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REVIVING INDIAN THE RIGHT WAY

There were so many ways it could have gone wrong when Polaris announced just three years ago its intention to revive the Indian brand. The Minnesota-based powersports giant was the latest in a very long line of interested investors—some honorable, many not—who had endeavored to “revive” the once great and proud brand since the original Indian Motocycle company was liquidated in 1953. None were very successful, and after almost six decades of being leveraged to sell everything from leaky Brit bikes to overpriced T-shirts to fake Harley-Davidsons, the Indian nameplate was looking decidedly second-hand. Many of us wondered if anyone, even a company so savvy as Polaris, could save the Indian name.

Instead, there were so many ways this revival went right. It started with the usual tropes (“respect and honor the proud heritage of America’s first motor-cycle brand…”), but this time the rhetoric was backed by a series of increasingly inspired—and inspiring—results. First came the Thunder Stroke 111 V-twin engine, all new, thoroughly up to date, unmistakably Indian. Then the “Spirit of Munro,” a breathtaking, hand-built streamliner honoring Burt Munro of The World’s Fastest Indian fame, the most original and unexpected factory custom in years. The first motorcycle—the Chief—appeared next, an absolutely on-point update of Indian’s most legendary model. Now, just one year later, we witness another all-new platform—the Scout—a middleweight cruiser powered by a 100-hp liquid-cooled V-twin, showing the reborn Indian wouldn’t just coast along on its past but also forge an innovative future.

It takes a tribe of dedicated designers, engineers, manufacturing specialists, and marketeers to make a motorcycle, but Steve Menneto is the chief who directed this lightning-fast, laser-focused revival of the Indian brand. It’s no coincidence his promotion to vice president of Polaris’ Motorcycle Division, overseeing both the Indian and Victory brands, corresponded precisely with the Indian acquisition in April 2011. Although he is quick (and constant) to credit the entire Indian staff, it’s his clear-eyed leadership that made Indian what it is today.

A lifelong motorcycle enthusiast and former Polaris dealer, Menneto joined the company in 1997 in a sales role and worked his way upward, a career track that produced the clear comprehension and internal connections he needed to leverage Polaris’ considerable engineering ability, manufacturing capability, and financial stability in the service of rebuilding the Indian brand. But to balance such nuts-and-bolts project management with the soft science of brand building takes both discipline and a delicate touch. Menneto exhibited both.

“Engineering, development, marketing—Polaris is really good at that,” Menneto says. “With Indian, the challenge—and the driving force—is acting as proper stewards of the brand. We take a lot of time to do things the right way, to make people proud of us, and I’m ecstatic about what we’ve done so far.”

Indian has been hard on the gas, delivering two all-new platforms in two years—a demanding task, even for a company as powerful and resource rich as Polaris. Menneto promises to keep racing ahead but without upsetting that careful balance between forward-looking innovation and simultaneously celebrating the brand’s past.

“What would Indian look like if it had operated continuously from 1953 to the present?” Menneto asks. “Indian was innovative. Indian was racing. Indian was supporting the military. That rich history has to be brought forward, but we have to make new stories too. We showed we would pay respect to our history. Now we’re going to blow them away. The innovation side of our brand history is strong too, and now we want people to realize and feel that.”
 

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Every time I see him being interviewed, I think to myself, "I would love to work on his team." There aren't many out there that I would say that about. His passion for what he does always comes through, and I really appreciate the way he shows respect for the heritage of the name while still pushing for innovative new ideas. Not many like him out there. IMHO, this is recognition richly deserved.
 

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Its good to know we still have some executives in this country that put product before profits.

I am very proud to have joined the Indian family
 

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Every time I see him being interviewed, I think to myself, "I would love to work on his team." There aren't many out there that I would say that about. His passion for what he does always comes through, and I really appreciate the way he shows respect for the heritage of the name while still pushing for innovative new ideas. Not many like him out there. IMHO, this is recognition richly deserved.
Agreed! I particularly like that he called it "stewardship". Indicating a recognition that he has something to care for and a responsibility to live up to its formerly glorious name, Americana, history, and tradition.

If you end up working for him, let me know. I may just sell everything and join you! :)
 

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I just purchased a 2015 Chief vintage from Menneto Powersports yesterday, his daughter was my salesperson, good people!
 

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Not to take anything away from Willie G, but his era is over. Regardless of what the anti-cruiser whiners and other brand loyal haters think, Steve Menneto, Greg Brew and the Polaris motorcycle engineering and design group (Victory & Indian) are positioned to be the new m/c stars of the 21st century. These guys have proven that they do their homework, can build a quality machine and are willing to push the envelope on design. With continued success, both brands should be able to produce a spectrum of bikes that will please all riders. If that happpens, everybody wins.
 

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I would say the award is well deserved for Steve. He seems like somebody you would like to know and there is no doubt he is a motorcycle guy and has a lot of passion for what he does. The people who purchased 2014 Indians took a huge leap of faith in Polaris to buy a brand new Thunder Stroke engine. There are 2014 Thunder Stroke engines that have excessive noise issues. If you read any Indian website, you can read about the issue and most folks report the same type of noise in the same RPM range. I have one of these engines. It bothers me to the point as it does others, that I find myself not wanting to ride the bike. I have talked to Indian, I was told they were not aware of the problem. The dealer I took my bike to for my first oil change told me mine was not the worst bike he had heard, but they didn't have a solution and to just ride it. My Son and I bought new Indians the same day, his engine was not as noisy as mine, but it too had noise and it bothered him. He has sold his bike. I would like Steve to know I have always liked Indian Motorcycles. My Father rode an Indian as a young man. I have waited for many years to own an Indian Motorcycle and was excited when I heard at Sturgis the year Polaris had purchased Indian and went to the Indian display to visit with the Polaris folks on hand. I told them when they got the new Indian out, I would be in line to purchase one. I kept my word. Now what I'm hoping is that Indian will address the noise issue on the 2014 engines. Please don't tell me and others that this is "normal" or it's a big air cooled V-Twin and they "all sound like that". I have ridden big twins since 1977 and neither of those things is true. I have ridden Indians that don't sound like my bike. Steve we need you or someone at Indian to take the lead on this issue and fix or replace these engines.
 
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