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How about eliminating the model year on boats?

Warning! If youíre one of the many dealers reportedly still concerned about the elimination of the model year by some outboards builders, do not read on Ė the following may keep you up nights.

How about eliminating the model year for boats?† Now wait a minute — Iím not saying itís about to happen but, interestingly, I canít say it never will, either.

Like a balloon, the idea unexpectedly floated up in at MRAAís Annual Convention in Las Vegas this week. The scene was the very end of a nearly two-hour-long Industry Leaders Panel program when I, as moderator, asked if boat builders were considering eliminating the boat model year? Weíd just finished a discussion on the still controversial elimination of outboard model years. Truth is to wrap things up I thought it would be light and fun to ask the question, never expecting anything more than a chuckle from the 10 Industry Leader panelists. Nobody chuckled.

In fact, David Slikkers, President of Tiara Yachts, immediately said ďIíd love it!Ē There were more than 300 dealers in the audience and everyone was frozen! After I caught my breath, I asked David to elaborate and he talked a bit about how it might eliminate dated inventories, make planning for boat buildings and dealers easier, among other comments.

As I looked at the other boat builders on the panel, I saw no surprised looks by Davidís comments. In fact, Dusty McCoy,†CEO of Brunswick, said itís certainly something that could be examined, although clearly I didnít get the impression he meant now. Other boatbuilders on the panel included Jim Lane, President, Chapparal; Duane Kuck, President, Regal Boats; Roger Cloutier, President and CEO, Genmar; and Geoff Teillon, Director, Crownline Boats.

The idea certainly raises some interesting thoughts, doesnít it? And at first glance I know it will take someone far more knowledgeable than me to determine whether itís an idea worth pursuing or simply a mental exercise for a slow day at the store.

Iíll have more thoughts from the MRAA Convention in this Blog next week, so come on back.


14 comments on “How about eliminating the model year on boats?

  1. Alan Wendt

    With the exception of the auto industry, what other big ticket product comes with a model year? I watch as OEM’s create chaos rushing to ready too many new products for dealer meetings, then spend the next six months drastically modifying product before it reaches the dealers and end users. From a marketing perspective, a better planned roll-out serves everyone’s interest. Production lines can be properly tooled. With the marketing focus shifting to the mmediacy of the Internet, ad campaigns can be built around individual model introductions and not diluted by promoting an entire model year. Putting the month and year the product was produced on the transom, instead of the year, has merit for both the consumer and dealer who often find themselves dancing the discount tango. Shift the focus from a model year to a new model and consumers will respond. Plus a retailer truly will have something new to show customers year round.

    In the interim, the notion of pushing the next model year introduction to September instead of June to better coincide with the North American boating season sounds like a good first step.





  3. Schwarzel

    Oh man not again…..First with motors now boats what is WRONG with this industry? Gee with no model year sure makes it hard to title. I just can see a bunch of legal problems with this thought, and god help us if it becomes more. Yes sir Mr. customer this is a new boat, now it was built 3 1/2 years ago but it still is a new boat. I’ll bet that will make the customers run to the hills. In a age where people can spend money on boats and boat gear you would think we would have better handle on things like model years.

  4. Jay Higgins

    It makes almost too much sense. This is an idea that has been kicked around for years. Maybe it should be even later in the year. But NO builder wants to be the first (or the only) one to do it! As a result, it hasn’t happened.

  5. Ted Fagerburg

    Due to the continuing low value of the US dollar compared to the euro, pound sterling, and the Swedish, Norwegian and Danish crown, US boat exports to Europe have become an essential part of many US boatbuilders’ revenue stream. This helps to keep them competitive in the US market as well.

    Under the European Recreational Craft Directive, it is mandatory for the model year to be embedded in the CIN (Craft Identification Number). As most industry folks know, this information appears in clear as the last two digits of the CIN. If US manufacturers would decide to eliminate model year, they would still have to retain the current CIN format for boats destined for export to Europe. Maintaining separate inventory for US sales and European sales could be burdensome. The alternative of adding the CIN on finished boats at the moment of export is not an attractive solution since it would mean loosening the shrinkwrap enough to allow the CIN plate to be affixed to the transom as well as the mandatory second, hidden plate, to be affixed somewhere else in the boat.

    Food for thought for those manufacturers considering the model year elimination proposal.

  6. Joe Lewis

    Moving the model year introduction to September is a good first step. The elimination of a model year also deserves more evaluation. After the MRAA meeting flying home I made a very quick list of pro’s and con’s. I’m still thinking, but right now the “pro” side of the list has a lot more ink!

  7. Larry Tague

    In a perfect world we would not need model years as we would sell everything we have without having none currents.
    Now lets get serious, do you think todays consumer is that stupid ??? This is a big ticket item we are talking about.
    Doing away with the year model has only helped the manufacturer get rid of over built product without discounting the product.
    The OEM has done away with model year but I still receive a updated price list evey year even when the product has not been changed.
    We want consumers to buy into the certified program and give them more bang for there buck but insist on pulling the wool over there eyes with the BS we are presenting to them about the lack of year model, Where & when will the BS from the big Guys end, we have no model year because the big guys say so ????? I appreciated the candid thoughts from Roch & BRP at the meeting, I beleive they have a real veiw of what it is all about.

  8. CarlM

    Martin, Martin, Martin- Please you know that builders will not all agree.
    Just go back a few years when the owner of a certain multi line boat building company thought he had an ageement on this very issue and delayed the model year change on his lines to Sept. only to be schnookered by the rest who started to imprint the next model year into hulls in June as they always had.

    By the way I agree with Allen Wendt my big ticket home appliances do not have model years, nor does the farm tractor or snow blower. The pool didn’t come with a model year engraved in it. My company computers do not have a model year or the mainframe or even the folk lift. Look around at everything in your life and identify the items with model years.
    Then try to legitimize why a boat built in a hard tooled mold, built with the same components by the same people is different than the one built on the last day of a so called production year? It is not but the consumer will falsely hammer a dealer saying it’s a left over or non current & expect to pay less.
    Every boat has a hull id required by the USCG. We all know the code. It is a born on id.
    I say let’s all skip 2008 models and start the 2009 model year this in January 1st.
    It could be done if everyone agreed then we would be a year ahead……problem solved!!!

  9. Kim

    Just because the Coast Guard has bigger fish to fry than enforce the proper application of the model year to all recreational boats, doesn’t mean there aren’t regulations governing this issue. 33CFR181.3(g) states: “Model year” means the period beginning August 1 of any year and ending on July 31 of the following year. Each model year is designated by the year in which it ends.

    I often see model years that don’t coincide with the build date i.e., the boat was built in February 2006 but is called a model year 2008. When that customer buys that boat in February 2008, and it is sold to him as a 2008, everything is fine until there is a claim. Since many insurance companies depreciate machinery from the date of manufacturer, not some capriciously applied model year, this is when the do-do hits the fan. When that owner finds out he paid for a 2008 boat that was built in Febrauary 2006, and now his $50,000 engine claim is going to be depreciated, he is going to be very upset. And guess who is going to pay, the selling dealer and manufacturer, one way oir another.

    It appears that consumers are becomeing less and less enamoured with boats and for very good reason. Instead of the organizations that oversee the manufacture of boats taking a pro-active stance and attempt to upgrade the quality of boats, they are always looking for ways to make boat ownership as burdensome as possible. And the model year debate is just another example. Why should a consumer have to guess as to when his boat was built?

    Boat certification is a wonderful idea, in theory. If NMMA adopted all of the ABYC standards, it might even be beneficial. But they picked and chose those standards that member builders would not object to and they are the standards that boats are certified to.

    As far as the ABYC standards go, at one time they, along with the National Fire Protection Association standards, were the best there was. The standards are supposed to be, and in fact are consensus stanrds. However, the industry for the last 20-25 years has so populated the committees that they are really a consensus of the big builders and equipment manufacturers with little or no input from the public, surveyors, or the insurance industry, the people and industry most affected by the standards. (It is one of the reasons ABYC standards for the most part are not ANSI standards while NFPA standards are.)

    It is almost impossible to pass meaningful standards based on sound engineering because some industry-paid member will always say, “But where are the Coast Guard statistics to justify such a change.” The boat building industry does not want to know the real statistics on boating related issues and problems gathered by the insurance industry. If they did, they could request the Coast Guard to reinstate the funding for the program that was gathering that data. That information was once available but showed the Coast Guard’s and the Boating Safety Advisory Council’s efforts in boating safety in such an unfavorable light that funding was quickly cut.

    It is my opinion the industry doesn’t really want to build better and safer boats. They want to build boats that are judgement proof and they saw the ABYC stardards as a way to make that happen. That and they were part of the lobby that made it impossible for anyone but the original owner to sue for faulty construction unless personal injury is involved. And it is this mentality at teh higher echelons of the boat building industry that will ultimately result in the construction of boats that only the truly wealthy can afford as they can hire engineers and construction managers to oversee what the industry is not willing to do.

  10. Strongsail

    Somebody mentioned earlier that “…aside from the automotive industry, who else puts model years on their products?” He was right, and I think it’s WRONG and STUPID. Look at all the ads for major appliances at the big-box discounters. Note the model numbers, and then go to the manufacturers’ websites, and you’ll find that they are almost NEVER current models. This practice is just plain DECEPTIVE and is an INSULT to the consumer. BAD idea. FORGET IT. Why deceive the customer when you, the dealer, ordered more inventory than you could sell, or you, the builder, built more product than you could sell to your dealers?

    But go ahead, pursue the idea if you want to drive every insurance agent and underwriter in the country NUTS. Premium pricing is always based on model year.

    BAD IDEA. Did I say that already??

  11. LJH

    Well I guess I’ll pipe in. Has anyone thought about how financial institutions will react?? I’m not going to buy into comparing an appliance to a boat nor should anyone else. I’m pretty confident in the statement that the majority of appliances are paid for in cash or put on a credit card whereas boats are financed. Lending institutions are already becoming more conservative in their lending habits due to the elimination of the engine model year not to mention the overall economic conditions. Go ahead and eliminate the model year on boats which will tighten the noose already around the industry’s neck-

  12. Pete Peterson

    From the manufacturing side, we tried this last year. We wanted to set the model year at Sept 1st. The end of May, dealers refused to order 2006 product for delivery in June, July or August as other manufacturers were introducing new model year products in June. We had to fold and give the dealers what they wanted or face 3 months of limited production. It can not be one, it must be all. Manufacturers are there own worst enemies, as they try to force dealers into commitments and shipments earlier each year. Tie up the floor plan to block the competition. End result is what is happening now, downturn results in overbloated field inventories, and no orders. World Cat changed the way it conducts business five years ago and as a result we were able to see the coming downturn and downside production ahead of the curve, today we are booked out 12 weeks and have the lowest inventory levels in the field that we have had in years. Results higher margins for dealers, lower floor plan costs and better profitability for us and our dealers.

    Pete Peterson

  13. MLH

    The first year is going to be very tough for the manufacturers that lead the charge and change their model year to september. How many dealers are going to order 08 product in June, July, August of this year when 09’s will be released in September. With the conditions what they are, can these leading manufacturers afford to do this.
    Dealers that represent lines that do not change their model year will be at a significant advantage this fall and until they change their model year. Salesman saying, they are selling “old” product, we are selling you a brand new ’09.
    The argument that we obsolete our product during the height of the season in my opinion is not valid. Most dealers don’t start doing end of year clearance until fall in our market.

    Elemination of Model Year I don’t think will happen. After the disaster of the outboard model year elimination. Mainly because most states title boats. They have to have a year model. Not a date of manufacture. The manufactures that eliminate model year will have a tough time getting the “rules” changed in all the states…good luck!

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