In a decision driven by the economy and tighter emissions regulations for stern drive engines, Volvo Penta has discontinued production of its popular 3.0-liter engines, a staple powertrain in entry-level runabouts. Volvo had offered three versions of the four-cylinder engine for 2010, but leaves the entry-level stern drive market to Mercury MerCruiser, which will offer its version of the 3.0-liter engine with a carburetor or with fuel injection and an exhaust catalyst. Both Merc and Volvo “marinize” the same 3.0-liter engine, sourced from General Motors and manufactured in Mexico. Its origins date back to the early 1960s, when the engine appeared in the Chevy II automobile.


Emissions regulations set to take effect in 2011 will require all gas marine engines to either be equipped with an exhaust catalyst, or to be averaged into the engine manufacturer’s total emissions calculation. Catalysts are already required on all engines sold in California and New York. Equipping boats destined for those markets with the catalyst, which requires fuel injection and a complex engine management system, presently adds about $2,300 to the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. That’s a big hit to the price of an entry-level runabout offered for well under $20,000. Boat builders are concerned the up-charge will drive buyers to the used boat market (see our recent interview with Recreational Boat Group President Roch Lambert), and several will offer new runabouts with outboard power, which may now deliver more performance at a lower price than an emissions-controlled 3.0-liter stern drive. With projected volume diminished in an already sluggish sales environment, Volvo Penta has decided not to continue with the 3.0-liter engine.

Volvo will also not develop a 4.3-liter V-6 engine with a catalyst, according to company spokesperson Bob Apple, but will offer the engine with a carburetor (4.3GL) or with fuel injection (4.3GXiE). “We will average the 4.3 engines with our entire line,” said Apple, “but we don’t project enough volume there to warrant an investment in developing a catalyst system for that engine. The number of 4.3-liter engines we can sell will only be limited by the number of catalyst engines we sell.”

And that’s the trick for engine builders, who will have to project how many emissions-controlled engines they will sell in order to determine how many lower-cost, non-emissions motors they can make available to boat builders. And if the supply is limited, which builders will get the cheaper motors? Some in the industry think the Brunswick boat companies like Bayliner and Sea Ray will be first in line for MerCruiser engines.

Charles Plueddeman