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March 12, 2007 – Building off a V-twin brand name

March 12, 2007
Filed under Features

CINCINNATI — Don’t look for Titan Motorcycle Co. to become the production titan of the V-twin industry again anytime soon.
One of the heritage brands of the V-twin industry, Titan has been manufacturing motorcycles in the 200-range for the past two years, said Donn Proudfoot, Titan’s president. He hopes to double that number, but don’t expect it to happen overnight.
“There’s too much product out there right now,” Proudfoot said, sitting at his company’s booth at the recently held V-Twin Expo in Cincinnati. “I think everybody is over-built right now.
“I sincerely believe this is a year of change in 2007. When the dust settles, there will be many fewer people (OEMs and aftermarket manufacturers) out there.”
The year of change for Titan came in 2001 when the company went from building 1,800 bikes in 2000 to filing for bankruptcy the following year. That event had followed four staggering years of growth, where the Phoenix, Ariz.,-based company jumped from a production level of 100 for 1996 to the 1,800 just four years later.
Titan’s rapid growth was the result of its founders’ decision to use the industry’s top aftermarket products — from Daytec frames to S&S engines — and a “a huge shortage of Harley-Davidsons and a pent-up demand for custom products,” Proudfoot said. “So they filled both needs by building a custom bike.”
At the time of the bankruptcy, Proudfoot was a Titan dealer who was stuck with $2 million in inventory. That issue, plus a belief in the product and its brand, led him to acquire the company’s assets.
“One of the resilient factors of Titan is its brand name,” Proudfoot said, noting the previous owners had spent $60-80 million in advertising and marketing.
“I think anybody is crazy to go start up a motorcycle company today,” Proudfoot said. “You’d be out of your mind.
“If you have a brand that already exists, you don’t have to explain to people who you are,” he said. “You might have to answer where you’re going, but at least they ask who you are.”
Today, Titan manufactures its various models for 30 dealers in Canada and the United States. Proudfoot would like to see that dealer network increase to 50, as the company has hopes to double its sales. The latter won’t happen in 2007, but potentially in 2008.
“At 400, we’re small enough that you can react to market needs and changes,” Proudfoot said.
Titan offers a range of bike models, including the long and low Radical Rigid, with its 37-degree rake and air-cooled V-Twin 112ci S&S powerplant; the Sidewinder, which the company calls the “the world’s only production rubber mount chopper;” and the company’s long-popular Gecko bike.
“The product didn’t fail,” Proudfoot said of Titan. “At the time, the management failed.” psb

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