Friday, February 22

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Volvo Turns to Outboards. Are Hybrids Next?

Will your transom look like this, with a total of 2,508 horsepower coming from four Seven Marine outboards? Well, the answer is yes, if Volvo Penta has anything to say about it.

Volvo just announced that it is entering the rapidly growing outboard market by buying the majority stake in Seven Marine, which Volvo Penta President Bjorn Ingemanson calls “the leader in the high-powered outboard market.” In a conference call, Ron Huibers, president of Volvo Penta of the Americas, said, “Now the idea is to make some of the most exciting outboards ever made on this planet.”

Founded in 2010 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Seven Marine was the first outboard builder in the world, according to its president, Rick Davis, “to break the 500- and then the 600-horsepower barrier.” Seven Marine now makes 557- and 627-hp outboards with small block V-8 engines using advanced automotive technology, an obvious attraction for Volvo.

The day before the Seven Marine announcement, Volvo cars said they would stop making gas-powered engines in two years, and that all models starting in 2019 will be either hybrids or powered solely by batteries. “Our customers are asking more and more about electric cars,” said Haken Samuelsson, CEO of Volvo in Sweden. Volvo is owned by Geely Automobile Holdings in China, which already produces battery-powered cars for the China market.

In the conference call, Huibers said the new partnership with Seven Marine “will be a platform to build on, regardless of power source.” And Ingemanson said that “nothing is impossible. We will be ready when the market is ready.”

The new outboards will keep the Seven Marine brand and identification, although they will be sold and serviced by Volvo dealers. The Volvo officials were not commenting about whether the company will start making more middle-range outboards, but they made it clear they want to join the trend toward outboard power in larger cruising boats (see our story this week about the new MJM 43Z with three Mercury Verado outboards, for example).

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