harley-Davidson in the '40s. But, it went bankrupt in 1945 after being taken over by Rogers Group. After that, there were nine companies that bought and sold the brand before it finally came in the Polaris group's fold.

The brand is developing an entire range of bikes with the new engine type it showcased at the Daytona Bike Week earlier this year. The Indian uses some of the biggest engines known to motorcycles for its up-market cruisers.

With its heritage but a limited customer base, the Indian will target consumers in India looking for a cruiser brand other than Harley-Davidson.

Within three years of entering the country, rival Harley-Davidson, the price of which starts from Rs 571,000, sold over 1,325 units in India last year, despitea slowdown in the automobile sector. Its sales grew 178 per cent from 476 units a year before.

The Indian will have to piggy-back on the plans of its parent company, US-based Polaris Industries, which is also finalising plans for the launch of its own brand, Victory, in India. The company, which markets all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) in India, had bought the Indian in 2011.

Under the Indian brand are models like Chief Classic, Dark Horse and Vintage - all priced above $26,000 (Rs 14,30,000). It is showcasing a new cheaper model in August this year which will be priced at $19,000 (Rs 10,45,000). Prices of these models will more than double when imported to India.

It is not yet clear if the Indian and Victory brands will be marketed from a single showroom or different showrooms with separate branding.

"The company was on schedule to launch the Victory range this year, but decided to change its plans when it thought that the Indian brand would be better suited for the local market for an inaugural launch," said a source.

Polaris India Managing Director Pankaj Dubey confirmed that the company was planning to launch the Indian brand in the country next year but declined to elaborate on the plans. Apart from India, Polaris intends to take Indian brand to China as well.

The Indian's origin and other cruiser bikes in the market

The Indian legacy
  • 1902: The first Indian motorcycle sold. As Indian enthusiasts enjoy pointing out, it was a year before Harley-Davidson was founded
  • The brand owners: The Indian brand has been owned or claimed by no fewer than nine companies, which have sold a variety of small imported cycles and Harley lookalikes
  • 2004: Stephen Julius and Steve Heese, who had previously revived the Chris-Craft and Reva luxury boat brands, buy the Indian brand
  • 2008: Sale of Indian Chief motorcycles begins, at various levels of accouterments

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