In late May, Bombardier Recreational Products announced it was discontinuing production of Evinrude E-TEC and E-TEC G2 outboards. The company cited impacts from the covid-19 shutdowns as the deciding factor.
The news pulled at the heartstrings of many a longtime boater, who has no doubt run an Evinrude outboard at some point. Evinrude was founded in 1907 by Ole Evinrude and went on to rule the roost for many years. The company weathered some rough periods, including bankruptcy in the 1990s after a disastrous launch of a direct injection technology called Ficht.
Issues with powerheads and exploding engines dissolved consumer confidence. BRP stepped in, purchased the brand, recalled bad engines, improved the technology and brought Evinrude back to the marketplace in 2003 with the launch of the E-TEC line of outboards. These engines built on Evinrude’s commitment to two-strokes and delivered more torque and better fuel economy.
But the other outboard builders had laid their future on four-stroke engines, and consumers were sold on the benefits of the quieter engines. Convincing boaters to switch back to an Evinrude two-stroke was a tough sell.
“This business segment had already been facing some challenges, and the impact from the current context has forced our hand,” said José Boisjoli, President and CEO of BRP.
In a letter to state officials — in accordance with Wisconsin Business Closing and Mass Layoff Law — BRP said it would eliminate a total of 387 positions in Sturtevant, Wis., including employees currently on furlough. Some workers will be recalled and gradually laid off through September.
The abrupt closure left Evinrude owners and dealers wondering about service, parts, inventory and warranty issues. BRP says that along with dealer inventory, there are enough engines to fulfill current orders in a “timely manner.” A network of more than 1,000 dealers will remain the first point of contact for consumers.
BRP says it will honor manufacturer warranties and support its dealers to ensure a smooth transition. The company will supply parts as needed to both customers and service centers. It will also “honor our manufacturer limited warranties and extended service contracts,” according to a company statement.
The company will retain the Evinrude name and patents as it switches its focus to its boat brands, including Alumacraft and Manitou in the U.S. and Telwater in Australia. BRP signed a deal with Mercury Marine to be the preferred engine provider for its boats moving forward. BRP also owns Sea-Doo personal watercraft.
“We will concentrate our efforts on new and innovative technologies and on the development of our boat companies, where we continue to see a lot of potential to transform the on-water experience for consumers,” Boisjoli says.
One of the company’s “next-generation” technologies is labeled Project Ghost, announced in the fall of 2019, and aims to place an outboard-style power plant under the transom. This would free up deck space and give boats a cleaner look with more square footage to enjoy. n