A success story from Upper Austria: Rotax celebrates 100 years
BRP-Rotax is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year: Started in 1920 with an innovative freewheel hub for bicycles, the Upper Austrian flagship company is now firmly established on the world market as a leading manufacturer of high-performance drive systems for the powersports sector. Thanks to highly motivated employees at the Gunskirchen site and state-of-the-art industrial production systems, BRP-Rotax is also well equipped for the next 100 years. Thus, even in the turbulent anniversary year 2020, future-oriented successes and new technological innovations could be celebrated despite the Corona crisis.
Gunskirchen, December 21, 2020 – BRP-Rotax rang in the 2020 anniversary year with a milestone in terms of sustainability: In February, the Upper Austrian company presented the first zero-emission hydrogen-based concept snow vehicle, the Lynx HySnow, as part of the FIS Ski World Cup in Hinterstoder. Shortly thereafter, the Corona pandemic also reached Austria. Due to the lockdown, production was stopped at short notice for the first time in the company's recent history. The year of the planned celebrations thus became, as for many domestic companies, an exceptional year.
At its Gunskirchen site, BRP-Rotax develops and produces drive systems for the powersports sector - such as for snowmobiles, watercrafts, onroad and offroad vehicles, light and ultralight aircrafts, and karts. North America, Europe and Australia are among the most important main markets, but the products are also increasingly in demand in Asia and South America. Despite the Corona pandemic and short-term production stoppages, the company was able to cope well with around 1,500 employees.
"In keeping with the spirit of the last 100 years, our anniversary year 2020 was also characterized by technological pioneering achievements and success. At the same time, however, the Corona pandemic naturally presented our company with new, unexpected challenges. But 100 years of successful corporate history are not written just like that without turbulences and challenges - and that is why we were also able to master this crisis as "Team Rotax" in the best way possible. With the latest technologies, the highest level of agility and highly qualified employees, we are thus also looking confidently to the future! The next 100 years can come," says Wolfgang Rapberger, GM BRP-Rotax / Representative of the Management Board.
One step ahead with „Gunskirchen 2020“
BRP-Rotax set the course for long-term positive sales development back in 2012, when "Gunskirchen 2020", one of the company's largest innovation and modernization programs, was launched. For seven years, massive investments were made in the expansion of the Gunskirchen site and in the continuous education and training of the workforce. Today, BRP-Rotax is well prepared for industrial production systems with digital control and collaborative robotics. New technologies and higher agility on the basis of a group-wide management system (BRPMS) help to react more flexibly to market requirements and to fulfill customer wishes faster.
"Since its founding in 1920, BRP-Rotax has stood for innovation and ingenuity. As a company, we have always looked ahead despite our success. We continue to pursue an ambitious growth strategy and see particular potential in the further development of sustainable drive technologies, digitalization and agility, as well as in the continuous training and development of our employees," says Rapberger about the company's plans for the future. With lighthouse projects such as Lynx HySnow, including a hydrogen ecosystem, the company is already building up expertise in drive systems of the future. But the company was also able to celebrate successes in the area of "electric mobility" in 2020: The German Electric Kart Championship became an action-packed showcase for the new E20 electric kart project, with the innovative electric drive from BRP-Rotax.
100 years of Rotax: From the free-wheel bicycle hub to the market leader in powersports
BRP-Rotax looks back on an eventful company history. Founded in 1920 in Dresden, the freewheel hub for bicycles became the first successful product. With this innovation, cyclists no longer had to pedal downhill. In 1943, the plant moved to Upper Austria and, after the Second World War, made a significant contribution to the reconstruction of the country with engines for agriculture. The powerful and lightweight drive systems became known far beyond the country's borders. In the 1960s, Canadian entrepreneur Joseph Armand Bombardier came across the Gunskirchen-based company while searching for suitable engines for his products. This was followed in 1970 by the takeover by the group of the same name. Since then, the product portfolio has been continuously expanded and today includes drive systems for power sports vehicles on land, in water and in the air.
In 2007, BRP-Rotax also founded the Regional Innovation Center - RIC - at the site in cooperation with the state of Upper Austria and the Oberbank. As an innovation and research center, the RIC with its own ROTAX Academy stands for high-quality and practice-oriented knowledge transfer in the field of digitalization and robotics. With numerous public education and training programs, the RIC acts as an educational engine for the region and is also a driving force for innovative production and drive solutions of the future.