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Evinrude: Iconic Outboard Boat Motor Out Of Business

No one saw this coming. With three new outboard engines that debuted in 2019 and the boating season happening now Evinrude has closed its doors unexpectedly. Even dealers weren’t expecting this. The iconic Canadian outboard motor manufacturer is out of business. It will eliminate 400 jobs at its manufacturing plant in Sturtevant, Wisconsin, just outside of Chicago.

“Our outboard engines business has been greatly impacted by Covid-19, obliging us to discontinue production of our outboard motors immediately. This business segment had already been facing some challenges, and the impact from the current context has forced our hand,” BRP president and CEO José Boisjoli, said in a statement. BRP owns Evinrude along with boat manufacturers Alumacraft and Manitou. It will now buy engines for these brands from former competitor Mercury Marine. 

No advanced notice of its plans was because it is a publicly-traded company

color advertising for Evinrude outboard motors
Advertisement for Evinrude outboard motors, May 1956 | Getty

BRP also makes Ski-Doo snowmobiles, Sea-Doo watercraft, and Can-Am all-terrain vehicles. It says it didn’t give any advanced notice of its plans because it is a publicly-traded company. 

“We were very, very shocked,” said Joseph Pekora with Barnacle Bill’s in Delmont, New Jersey. “They’ve kept us completely in the dark.” For 2019 outboard motor sales increased for the eighth straight year according to Boating Industry magazine. In spite of that BRP insists it had no other choice. 

“We won’t comment or speculate on what our dealers had to say about this decision, and we stand by our belief in the technology we produced. However, over the last few years, despite its innovative technology, our outboard engine lineup has been losing shares in a market that was already difficult,” BRP told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Evinrude was founded in 1907 in Milwaukee

Early 1900s woman in boat posing with new Evinrude engine
A woman steers a boat, using a new model of Evinrude outboard motor. (Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

Evinrude has been around since 1907, founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Mercury Marine, its closest competitor, is located not far from Milwaukee in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. “It was like Packers and Bears,” said Charles Plueddeman, a writer for Boating Magazine to USA Today. It plans on keeping the plant to develop a line of recreational boats that place the engines under the deck as opposed to being attached to the transom like a traditional outboard. 

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Evinrude started losing ground to Mercury and also Yamaha by falling behind in the power race. It also kept its two-stroke engines that required owners to mix oil with gasoline. The rest of the industry dropped that type of engine years ago. But they had a strong following and kept up with other aspects of the outboard motor industry. Popular Mechanics called the 2019 E-TEC “the most efficient boat engine we’ve ever seen.”

Evinrude dealers insist consumers was a four-stroke engine, not a two-stroke

Three sets of boaters with Evinrude motors gather together on the lake to share food and drink, late 1950s or early 1960s. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
Three sets of boaters with Evinrude motors in the late 1950s or early 1960s. | Getty

But the E-TEC is still a two-stroke. Dealers insist consumers want four-stroke engines like Mercury and Yamaha sell. “You can talk to someone until you’re blue in the face, but they want four-strokes,” says Pekora, an Evinrude dealer in New Jersey.

Evinrude may return at some point as BRP’s “Project Ghost” and “Project M” future boats and engines continue development. “As the current situation forced us to reduce our investment plan and review downward our growth expectation for the business, the path to profitability improvement for outboard engines was too long and it became apparent that we had to take the difficult decision to discontinue our outboard engine production,” the company said.

Constructing Outboard Motors at the Evinrude Plant | Getty