Reopening another chapter of motorcycle history.
Indian motor groups are on a roll of European heritage brand revivals. Mahindra brought Jawa back to life and there are rumors that BSA will follow, and, more recently, TVS got its hands on Norton. That’s not to mention all the partnership Western brand established with Eastern brands to help grow their share of the Asian market. Now, it sounds like another dead brand is about to get an Indian makeover—Excelsior-Henderson.
In 2018, Indian Giant Bajaj secured the trademark for the name Excelsior-Henderson in the motorcycle design class (which includes vehicles, service, and parts). On December 15, 2020, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) registered a second Excelsior-Henderson trademark, this time in the clothing class (which notably includes apparel and motorcycle gear).
The recently published trademark prompted several publications to suggest that Bajaj could be gearing up for an Excelsior-Henderson revival. If you’re not aware, back in the early days of motorcycling there was the Excelsior Motor Manufacturing & Supply Company and the Henderson Motorcycle Company. Excelsior was owned by Ignatz Schwinn (yes, that Schwinn), who bought out the Henderson brothers and took ownership of the Henderson Motorcycle Company in 1917. Henderson production was moved to the Excelsior plant in Chicago, where they were primarily built for export to Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
Both Henderson and Excelsior ceased production in 1931, due largely to struggles brought on by the Great Depression. Six decades later, in the early-90s, the short-lived Hanlon Manufacturing Company bought the rights to both the Henderson and Excelsior names and produced an S&S V-twin-powered Harley clone called the Super X. Thanks to a saturated market, cost overruns, and some questionable management decisions, only around 2,000 of these latter-day Excelsior-Henderson’s were made in 1999 and 2000 before the company folded.
It’s unclear what role this possible E-H reboot will play within the Bajaj ranks. Considering most Indian bike makers have some form of a historical brand in their portfolio that rolls out neo-classic-looking bikes, one could suppose that that’s the segment of the market Bajaj is hoping to integrate with E-H. Or maybe the group is looking to introduce a line of Americanized cruisers with a more credible pedigree than the Avenger.
Or maybe it’s just going to be another one of those trademarks that will eventually fall off the radar. After all, patents and trademarks aren’t guarantees of new products, they only take us through a company’s thought process. Do you think Excelsior-Henderson should make a comeback?