Polaris Industries blindsided Victory dealers and customers this morning by announcing that it’s pulling the plug on the 18-year-old, American-made brand. Calling the brand’s exit “an incredibly difficult decision,” Polaris Chairman and CEO Scott Wine said in a news release that Victory’s end will allow the company to concentrate its efforts elsewhere, including on the Indian motorcycle line.
“This decision will improve the profitability of Polaris and our global motorcycle business, and will materially improve our competitive stance in the industry,” stated Wine. “Our focus is on profitable growth, and in an environment of finite resources, this move allows us to optimize and align our resources behind both our premium, high performing Indian Motorcycle brand and our innovative Slingshot brand, enhancing our focus on accelerating the success of those brands.”
Victory debuted in 1998 as an American alternative to Harley-Davidson.
While word of the stunning contents of the news release, which was stealthily issued at midnight Sunday, spread quickly this morning, the news of Victory’s demise hadn’t fully penetrated into all corners of the motorcycle industry by midday. The staff at Libby’s Motoworld, the Victory dealer in New Haven, CT, only learned of Polaris’ decision when RIDE-CT & RIDE-NewEngland called seeking comment shortly before noon.
Owner George Libby said later that he did receive an email from Polaris this morning and that he’s “not happy” with Polaris’ decision. “I was extremely surprised,” he said, allowing at the same time that “I thought it would come someday” because both Victory and Indian primarily build heavyweight cruisers.
Libby lamented having to spend “a lot of money” on Victory displays that will now be worthless. “What am I going to do with the machines that I have in stock?” he said.
Rob Gaulin, dealer principal of Brookfield Indian Motorcycle in Brookfield, CT, which also sells Victory motorcycles, took a glass half full approach to the news by reporting that “there are formidable manufacturer’s discounts being offered on the purchase of all Victory Motorcycles, merchandise and accessories in stock at dealerships. Now may be the best time to buy.”
Gaulin added, “It is important to note that the bikes themselves are actually stronger than their commercial success would indicate. They are powerful and care-free machines that are easy to handle. The corporate decision is based on pure economics of the marketplace, and not because these motorcycles are less than world-class.”
Victory owners were certainly surprised by Polaris’ decision.
“You’re kidding?” responded Stan Kimble of West Hartford, CT, who has owned a 2012 Victory Cross Roads for four years. “I had no sense they were thinking along those lines.”
Kimble has put 50,000 miles on his Victory and, despite some workmanship issues with the saddlebags and seat, said, “Overall, its been a great bike.” However, he noted, “As good as the bikes are, they haven’t made a tremendous amount of progress eating into Harley. I’m sorry to see Victory go. I’m not sure where Victory went wrong or what more they could have done.”
Kimble said he will likely look at an Indian when it comes time to get another bike.
Roland Smith of Harwinton, CT, who owns a 2013 Victory Cross Country model, was philosophical about Victory’s exit. “I guess I’ll ride this thing until it’s dead,” he said. “I love the bike. I’m very disappointed with the company’s management. I kind of wondered how they were going to support Victory and Indian.”
Joe Joyce of Waterown, CT, the owner of a 2014 Cross Country, likewise enjoys his Victory. “I love the bike to death and am sad at the news and feel betrayed about this,” he wrote in Facebook Messenger exchange. “I’ll never buy a Harley. Just ride this until the wheels fall off of it.”
Both Victory and Indian models have been built by Polaris at a plant in Spirit Lake, IA. In its release, the company said, “Polaris will assist dealers in liquidating existing inventories while continuing to supply parts for a period of 10 years, along with providing service and warranty coverage to Victory dealers and owners.”
Gaulin suggested that Indian will benefit from Victory’s demise. “Polaris will now devote even more time and money to the development, expansion and promotion of new Indian products across the board,” he predicted.
(Photos, unless otherwise noted, are courtesy of Victory.)