When Joseph-Armand Bombardier invented the snowmobile in 1937, little did he know that his company would become a manufacturing powerhouse in the global transportation industry. As of 2001, Bombardier Inc. was number one in railway equipment, number two in recreational vehicles, and number three in civil aircraft.
Today, Bombardier products are everywhere. Millions of people travel daily on Bombardier subway cars, automated metros, and commuter trains that run around the world in cities such as New York City, Toronto, Chicago, Vancouver, Mexico City, and Kuala Lumpur. Hundreds of thousands travel to vacation and business destinations each year aboard Bombardier's intercity trains such as the Acela (a high-speed passenger service on Amtrak's Boston-Washington corridor), and on Bombardier's regional jets. Thousands of busy executives fly every day in Learjet, Challenger, and Global Express business jets made by Bombardier. And hundreds of thousands enjoy their leisure hours at play on Ski-Doo snowmobiles and Sea-Doo watercraft.
The Bombardier Story tells the fascinating tale of a company riding the ups and downs of a six-decade journey to the top. In the early 1970s, the Ski-Doo snowmobile accounted for over 90 percent of the company's revenue (one model was so popular that Canada Post even produced a commemorative stamp). But the rest of the 1970s were stormy times for Bombardier as rising energy prices, a maturing snowmobile market, and major economic forces sent the entire industry into a downward spiral. The Bombardier Story describes how close to ruin the company came, and how it survived a drastic shakeout that reduced the number of players in the snowmobile industry from over 100 to just three.
This near-collapse ensured that the company would never again depend so heavily on one sector. Diversification became a key strategy and led to a move into the manufacture of rail equipment, even as most other North American firms in the industry were withering away in what was deemed to be a declining industry. The Bombardier Story recounts the decisive turning point the $1 billion "deal of a century" in 1982 to provide over 800 subway cars to the city of New York. It was the breakthrough that launched Bombardier into the big leagues, but it was hard won, arousing the first of many controversies over government assistance.
Next came the diversification into aircraft manufacturing, where a similar pattern unfolded: while Bombardier was growing by leaps and bounds, rival firms were falling by the wayside, their products too costly and outmoded to compete. A key ingredient in the upward climb was the "bet-the-company" decision to develop the Canadair regional jet, a pioneering aircraft that many industry analysts thought at the time was a foolhardy initiative. Bombardier not only proved them wrong, but is now revolutionizing the air travel industry with this new kind of jet.
Bombardier's story is one of inspiring entrepreneurship, as well as outstanding leadership and management. The company has enjoyed phenomenal growth in it chosen markets through product innovation, strategic diversification, exemplary succession planning, and an amazing knack for acquiring ailing companies and making turnaround successes of them.
A fascinating cast of dedicated leaders has guided the company over the years. First, of course, was Joseph-Armand Bombardier, the passionate inventor-industrialist who turned a humble garage into a major manufacturing company, and his invention, the Ski-Doo, into a household name. Then the son-in-law, Laurent Beaudoin, whose career plan never included joining the family business, but who led the company for over thirty years, putting it on a fast-growth trajectory. Along the way he was assisted by able lieutenants, including the dynamic Raymond Royer, and the brilliant Yvan Allaire. Today, there is a new generation of leadership under CEO Robert Brown, who oversees a multinational corporation of five divisions, with $20 billion in annual revenues, and over 75,000 employees, but where the entrepreneurial spirit on which the company was founded still thrives.
This edition also contains a new chapter, focusing on the events of September 11, 2002, and how they affected the aviation industry, especially with regards to Bombardier.
"Bombardier was under attach again. This time, the flack was coming from the president of Berlin-based Adtranz, the rail equipment subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler AG. In 1999, he traveled to Toronto and made a speech in which he warned that Adtranz was coming to challenge Montreal-based Bombardier on its home turf of North America. His motive was retaliation: he did not like Bombardier's invasion of Adtranz's European markets. So he was going to put the upstart from the hinterlands in its place. 'The major player in the United States of the future will be, I believe, Adtranz,' he predicted.
"In the spring of 2001, Bombardier acquired Adtranz. The purchase more than doubled annual revenues at Bombardier's rail equipment division and catapulted Bombardier into the number one spot in the railway equipment industry, ahead of the rail divisions of Franco-British conglomerate Alstom and German industrial giant Siemans.
"What made Bombardier's progression in rail equipment all the more remarkable is that it occurred while yet another progression was under way at Bombardier's aerospace group. In 1986, the company decided to enter the aerospace sector by acquiring business-jet maker Canadair Ltd. of Montreal. This was followed by acquisitions of several other ailing aerospace companies, including world-renowned Learjet. Turning around these floundering assets, Bombardier came out of nowhere to become, in a little more than a dozen years, the third-largest member of the civil aerospace manufacturing industry. Only US giant Boeing and European colossus, the Airbus consortium, are larger."
-- from The Bombardier Story