The snowmobile clutch that started Kimpex 50 years ago

What started as a side project for Quebec native Gilles Soucy became Canadian powersports stronghold Kimpex

by Kirsten Armleder

Gilles Soucy
Gilles Soucy, who is now 78, started the company that would become Kimpex in 1967. photo courtesy Kimpex.

Turning 50 is a big deal, especially when you’re a major Canadian powersports company that started by accident.

The year is 1967 and heavy machinery operator Gilles Soucy is on sick leave when he discovers a revolutionary snowmobile clutch that eliminates vibration. After testing it on his snowmobile, he joins forces with the inventor and begins selling the product, first from his truck and later out of a converted school bus. Sales take off and Kimpex is born.

By 1973, Soucy’s travelling warehouse isn’t enough so he builds and settles Kimpex into its present headquarters in Drummondville.

The years that followed were not easy on sled-based companies, but Soucy’s persistence and vision kept Kimpex prospering. He acquired presses and moulds from OEMs that went bankrupt and with that Kimpex became a manufacturer and a distributor. Today, Kimpex has over 80,000 products and accessories for snowmobiles, motorcycles, ATVs, UTVs and marine products. 

Going global, staying local

Over the years, Soucy purchased several businesses and from that came Soucy Group, a global conglomerate with interest in 10 different sectors—including defence, industrial and agriculture.

But according to Michel Côté, who is vice-president of sales at Kimpex, Soucy’s heart has and will always be in powersports.

“That’s what he likes the most,” said Côté.

And the feeling is mutual.

“I like to motorcycle on the street and I did a lot of snowmobiling when I was younger but now it’s more motocross,” said Côté.

Having worked with Soucy for the better part of 32 years, Côté is familiar with the way his boss does business.

“He inspired me on how he respected people and how he can work as a team player,” said Côté. “He sets the goals but he lets the people manage to get where he wants to go. It’s very fun to work with somebody like that.”

After 50 years, Soucy Group and, in effect, Kimpex remains a family-owned-and-operated business with Soucy’s nephew Eric Côté at the helm and his children, Chantal and Stéphan, involved at management levels.

More for the mountain riders

Looking ahead, 2017 will be a busy year for Kimpex. Besides celebrating its 50th, the company looks to expand its presence in Western Canada, with a focus on making more technical snowmobile gear available for mountain or backcountry riders.

“We also want to expand in the motorcycle business in a big way,” said Côté.

Like the very nature of powersports, Kimpex is an example of what happens when good products fall into the hands of talented and passionate people. 

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