How Evinrude Shaped DDI
Our team at Design Department all have years of prior experience in the engineering and prototyping industry before coming together. Below is a brief history of how a young engineer came to be a founding member of Design Department. It all starts in 1900, with a young man, a lake, and a dream.
In the early 1900s, a young Norwegian immigrant, whose family had settled in southeastern Wisconsin, wanted a faster way to cross Okauchee Lake. His motivation, as the story goes, was to impress his girlfriend with a cold dish of ice cream from the other side of the lake. The young man’s name was Ole Evinrude and, in 1909, he unveiled the outboard motor to the world. It was a single cylinder, 1.5hp outboard engine - the product became an immediate success. Ole’s invention launched a new industry.
For 111 years, Evinrude engines propelled boats worldwide. Evinrude had a fascinating history, full of twists and turns, buyouts and mergers, even a bankruptcy, followed by a rebirth under Bombardier Inc.
Design Department team member, Brian Leadingham, began working with Evinrude in January 1999, under Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC). Starting out, he was an inexperienced engineer who began working with Evinrude just a week after graduating from college. Brian was able to get involved immediately with the product development team. OMC was struggling, but at the same time they were working on a cutting-edge product. It was all very exciting as they were perfecting gasoline direct injection 2-stroke engine technology. They were reducing exhaust emissions while making cleaner and greener outboard engines, it was awesome! Unfortunately, less than two years later, on December 23, 2000, OMC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
As part of Evinrude engineering, the team felt that there was unfinished business. They had come so close to achieving their goal of making a high performance, emissions-friendly, cost effective, and reliable 2-stroke outboard engine. There was still work to be done.
Everything changed when Bombardier swept in and purchased the engine assets of OMC, including Evinrude, and just like that, they were back. Initially, the Evinrude team was small, but entirely capable of accomplishing big things. Their first task was clean-sweeping and relaunching the existing Evinrude product. Behind the scenes, a team of manufacturing engineers turned a book publishing factory into an outboard engine plant in just a few months. This feat alone was amazing. On the engineering side, their goal was not only to relaunch the existing product, but to move forward developing the world’s best outboard engine. Seeds of the E-TEC technology, which had been planted under OMC, took root and sprung up in the new environment.
In February 2003, less than two years after Bombardier purchased Evinrude, the first E-TEC engines were introduced. To say the Evinrude E-TEC engines were revolutionary is an understatement, but they were also unexpected. For a small group, just two years off bankruptcy, to develop and launch two new engine platforms so quickly was unbelievable. The first Evinrude E-TEC engines attained a level of emissions compliance that was previously thought to be unattainable for the 2-stroke engine. The Evinrude E-TEC engines were clean, quiet, lightweight, visually striking, powerful, and cost effective. It was an honor to be part of this chapter in Evinrude’s history and it was a part of Brian's career that he will never forget.
On May 27, 2020, BRP announced they will immediately “…discontinue production of Evinrude E-TEC and E-TEC G2 outboard engines.” The press release did not indicate how their decision will impact the future of the Evinrude brand. In light of that announcement, it seemed fitting to take a moment, with this post, to share a little bit of the Evinrude story, and, in turn, share how their story helped to shape Brian's career in product development, prototyping, and enhancement.