Polaris keeps on buying things they may not really need. Why is that? And what about electric bikes, didn’t they already have one?
One of the great mysteries of the last 10 years was the disappearance of Victory Motorcycles. Okay we understand Polaris bought the rights to build Indian Motorcycles which made sense with the built-in history and the heritage and the oodles of money to be made selling Indian Motorcycles branded gear and plenty of press for the well-funded factory flat track teams, but some of us fell for the bait and came to appreciate the styling and attitude of Victory, “The Other American Motorcycle.” There were road tests and visits to the factory and evangelizing about the future of this new brand. There were burnouts and fat tires and changes from the norm aesthetics. There were factory customs by the Ness family—Arlen and Cory and Zach.
But when Polaris said don’t worry about it, we will continue to build both brands as separate entities, not many of us back then really believed it.
And in a late-September press release from Polaris it appears all memory of the Victory period seems to have been collectively erased from the corporate history. (One of those flash pens from Men in Black?) The news is, Polaris has entered into a 10-year agreement to work with Zero to electrify offroad vehicles including ATVs and snowmobiles. Polaris will develop, manufacture and sell electric ORVs and snowmobiles using Zero’s powertrain technology, hardware and software, so says the press release.
CEO of Polaris Scott Wine pumped his new partner’s tires saying, “Zero Motorcycles’ pioneering electrification experience, proven leadership, and electric powertrain technologies are unmatched in the market. We believe this transformative partnership will enable us to leapfrog technological hurdles around range and cost while providing a tremendous speed-to-market advantage – an instant offense. Leveraging the strengths of our teams and a shared culture of innovation and passion for this industry, Polaris and Zero will collaborate to shape the future of powersports.”
The deal is only for offroad vehicles because for Zero to allow their technology to be used by Polaris for street bikes would be like letting a 300-pound fox into the henhouse. So why would Polaris (AKA) Indian want to build an electric bike? Oh, there are reasons for that (hello LiveWire…)
Wine does have a point. Zero has successfully launched a number of electric bikes and they are one of the oldest surviving companies in the segment. But wait a minute. Didn’t Polaris already buy an electric motorcycle company—one that made pretty damn cool electric bikes five to 10 years ago? Yes they did! It was Brammo and the Brammo Empulse became the Victory Empulse.
Also, didn’t Victory take a race team to the Isle of Man and race in the eTT with a powerful electric engine the size of a paint can? Yes they did that too and fared quite well. There was some clue in the press release that Polaris does in fact remember once having electric capacity under its umbrella because it mentions the purchase of Brammo in 2015 and how the technology was used to build the Ranger EV SxS! This is true but what about the Empulse? And what about Brammo? That question might have occurred to Zero executives when they walked through Polaris headquarters and peeked into the closets. “I know they were here at some point.”
To be fair, Polaris is a giant company with annual sales of almost $7 billion. They own a lot of subsidiaries and have a giant footprint in motosport industries but perhaps they should send an intern into the basement or the warehouse because tucked in a corner somewhere, next to the dreams of Victory aficionados, is a crate labeled Brammo. Open it up, there is some pretty cool stuff inside.
Canadian Biker Issue #350