Harley-Davidson startled the motorcycle world earlier this year by unveiling a prototype for an electric street racer.
Now Polaris Industries, which owns the Indian and Victory lines of Harley-like road cruisers, has jumped into the electric bike business -- and fired a warning shot at Harley -- by acquiring Oregon-based Brammo Inc.
By summer, Polaris says, expect to see an electric Victory in dealerships.
The acquisition means more investment in Brammo, which has already had cash infusions from Polaris. It also means Polaris will start making electric motorcycles at its Indian factory in Spirit Lake, Iowa.
Terms of the sale were not disclosed.
Polaris Chairman and Chief Executive Scott Wine said his company’s orginal interest and investment in Brammo had nothing to do with motorcycles. Polaris was looking for battery-powered electric powertrains for its four-wheeled Ranger ATVs.
But Polaris engineers were so intrigued by Brammo’s motorcycles that an acquisition materialized.
Besides, Wine said, Harley-Davidson’s mid-2014 revelation that it was working on the electric LiveWire -- and the enormous interest sparked by that announcement -- encouraged Polaris to get busy with electricity.
“Ironically, we may have to thank Harley for opening up a market opportunity for us,” Wine said. “We don’t think there will be a mass transformation of people going from internal combusion engines to electric, but this is an emerging tecnology and we expect to be the market leader with it.”
Polaris is a huge, $3.8-billion-a-year power sports company with interests in motorcycles, off-road vehicles like the Ranger and Razr four-wheelers, and snowmobiles.
Polaris stock closed up slightly on the news.
Brammo is an award-winning company behind the widely admired Empulse and Enertia electric motorcycles.
Polaris’ heft may help make Brammo more mainstream. The company’s sleek, powerful, and virtually silent motorcycles begin at $16,995 -- out of reach for a lot of motorcycle enthusiasts.
It will also enable Polaris to expand its electrical interests into other platforms.
Does it mean the end of the Brammo Empulse and Enertia models?
Wine hinted that while existing inventory of the Oregon company’s motorcycles will certainly be sold, future product will look a lot more like Victory and Indian and less like Brammo.