Indian Motorcycles are creating yet more waves in the motorcycle industry. After tearing up American Flat Track in 2017, then releasing the FTR1200 Concept street tracker to huge critical and rider acclaim, now they have poached a new Director of product design from BMW, Ola Stenegard.
Stenegard worked for a previous incarnation of Indian, before Polaris bought the brand in 2011. He then joined BMW Motorrad where he changed perceptions of the company with the S1000RR sportsbike, a huge hit for the company on which the Swede was the project leader. He became head of motorcycle design at the German company, then changed perceptions of what BMW could be again, by embracing customisers like Roland Sands Design (with the Concept 90 that greased the runway for the RNineT production bike that would follow) and the troll-baiting El Solitario BMW custom, The Imposter aka The Most hated Motorcycle In The World. More recently Ola wrote about the Wedge BMW 310 for Sideburn 30). Not only that, he's been building his own custom bikes and choppers since he was in his teens. The photo below is one of Ola's best friends on a chainsaw-powered bike the pair built. Ola is a regular face at custom shows all over the world.
In previous conversations I've had with the firm's top brass it's clear that they don't see Indian as a heritage brand or constrained by cruisers, tourers and baggers, even if they're leaning that way at the moment.
Polaris had launched Victory, before they acquired the Indian name, and entered a Victory electric superbike at the Isle of Man TT, with Guy Martin as a stand-in rider, not long after acquiring electric bike pioneers Brammo. Victory, being a brand free from the shackles of convention or expectation of the market place, also competed at Pikes Peak with a V-twin bruiser, Project 156 (another collaboration with Roland Sand Designs).
Once it was obvious Indian did not have to be constrained by the marque's history, Victory's days were numbered. Polaris announced the closing of Victory on 9 January 2017, not long after the FTR750 made its stunning debut at the final round of the 2016 Grand National Championship (read all about that in Sideburn 27).
It'll be interesting to see what emerges from the Minnesota HQ. We're hopeful that Ola will be tasked with productionising the FTR1200. It seems a no-brainer for Indian to want to hastily parlay their racetrack success into showroom sales. Then what? An all-American muscle bike like the Project 156? An electric urban assault vehicle? Just more Chieftains? We'll have to wait and see.