For 110 years the name Evinrude has been synonymous with boating, gracing engine cowlings and marina signs across cottage country. Yet the legendary outboard brand was consigned to history in late May after Quebec-based parent company Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) announced its exit from the outboard engine business.
BRP—also the maker of brands such as Ski-Doo snowmobiles, Sea-Doo watercrafts, and Can-Am ATVs—says it shuttered its Evinrude division in the face of unsustainable losses compounded by additional pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic. In releasing its first-quarter financial results on May 27, the company admitted that its two-stroke outboards simply failed to catch on with buyers in a market dominated by four-stroke competitors. “Over the past few years, despite its innovative technology, our outboard engine lineup has been losing share in a market that was already difficult,” said BRP president and CEO, José Boisjoli.
Boisjoli noted that BRP will continue to honour all Evinrude warranties, and that Evinrude dealers will continue to provide parts and service support for all existing engines.
The outboard engine was invented by Ole Evinrude, a Norwegian immigrant who came up with the idea of motorizing boats after rowing across a local lake to get ice cream for his sweetheart, only to find that the ice cream had melted by the time he returned. He formed the Evinrude Motor Company in 1910, then merged it with two other engine builders in 1929 to form Outboard Marine Corp. (OMC)—a powerhouse that went on to become one of the largest engine builders in the world before a series of financial missteps drove it into bankruptcy in 2000.
BRP acquired Evinrude out of OMC’s ashes and committed to developing its two-stroke technology in spite of a clear shift toward four-stroke engines—a decision likened to Sony’s infamous gamble on Betamax VCRs. In spite of winning numerous awards for technological innovation, Evinrude was never again able to recapture its former market dominance.
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