Polaris VP of Motorcycles Illuminates Indian’s Future

As Vice President of Motorcycles at Polaris Industries, Steve Menneto is the one who ultimately sold fellow board members on the idea of acquiring Indian in April 2011— now he’s entrusted with the task of making that acquisition pay off. Menneto started as a Polaris dealer in New York before joining the company 15 years ago as Director of Sales. He assumed responsibility for Victory Motorcycles in May 2009 and was promoted to Vice President of Motorcycles in August 2011. In this first major interview since the acquisition, he reveals the company’s plans for Indian Motorcycles—and Victory, too. Motorcyclist: Why did Polaris purchase Indian? Steve Menneto: We’d been looking at how to grow Polaris into a $5 billion company, and motorcycles f t nicely into that long-range plan. But to be a serious player in the quite lucrative heavyweight motorcycle market, we had to have a bigger brand than Victory. We’d spent 15 years learning the business with Victory, and we thought this was the right time to propel our motorcycle business forward with two contrasting brands.

MC: Will Indian and Victory compete with or complement each other?

SM: We think the two brands are very complementary. Indian motorcycles appeal to a classic rider who takes pride in the Indian heritage. Victory is a younger brand, more modern, and more for folks into performance. Indian will still have a great performance and innovation but with traditional overtones. Victory is going to focus on performance and innovation as core brand values.

MC: What level of cooperation will there be behind the scenes?

SM: We’ve added 30 heads inside the marketing and sales division, and more than 250 more in manufacturing and engineering. We have two separate marketing teams, two separate engineering teams, and so on. Victory and Indian share the same engine manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin and assembly facilities in Iowa, but on separate lines. We’ve done everything to make sure that these two brands operate separately and will continue to do so.

MC: When will American customers be able to buy a new Indian?

SM: Shortly after Sturgis this August. We will begin manufacturing Indian motorcycles in September of this year, and we’re on track to bring bikes to market in the third quarter of 2013. We’ll have close to 150 dealers by the end of this year in North America and 50 more in Europe, Australia, Japan, the Middle East, and Africa—and it won’t end there.

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