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INTRODUCTION TO MARKETING (MKT333) Case Study #9 Polaris Industries Harley-Davidson Inc. and Polaris Industries Inc.



Case Study #9

Polaris Industries

Harley-Davidson Inc. and Polaris Industries Inc. are unquestionably the American leaders in motorcycle manufacturing and power-sports vehicle manufacturing, respectively.

Polaris, a company known for its snow-mobiles and all-terrain vehicles, is based in Wisconsin.  Harley-Davidson, the iconic American motorcycle manufacturer celebrating 100 years of continuous production, is located in Minnesota.

Polaris initiated a run at Harley-Davidson 15 years ago with their introduction of the Victory Motorcycle.  This year, with a multi-billion dollar financial portfolio, Polaris revived the Indian brand to compete head-to-head with Harley-Davidson.

In 2012, Polaris redefined the Victory Motorcycle brand as bold and provocative.  “We’re building the best bikes on the planet by brazenly doing what we believe is right, and we’re attracting riders who feel the same way.”  In 2011, Victory Motorcycles’ generated $146 million worldwide.  In 2012, after more clearly defining the brand, sales grew 64% to $240 million.

It’s only natural that a brand idled for almost 60 years might take some time to get “up to speed” in the marketplace.  The Indian Motorcycle brand was born in 1922, shut down in 1954, and resurrected by Polaris Industries in 2013.  Indian Motorcycles have a rich 112-year-old heritage as America’s first motorcycle company.  To build on that heritage, Polaris maintained the bike’s classic styling cues.  In addition, after WWII, more than 40,000 Indian bikes used for military service were left behind in Europe-- so there’s a strong platform for brand resurrection there.

On Saturday, August 3, 2013, in front of a “packed house” on the main street of Sturgis, Polaris rolled out the first three Indian Motorcycles it had produced, among them the traditional-styled 2014 Indian Chief Vintage.

Now Polaris is taking on Harley-Davidson Inc., which sells one out of every two motorcycles purchased in the United States each year and practically owns the "Made in the USA" segment of the market.

But Polaris remains a manufacturer of high-priced, discretionary consumer products in an uncertain and increasingly competitive environment.  Choice is here. Be part of history.

Management believes previous efforts have priced Indian bikes too high, so Polaris is inviting direct comparisons with Harley by setting prices in Harley-Davidson's sweet spot, ranging from $19,000 for the Indian Chief Classic to $23,000 for the Indian Chieftain - about half what the Indian Motorcycle was selling for under previous ownership.

Tim Conder, an analyst at Wells Fargo Securities, says Polaris hopes to ship 1,500 Indians this year and 8,000 in 2014, targeting riders at the higher end of Harley-Davidson's target demographic of 25- to 55-year-olds "who are not predisposed" to the Milwaukee-based company's products.

Harley-Davidson, by comparison, has said it plans to ship up to 264,000 bikes to dealers this year, up from 247,625 in 2012 but down from the 2006 peak of about 350,000 units.

Like Harleys, Indians will be made in the United States, their engines manufactured in Osceola, Wisconsin, and the bikes assembled in Spirit Lake, Iowa. To a non-enthusiast, they look a lot like Harleys, though with a decidedly retro styling. In its review of the new Indian Motorcycle, Cycle World compared the styling of the top-of-the-line Chieftain to the streamlined trains of the 1950s. It's not a bad description.

While the company is well-established in the U.S., the real growth potential is in the global market.  Polaris is aggressively growing and expanding its international presence, most notably in sales in Europe (69%) and in Australia/New Zealand (14%).  Although Polaris’ Asia sales is only 1% it is expanding aggressively in both India and China.  Brazil is also on the expansion target.

Polaris does not sell directly to consumers.  Polaris uses independent certified dealers throughout the world. Polaris has 1600 independent dealers in North America and another 43 distributors internationally.  Polaris has an agreement with GE Money Bank which allows financing and credit to customers buying Polaris products.

Polaris manufactures off-road vehicles (ORVs) which accounted for 69% of all sales; snowmobiles 9%; and on-road vehicles (like Victory and Indian motorcycles) which in 2012 accounted for 8% if sales.  In addition, Polaris manufactures a full-line of replacement parts as well as additional branded garments and accessories (PG&A) which in 2012 accounted for 14% of total revenue.  Total sales in 2012 grew by 21% over 2011 to more than $2 billion.


 Identify and describe the strategies used in Polaris’ marketing mix.With the Indian Motorcycle, specifically, what is the unique selling proposition (USP)?How would you define the target market of Polaris products?Why is global expansion important to Polaris?What is the brand image of Indian Motorcycles?Do you think the Indian Motorcycle can compete successfully against Harley-Davidson?

Why or why not?  Explain.

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As a reexamined organization, Polaris is looking to unperch Harley-Davidson from the business
sector pioneer's position in the United States. In its endeavors, it has balanced its marketing...

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