BMW’s top designer joins Indian and promises a new range of perception-changing models

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After 15 years at BMW, Ola Stenegärd, BMW’s Head of Vehicle Design, has joined Indian's holding-company Polaris. And the man responsible for machines like the S1000RR and the R nineT has revealed that he’s even been thinking of building sportsbikes and race bikes as well as developing Indian’s range of cruisers and flat-trackers.


Get chopping

“Part of the attraction for me was Polaris having a grounding in powersports,” he told MCN. “I don’t feel Indian comes with the baggage of other brands. Of course it’s big twins, of course it’s American, but it’s one of those brands that if Indian want to, they could break into any segment. Everything is possible and it’s so exciting.”

Despite spending so long looking after sportsbikes and boxer twins, Stenegärd’s real passion is American muscle. His own custom builds have been featured all over the world and they have even won awards at renowned shows such as the AMD European Championship of Bike Building and Mooneyes, Japan. So in many ways, going to Indian is like returning to his roots.

“I love race bikes and adventure bikes, the boxes I could tick at BMW, but at the same time my personal life is spent customising V-twins. I’ve just had this V-twin itch, so I’ve always wanted to go back to a proper company that works with V-twins. Now with this opportunity, it’s like coming home.”


Clean sheet

“Look back at BMW – we had to fight so hard to break out of the typical ‘pipe-and-slippers’ image,” he said. “It took a lot to pull that off. But Indian have the performance edge to pull it off… imagine if Indian were to do a supersport bike, then you have to start with a clean sheet of paper. There will always be Indian DNA in the bike but it might just be the logo, or the spirit of the old race bikes…


“A race bike is probably the best way forward because Indian have never done a supersport bike. There’s no heritage to fall back on, no icon to refer to – but maybe it’s a V-twin and you go into that kind of territory and the engine provides the heritage.”

What is clear, however, is that the easy customisation that made the R nineT so popular will remain a key part of Stenegärd’s future.

“If you want to be taken seriously in the motorcycle world where customising is so important, if not the driving factor, then you have to make the bike easy to customise for owners or you haven’t understood the segment in my opinion. Where Indian is right now, that’s the cornerstone of the whole segment.”


The future

Stenegärd is keen to develop Indian flat track and cruiser models further.

“When I saw the FTR1200 last year, I thought ‘they’ve just nailed it’ and I just wanted to ride it. I’m re ally to start working there and see what’s going on with that.

“I’m from Sweden, which is a real chopper country where we don’t even call it a chopper until you’ve got a 10-inch over fork. Is that for production? I’m not sure but the trick is to set the bike up in production so a customer could easily do that.”

And where is the future then if it’s not choppers?

“Well if I knew, I wouldn’t tell! You’re going to have to wait a couple of years and you will see,” said Stenegärd.

MCN is certainly intrigued to see what fresh ideas and designs Stenegärd brings to Indian...


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Jordan Gibbons

By Jordan Gibbons

News Editor, owns some old bikes. Should know better.