Since Polaris Industries relaunched the Indian Motorcycle Company there have been rumours they were to move production away from America. Here, I dig into the story and find out if there’s any truth about this famous American brand moving offshore.
So, where are Indian Motorcycles made? All Indian Motorcycles are currently made in the USA at the Spirit Lake, Iowa plant. However, like all other bike manufacturers several components are sourced elsewhere before being shipped to Spirit Lake for assembly.
There’s more to this story though, read on to learn more about Indian Motorcycles and discover just who started the rumour that production was to leave American shores for the first time.
Where Are The Indian Engines Made?
Despite what you may have read on the forums, all Indian Motorcycle engines are manufactured and assembled at the Osceola, Wisconsin facility.
Like all other major bike manufacturers, Indian Motorcycles do source certain parts from other companies.
It is just much more cost effective to buy items such as brakes, suspension and electronic parts from companies that are known to have expertise in their particular field and that can provide them in bulk cheaper than you could make them yourself.
That’s before you even consider the millions needed at the research and development stage if you were to try and make them in house.
Brembo for example are the choice of brakes for most of the marque bikes and cars. The Italian company have plants in 14 countries (including USA) and are considered the best brakes in the world.
It’s all they’ve done since the 1960’s, make brakes, test and improve. A set of Brembo’s instills confidence in the knowledgable consumer as well as the professional / amateur racer.
If you are producing a marque product such as the FTR1200 then why would you not purchase the brake components from Brembo?
A Brief History of the Indian Motorcycle Brand
Indian Motorcycles originated back in 1901 with the first Indian Motorcycle being the Indian Red. It had a successful run of producing bikes until 1953.
Originally they operated under the Hendee Manufacturing Company name before changing to Indian Motorcycle in 1923.
Taking all 3 podium places in the gruelling Senior 1911 Isle of Man TT race helped cement the brand as a high quality, reliable bike and the Indian Motorcycle Company soon became the largest manufacturer in the world.
When production ceased in 1953 due to bankruptcy there were several attempts to revive the Indian Motorcycle brand name but none were particularly successful.
Between 1993-2003 the Indian Motorcycle Company of America was formed by a merger of 9 companies banding together including the California Motorcycle Company.
At the CMC’s former facilities in Gilroy, California, Indian motorcycles started to be produced. This became known as the Gilroy era.
With new models being produced reviving original Indian names including a Chief, Scout and Spirit.
The Gilroy era was followed by the Kings Mountain era until Polaris took over in 2011 and as it stands the parent company are taking the Indian Motorcycle brand from strength to strength.
Who are Polaris?
Polaris Inc is a $3 Billion American company founded in 1954. They have built a reputation for producing high-quality products within the power sports sector making everything from snowmobiles to ATV’s, with a passion for getting people to explore the outdoors by virtue of ride and drive adventures.
Our vision is to fuel the passion of riders, workers and outdoors enthusiasts around the world by delivering innovative, high-quality vehicles, products, services and experiences that enrich their lives.Polaris on the vision of their company
In recent years they have expanded the company into commercial and military vehicles along with a step into electric vehicles too.
Polaris has over 30 brands under their umbrella, some of these include:
- Polaris RZR
- Trail Tech
As it stands the Indian Motorcycle Company is their only motorcycle brand. However, when purchasing Indian they did also own Victory motorcycles.
Victory was their own motorcycle brand which they first got started back in 1997 with the very first model being the V92C.
It was a V-twin and a very deliberate bike produced to compete on home soil with Harley Davidson cruisers.
Victory bikes were assembled entirely in the US and used mainly American produced parts. At the time Victory motorcycles were embracing much more modern engineering than HD bikes and the engine was a faster, smoother ride than anything coming out of Milwaukee.
Unfortunately though, taking on giants like Harley Davidson is no easy feat and it was an uphill struggle for Victory to break into the market.
They did plough on though and introduced the Victory Vegas, the KingPin, High Ball and 8 Ball.
While these models helped to gain a following for Victory in 2011 a new opportunity came up for Polaris and this was the beginning of the end for Victory motorcycles.
Polaris purchased the Indian Motorcycle name banking on the emotional appeal of the brand to draw in customers and prove tough competition for the HD kings.
After all, Indian was one of the oldest motorcycle manufacturers in the world dating back to 1901. In fact Indian is older than Harley by 2 years.
Two years after purchasing the brand name, the first Indian Motorcycles hit the showrooms and they started rolling out.
They decided to withdraw production on the Victory brand and eventually it was phased out with Indian Motorcycles becoming the focus brand for the company in the motorcycle industry.
Since then the company have focused on Indian motorcycle’s traditional styling and revived some of the classic names used by the founding Indian Motorcycle Company the infamous Scout or and Chief leading the pack.
Polaris have even revived the Indian Motorcycle factory team. The famous Indian Wrecking Crew have started to dominate the Flat Track scene just like they did the first time around.
The Indian Motorcycle brand is back in full force giving not only Harley Davidson a run for their money but many of the other big manufacturers from around the world.
The company have proven themselves when it comes to giving the motorcycle public what they want by listening to their market.
The new Indian Chief Dark Horse is another example, the type of bike that people have been wanting from Indian from day one of the 2011 re-birth.
Sure, it is a direct hit at the likes of the Harley Street Bob, but let’s face it, it’s so much cooler, why? Well, because it’s an Indian. I think that sums up the overriding legacy of the Indian Motorcycle brand, it is just a flipping cool brand.
Who Started The Rumor About Indian Motorcycles Being Made in Poland?
Well, that would be the parent company!
In July 2018 Polaris released a press statement saying that Indian Motorcycles destined to be sold in Europe would start to be built at their Opole factory in Poland.
Production on EU soil was to start in 2019.
Their main argument to produce bikes for the European market closer to the consumers was that there was to be a tax imposed on US built bikes for European customers meaning that on average bikes would become $2,200 more expensive for European buyers.
Harley Davidson had moved some of their production offshore as a result of the E.U. import tax but they received great backlash as this impacted their US workforce with the closure of their Kansas City plant shortly after the new Thailand plant opened.
The Poland factory was to serve the European customer base using local assembly. It meant that lead times would be shorter, import tax would be avoided and customers prefer locally-sourced products.
This concept had worked well for their off-road portfolio, where 90% of their off-road vehicles for the European market are manufactured at the same Opole factory.
The success of the FTR1200 in Europe is believed to have been another reason for a production base being set up on European soil. They were desperate to reduce the lead times to meet demand.
To be clear, they stated in the press releases at the time that only Indian Motorcycles meant for the European market would come out of Opole and that any motorcycles for the US would continue to be made in America.
So Why Didn’t Indian Motorcycle Production Move to Europe?
I can’t find anything from the either the parent company or from Indian Motorcycles as to why they didn’t go ahead with the plan to move some of the production to the Poland plant.
They announced the plan during the height of a trade war between the U.S and the EU. The company may have had full intentions of going ahead with the controversial move but having seen the backlash Harley Davidson received from both their home fans and the government, maybe they thought better of it.
Perhaps it was nothing more than a stick used to try and get gov. support or perhaps the trade war ran its course and the move was no longer required.
Whatever the reason, they let the story quietly slip away and the Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company today thankfully remains as American as apple pie.
Wherever you live in the world, the Indian motorcycle you purchase was built at their plant in Spirit Lake, Iowa, USA.