Every once in a while, you get surprised. That may not happen as often as it used to for a lot of us, but I was unpleasantly surprised when I opened up the paper the other day to find that Polaris was shutting down operations of its Victory motorcycle line “effective immediately.”
THAT one kinda came out of left field.
Honestly, Victory got a lot of high marks in a lot of areas – and I believe that Harley Davidson directly contributed to Victory building what is, from the factory, a better bike.
Polaris listened to what Harley did wrong and they got it right with Victory – and beat H-D on price; along with reliability, quality, and, in many cases, style. I know words like “style” and “good looking” are subjective, but I always thought the Victory bikes showed just a little more flair. When Victory opened up for business at Spirit Lake in 1998, how many of you guys had seen teal or red used on a Harley? Damn near everything out of Milwaukee was black and chrome unless you promised them your first child.
Nope, Victory brought a much-needed shot of something different to the American V-twin scene – something that hadn’t rolled out of Japan but at the same time offered a real value to guys who wanted American made quality that didn’t cost as much as a sensible four-door car.
Remember, too, that in 1998, when Victory opened its doors, Harley was riding high. Pretty good quality from a historic standpoint, the engineering was good, the powerplants were strong, and Victory still competed with and in some cases, beat out Mother Davidson. All that is going away, though
Polaris is going to concentrate on the Indian lineup and continue to build on the reputation they have as a cruiser line and in keeping with the “heritage” idea.
Not to play Monday-morning quarterback, but couldn’t Polaris simply have pulled a strategy from General Motors circa 1980 and simplified the powerplants across both lines, standardized basic parts, and run both companies? A Chevy Camaro and a Pontiac Trans Am were essentially the same beast from about 1982 on and I’d say they had a pretty good run for the next generation. And who decided that baggers that look like Art Deco pieces are what riders want? I’ve ridden them and I like them, but I will always like the feel and look of a more aggressive bike without quite so much sculpting.
I’d really like to know how this strategy plays out in the long run, though. In the coming years, as older riders get, well, older, the buying decisions fall to the next generation and I wonder, based on what I see younger riders choosing, how their likes and dislikes will affect Indian’s styling cues. When I was a younger man, I liked to go fast (come to think of it, I still do) but I also still love the feel of a “stripped” bike that can get up and move. To me, everything with full fenders and fairings was a GoldWing.
In this whole deal, the real losers are us, as consumers. With Victory, riders could purchase a solid bike with plenty of motor (the Victory Octane) and still make it out of the dealership for less than ten grand. I know, you can still do that with Indian and the Scout 60, but not with the same performance.
And that’s too bad.