The irony of the name makes the company's shuttering all the more bitter.
But it is, sadly, official. In a statement released Monday, Polaris Industries announced that their Iowa-based, classic cruiser-producing subsidiary will cease production after 18 years in the industry. “Victory has struggled to establish the market share needed to succeed and be profitable,” Polaris stated. Chairman and CEO Scott Wine’s full statement reads something like a resounding “We did our best.”
Founded in 1997, Victory was Polaris's attempt to expand their brand for big-boy toys like snowmobiles, ATVs and watercrafts into the very competitive market for American road bikes. The first moto they manufactured, an Antares Red & Black V92C, hit the road on July 4th, 1998 in a symbolic gesture; they dubbed it the “rebirth of the American V-Twin.”
That V92C was introduced by Al Unser, winner of the Indianapolis 500 four times over. It was packing a 1500cc engine and a five-speed gearbox, hydraulic lifters and fuel injectors. Of note: most parts of the motorcycle were produced in Minnesota, with the single exception being Brembo brakes. Valued at $12k, the bikes gained a lot of attention but not a great deal of sales.
To shake things up, Victory soon released the V92SC SportCruise, which survived two generations before being discontinued when it didn't live up to fiscal expectations.
In the following years, Victory Motorcycles launched a series of makes that found greater traction, including the Hammer, the Jackpot, the Kingpin (pictured above) and the Vegas, which all saw multiple generations of production.
Probably Victory's most popular make, with 25 generations, the Vision launched in '05. The sport-touring moto stood out from the crowd thanks to exclusive components like heated handlebars and custom stitching; its 10th-anniversary edition sold out in seven minutes in 2009.
They also launched plenty of one- and two-off custom makes, like the Judge, the Hard-Ball, the Boardwalk and the completely radical Core (pictured above). In keeping with the times, they also released a spendy $20k all-electric racer named the Empulse TT in 2015.
News of the company's shutdown came as a surprise to the motorcycling community, especially considering that until a few weeks ago, Victory was showing its 2017 collection at industry events worldwide. But Polaris stated that they will help dealers liquidate existing inventory, continue to supply parts and service for 10 years and honor warranty coverage accordingly.
The company's future first became uncertain in 2011, when Polaris acquired Indian Motorcycles. Originally envisioned as a competitor to Harley Davidson and Indian, Victory had hoped there was room for three in the luxury touring game. But they were never able to break free of their reputation as entry-level leisure machines. While Harley took the place of, say a Chevy or Caddies, and Indian — more aspirational — stood in for a Bentley or Rolls, Victory was left to fight for scraps.
So now we bid them a wistful adieu.
It was a good run.