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Where Are Indian Motorcycles Made? History, Facts & FAQs

Indian Motorcycle

Until recent years, the manufacturing of Indian motorcycles took place 100% in America. However, in 2019 production of models for European sales was moved to a 345,000 square foot facility in Poland. This move was primarily due to the massive tariffs the company had to pay when shipping their motorcycles to Europe.

Their North American inventory is manufactured in several locations around the States. Spirit Lake, Iowa, is the primary assembly facility, and the engines are manufactured in Osceola, Wisconsin. Several models in the Indian lineup are painted in a special facility in Spearfish, South Dakota.

car and road divider

The First Indian Motorcycles

Spirit Lake hasn’t always been the primary production facility. The Indian Motorcycle company dates back to 1897 when George Hendee started a bicycle manufacturing company called Hendee Manufacturing Company.

Later, in 1901, he opened a factory in Springfield, Massachusetts, and had his first gasoline-powered bike designed by Oscar Hedstrom.

Then in 1923, Hendee Manufacturing Company was renamed the Indian Motocycle Company—’r’ was left out of ‘motorcycle’ in the original name.

This company survived some steep odds in its early years. Two world wars and the Great Depression didn’t prevent the company’s success. In fact, during World War One, the Indian Motorcycle company contributed almost 50,000 bikes to wartime efforts.

Fiery red motorcycle with Beach handlebars
Image Credit: Pxhere

Trouble for the Brand

All production ceased in 1953, marking the end of the original Indian motorcycles. However, between 1955 and 2003, various companies bought and sold the Indian brand. Most of the models produced were imported motorcycles that were branded as Indian Motorcycles.

Who Owns Indian Motorcycles Now?

Finally, in 2011, a company stepped up to bring the dying brand back to life. Polaris Industries purchased the Indian Motorcycle Company and brought renewed vigor to the brand. Upon purchase of the company, Polaris Industries moved production of the units to the Iowa facility where they are currently manufactured.

The brand now features modern and powerful technologies combined with authentic and iconic designs. For example, when people think of Indian motorcycles, they think of the Chief. With their acquisition, instead of getting rid of the old, Polaris renewed and improved it without destroying its legacy.

A motorcycle with clubman handlebars
Image Credit: JumpStory

Why “Indian?”

What began as a way to differentiate the brand from its unreliable euro-counterparts in the early 1900s has become a more sensitive topic in recent years.

The two original creators, Hendee and Hedstrom, named it the Indian Motorcycle Company to give it a strong American name at the time. Everything about the brand, from logo to models, was soaked with indigenous imagery.

In recent years, this type of cultural appropriation has been on the hot seat. Many brands that use similar imagery within the company branding have gone through name and logo changes. Polaris Industries hasn’t made moves to change the brand.

However, they are attempting to build a bridge between the company and its indigenous inspiration. Many Native Americans love the brand and its connection to their heritage, but some disagree.

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The story of the Indian Motorcycle Company is one of many ups and downs. What first began as the pursuit of a motorized bike to trace the early bicycle races turned into one of the world’s favorite motorcycles.

Featured Image Credit: remzik, Shutterstock


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