Industry News

BRP Inc. rocks the industry's boat with new motor

By Susi | Published on Dec 03,2015

Dave Calamia, of BRP Inc., takes out a 21-foot fishing boat powered by one of the company’s new 300-horsepower outboard motors.

Dave Calamia, of BRP Inc., takes out a 21-foot fishing boat powered by one of the company’s new 300-horsepower outboard motors.

By Rick Barrett of the Journal Sentinel

June 14, 2014

Michael Sears

Three of BRP’s new 300-horsepower Evinrude E-TEC G2 outboards are mounted on a boat at the South Shore Yacht Club in Milwaukee. The engines are available in a variety of colors to coordinate with a boat’s color scheme.

The competition between two Wisconsin outboard engine manufacturers got cranked up a notch last week when Bombardier Recreational Products Inc., which makes Evinrude engines in Sturtevant, launched products in a market where Mercury Marine, of Fond du Lac, has much stronger sales.

BRP, a Canadian company that has made Sturtevant its world headquarters for the Evinrude brand, introduced a new outboard engine that it says has 15% better fuel efficiency and 20% more torque than its leading competitors and produces up to 75% fewer pollutants.

The E-TEC engine will be available later this year in sizes ranging from 200 horsepower to 300 hp, BRP said during the product launch on Milwaukee's lakefront.

It's been more than five years since BRP held a similar Evinrude dealership meeting. More than 1,500 people were invited from as far away as Australia and the Middle East.

It's been more than a decade since the company, known for snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles, has made this big of an upgrade to its E-TEC outboard engine lineup.

The new engine, named G2, is aimed at a marketplace that includes offshore fishing boats costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's a market dominated by Japanese engine-maker Yamaha and its nearest competitor, Mercury Marine, a division of Brunswick Corp.

Specific figures aren't made public, but industry experts say Yamaha and Mercury combined have about 80% of the U.S. outboard engine market comprised of engines 200 hp and larger.

Evinrude already has engines up to 300 hp, but the new models are supposed to be loaded with changes aimed at competing with Yamaha and Mercury.

"It's going to be a lot of hand-to-hand combat. We are going to have to convince consumers, marine dealerships and boat builders that this is not something they want to miss," said Christopher Berg, director of marketing and strategic planning for BRP.

"We are claiming, pretty boldly, that it's going to create a new era in the outboard engine business, if not the boating market," Berg added.

The boating industry is in a little calmer water these days, with modest sales gains after coming out of one of the worst periods in recent history. The biggest and most expensive outboard engines are selling better now, which gives BRP a natural launching point for the G2 lineup.

There's a lot of new technology packed into this engine, the company says, including the boat rigging and digital controls. The engine also has a customizable look, with colors that can match a boat, and it comes with a five-year warranty and 500 hours of no dealer-scheduled maintenance.

One thing BRP didn't change was its reliance on two-stroke technology, where the engines run on a mixture of gasoline and oil.

The company says Evinrude E-TECs are among the cleanest-running outboards available, unlike older two-strokes.

The engines are known for acceleration that's desired by boaters in fishing tournaments, where there's an emphasis on getting from one fishing spot to another in a hurry. The strong acceleration also is well-suited for boaters who pull skiers and tubers.

"We think it's better, and it gives us an opportunity to really set ourselves apart from the other guys," Berg said about two-stroke technology.

Marine industry experts say Evinrude has come a long way since it was nearly sunk by the bankruptcy of former owner Outboard Marine Corp., which once had plants in Milwaukee and Waukegan, Ill.

BRP acquired Evinrude from OMC's bankruptcy in 2001. It turned a lot of the engine parts left in the plants into scrap, because of quality-control problems, and attempted to revive the dealership network.

Yamaha snapped up many of the dealerships. Mercury gained market share, too, largely through the Brunswick network of boat manufacturers.

Brunswick, a Lake Forest, Ill., conglomerate, is the nation's largest manufacturer of recreational boats.

"In the business, we call it 'owning the transom.' Mercury has that business locked up," said Charles Plueddeman, a freelance writer from Oshkosh who has covered the marine industry for many years.

BRP says it has signed an agreement to provide Evinrude engines on KingFisher boats made in British Columbia. The company also has aggressively pursued marine dealerships on the Gulf Coast, Plueddeman said.

The buyers of marine engines 200 hp and up want power, reliability and fuel economy that boosts their ability to travel farther from shore, in some cases 100 miles from land.

BRP has done a good job with the quality of Evinrude engines, said Lincoln Davis, who has spent 45 years in the outboard engine business, in Waldoboro, Maine, with Mercury Marine products.

Brand loyalty is strong with boat builders but has pretty much disappeared with consumers, Davis said.

"Now it's about who can deliver the most bang for the buck. The average engine on the market today runs far more reliably than it ever did in the old days," he said.

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