Company Vitae: Bombardier

Best known in the UK for its luckless Derby train factory, the Canadian firm also makes jet aircraft, but it started out producing snowmobiles.

by MT Staff
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Formative Years

In 1942, jobbing French-Canadian mechanic Joseph- Armand Bombardier founded L'Auto-Neige Bombardier in Valcourt, eastern Quebec, to manufacture a 12-seat snowmobile of his own design. The B12 was an instant hit in snowbound rural Canada, and examples of it still remained in use 50 years later. More winter vehicles followed, including the first modern two-seater snowmobile, the Ski-Doo, invented by Bombardier himself in 1959. By the time he died in 1964, his firm was the world leader in its market.

Recent history

The oil crisis of the early 1970s halved Bombardier's snowmobile sales and the firm, now run by Armand's son-in-law Laurent Beaudoin, began a huge programme of diversification into the aerospace and rail businesses. It made a string of acquisitions across the globe including Canadair, Learjet and Short Brothers in aviation, and ADtranz, Deutsche Waggonbau and Procor Engineering in the rail industry.

In 2003, it cut its final ties to the past, selling the snowmobile business - now called Bombardier Recreational Products - to a consortium led by Bain Capital for $875m.

Its latest aerospace venture, the much-delayed C Series narrow-bodied twin-engine jet airliner designed to compete with Boeing and Airbus, is yet to make it's maiden flight, due next year.

Who's the boss?

The family influence remains strong despite its having been a public company for over four decades. Septuagenarian Laurent Beaudoin is now chairman, his son Pierre having taken over as chief executive in 2008. Son of the founder, JR Andre Bombardier, 68, is also the group's vice-chairman.

Proudest achievement?

It's one of the world's largest rail manufacturers (most of the trains on the London Overground network are Bombardier products, and it makes trains for tram and subway operators the world over). It's also a leading light in the lucrative executive jet market - its Global Express range of transatlantic jets having been favoured by the likes of Celine Dion, Oprah Winfrey and Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley.

Don't mention

Siemens. Transport minister Phil Hammond awarded the £1.6bn contract for 1,200 new Thameslink trains to the German manufacturer rather than to Bombardier's Derby factory earlier this year, precipitating 1,400 redundancies at the plant. Although the government now says that the decision will be delayed until 2014, after a rail procurement review.

VITAL STATISTICS

Employees: 65,400
Sales dollars: 17.7bn
Countries operated in: 23

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Subscribe

Get your essential reading delivered. Subscribe to Management Today