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Be certified or be gone?

It was announced last week that Sailfish Boats and Tracker Marine Group are the latest to join 23 other brands in providing financial assistance to their dealers completing the industry’s dealer certification program. (Go to for complete list of 25 brands.)

Those of you who regularly read this Blog know I am a strong supporter of the dealer certification Program. I believe it has value for every dealership that successfully completes it. But today I have some mixed feelings brought on by the announcement by Sailfish Boats.

Specifically, Sailfish dealerships may co-op up to 50 percent of certification expenses. That’s good. Tracker dealers will receive a special allowance of $500 each model year to offset certification program fees. That’s also good. But here’s where I start to get uneasy. Additionally, the announcement said Sailfish Boats has set a goal for 100 percent of its dealerships to enroll in the dealership certification program in this model year, with 75 percent completing the certification process before the close of the model year. Moreover, all Sailfish dealerships are required to become certified by the change of model year 2009. Now, there are those feelings!

On one hand, wanting to see all Sailfish dealers achieve certified status is an exciting goal. It will likely strengthen all Sailfish dealerships and even Sailfish’s position in the marketplace.

On the other hand, Sailfish’s decision to require all its dealers to become certified raises some interesting questions. For example, should we now expect other boatbuilders to follow this precedent? Should it even be a requirement, presumably included in the Dealer Agreement, in the first place? What will happen to a dealer who is unable to meet the deadline – cancelled? If the manufacturer requires it, should that builder pay all the costs of dealer certification?

How about re-certification? What happens if a dealer becomes de-certified in the future? Is mandatory certification by a deadline more preferable in the long run than voluntary participation with financial supports and incentives for those that enroll?

I’m guessing many of you have already thought of other questions and/or have some clear opinions swirling around in your mind on this surprise move by Sailfish. Are we looking at one-upmanship here or the start of a trend?


6 comments on “Be certified or be gone?

  1. Charles

    Hello Norm,
    I have heard that once a dealer pays its money to be certified that the process goes along easily and there is not much follow up by 5 star to see if the dealer is doing what they say they are. I have had comments from a dealer that they feel this is a scam for money and that they dont see much benefit. I have also been a proponent to dealer certification but if this is true it is doomed to fail miserably.

  2. John McDevitt

    Certification or not, the manufacturer needs to recognize the importance the dealer plays in the manufacturer’s success. As consolidation makes its way through the boating industry’s manufacturing and distribution sectors, the survivors will have deeper and stronger relationships. …and maybe those with deeper and stronger relationship just may be the survivors!

    As relationships grow, the manufacturer will influence the dealer’s business practices and the dealers will gladly follow. A dealer that looses certification should have time to get it back.

    Lying beneath all of those Smith Ford and Jones Toyota signs is a manufacturer / dealer relationship that the boating industry still can’t conceptualize. When slow economies and consolidation start to make things look really scary, stronger partnerships will evolve. Partnerships that look beyond many of the boat builder/dealer nit picking we currently see in the boating industry.

    The boating industry is not the first industry with a manufacturer / dealer infrastructure. Look around, there are many good examples in other industries. …other industries with happier customers.

  3. Doug Reimel

    Dealer certification is a great concept. In reality it is just another way to suck money out of the dealer. After all Grow Boating Inc. is a for profit company. It is a great way for someone to make an income. Manufactures believe that the dealer is just a gready selfish person who only cares about making money. Yes we do, and we want our customer to keep coming back to make more money off of them. In asking my customers what is more credible to them, Grow Boating Dealer Certified, or BRP Certified, Mercury Certified, or Yamaha Certified. The take the Manufacture Certification over Grow Boating Inc. any day. When are the manufactures going to live up to the standard they want the dealer to live up to? Build it right the first time. The end user doing the Research and Development! A great product is the best first step

  4. jim

    It seems to me Norm that the tables have been turned on the dealers. I though we were battling at one point to put dealer agreements in place and now nothing seems to be happening in that arena. Instead, dealers are scrambling to get certified, thus dancing once again to the builders tune.
    Have dealers forgotten about agreements and what they would mean?
    Oh, and who other than JD Powers, whom I believe is also pay to play, is going to certify the builders?

  5. Joe Lewis

    Making dealer certification a requirement is the wrong thing to do. Dealers should make their own call about certification based on what’s best for their business and market. Let’s face it, certification is not for everyone. For the concept of certification to work a dealer has to want to do it. For some it’s an easy call. For others it will mean a drastic change in the culture of their dealership and you simplily can’t force that.
    Frankly I’m very disappointed with the support most manufacturers have given this program. Out of hundreds of manufacturers only twenty five are endorsing it. Out of that number only a hand full are offering any real financial support. I don’t consider allowing dealers to use already meagar co-op funds supporting the program. Only companies like Chaparral, Formula, Grady-White, Regal, and Robalo truely support the program. All the rest tie their reimbursement to co-op advertising, flex and or maketing funds dealers were entitled to any way.
    If manufacturers really want their dealers to become certified they should offer inventives to do so. How about Crownline and their 110% of dealer retail rate on warranty. Brunswick has just announced it’s program and support rewarding certified dealer with longer term dealer agreements. These are companies offering sound business incentives and reasons to become certified. I think the industry would be better served by following the lead of companies like these. They’re encouraging and supporting, not demanding.
    Eventually the market will dictate the dealers decision on certification. Consumers will become aware and recognizes the benefits of purchasing from a certified dealer. Certified Dealers will have a competitive advantage over others. At that point those who chose not to become certified may have to reconsider and the program is a success. More consumers enjoying a better sales and service experience thru more industry certified dealers. The free market is a wonderfull thing!!!!
    Manufacturers would be better served encouraging dealers to become certified based on the merits of the program and the competitive advantages they’ll enjoy. Making demands /requirements goes back to the old “Carrot and Stick”. A few enlightened manufacturer mentioned above have come to realize the old “Stick” doesn’t work any more. Hats off the them for their forsight and leadership. Bottom line is we could use less sticks and a lot more carrots in the marine industry

  6. Pete Peterson

    We realize that not all dealers are in a position to become certified. Our only requirement is that they take the certification guidelines and use them to become a better dealer. We contribute to the cost of certification for dealers. Currently, we have about 20% of our dealers certified, Pete Peterson, World Car

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