The impending unveiling at the Sturgis Rally on August 3 of the all-new Indian Chief is eagerly anticipated by bike fans everywhere. Powered by the Thunder Stroke 111 air-cooled OHV engine that’s already been revealed by the Minneapolis-based Polaris Industries, the Chief’s debut will mark the kickoff in what promises to be a fascinating rematch of the showroom rivalry between Indian and Harley-Davidson that’s been ongoing ever since The Motor Company was founded in Milwaukee in 1903 – two years after the Indian Motocycle [sic] Company sold its first bike in 1901.
Steve Menneto, 47, is Polaris Industries’ Vice President of Motorcycles, and as such he’s the man who ultimately sold his fellow members on the Polaris board the idea of acquiring Indian. Having succeeded in doing so, he’s now entrusted with the task of making it work. Menneto has a unique understanding of the marketplace, having started out his business life as a Polaris dealer in New York, before crossing the bridge to join the company 15 years ago as director of sales for Polaris. He took over responsibility for Victory Motorcycles from Mark Blackwell in May 2009 and then, after Polaris purchased Indian in April 2011 from British entrepreneur Stephen Julius’s Stellican Corp., was promoted to Vice President of Motorcycles in August 2011. In his first major in-depth interview since doing so, he reveals his plans for Indian Motorcycle – including bringing what was once America’s most famous competition brand back to the racetrack.