Viper ready to mass-produce its SuperCruiser bikes

Company moves, makes
new hires, adds dealers

By Liz Hochstedler
Associate Editor

Just over a decade after Viper Powersports was founded, the OEM, now known at Viper Motorcycle Company, has begun mass-producing what it has dubbed its “Supercruiser” motorcycles.

The company completed a cross-country move in July, recently added to its executive team and is now seeking dealers to distribute its motorcycles.

A new vision
John Silseth founded Viper Powersports in 2000. Silseth had worked with Norton Motorcycles, March Racing and Melling Sports Cars, but he had a passion for motorcycles and saw an opportunity for a new company.

“He saw a niche. There are a lot of custom bikes out there, Harley and everything else, but there wasn’t a bike that was both good looking and really, really fast, so that was what he wanted to build,” said Colbert Seagraves, vice president of marketing and racing operations for Viper Motorcycle Company.

Viper Powersports began producing a small number of bikes in 2004. Development continued, and for a time, the motorcycles featured Patrick Racing engines. To achieve its vision, the company began developing its own proprietary engine, and in 2010 Silseth formed a joint venture with Ilmor Engineering, a Roger Penske-owned company, and Viper Motorcycle Company’s Supercruisers were created.

Viper defines a Supercruiser as a new class of cruiser, combining power, performance and style. The company defines the power as a cruiser motorcycle that has acceleration equal to that of a sport bike, performance as handling characteristics that blend the middle ground of sport bike cornering on paved roads with cruiser comfort on the open highway, and style as extreme premium surface finishing and exotic styling as found in custom motorcycles.

With the bikes finally moving toward a larger production launch, the manufacturer moved earlier this year, from a 12,000-square-foot building in Hopkins, Minn., to a 63,000-square-foot facility built in Auburn, Ala., specifically for Viper.

“We felt like it was the next logical step,” Seagraves said. “We had pretty much gone through the R&D, and we feel like the Ilmor engine and our chassis is ready now.”

Alabama was an ideal location because the state offered a competitive business package; the city of Auburn is growing; Talladega Superspeedway’s testing facility is a short drive away, and Viper has created an arrangement to work with the Auburn University engineering department. Also, the motorcycle-riding season in Alabama is traditionally longer than in Minnesota.

Moving forward
In addition to the physical move of the company’s headquarters, Viper is also taking a new direction with its staff.
“We’ve changed. John has taken the company in a new direction with the new hires,” Seagraves reported.


Andrew Broadley, formerly a racecar builder with Lola cars in the United Kingdom and chief technical director for Indian Motorcycles, is now the technical director of operations. Tim Kling has been named the CFO, after serving in that position for Lehman Trikes. Dave Leysen has more than 20 years of manufacturing experience, working for General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, BMW and Indian Motorcycles, and he is now the director of operations for Viper. Mike Mann, vice president of investor relations, was instrumental in securing capital for Viper’s move, and Seagraves brings with him more than 25 years of race and sports marketing experience.

The team is working toward a goal of mass-producing Supercruiser motorcycles, while developing more models in the future. Viper’s Diamondback will be the first off the line.

“What makes the Diamondback unique is it’s basically it’s the fastest production V-twin motorcycle in the world,” Seagraves explained. “The Viper Ilmor engine is 152 cubic inches; it’s all billet; it’s a V-twin; it’s unmatched in torque and overall power.”
The bike also features a proprietary powertrain vibration dampening system, a twin scavenge dry sump system with twin internal oil pumps and on-the-fly adjustment of the air ride suspension.

“Nothing compares to it,” Seagraves said. “It has the bottom-end torque; it’s got a lot of power; it’s got a low center of gravity. Women love it, and the adjustability where you can raise and lower it, it’s complementary to women riders.”

The Diamondback was set to begin production at the end of September. A model deemed the Mamba, which will debut this winter, will follow. In 2012, the company plans on releasing a trike with the Viper Ilmor engine.

“I think we’re very unique. I don’t know of anybody that’s out there that comes close to us,” Seagraves said. “Like I said, we’re a niche company. I don’t look at us as competition for Harley-Davidson. Big Dog has gone under — they would probably have been our competition.”
The new facility has the capacity to produce up to 100 motorcycles per month, though production will start at much lower levels.
“We have eight workstations capable of putting out at least eight motorcycles a week. To full production, we can expand to 16 workstations as warranted,” Seagraves reported.

Making sales
As the motorcycles are produced, sales need to follow. Viper has no intention of selling the motorcycles itself, so it is seeking about 20 U.S. dealers and five or six distributors overseas. Viper has signed its first international distributor with its flagship dealership in Dubai serving the Middle East and India markets.

In the United States, the Wellborn Muscle Car Museum in Alabama, MBL Motorsports of Palm Beach, Fla., and Western Colorado Motorsports in Glenwood Springs, Colo., have signed on. More agreements are in the works, but Viper is also seeking additional interested dealers and distributors.

“We want to be able to service our dealers, and we want our dealers to be able to take care of their customers, and that’s the key thing,” Seagraves explained.

Viper Motorcycle is looking for dealers who match up well with the company and those that are in regions in which customers have disposable income.

“We kind of want it to be a partnership,” Seagraves said. “We want the dealers to be a partner with us because without a good dealer network, we’re not going to be successful, and without us being successful, they’re not going to be successful.”
The dealers who have expressed interest and align well with Viper have been brought to Auburn, where they have been given the chance to ride one of the bikes.

“Normally after they ride the motorcycle, they’re really charged up about it,” Seagraves reported.

He said Viper has a competitive program for the dealers. Each will be required to carry some apparel, as well as parts and accessories when they’re ready. Broadley and his team are still creating those pieces.

“We’re going to let the dealers drive some of that. We’re going to let them have a say in what will help them sell the motorcycles,” Seagraves explained.

The requirements for the initial dealers will depend on which dealer package is chosen as to how many units and how much PG&A each dealer will stock.

“We have a couple of different programs that we’re putting together for the dealers,” Seagraves said. “There are really great packages. So far, everyone that’s signed with us and everyone that’s seen them, they like them and think they are good, fair programs.”

Looking into the future
As far as the near future, Viper Motorcycle Company is looking forward to starting mass productions of both the Diamondback and the Mamba, as well as getting further settled into its new home and filling out the dealer network.

In November or December, the OEM plans to host an open house of the new facility, and future endeavors are also expected.
“We’re looking at our partnership with Ilmor and developing an NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle drag race team,” Seagraves said. “We hope to compete in 2013, so we’re working real hard toward that goal. We feel like racing is a good avenue for us to market our motorcycles, and it will help us get the word out, so that’s huge.”

For now, the manufacturer is really looking forward to seeing its bikes on the street, in the hands of its new customers.

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