Kenth Öhlin himself was a pretty fair motocross rider who didn’t quite make it to the prestigious titles. Things got better when he began to help others; already before starting the Öhlins Company in 1976 he was constructing exhaust pipes, engines – and shock absorbers. When he started up his own company he was also a retailer for motorcycles and mopeds and business grew like wildfire. Too fast as it turned out, the company became too diversified and Kenth was forced to choose a direction at the beginning of the 1980s. Öhlins’ shock absorbers were fitted for the first time on a world champion bike in 1978 – the rider was the Russian Gennady Moiseev who rode a KTM in the MX 250cc class.
Already then, Kenth Öhlin had made the decision that still holds today; those riders that wanted help had to pay for parts and service. Sponsoring with free parts has never occurred and on this point Öhlins differs from other competitors.
Another important period for Öhlins was when Kenth decided to sell 50% of his business to Yamaha in 1987. Up until then Öhlins had been mostly associated with motocross but the yellow shock absorbers had moved over to asphalt racing with good results. In 1984 Eddie Lawson won the 500cc class in road racing his Yamaha with Öhlins shock absorbers.
In order to continue to be market leaders Öhlins invests every year around 16 percent of the turnover on developing new products. That means almost 50 million Swedish Krona. In December 2007 Kenth Öhlin decided to repurchase the majority share of the company and today only 5% remains in the hands of Yamaha.