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There are a few big names in the outboard motor market, like Yamaha and more recently Suzuki. Mercury is also a big name in outboard engines. From small beginnings to a multi-million dollar company, Mercury has worked hard to earn every little win along the way. 

With about 80 years of boating and outboard experience under its belt, Mercury continues to dominate in this segment. Let’s take a look at how it all began, as told by the Mercury website, what motors the company offers now, and how well it’s stood up to its rivals.

The history behind Mercury motors

The founder of Mercury Marine motors, E. Carl Kiekhaefer, came across a bankrupt business back in 1939 and bought out its stock of 300 outboard motors. After designing an improved version of these engines, he presented the new concept at the Milwaukee Sentinel Sportsman Show just a few months later. 

By 1940, Kiekhaefer introduced a line of five motors to the New York Motor Boat Show. He brought five outboard engines, three were single cylinders and two of them were twin cylinders. He simply named them K1-K5, and these engines cost only $43 to $98 back in those days. 

In 1961, Kiekhaefer partnered up and became a new division of the bigger Brunswick Corporation. The outboard engines continued to get produced under the Brunswick company, but in 1969 he resigned and the name ultimately changed to the Mercury Marine we’re familiar with today. 

Different types of motors

Mercury outboard motors on display at a boat show
Mercury outboard engines on display | Rick Meyer/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Many people look to buy boats that come with motors, but they don’t always get the best engine. Mercury Marine offers a range of different outboard motors in its lineup.

With engines ranging from 2.5 to 400 horsepower, Mercury has every boater covered. The company offers performance models designed for maximum speed, like the Pro XS and more basic models like the classic 4-stroke.

Mercury is also one of the leaders in inboard motors. The MerCruiser has been around for years and can be found in variety of boats. By offering one of the widest selections of motors, Mercury ensures it will remain competitive.

How does it stand up to Yamaha, its biggest rival?


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Yamaha, one of its biggest competitors, began producing other items, like motorcycle motors. In 1960, after designing and testing several prototypes, the company finally brought a Yamaha outboard to the marine recreational market, according to Yamaha’s website.

These engines really took off in the US around 2001 when they began producing a 225 hp four-stroke outboard engine, which was just as lightweight as a two-stroke was. 

While the Yamaha has established itself as a reliable product for all types of motors, Mercury has done the same with its innovative outboard engines. Both are high-quality and fuel-efficient, but Yamaha became more stable in the motors for smaller boat markets while Mercury runs the gamut between small all the way up to commercially large boats. 

Mercury may have had some meager beginnings in the outboard market, but it didn’t stay that way. It grew to be one of the largest marine motor manufacturing companies out there.