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Basem Wasef

The New Indian: Can the Chief Survive?

By January 29, 2008

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Indian Chief Prototype

Back in the day, iconic personalities like Burt Munro and Steve McQueen fell under the spell of Indian motorcycles. The brand was the stuff of legends, and in its heyday battled squarely against the other American juggernaut, Harley-Davidson.

After a rocky history and several false starts, a new Indian has emerged in the form of a prototype that promises to become a reality this fall. The 2009 Chief is an ambitious venture, and while the photo seen here (click to enlarge) doesn't look exactly like the final product, the company is taking the bold step of building their own PowerPlus engines in-house and accepting $1,000 deposits on a bike that doesn't have an official release date yet.

Indian's blog assures readers that "the brand is in good hands," but can the market sustain another nostalgic American V-twin bike given Harley's recent sales struggles? Comment with your thoughts on this attempt to resuscitate a 107 year-old motorcycling legend.

Photo Indian Motorcycles
January 29, 2008 at 2:29 pm
(1) Scottie says:

Not sure how much Stellican, the parent company, has to back this endeavor, but they also re-launched Chris-Craft boats so they must have a good idea what they are up against. I imagine they’ll run about $25k like the last time and will be a pretty limited appeal. I doubt they’ll even catch Victory’s volume

January 29, 2008 at 4:54 pm
(2) Pete says:

I suspect Scottie has it bang on. Very limited market …. might steal a few from H-D, but way too pricey to attract all but the wealthy / odd balls.

January 29, 2008 at 5:11 pm
(3) Davem123 says:

From what their website says, they hope to have 50 dealers in place over the next 3 years. On that alone I would think you are dealing with a very limited few that will buy one. Where do you go for service, etc.?

January 29, 2008 at 5:35 pm
(4) motorcycles says:

I wish them all the best; it’s a tough venture, especially when you’re building your own powerplant.

Kenny Dreer had a tough (and unfruitful) run attempting to bring Norton back, and I hope Indian can pull it off.


January 29, 2008 at 6:24 pm
(5) Bigchief says:

I have a 2003 Indian Deluxe and I purchased this bike prior to the shutting of there doors in California. This new start up from 2004 to now has been say the least disappointing to me. Basically no information given from the new ownership, kind of reminds me of a Bill Belichick post game press conference. There was also a lot of dirty luandry piled on those who were distributing the bikes out of Gilroy and guess what happen to us who purchased the bikes concerning warrenties. Bye Bye. I became a mechanic over night. The long and the short is some of us have a real sour taste in our mouths even though there beautiful bikes. I hope the second time around Indian is successful and if not they will have the dignity to honorer each contract instead of washing there hands of responsibility to each of there customers.

January 29, 2008 at 9:43 pm
(6) Milton B. says:

Ewww, the front fender reminds me of marvin the martians helmet head, ewww…

January 30, 2008 at 11:07 am
(7) Steve H says:

I wish them luck! Todays economy is terrible, to say the least. We need something like a Car manufacturer to make affordable US bikes, assembly line ready. Would love to Harley have real competition. Maybe the gasoline prices can increase the Motorcycle sales.

January 30, 2008 at 11:13 am
(8) Rick K. says:

I think the timing couldn’t be worse. Bad economy + last recent Indian failure still in potential buyers memories + if American built will have to be overpriced (I understand one of the main reasons for the high prices of Harleys)+ stiff competition in the motorcycle industry like never before. And you just can’t trust to have support for/from them. I have always admired the looks of the Indians and would love to see another American marque flourish so I do wish them well. But I’ll just have to say ‘Good Luck’!

January 30, 2008 at 12:11 pm
(9) Scottie says:

Don’t let the media get you down on the economy. We have a consumer confidence decline because 1) many people have every toy they need for now, whether it’s GPS, iPhone, or flat panel TV 2) Everyone talks about the dollar value the Dow fluctuates, not the percentage. 100 points now is well less than 1%. Last I check it’s off less than 11% from it’s high last year. Plus, the Dow doesn’t give the real indication of the economy. Watch the S&P 500. Oh, some people borrowed money to buy houses and didn’t think they ever had to pay it back. Sure, we’re in for a little rough patch, but keep your chin up.

January 30, 2008 at 12:38 pm
(10) busfreak says:

Well said Scottie! If they would price these bikes at least in the Harley Price range they would sell, but 24gs and up I’m out.

January 30, 2008 at 12:47 pm
(11) Hooter says:

Indian absolutely can come back and even dominate as long as they are well funded for the long haul. Harley’s failures have more to do with producing bikes that are overpriced and under performers for quality. They have rested way too long on selling their image/”lifestyle” rather than selling great bikes.

January 30, 2008 at 1:26 pm
(12) TEvo says:

Time will tell. Indian has been revived umpteen times only to go up in a puff of oily smoke.

It would seem sometimes, a brand should just be left to fade into the annals of moto-history and rest in peace.

January 30, 2008 at 2:57 pm
(13) ridercrat says:

Everyone’s comments are well taken. Having been part of the last attempt to revive the brand, it’s way too complex to describe here what was the cause of the eventual shuttering of the factory. Having said that much, Stellican has a good track record, but not as much money to invest. It took more than $200 mil to bring it to an end; the best solution would have been to joint venture with an established vehicle manufacturer. Engineering, QC and mfg. expenses could have been spread out and problems solved. A quality bike is what will sell. At the price point of $25k+, and no guarantee of a company that will be around to honor warranties, dealer support, etc., it’s going to be hard to get critical mass going forward to insure that enough bikes will be built to have a company that, at best, breaks even. I wish them well. I have a deposit on the ’09 and I hope I don’t get my money back. Best to all.

January 30, 2008 at 5:49 pm
(14) Pete says:

Someone mentioned Norton as well. Being a closet Norton fan as well, I very fondly rememeber the pre-electric start Commando’s …especialy the “S”.
It seems if the MC industry doesn’t take well to Phoenix’s rising out of the ashes. Triumph has done well, but the rest seem to fizzle out pretty quick. Too bad…..

January 30, 2008 at 7:52 pm
(15) Pet e Terpstra says:

A lot of good comments. I wish that they were going with a proven motor for a powerplant such as the S&S as they did in the past instead of an untried engine. It might give the potential buyer a little more confidence. I do hope that they make it though.

January 31, 2008 at 4:59 am
(16) Nigel Summerton says:

From good ol England, I wish Indian all the luck in the world. It is a real bad time right now I agree, but I hope they succeed. I must admit if they were established in the UK, back in 2003 I would have purchased an Indian instead of the Harley. There is just something about them that makes me want one. Though I enjoy the Harley, the best days (production numbers) I believe are behind them, they’re popularity and the mystic of owning a HD got too commercial and that is why they have gone through some tough times since 2004/05, which I’m sure will get a whole lot worse before they get better! So Indian could capitalise right now on some ex-Harley riders looking to change their bikes and those on the fence not sure which to go for. Ex-Indian riders do have a gripe, but they need to embrace not shun the ‘new’ Indian regime and good things will start to happen for them as well. So good luck to both Indian and Harley. Nigel Summerton.

February 1, 2008 at 1:29 pm
(17) motorcycles says:

Pete Terpstra,

I actually think it’s great (but extremely ambitious and potentially dangerous) that they’re trying to build their own powerplants. Throwing in an S&S might be more reassuring than incorporating a totally new powerplant, but the pre-made engine would make it hard to consider the brand completely resurrected.

I think it’s commendable that they’re crazy enough to tackle building their own engines… at least they’re going all out. I hope they can pull it off!


February 2, 2008 at 9:41 am
(18) gary venturino says:

as a small boy growing up in ohio in the 50′s we lived around the corner from an indian dealership.i remember the salesman picking me up and putting me on the seats of the chief and the scout which i’ve always loved.if their new venture works out i just might trade in my harley.thanks for the memories.

September 29, 2008 at 3:19 pm
(19) Oscar P. says:

Im a bike fan and an Indian fan (though Id never ride one), and in my 26 years of living Ive never seen two-wheeled machines as nice as Indians. And theres something life taught me: THE WORST RISK IS THE ONE YOU DONT TAKE!

October 28, 2008 at 10:19 pm
(20) Andy says:

Have you seen the price on these mofo’s? 30k? What do they think they’re selling, Rocketships? Seriously, how many people off the top of your head can afford a 30k motorcycle? Maybe 5? And how many of them ride? Exactly.

Do they think North Americans want to be riding imported motorcycles? No, it’s just no one other then retired people can afford them.

That’s why all the kids are riding metric, and developing brand loyalty to off-shore markets. Because that’s the only thing we can afford! Seriously, do American CEO’s need to get a million dollar bonus EVERY month?

Why are these things priced over $15k? Every other off-shore motorcycle company makes a kickass product at this price range normal people can afford.


April 13, 2009 at 1:06 pm
(21) Wayne says:

I would love to buy an Indian but I live in Canada. Where could I go for sevice? For that matter, where does anybody go for service with so few dealerships around? Could another bike shop service it?

October 20, 2009 at 5:25 pm
(22) Tim says:

Bought a new Scout in 2003, a great bike and affordable. The new indian refuses to market a 15-20K bike for the market. I dont see how you can rebirth a brand by limiting it to a top end market only. I wish them the best.

January 7, 2010 at 4:06 pm
(23) ron says:

I have been waiting for 20 years for a new affordable Indian to park next to my 47 Chief. Been through a Suzuki 4 and a 2000 Victory, finally my last new bike ( at 66 yrs. old) is a 2007 Road King.
At 35K my dream of owning a new Indian is shattered. I will never live long enough or ride long enough to be able to wait for the prices to come down to an affordable level. Bikes look great and I wish them well but noone I know can afford to buy one.

September 7, 2011 at 1:08 pm
(24) AL Green says:

This isn’t for the guy next door with a Toyota or an Impala in his garage. This is a M/c for the guy (Or gal) that owns a Porshe or a Lexas.

Some folks have a Bagger and a sportbike in the garage, sell both of them and buy an Indian…
That’s if you want one that bad!

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