Can single motorcycle change a company’s destiny?

It sounds absurd. But then again, the Honda Supercub more or less did that for Honda and the entire industry in the 1960s.

Indian Motorcycle (now owned by Polaris, who are getting favorable reviews within the industry for their management of the battered but venerable brand) are hoping that the new Indian FTR sets their company on a new course.

We’ve written about the FTR before and you can go here to get more detailed information about the model.

What we wanted to know at AIMEXpo, the first time Indian has shown the machine in the USA, was what kind of early reception it was getting domestically (after the wraps were initially taken off at Intermot in Cologne, Germany last month.)

Indian Motorcycle FTR 1200 at AIMExpo in Las Vegas, October 2018

We talked to Indian Motorcycle reps on Friday, one day before the public was admitted to the show at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

But before I tell you what they had to say, let me pass on one, tiny piece of anecdotal evidence.

As I waited for the right folks to come over and talk to me, I saw the kind of people who were gathered around the demo bikes. And they were not the kind of crowd you might have seen around an Indian display as recently as last year.

The backside of the Indian FTR 1200

Young. Cut-off sleeve t-shirts. Tattoos. Scraggly hair. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if this is the kind of person who buys an FTR, then Indian will have broken through to a new demographic.

And that was confirmed when I talked to the Indian people. They say it’s more than just the motorcycle industry that’s paying attention to the FTR.

They say they’re getting questions from a new kind of customer. Specifically, they say people who are currently riding sports bikes or Euro bikes are now checking out the FTR and (Indian claim) loving what they see.

Pipes on the Indian FTR 1200

In all, Indian say they’re a bigger center of attention than they’ve ever been before. And in a good way, not because of the bungled management of previous owners.

But an industry insider, who is wise to the vagaries of the marketplace, put this bug in our ear. Remember the Harley-Davidson XR1200, he cautioned. Based on a flat track racer, just like the FTR, it got off to a hot start, just like the FTR hopes to do. But within five years it was a goner.

Duly cautioned, we wait and watch, hoping that a proud brand name from US motorcycling history becomes a success again.

Indian FTR 1200 at AIMExpo, Las Vegas, October 2018

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