The Bombardier Story: From Snowmobiles to Global Transportation Powerhouse


The Bombardier Story tells the fascinating tale ofinspiring entrepreneurship, outstanding leadership and management,and a company riding the ups and downs of an eight-decade journeyto the top.

In the early 1970s, the Ski-Doo snowmobile accounted for over 90percent of Bombardier's revenue (one model was so popular thatCanada Post even produced a commemorative stamp). But the rest ofthe 1970s were stormy times for Bombardier as rising energy prices,a maturing snowmobile market, ...

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The Bombardier Story tells the fascinating tale ofinspiring entrepreneurship, outstanding leadership and management,and a company riding the ups and downs of an eight-decade journeyto the top.

In the early 1970s, the Ski-Doo snowmobile accounted for over 90percent of Bombardier's revenue (one model was so popular thatCanada Post even produced a commemorative stamp). But the rest ofthe 1970s were stormy times for Bombardier as rising energy prices,a maturing snowmobile market, and major economic forces sent theentire industry into a downward spiral. The Bombardier Storydescribes how close to ruin the company came, and how itsurvived.

This near-collapse ensured that the company would never againdepend so heavily on one sector. Diversification became a keystrategy and led to a move into the manufacture of rail equipment,even as most other North American firms in the industry werewithering away in what was deemed to be a declining industry.The Bombardier Story recounts the decisive turningpoint—the $1 billion "deal of the century" in 1982 to provideover 800 subway cars to the city of New York. It was thebreakthrough that launched Bombardier into the big leagues, but itwas hard won, arousing the first of many controversies overgovernment assistance.

Next came the diversification into aircraft manufacturing. A keyingredient in the upward climb was the "bet-the-company" decisionto develop the Canadair regional jet, a pioneering aircraft thatmany industry analysts at the time thought was a foolhardyinitiative. Bombardier not only proved them wrong, butrevolutionized the air travel industry with this new jet.

The Bombardier Story is one of inspiringentrepreneurship, as well as outstanding leadership and management.The company has enjoyed phenomenal growth in its chosen marketsthrough product innovation, strategic diversification, exemplarysuccession planning, and an amazing knack for acquiring ailingcompanies and making turnaround successes of them.

A fascinating cast of dedicated leaders has guided the companyover the years. First, of course, was Joseph-Armand Bombardier, thepassionate inventor-industrialist who turned a humble garage into amajor manufacturing company, and his invention, the Ski-Doosnowmobile, into a household name. Then came the son-in-law,Laurent Beaudoin, whose career plan never included joining thefamily business, and who led the company for forty-five years,putting it on a fast-growth trajectory.

Beaudoin steered the company through the golden age ofsnowmobiles, the 1973 oil crisis, challenges from aggressivecompetitors, and moments of uncertainty. And, most notably, he ledthe company to achieve an extraordinarily ambitious plan fordiversification. Along the way he was assisted by able lieutenants,including Raymond Royer and Robert Brown. Laurent Beaudoin and histeam were able to show the world that a Quebec company can become aglobally respected multinational, can be successfully passed downfrom generation to generation, and can achieve truesustainability.

Today, in the CSeries era, there is a new generation ofleadership under CEO Pierre Beaudoin, Laurent's son, who oversees amultinational corporation of two major groups, with $17.7 billionin annual revenues in 2011, over 65,400 employees, and where theentrepreneurial spirit on which the company was founded stillthrives.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781118482940
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 12/26/2012
  • Edition description: Second Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Larry MacDonald is a business journalist who writes for The Globe and Mail, Canadian Business, MoneySense and other publications. He is also the author of two other books, Outperforming the Market (ECW Press, 1998) and Nortel Networks (John Wiley & Sons, 2000).

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

A Brief History of Bombardier Inc. xi

Preface xix

Introduction: The Rise of a Corporation 1

A Meteoric Rise 1

The Architects of Success 6

Bombardier Today 8


Chapter 1: Joseph-Armand Starts a Company: The 1940s and1950s 15

Humble Beginnings 15

The Bombardier Snowmobile 16

Inventions and Innovations 25

Chapter 2: The Ski-Doo Adventure: The Golden Age of the 1960s34

The Family Takes Over 34

A Marketing Renewal 39

Ski-Doo Fever 42

Vertical Integration 46

The First Sea-Doo 49


Chapter 3: Diversify or Die: The 1970s 55

A Challenging Decade 55

Taking a New Turn: Rail Transportation 59

The Montreal Subway 61

The Acquisition of MLW-Worthington 67

Chapter 4: The Deal of the Century: The New York City Subway(1982) 73

A Golden Opportunity 73

A Contested Victory 78

The Tools for Success 84

The Royer Way of Doing Things 86

The BMS 91

A Major Breakthrough 97

Tempest in a Teapot 101

The Value of Proven Technologies 104

A Welcome Boost 107

Chapter 5: New Frontiers: Transportation in the 1980s and1990s 110

The North American Market 110

Full Speed Ahead 112

A Rocky Start for the LRC 114

The Vagaries of High-Speed in America 117

The Disney Monorail 124

The Acquisition of UTDC 125

Capturing the European Market 129

The Chunnel Odyssey 133

Taking Over by Storm: From Talbot to Adtranz 137


Chapter 6: Aerospace Takes Off 145

A Bold Move 145

Early Attempts to Diversify: The Automotive Sector 149

The Acquisition of Canadair (1986) 151

Good Things Come in Threes: Shorts, Learjet, and de Havilland156

Portrait of a Turnaround Artist 165

Power in Numbers: Synergizing Operations 171

Chapter 7: Revolution in the Sky: The Move Toward RegionalJets 176

The Rise of Airline Hubs 176

From Challenger to CRJ 179

A New Captain Steers Aerospace Group 186

Bombardier Takes Off 192

Dogfight in the Clouds 196

Inside the Pro-ex Saga 201

An Affair of State 205

Government Support 208

Chapter 8: Spreading Its Wings 216

The Global Express Business Jet (1991–1996) 216

Diversification Delivers 225


Chapter 9: Two Turbulent Decades at Valcourt 231

The Ski-Doo Loses Speed 231

Pierre Beaudoin and the Return of the Sea-Doo (1988) 233

Extreme Snowmobiling and Innovation 238

Acquisition of Outboard Marine Corporation (2001) 241

Chapter 10: Lessons in Strategic Governance 244

The Éminence Grise 244

Decentralization 248

Management Tools 253

An Evolving Structure 256

Chapter 11: Handing Over the Reins 259

Robert Brown Takes Charge 259

The Impact of September 2001 264

Tellier Joins Bombardier 265

An Unexpected Comeback 270

Pierre Takes the Helm and CSeries Aircraft Takes Off 273

Laurent Beaudoin’s Legacy 276

Endnotes 279

Index 293

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