By Bud Wilkinson of RIDE-CT.com
With its first new model due out later this year (following the company’s purchase by Polaris Industries two years ago), Indian is working to expand its dealer network. Over the weekend, RIDE-CT.com had an unexpected conversation with a seemingly unlikely candidate who has been approached about becoming an Indian dealer and who sat through a presentation last week.
Here’s how it happened: Friend Gary Randall and I had ridden to Colchester, CT on Saturday morning and were seated at a picnic table at Harry’s Place about to enjoy lunch when the man approached. Gary owns a 1946 Indian Chief (although he had chosen to ride his 1974 Moto Guzzi Eldorado on Saturday) and was wearing a black Indian sweatshirt. The logo caught the eye of the man, who was nicely dressed and wearing an Augusta National Golf Club sweater. He came over to inquire about Gary’s Indian connection.
We introduced ourselves and, within minutes, the man and his wife had joined us at the table. While I had stated that I was a motojournalist, I didn’t whip open my notebook, so I’ll refrain from identifying the man by name. Suffice to say that he owns a new-car dealership not far from Hartford, doesn’t ride a motorcycle and has no connection motorcycles.
Over the course of 15 or 20 minutes, he revealed that the cost of becoming an Indian dealer won’t be cheap. He’d need a building and signage. I believe he said the necessary display to showcase Indian bikes would run $175,000. With existing Indian models starting at nearly $27,000, he wondered what the potential for profit would be. What also failed to impress him was the company’s presentation, which he said wasn’t as polished as he expected it to be.
My suggestion was that maybe he could create a high-end motorcycle dealership devoted to more than one niche brand, and maybe add the revived Norton marquee. The sense I got was that he viewed the risk – or at least the buy-in – to be too high.
As it did earlier with its Victory brand, Polaris is positioning Indian as a “Made in America” competitor to Harley-Davidson. The company has been proclaiming that “Choice is coming to American motorcycles.” That’s fine, except that Harleys are less expensive and are marketed as iconic. The Indian name may be as well, but the original company that built Indians in Springfield, MA went out of business 60 years ago. Only real motorcycle aficionados recall it.
Following a pleasant conversation, we went out separate ways. I didn’t think of it until later, but why would a motorcycle company pursue a car dealer with no motorcycle experience, and one from a rural setting? Is Indian simply looking for deep pockets? Or could it be that Indian is having a hard time bringing dealers on board? The lone dealer in the region currently is Indian Motorcycle of New England in Worcester, MA.
On the subject of Indian, the Springfield Museums’ annual Indian Day will be July 21 this year.
The exhibit tells the story of the black leather jacket has become a celebrated part of riding and will be installed at the Springfield Museums from June 22 through Sept. 22.
Here’s a new(ish) video from Indian that shows what it expects dealerships to look like: