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A template for boatbuilders

I’ve always been amazed at how often nothing short of a crisis is needed to produce changes that logically should have happened outside the context of desperate times. Case in point: Brunswick’s announcement last week that it will move the intro date for 2010 models to September (the industry standard at one time).

The decision is being hailed by MRAA, which for many years has called for this. It’s also encouraging news for dealers of all other brands. In Brunswick’s case, the brands involved include Bayliner, Crestliner, Cypress Cay, Harris, Kayot, Lowe, Lund, Maxum, Triton and Trophy. To my knowledge, no other manufacturer has yet announced it will follow Brunswick’s move. But there is a ringing hope others will. And when they do, we’ll be able to point to a very good change that has come from these bad times.

Certainly Brunswick deserves acclaim for what is clearly a pro-dealer decision. Still, it seems fair to ask: Why now, why not then?

I’m referring, of course, to the fact that when, some years ago, manufacturers began moving the new product changeover date back from September to midsummer, MRAA loudly called the move what it was — bad for retailers. But manufacturers ignored sound advice and, instead, put themselves in an annual race to be first to get as much of the dealers’ available credit before the next guy!

Dealers argued such a change had four strikes against it. Strike one: A model changeover in midsummer instantly devalued the dealer’s current inventory right in the heart of the prime selling season. Strike two: It hurt every dealer’s ability to continue selling his inventory because it suddenly made it all non-current smack in the middle of the selling season! Strike three: New model intros in midsummer served to confuse customers. Strike four: It handed lenders justification to lower consumer credit amounts on the existing inventory.

Were all these arguments sound? Absolutely! If you want confirmation of that, just read  Brunswick’s announcement that boldly includes exactly those reasons for its decision. Oh, how a crisis can give us a better view of the landscape!

There’s no question, of course, that Brunswick’s decision is also good for Brunswick. That’s as it should be — a win, win! Moreover, it documents the fact that our industry should not expect to return to “business as usual” again. These days, we are being both challenged and changed for the better, and I say pour it on.

So kudos to Brunswick. They’ve set a terrific template for all the other boatbuilders. Who is going to step up next?


9 comments on “A template for boatbuilders

  1. Tom J

    Ford was awarded the 2010 truck of the year in February & began selling them.
    They also are selling the 2010 Focus as well as other models.

    Why stop at introducing until Setember ? Move it to December or Jan. 1 makes more sense.

    With more and more liquidation outlets(GE & Textron location near you) selling current product for $0.40 on the dollar, low production numbers, models that really do not change from year to year, isn’t it time to consider born on dates rather than model years??? Then the consumer will become more aware of the true age of the product. Then all dealers (small market & larger market) will be selling new boats (which is what you’re doing). No more artificial panic that you must have a model year blow out sale in June to correct those buying bondoggles from last years best time to buy parties., So you can try your luck agian with the crystal ball at the next corporate boat shindig (dealer meeting) where they chum you up to the “Now is the best time to buy!!!” agian.

    This is now nothing but a boutique industry with little to no significant changes to existing hull design from calander year to calander year. – sorry for the reality check.
    Sorry to burst your bubble but there are 2010 boats in the market today.


    Norm, I am fully in favor of pushing the model year change over for all builders ’til Fall, for all of the reasons you mention above. The creep-forward of new model intros has had an increasingly negative impact on our industry and there is no better time than right now to correct that trend. The wise builders will realize that many of their dealers can’t or won’t take product now. Allow the market to work through existing inventory and bring on the ‘010’s in September.

  3. jim

    I say again, it is now convenient and necessary for the mfg’s to delay new model intro. If they had listened to the dealer base, they might not have the build-up of inventory they are now trying to rid themselves of. Brunswick as a leader? I would submit only because they have no other choice. Genmar is next and soon—and just maybe one of their major dealer’s opening of a repo center is the same thing in disguise??

  4. Tom J

    G(U)M (Government Union Motors – a company that will gives you something to chew on!) has just started shipping and delivering to retail customers 2010 Camaro’s. The dealers love it as they have many presold units. Maybe they didn’t get the memo?
    The next thing I expect to read is that all these closed boat companies are not in distress as a matter of fact the opposite may be true, They are just completely sold out of their 2009 production & waiting until the fall to start introducing the New 2010’s. Will they wait until December to ship them?
    Kool-aid anyone?

  5. Jay Patton


    This is not a big deal for Brunswick because a) they have more aged product out there than any other builder and b) their plants are already shut down. Boatbuilders choosing not to move the model year are not loading dealers up with inventory because they can’t. They will only make a few presold 2010’s and try to keep some core employees working.

    You notice BBG did not announce a permanent change…

  6. Pete Peterson

    Our focus has been to reduce dealer inventory for the past year. We are approaching our lowest level ever and will not build inventory until the fall. Sold boats only first. The current state of the financial world is troubling for everyone in this industry, both retail and wholesale. We have aquired one competitor and hope to close on a second. We see a reduced number of dealers going to be able to make the transition, but those who come out the other side will be stronger and more profitable with reduced competition. I went through this in 1990 – 92, and saw some great times in this industry. They will return for those who have the wherewithal to stick it out and stay positive. Those who take a negative outlook will close quick in this environment.

    Pete Peterson
    VP Marketing
    World Cat

  7. John Dobbertin

    Having had a few years of personal experience in boat shows and an historical number the International Marine Trade Show…a few words: (1) IMTEC pushed boat manufacturers to attempt a “jump” on the competition by holding dealer meetings/junkets before the September IMTEC. (2) Going way back prior to the start of IMTEC, the January editions of the NY Boat Show, the Chicago Boat Show, and the San Francisco Boat Show held “trade days/hours” and those were the launch dates for that year’s product line.

  8. Tom J

    Well Norm its been about a week & I just received an Email from a Boat Rep. anouncing that Mercury/ Brunswick has become partners in a new company that has aquired Bentley pontoon boats & that they are reopening this month and the new boats will be 2010 models!! So much for the wait until September.

  9. Tom J

    Just had it explained by Merc employee that Mercury or Brunswick are not involved, just a boat rep embelishment & that it will be taken care of. … can you believe that a rep embelishing??

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