Stephanie Ricci contributed to this story.
Growing up on a farm in the small Canadian town of Wickham, José Boisjoli rode his first snowmobile when he was 10 years old. It was the start of a journey that led him to be president and CEO of Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP), the Canadian company that owns the world-renowned Ski-Doo, Sea-Doo, and Can-Am brands.
“We’re selling experience,” said Boisjoli, who joined BRP in 1989. “The beauty of our product is that when you’re riding a snowmobile, a three-wheel or watercraft on the lake, you forget about everything. It’s incredible how you relax.”
Headquartered in Valcourt, Quebec, birthplace of the Bombardier spin-off first snowmobile, BRP has redefined the way millions enjoy the outdoors, with its eight product lines, since spinning off from Bombardier in 2003. A global leader, BRP sells its products through over 3,500 dealers in 127 countries with, employing about 15,000 people in 26 countries.
The manufacturer offers an impressive product portfolio of industry-leading powersports and marine brands, including Ski-Doo and Lynx snowmobiles, Sea-Doo watercraft and pontoon, Can-Am Off- and On-Road vehicles, Alumacraft and Quintrex fishing boats, and Manitou pontoons. At the heart of it all, the Rotax engines power everything from BRP’s vehicles, to karts, and light aircraft.
Boisjoli describes BRP products as “powersport therapy,” and shared that he met some of his best friends while riding powersports vehicles.
“I use them all,” he said. “In the winter, I opt for the snowmobile, but the three-wheel vehicle is a very pleasant way to relax, and all our products are fun to ride.”
With today’s increasing efforts to reduce gas emissions, certain lakes across North America have restricted the use of combustion engines. The emergence of electrification across transportation sectors and the rising popularity of electric boats have led to “new market” opportunities for BRP, according to Boisjoli. The company announced its plans earlier this year to electrify its powersports line-up by the end of 2026.
“Last March, we committed to invest $300 million to electrify our products,” said Boisjoli. “There will be some models that will be offered with electric propulsion in every single product line.”
“Of course, when you are in the woods or on the lake, the plug may be quite far away,” he adds. “Therefore, we expect that a farmer who uses a side-by-side vehicle or an ATV might be pleased to buy an electric model. On the other hand, a hunter going out for a week in the woods probably won’t.”
BRP has been expanding both its geographical reach and its product offering. Their annual sales of $6 billion are predicted to reach $8.5 billion this year. Among their strategy is refocusing their marine division by redesigning their entire boat line, a business they intend to double by 2025 and triple by the end of the decade.
“We like to be more innovative than the competition, pushing technology and designing the best handling, the best performance and the best-looking product,” said Boisjoli. “Despite COVID-19, you can expect more products from us in the next three years than what we have done in the last three.”
Boisjoli recalls the financial crisis of 2008 as a turning point for his leadership, crediting the company’s success to a culture that embraces challenges.
“In 2008, sales in our industry collapsed by 50%,” he recalled. “We had a lot of learning to do, we put what we learned on paper. When COVID-19 happened in March 2020, we pulled out that sheet, and we applied our recipe.”
“We’ve remained extremely strong throughout this crisis because we know how to work well together,” shares Boisjoli. “If there is one thing that I think we’ve done better during the COVID-19 pandemic than in 2008, it’s communicating.”
The lockdown and travel ban had a hand in the increase in first time buyers of BRP products, which jumped from 20% to 42% during the last financial quarter, said Boisjoli.
The manufacturer shut down all their factories for two months and experienced a reset that allowed them to look at the business differently. The widespread interest in rediscovering the great outdoors has greatly benefited the industry.
“People preferred to go to Europe for two weeks instead of buying a snowmobile,” he said. “Now, they are discovering the fun of a snowmobile, and they are talking to their friends about it. The industry is refreshed, and everyone is thinking of new ways of doing things.”