by Victor Wanchena
As you may have noticed there is a new Indian motorcycle gracing the cover this month. The long dead and often resurrected marque now has a fairly decent foot hold on the shore of revival. But the success of the new Indian brand brings to mind Minnesota’s own ugly memory of brand revivalists. I never wanted to have to write about this topic but it looks as if it is inevitable now. The now sad tale of Excelsior-Henderson is not the happy sort of column I should write with spring upon us but I need to unburden myself of some thoughts on the subject.
First, despite any rumors that you may hear to the contrary, I believe that E-H will not build any more motorcycles. I know that seems a bold yet obvious statement but many people, at least locally, have continued to hope beyond reason that a miracle might occur to save E-H. There has been a great deal of talk as to what the new owners, a group of attorneys from Florida, will do with the factory and all other assets of the company. Unfortunately they never returned any of my calls so I can’t comment on what their claimed motives are. My personal opinion is that their purchase of the dying company was an attempt of profit off the demise of E-H. By purchasing the company at a fire-sale price, they could then turn around and unload the factory at a later date for a tidy profit.
According to a press release from E-H last October they need and I quote, “A more extended period of time than originally anticipated to execute a successful, high impact reentry of the brand for the 2001 season.” Pardon my lack of tact, but who are they kidding? This is the same kind of stalling song and dance that has been heard time and time again for the brand revivalist hucksters. The cold hard truth is that E-H, at least in it’s current form, is for all intents and purposes done.
The tragedy for motorcycling is that E-H can now be added to the long list of brands that someone tried to resurrect but instead only ended up making the money of investors disappear. I am not putting E-H on the level of the con-men that tried to bring back Norton or the previous attempts with Indian. No, E-H gave it a real try. Personally, I feel E-H got ahead of themselves spending money on the long term without keeping the focus on the here and now. That they couldn’t get started and stay started during the strongest economy in recent memory still has me puzzled.
All is not lost though. There are several rumors flying around about who might be the next owner of the Belle Plaine factory and the rights to the E-H name and designs. Harley- Davidson is an obvious contender and I heard from reliable sources that engineers from H-D have toured the plant taking copious notes. There is also Bombardier, the maker of Ski-Doo snowmobiles, they have traded shots with Polaris for sometime. Since Polaris has done well with the Victory line, Bombardier is itching to find a way into the motorcycle market. And not least there is Arctic-Cat which like Bombardier, is looking for an avenue to enter the motorcycle scene. No matter how you slice it, if a large corporation steps in and buys the remains of E-H their chances of survival is better than it is right now.
So ride fast, take chances and stuff your money in your mattress.