The story behind the simultaneous unveiling of the new Indian Chief motorcycles at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota and in Sydney last Sunday reads like a military operation.
Indian Motorcycles country manager Peter Harvey says despite workers being sworn to secrecy and extraordinary security measures, he expected photos of the bikes to leak before the official launch.
However it all went off very smoothly with the bikes being unveiled live at the Indian/Victory dealership in Parramatta Rd on Sunday at exactly the same time as American road racing legend Don Emde rode one onstage in Sturgis.
The simultaneous release was a real coup for the Australian branch of the company and shows the level of trust the parent company has in the Antipodean branch, Peter says.
“We had to prove that we could sell a certain amount of bikes,” he says.
So they came up with the idea of the “111 Originals” to reflect the 111 years of Indian heritage and the new 111 cubic-inch Thunderstroke V-twin engine.
The idea was to give some extra incentives with badging and merchandise to the first 111 to slap down a $1000 deposit on the bikes – sight unseen. They were also invited t the Sydney unveiling.
It was a brave gamble, but they secured the 111 deposits ahead of time and the US parent company was so pleased it granted Australia the simultaneous release and secretly shipped 15 bikes to Melbourne.
The only hiccup in the launch was that the Sturgis unveiling was brought forward half an hour because of an approaching storm. In Sydney that meant special guest entertainer Ian Moss, guitarist for Cold Chisel, was only half way through his second song when he was cut off for the live internet feed.
Even before the unveiling, the project was surrounded in tight military-style security.
Asia-Pacific-Latin America managing director Ross Clifford was lucky enough to be one of the few people to test ride the bike in the States.
He says the bikes were blacked out and purposely ridden dirty so they wouldn’t attract attention. They were ridden on quiet country roads far away from the factory.
They were not allowed to stop to fill up with fuel and if a bike broke down they had a cover to throw over the bike while a truck was despatched to haul it back. Thankfully it was never needed, he says.
The bikes were shipped in locked containers to Melbourne where they were kept in a cordoned-off area of the warehouse.
They were assembled by a small crew after hours. Mobile phones were confiscated and the bikes were again locked in their containers at the end of each shift.
A truck was backed into the loading area so the bikes could be loaded secretly and a company representative followed the tuck to Sydney to ensure the cargo area wasn’t opened.
The success of the tight security was reflected in the fact that the Indian website crashed from heavy demand shortly after the unveiling.
Melbourne riders can see the Indian models from Friday, August 16, at 7pm, at the Indian Motorcycle Melbourne dealership, 544-554 Elizabeth St. No decision has been made about a Brisbane dealership, but is believed Indian and Victory want to establish their own premises.