Indian Motorcycle Rolls Out a 'Batmobile'

The company's latest hog is right out of a superhero movie

Polaris Industries unveiled yet another Indian motorcycle today, the latest in a burgeoning fleet aimed at swiping some market share from Harley-Davidson.

The Indian Chief Dark Horse is mechanically identical to the company's Chief Classic, a midsize cruiser that launched in August 2013. Aesthetically, however, it’s something else entirely; that’s where the “Dark Horse” part is evident. The machine looks, for lack of a better term, Batman-ish. Barring the exhaust pipes, it's almost entirely matte black, with a massive headlight and fenders curved like a Dick Tracy getaway car.

In the two dozen photos Polaris released to the press, there are no sunny interstates, stalks of amber grain, or serpentine desert canyons. The montage is all gritty streets, with a cold-looking fellow throttling his shineless motorcycle by the matte gray of Chicago's lakeshore and shadowy El tracks. The ad makes Indian's target buyer perfectly clear: Having already taken its shot at riders from the Midwest with the first Chief and the bigger Roadmaster model, the company is going after urban cowboys.

“We kind of gave it that mean look,” says Steve Menneto, vice president of motorcycles at Polaris. “I have a few guys that e-mailed me and said: ‘When you guys finally bring a blacked-out bike, I’ll buy an Indian.’”

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“Blacked out” is a popular trend in motorcycle style these days.

At $17,000, the Dark Horse is about $2,000 cheaper than the Chief Classic. It has the same engine, a Thunder Stroke that pushes 111 cubic inches, and the same whistles and bells: keyless ignition, antilock brakes, and dual exhaust. Dropping the chrome, however, shaves about 3 percent off the Chief’s weight. A Dark Horse sans fuel tips the scales at 751 pounds. In size and shape, it's similar to Harley's Fat Boy Lo, a slightly more expensive midsize bike that also gets the flat-black treatment.

The Dark Horse is tuned for tinkering. Riders can add on some 40 accessories, including “ape hanger” handlebars, heat shields, and black fender trims to fully blot out silver metalwork.

Indian’s famous “war bonnet” fender light.
Indian’s famous “war bonnet” fender light.

Polaris resurrected the long-defunct Indian brand in late 2013. And though the company already made motorcycles under its Victory brand—and even greater numbers of snow machines and all-terrain vehicles—building a badge from scratch isn’t a quick process. In the U.S., for example, Polaris has slightly less than 200 Indian dealers, compared with roughly 1,500 shops that sell Harleys. Still, there's some evidence that Indian is denting hogs a bit. The company said it now holds 5 percent of the big motorcycle market in the U.S. Meanwhile, Harley said last month that its U.S. market share declined by 1.6 percentage points in 2014. The Dark Horse might drag that number down further still.

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