The Trials of a Finnish Wild Cat: Lynx
It is always interesting to see how new inventions have developed throughout global industrial history. The story of the birth and development of the modern snowmobile is a cool case in point. The invention of the snowmobile is attributed to a French-Canadian entrepreneur, Joseph-Armand Bombardier who lost his young son to a sickness during a winter blizzard. He could not make it to a hospital in time. Smaller country roads were not cleared for cars in the 1930’s in Canada’s province of Quebec, thus creating a need for a new mode of winter transportation.
In the 1930’s and 1940’s, Mr. Bombardier, the founder of the company bearing his name, developed a new snow vehicle for winter-stranded countryside dwellers and later, for the armies of the Allies of World War II. In the 1960’s, the Velsa company from Finland developed its first snowmobiles for farmers and reindeer herders battling the logistic challenges posed by the long presence of ice and snow in Northern Finland. Interestingly, both companies came from small yet entrepreneurial towns: the town of Valcourt in Québec (population 2 300) and Kurikka (population 21 600) in Finland’s Ostrobothnia.
Though both companies shared the same dream, they did not share the same fate. Bombardier was ultimately able to produce profitable amounts of vehicles for the rapidly growing North American market in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Weaker demand in Europe and a fragmented set of snowmobile makers in Northern Europe meant that profitability of this machinery intensive business was going to be a challenge in the Nordics. Bombardier went on to build planes, trains and metros. It later spun off its much smaller snowmobile and other “adult toys” division as BRP (Bombardier Recreational Products) in 2003. Velsa and its Lynx snowmobile, on the other hand, went close to bankruptcy and was acquired by the state-owned engineering and manufacturing company Valmet. This larger multi-segment company bought other unprofitable snowmobile companies from Finland and Sweden. In the end, it was Bombardier, who acquired the entire Finnish Lynx snowmobile production in 1992.
This year the Finnish Lynx celebrates its 50 years of operations and 25 years of joint existence with BRP. Together they share a common history of inventive passion to make the world’s best snowmobiles. At an impressive anniversary event held in Rovaniemi Finland this year, the President and CEO of BRP Mr. José Boisjoli said this about the Canadian and Finnish co-existence of the legendary “Ski-Doo” and “Lynx” snowmobiles “Ski-Doo is our sprinter and Lynx is our strong Viking”. Another strong Viking from Finland, explorer Patrick Degerman, recently took a few Lynxes to Antarctica. Even in extreme conditions, the Lynx never stopped moving. BRP and Lynx are a story of speed and Finnish Sisu combined into one company. It is the natural marriage of a common passion for racing on snow as well as the acumen for a global 3 billion dollar business that leaves nobody cold.
André Noël Chaker
Author, Speaker & Entrepreneur
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