Polaris Motorcycles Had a Stellar 2017 Amidst Industry Decline

Indian Motorcycles and Polaris Slingshot had a great year, even when the rest of 'em were struggling.

Indian Motorcycles

The motorcycles division of Polaris which consists of Indian, Slingshot, and formerly Victory had a good year despite an industry downturn. With the Victory brand winding down starting in January of 2017, the financial report for the year is a little complicated, so let's dig into it.

Reported sales for Polaris motorcycles in 2017 are down 18 percent. That sounds bad, but if you exclude Victory, sales were up 7 percent. In other words, sales of Indian and Slingshot went way up, but the total sales number for Polaris was down because Victory stopped existing early in 2017. Sales of the brands that still exist were especially good in the fourth quarter of 2017 with Polaris reporting a 17 percent sales increase for Indian and Slingshot sales almost doubling. In total, Polaris motorcycle sales were up 26 percent (excluding Victory) in Q4.

Motorcycles now make up 11 percent of all Polaris sales and income. That’s a lot considering Polaris is primarily an off-road and snowmobile brand that’s only been in the motorcycle game since the late 1990s. Indian and Slingshot have some serious momentum coming into 2018 and neither brand is showing any signs of slowing down.

This news is in sharp contrast to the financial picture of Harley-Davidson, Indian’s chief competitor (pun intended). Harley just reported a 2017 sales decline of 8.5 percent in the U.S. and 6.7 percent worldwide. The Milwaukee brand is also shutting down its Kansas City, Missouri plant moving operations to its York, Pennsylvania facility which will result in a net loss of about 350 jobs.

A good year for Polaris and a bad year for Harley-Davidson could be the beginning of a big shift in market share. Harley still dominates the big bike segment, but Indian has been gaining ground and the momentum is certainly in its favor. With Indian on a roll and big growth for the Slingshot three-wheel roadster, Polaris is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the motorcycle world.

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