Sno-Jet was a brand of snowmobile first produced in Quebec, Canada in 1965. They quickly proved popular and grew to be one of the highest-selling make of snowmobiles until the early-1970’s, helping usher the then-new sport of snowmobiling into Canada and the United States. After the Glastron Boat Company acquired Sno-Jet in 1968, it was sold off to Kawasaki in 1976, which they used in name until 1980.
Two men named Fillion and Roy were attempting to get financial aid for a small home-operated fiberglass boat company inThetford Mines,Quebec, in the winter of 1964. While being visited by a potential investor, the investor took interest to a small homemade snowmobileRoyhad at his home. Fillion and Roy re-evaluated their decision to build boats, instead choosing to create a company to manufacture snowmobiles, which were only starting to gain popularity as a form of transportation through the initial efforts of companies like Bombardier, Polaris and Arctic Cat. A small partnership involving Fillion and Roy, along with two other investors, formed the first four employees of Sno-Jet.
The initial efforts of the four men netted a total of 25 snowmobiles produced and sold in 1965, with orders coming in for more. In less than a year their company had outgrew what they alone could produce, so they quickly expanded their business to include over 100 new employees and their first mechanical engineer to improve on Roy’s original design.
Even with their expanded workforce, by 1968 they had produced and sold more than 15,000 snowmobiles with demand continuously increasing. Feeling overburdened, the owners of Sno-Jet decided to sell their company while it was still highly lucrative to the Glastron Boat Company, which relocated the company’s headquarters fromQuebectoMinnesota. The vast majority of Sno-Jets were still manufactured in the company’s main production building inThetford Mines, Quebec.
Sno-Jet’s peak year was 1970 with over 30,000 units produced, comprising of over 20 separate models with various engine makes and models. The company continued to experience good sales, although they were beginning to lag due to the competition of literally hundreds of other snowmobile manufacturing companies which had been formed in North Americaduring the snowmobiling boom of the early-1970’s. Nonetheless Sno-Jets remained a popular choice due to their reliability and price.
The OPEC Oil Crisis hit the snowmobiling market hard in 1973, causing the hundreds of snowmobile companies that seemingly started overnight to shut down just as quickly. Even the well-established Sno-Jet company was not immune, and by the following year had seen production fall by nearly 40%. It was a blow from which the company would never recover. Production numbers continued to dwindle, and Sno-Jet offered fewer models. Despite keeping their prices competitive the snowmobiling market had been broken, and as a result the Glastron Boat Company sold Sno-Jet toKawasakiin 1976.
Kawasaki wanted to enter the snowmobiling market, hoping to expand beyond just producing motorcycles as Yamaha had years before, but Kawasaki just wanted to use the Sno-Jet name and established dealerships; they didn’t want the Sno-Jet snowmobiles or manufacturing facilities, and as a result shut down everything Sno-Jet had produced up until that point. All assets were liquidated and hundreds of employees were put out of work, as many were not willing to move toKawasaki’s headquarters located inNebraska. Only a few design engineers were kept hired onto the Kawasaki snowmobiling branch.
Kawasakiused the Sno-Jet name until 1980 after only seeing limited success, and was unable to sustain their snowmobile manufacturing arm for much longer than thet. Under massive debt, they ceased snowmobile production in 1983.