Indian Wars: Whos Winning?

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By John Burns

Yesterday we reported Indian made great strides in Q3, with a claimed increase in retail sales of 16% – a day on which mothership Polaris’s stock (PII) jumped the same 16%. In that same third quarter, Indian’s cowboy, Harley-Davidson, saw its sales decline 8.1%. Unlike Indian, H-D actually breaks out numbers: 45,469 units sold domestically in Q3 2016 slid to 41,793 in Q3 2017 – and 161,658 units for the whole year. Domestically.

In the U.S., Indian says it jumped from owning 3% of the over-900cc market last year, to over 10% of it by September, 2017 (and this in a market where sales of all bikes over 900cc was down 9.2% for the year, according to H-D). Ten percent of 161,000 tells us Indian sold around 16,000 heavy cruisers.

What does this tell us? I think it tells us more people are buying Indians lately, but it’s way too soon to put the fork in Harley-Davidson. The faithful knew the new Milwaukee 8 was going to be in more 2018 models, and many buyers decided to hold off buying until they appeared. It’s a pretty safe bet that, with the release of eight new Softails last August, things will probably be seriously picking up in Q1 of next year for H-D if not in Q4 of this one. It’s no coincidence Indian saw its big gains this year after releasing its new Chieftains Elite and Limited, and Roadmaster Classic early this year. People like new and improved.

On another positive note, things weren’t quite so bad for H-D’s international sales, which fell just 4.6%, from 23,486 to 22,416 units in the third quarter. Like Coca-Cola, Levi’s and Marilyn Monroe’s mole, there are just some distinctly American brands you can’t kill without a prolonged and savage beating. Indian is …read more

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