Polaris To Wind Down Victory Motorcycles But Electric Empulse Could Be Reborn

4 months ago by Mark Kane 12

Victory Empulse RR

Victory Empulse RR at Pikes Peak

Polaris Industries announced this month that it has begun winding down its Victory Motorcycles brand, as well as related operations.

The reason cited is a lack of profitability for Victory, and an approaching investment requirement for new models.

Moving forward, Polaris has decided to focus on its other, money-making, ventures (think Indian Motorcyclse) and to abandon Victory Motorcycles.

Victory Empulse TT

Victory Empulse TT

In the short term, that also means the withdrawal of the Victory Empulse TT electric motorcycle (based on the Brammo Empusle).

“Polaris Industries, Inc. today announced it will immediately begin winding down its Victory Motorcycles brand and related operations.

Polaris will assist dealers in liquidating existing inventories while continuing to supply parts for a period of 10 years, along with providing service and warranty coverage to Victory dealers and owners. Today’s announcement does not affect any other Polaris business units.”

“Several factors influenced today’s announcement. Victory has struggled to establish the market share needed to succeed and be profitable. The competitive pressures of a challenging motorcycle market have increased the headwinds for the brand. Given the significant additional investments required for Victory to launch new global platforms that meet changing consumer preferences, and considering the strong performance and growth potential of Indian Motorcycle, the decision to more narrowly focus Polaris’ energy and investments became quite clear.”

Polaris acquired Brammo in 2015, and tried to sell a slightly redesigned Empulse for about $20,000, as well as use racing version as marketing tool for the Victory Brand, starting at Isle of Man and continuing on to Pikes Peak in 2016.

According to Motorcycle.com article, Polaris will “continue the electric part of the business…“  It’s also expected that we will see electric Indian motorcycle as competitor for upcoming electric Harley-Davidson in the next few years.

“Future products and markets will develop, both on-road and off-road”

Polaris Industries Chairman and CEO Scott Wine said:

“This was an incredibly difficult decision for me, my team and the Polaris Board of Directors. Over the past 18 years, we have invested not only resources, but our hearts and souls, into forging the Victory Motorcycles brand, and we are exceptionally proud of what our team has accomplished. Since inception, our teams have designed and produced nearly 60 Victory models that have been honoured with 25 of the industry’s top awards. The experience, knowledge, infrastructure and capability we’ve built in those 18 years gave us the confidence to acquire and develop the Indian Motorcycle brand, so I would like to express my gratitude to everyone associated with Victory Motorcycles and celebrate your many contributions.”

“This decision will improve the profitability of Polaris and our global motorcycle business, and will materially improve our competitive stance in the industry. Our focus is on profitable growth, and in an environment of finite resources, this move allows us to optimize and align our resources behind both our premium, high performing Indian Motorcycle brand and our innovative Slingshot brand, enhancing our focus on accelerating the success of those brands. Ultimately this decision will propel the industry-leading product innovation that is core to our strategy while fostering long-term growth and increased shareholder value.”

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13 responses to "Polaris To Wind Down Victory Motorcycles But Electric Empulse Could Be Reborn"

  1. Nix says:

    The bigger Polaris issue is separate from the Empulse electric motorcycle. It was poor ICE motorcycle sales that really killed Victory.

    But the Empulse lost the EV motorcycle battle too. Zero won.

    The original concept of putting a transmission into the Empulse was that the transmission was needed in order to make up for the lack of battery power when using batteries as small as 6.0 kWh. The gearing was to make up for the low power output from the drivetrain.

    That idea had merit in 2011. But now Zero builds single gear drivetrains that are better. 116 ft/lb of torque, 70 HP, 0-60 in the 3’s, with more range than the Empulse, and nice features like ABS.

    Meanwhile the Empluse has changed little from the 2012 design, and carries around a transmission that is now obsolete after half a decade of yearly updates over at Zero.

    If the Empluse is to be reborn, it needs to be more of a Phoenix style rebirth, vs just another badge change with some cosmetic downgrades like when Polaris took over. They need to start again from scratch with an entirely new drivetrain that can compete with Zero.

    1. SparkEV says:

      Don’t forget cheaper. Some zero can be had for under $10K while decked out models are still cheaper than Empulse. If Polaris really want to compete in electric motorcycles (or motorcycles in general), they need to offer more compelling bikes at lower price.

      They also need to compete against Japanese and European bikes, not just bikes for the elderly crowd like Harley.

    2. Zero_X_Rider says:

      Zero has used a single gear drivetrain for over a decade, regardless of power pack capacity. Perhaps this will help Empulse and Zero combine strengths:
      http://www.sportrider.com/brian-wismann-joins-zero-motorcycles-as-vp-product-development

  2. Vinny says:

    I don’t have much hope of seeing anything electric come out of Indian. Would love to see an Indian version of the Brutus V9 electric cruiser with its 33.7 kWh battery and 200 mile + range. But Polaris should have hired the designer of the Empulse, Brian Wismann who just took a job at Zero. Victory did nothing with the Empulse except rebadge it with their logo. Sad.

    1. MT says:

      Victory was already burned by hiring Arlen Ness to help design their primary line of bikes.

      His designs were good, but they looked far too custom straight from the factory.

      This reduced profit in two ways. It turned away sales to people who wanted a more traditional bike, and severely reduced the most profitable segment of motorcycle sales: factory customization accessories!

  3. Ted says:

    I’m a Harley guy but I always felt Victory motorcyles lacked something as far as design went. Too bad because they were a bad ass bike.

    1. Freddy Clark says:

      I have Victory Cross Country. I have done a lot to it. I love the ride. I love the Witch Doctor after market parts. I like the videos on repairing and maintenance. I feel let down by Victory. Who says they want drop the ball on Indian when the market fails. What about loyalty to the consumer. One thing for sure Harley has that loyalty.

  4. realistic says:

    The market problems with E-Motorcycles are that
    (a) there isn’t enough differentiation in the riding experience to make electrification really, really compelling. Riding a bike is by nature a very intimate connection to the wind and the road, so the NVH advantages that you sense in an auto (“cage” to you 1%-ers) are greatly diminished.
    (b) price-to-performance advantages for the blinding straight-line runs that excite bikers just isn’t there like it is in cars. The $120K-ish Model S P/L has no 0-60 ICE peer at the same sticker, but the pricey E-Bikes have to compete against crotch rockets at similar o lower prices that can keep up pretty well.
    (c) otherwise rational and law-abiding people lose their minds over stupid operation of noisy and intimidating bikes in ways that they don’t for cars. I don’t know why but that’s how it is.

    Please know I’ve built a 2kW bicycle conversion and two e-kick scooters that I find great fun. I’m hooked. I also hate noisy engines (my screaming Bassani-piped 750 H2 Triple was scrapped after a horrendous wreck in 1974, so those days are long behind me). I’m just telling the market truths that hobble profitable price points for electric motorcycles.

  5. Vinny says:

    The marketing appeal of electric motorcycles is about how the electric motor delivers power compared to an ICE. No one makes an ICE that delivers power as smoothly or has the torque of an electric motor. My Zero SR has about the same HP and the same weight as my 650 V-Strom. But my SR has well over twice the torque of the V-Strom and as far as performance goes will smoke the V-Strom in every way except top speed. The only electric motorcycles that are competing with crotch rockets are bikes like the Energica EGO which is a sport bike. If you look at the 60-80 MPH top gear roll-on speed of the Zero SR it will beat most bikes out there. For people who are looking at a standard motorcycle design electrics are becoming more attractive. My Zero dealer in Raleigh NC is the largest Zero dealer outside of California. We have had many discussions about who is buying them and why. It’s all about the torque which is why the Zero SR sells well. For the record I do have a sport bike, a ZX-6R. Yes it is fast but for commuting I really prefer the SR.

    1. wavelet says:

      realistic & vinny,
      e-motorcycles are actually doing pretty badly, %-wise of ICE bikes and in absolute terms. IIRC, Zero barely made 5 figures of units in 2015, and Brammo never did (as opposed to e-scooters, which sell in the 100Ks in China).

      The problem is range, range and range.
      Sure, at city speeds, range is excellent, and will cover commuting distances for a day or three, no issues. But if that’s all you ride, why bother with a motorcycle? An e-scooter or even e-bicycle will do just as well.

      The reason I, and many like me, haven’t bought a Zero, is because it can’t handle the weekend day-ride scenario:
      — ~100mi at ~75mph on the freeway to get to the fun roads;
      — ~100mi ditto to get back home
      — ~150-200mi at a range of slower speeds (30-60mph, but a lot of acceleration/deceleration) on the twisties & sweepers.
      (and really more at the upper end of that for a bit of emergency reserve, like accidents)

      That doesn’t mean a 400mi range is needed on a single charge, but for a reasonable day-tour experience, one basically needs to be able to do it with at most 2 charging stops (45min at lunch, an additional 30min one).
      That’s the real problem, and unfortunately, looks like it’ll take years to get solved… batteries will improve a bit, but there’s a limit how heavy they can get on a motorbike; a “normal” (not Terry Hershner-like full-aero 🙂 ) can prob. add 30%-40%, but that’s still not enough.
      Only solution is fast charging, but many/most DCFCs don’t support the lowish-voltage Zero batteries.

  6. Mark Dye says:

    Victory Octane model and the Gunner gave promise for racing programs and younger audiences. My hope is that Indian continues the racing theme. The upcoming AMA Flat Track Indian Racing Team gives hope for renewing the Harley vs Indian wars.

    Indian – please keep the Octane bike

  7. wavelet says:

    So we’re basically left with one actual (low-volume) mass-production brand, Zero. That’s really a shame — I was hoping Polaris intended to invest in the area.

    Hopefully one or more of the established brands will finally release e-motorcycles and not just concepts…

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