One of the best-known brands of outboard boat motors has been discontinued, with the company saying it fell victim to COVID-19.
Canadian company BRP announced Wednesday it was discontinuing production of its Evinrude motors, manufactured in Sturtevant, Wis. Evinrude offered the E-TEC and E-TEC G2 engines.
The company said in a press release that the Sturtevant facility will be "repurposed for new projects to pursue our plan to provide consumers with an unparalleled experience on the water." BRP did not specify what the new projects will be.
"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," said José Boisjoli, President and CEO of BRP in a press release. "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."
As government emission regulations became stricter in the 1990s, Evinrude struggled to keep up with new technologies. Its previous owner, Outboard Marine Corporation, partnered with German company FICHT to work on updating the motors to have direct oil injection instead of the old-style oil and gas mixing. The technology was a disaster, leading to engine failures and recalls that eventually helped bankrupt OMC.
BRP (Bombardier Recreational Products) acquired the Evinrude and Johnson brands in 2001 and introduced E-TEC. The technology was better, but still required boat owners to carry oil and pour it into a reservoir where it could be direct-injected into the engine. Most modern boat engines, particularly those from top manufacturers Mercury and Yahama, don't require owners to pour oil into a tank.
BRP acquired boat manufacturing companies Alumacraft and Manitou in 2018 and added the Australian manufacturer Telwater in 2019 as a way to give the company transoms on which they could put their motors. But Evinrude had a tough time competing with Mercury and Yamaha and Alumacraft dealers weren't happy.
The BizTimes, a Milwaukee business news web site, reported the company told state officials the decision will eliminate 387 positions in Sturtevant, including 181 employees currently on temporary furlough. BRP's news release said the the decision will cut 650 jobs globally. The company is also closing an Alumacraft facility in Arkansas and moving all manufacturing to St. Peter, Minn.
Ole Evinrude is credited with inventing the first "detachable row boat motor," founding his company in 1907 and making his first sales of the 1.5 horsepower single-cylinder engine in 1909. The Milwaukee immigrant built one of the most innovative and enduring outboard motor brands in the world.
BRP signed an agreement with Mercury to support boat packages and continue to supply outboard engines to its boat brands.