About 35,000 people tested Polaris Industries’ new “Ride Command” at the Sturgis motorcycle rally.
The verdict at the South Dakota tradition earlier in August — and a dealers’ show in July — was a resounding thumbs up, the Medina-based all-terrain vehicle and motorcycle company said.
The infotainment and communication system is currently on two Indian Motorcycles models and one limited-edition off-road four-wheeler. The high-tech system connects riders, displays navigational and diagnostic information and offers the “most rider-friendly system available on two wheels,” company officials said.
Polaris’ goal was to give its motorcycle and off-road customers the same conveniences and connectedness found in modern cars.
The technology is not the first to market. Harley-Davidson won those bragging rights. But Polaris’ Ride Command boasts “the biggest screen, fastest processor and is the most customizable” system in the industry, officials said.
“With functionality tailor-made for the off-road experience, we have made it even easier for [Polaris] consumers to experience the excitement of off-road vehicles” and motorcycles, said CEO Scott Wine.
Ride Command’s 7-inch touch-screen monitor is built into the dashboard and comes with Bluetooth technology and controls for a 100-watt audio system, voice-activated phone, smartphone connections and eight “information screens” that can be customized.
The enhanced system, which was engineered at Polaris’ Wyoming, Minn., research-and-development center, lets drivers integrate their mobile phones, Go-Pro cameras and audio into their recreational vehicles. Integrated Bluetooth headsets let passengers and drivers talk to each other. The informational screen tracks vehicle diagnostics, displays navigational tools and connects communication devices with one touch of a glove-covered finger.
Ride Command retails for about $1,000 for bikes and $1,499 on ATVs. For now, it’s only available on the 2017 Indian Roadmaster, 2017 Indian Chieftain motorcycles and on Polaris’ limited edition 2017 Velocity Blue RZR XP 1000 EPS ATV. It will roll out to other Polaris models in future years.
Matt Homan, president of Polaris’ off-road vehicle division, said the technology is a “game- changer” for Polaris because it enhances the social experience of motorcycle and off-road driving.
“Off-roading is often intended to be a social experience, but in reality, it can be a disconnected one when you can’t communicate with other people in your vehicles or in your ride group,” Homan said. Ride Command broadens “the social experience — connecting riders to each other during the ride and giving them tools to share their ride afterward.”
Polaris spokeswoman Kelly Basgen said riders like that. “It’s been very well received,” she said. “You can now plan your ride on an app, sync it with your vehicle’s digital display, and then track where you and your friends are during the ride. You can also control devices like GoPro cameras straight from the display.”
The complex product took Polaris two years, tens of millions of dollars and about 40 designers, engineers and software programmers to bring to fruition. The company said it fully expects to recoup its investment.
At Sturgis, “it was a crazy amount of people sitting on the bikes and playing and poking and having a lot of fun with it,” said Steve Menneto, president of Polaris’ motorcycle division.
The system will soon be seen by thousands more at upcoming shows such as Biketoberfest in Daytona Beach, SEMA in Las Vegas, Blues, Bikes & BBQ in Arkansas and at a trade show in Cologne, Germany later this year.
The market potential is enticing, Menneto said.
Polaris makes 150,000 hefty cruisers each year. Some 75 percent of its customers say they want enhanced communication, display and infotainment bells and whistles. If that continues, it means an extra $1.1 million in product sales a year.
“And that is just for motorcycles. You still have the whole other world of off-road vehicles,” Menneto said. Potentially, “it is a big number and why this is such a big opportunity for us.”
While Polaris spent the last five years bringing back the iconic but nearly defunct Indian Motorcycle brand it bought in 2011, the manufacturer is now focused on adding more high-tech and classically styled options for bike enthusiasts.
The same goes for its off-road vehicles, a category that’s become highly competitive as it faces a downturn.
“Polaris has become a leader for outdoor enthusiasts by anticipating what our customers will want and delivering it,” Wine said. “Technology is fundamental to the future of Polaris and are we are thrilled to continue a long history of innovation by … truly [connecting] riders to their vehicles and to other riders with Ride Command.”