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Is change in the model year launch date dead?

For longer than I can remember, the retail side of our industry has been advocating an industry-wide change back to September 1 for the new model year launch. It was that way many years ago. But, for the 2009 model year, it seems safe to report the idea will be DOA.

To say it is disappointing is an understatement. I am one of many who thought this might actually be the ideal time to change over to a September 1 intro date. What with sales as slow as they are, resulting in reduced production of 2008 models, there might not be a better time. It seems logical that the timing for such a move would be advantageous for several reasons. For example, it would meet an oft-spoken need for our industry to move the model year changeover away from the peak retail selling season of summer.

When you stop and think about it, changing the model year in mid-season may benefit manufacturers, but it’s never made marketing sense for retailers. Since builders can’t keep building unless retailers keep selling, it seems logical that doing anything that helps dealers move boats, engines and accessories out the end of the distribution pipeline makes infinite sense. Another benefit would be the elimination of the summer dealer meeting hassle.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I think dealer meetings are a good thing. They provide valuable information, training and benefit for dealers — just not in the middle of the summer selling season!Does it make any sense to pull the retailer out of his store at peak selling time when both the manufacturer and dealer need to see products moving?

Still, another plus would be an extended time this year for dealers to sell down their ’08 and older inventories, thereby increasing their financial strength. Let’s face it, orders at this year’s dealer meetings will likely be as plentiful as sharks in Lake Michigan.Some extra time to relieve current inventory can only help increase the orders for ’09 models. But alas, it’s not going to happen. In spite of the fact that last year, leaders like Bill McGill, Chairman of MarineMax, stated such a change in industry practice would be a positive move; no one is even talking about it today.

In spite of the fact,  that just a couple of years ago, Irwin Jacobs, Genmar Chairman, pushed for change by saying all his brands would adopt the September changeover idea, other manufacturers refused to follow his lead and he withdrew his plans.So, with summer just ahead, we’re left with a simple question regarding changing the model year intro date — if not now, when?

Or, is this good idea truly dead?

Comments

10 comments on “Is change in the model year launch date dead?

  1. Wade N. D'Waters

    Norm
    Not this year. I have heard of 2 manufactures who have The 2009′s in production

  2. KNOX BRADFORD

    I HAVE BEEN IN THE MARINE BUSINESS FOR 37 YEARS, I CAN NOT THINK OF ONE THING THAT WOULD HELP MARKET OUR PRODUCT WITH OUT INTERUPTION,THEN THE AFTER LABOR DAY MODEL CHANGE ONE REASON IF YOU SELL A CURANT MODEL BOAT IN A JAN.. BOAT SHOW, ITS DIFFICULT FOR ME, KNOWING THAT THIS NEW CURRENT MODEL BOAT WILL ONLY BE NEW FOR 6 MONTHS!!!!! THE CUSTOMER WILL NOT BE ABLE TO USE THEIR NEW BOAT THROUGH THE BOAT SEASON , BEING A NEW CURENT MODEL YEAR BOAT!!!
    SELL !!!! SELL!!! SELL!!!—-KB

  3. Anonymous

    It’s dead!

    The competitive advantage it would give all the manufacturers who didn’t change is enough to kill it.

    No dealer’s going to buy last years boats when the dealer next door is buying current models. I sure wouldn’t…..would you?

  4. Schwarzel

    Boy Norm it would be “the deal” if manufacturers would go to a September 1 new model date. That would give time to sell older units and not lose your butt on them as in the current year as it is now. I am a Evinrude dealer, we have started to see 2009 motors all ready. One thing for sure a later date for the model year would clear out the “pipe line” of ’08 product. If we all had the “balls” to do it we could force the manufactures to do this. If all of the dealer network pushed for it, they would have to do it. But that will not happen. Because the manufactures will tie the sales programs to it and we the dealers want the rebates! Looks like a NO WIN to me, but then what do I know, I’m just a dealer.

  5. Jim

    Thanks Norm for bringing this sad state of affairs up one more time. Our builders will never,ever get it; at least that is the way it seems. Every year at every dealer meeting we dealers hear from the builders the old familiar—we are your partners, we are in this with you, we would never let you down, blah blah blah blah—and Irwin and his Brunswick equals have always led that rhetoric. Yet they pull us out of our stores in prime selling season to introduce new product 6 months early by calendar year, when we are still being shipped product that was ordered at mid-winter and spring boat shows as new, current model year product. One or two months later, it is dated product. So what happened to the Sep or Oct model intro? The same thing that happened to dealer agreements. Lip service and nothing more. Sign here to keep the line or we’ll find someone who will—oh, and by the way, if a larger dealer or one with a better floor plan shows up–we’ll sign him. Oh and by the way, we’ll penalize any other dealer who sells into your territory; that is unless he buys more product than you. Don’t like it? Oh well!
    Car dealers laugh at us and so does the rec industry. Maybe this year, when none of us order any of their overpriced, under-warranty supported merchandise they will get the message. Without the dealers there is no builder. And dealers need to be supported, not manipulated as always.
    Think about it builders and act—fall model intro and solid dealer agreements now– those of you who act may just survive. It doesn’t appear right now that any outsiders are knocking themselves out to get involved in our industry, now does it?

  6. Dave Lange

    Are we in this industry required by some sort of outdated laws or regulations to even have a “model year designation”? Would it be possible to simply use the actual “date of manufacture” in place of model year? Manufacturers such as cargo trailers use the date of manufacture for model identification. I suggest that the consumer is interested in purchasing the most current product. If a manufacturer wants to improve on a current model the current model would then become non-current and move through the system just like “last year models” do now. Why wouldn’t this work?

  7. Doug Reimel

    Good Morning Norm. Changing the model year to September would accomplish everything you have stated. Unfortunetly the dealer is not a partner in the retailing business. The dealer is just the manufacturers Customer. It is only about the Manufacturers Quarterly numbers. Everything that is mentioned is in direct cnflict with the Manufacturers business model. Just a note. I hear Brunswick is going to tie dealer discounts to CSI scores for the 2009 model year. This is just a rumor. Think about it, Your CSI score from your Customer(the End User) is going to determine your discount from the manufacturer. Very Noble Quality Control. If the MANUFACTURER CANNOT DELIVER YOU A COMPLETELY FINISHED PRODUCT WITH ALL THE MOTOR, PAINT, EQUIPMENT IN A REASONABLE TIME, YOUR CSI SCORE IS GOING TO SUFFER GREATLY SO YOU CANNOT GET MAXIMUM DISCOUNT. Book programs versus real world programs just don’t mix. Change for the good is always difficult and met with resistance. Change for the sake of the Absurd is just easier. Norm all we have to do is find a Band Wagon that every dealer is willing to get on.

  8. Wade N. D'Waters

    Dave Lange wrote
    “Are we in this industry required by some sort of outdated laws or regulations to even have a “model year designation”? Would it be possible to simply use the actual “date of manufacture” in place of model year? Manufacturers such as cargo trailers use the date of manufacture for model identification. I suggest that the consumer is interested in purchasing the most current product. If a manufacturer wants to improve on a current model the current model would then become non-current and move through the system just like “last year models” do now. Why wouldn’t this work?”

    Dave you bring up the real point of where we should be going. Like cargo trailers the vast majority of our products change very little from one year to the next and are low in volume(when compared to cars,RV’s & motorcycles. It is the reason why Yamaha & Mercury have gone to born on dates- nothing is changing year to year. Retail finance folks prefer model years- it makes their job easy. Also a lot of states like model years but that can be handled. I laugh when I see Hull Ids that read like C708 & I see alot of them. This system is broken & needs to be addressed with the USCG for changing it.
    It makes more since to offer current models with built on dates but we will likely not go there either.

  9. Rod

    Its a sad commentary regarding boat maunufacturers lack of concern for their retail dealers. (With the glut of 2007 and 2008 models available right now, maybe they should take a year off.)
    For example, Thunderbird Industries has 8-9% price increases for their 2009 model year. With these boats arriving as early as mid-June, how are dealers supposed to maintain margins, much less manage the escalating floor plan balances?
    Then, consider the sub-prime lending crisis that the marine industry has yet to confront until the 2004-2005 trade-ins start to require 25-30% loan deficiensy checks to be written at closing. Ouch!
    With the rising credit risk premiums emerging daily as loan applicants with good to excellent credit scores get shot down, even selling to finance prospects is nop guarantee.

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