A View from Here

Bill's Sisson's weekly Trade Only blog

Are dealer/manufacturer agreements Grow Boating’s 800-pound gorilla?

As a member of both NMMA and MRAA who’s worked with dealers and boat builders for more than two decades, I understand the needs, wants and concerns on both sides of the fence. But let’s face it: Differences will always exist between the needs of suppliers, their trading partners and customers. Just as there are differences between the needs of accessory manufacturers and retailers, the same holds true for boatbuilders and dealers.
Not long ago accessory manufacturers and retailers faced similar problems with vendor agreements, which many felt were one-sided. They established a Mutual Efficiency Forum (MEF) and worked to help solve each other’s problems. These meetings helped them arrive at a workable balance. Neither side would say today’s agreements are perfect. They never will be. But in one way or another, they are workable. And with every rendition, they get better. As a result of MEF’s efforts, our supply chain is more efficient and the overall boating experience is heightened for consumers.
Today, many feel dealer/manufacturer agreements are also one-sided. Quite frankly, that’s not as important as the fact that both sides are now in the process of seeking their own workable balance. The newest agreements come closer than ever. They are not perfect. They never will be. But just as accessory manufacturers and retailers discovered, with time and patience, both sides will come even closer. Each effort helps tame the 800-pound gorilla and brings us nearer the Grow Boating Initiative’s goal—getting more people excited about boating and improving the consumer boating experience.

George Bellwoar
NMMA – Past Chairman
PERKO – Vice President of Marketing


5 comments on “Are dealer/manufacturer agreements Grow Boating’s 800-pound gorilla?

  1. Joe Lewis

    Differences will always exist between boat builders and boat retailers. The needs of the business are in some cases diametrically opposed. That doesn’t mean the two can’t recognize these facts and work to create compromise solutions to deal with them.
    The Slikkers committe did just that and published guidelines to help create more fair manufacturer/ dealer agreements. Was it everything both sides wanted? No. Was it a good start? Absolutely. Now the question is when will manufacturers implement those recommendations? The promise of the 2007 model year was not kept.
    As a dealer with representing two of the top selling brand names of boats I can tell you manufacturers are not actively taking steps to incorporate the recommendations. I’ve been trying since August of 2006 to get one to outline their expectations of territory, market share, CSI, inventory level, committed floor plan credit line, etc. So far no response. The other has no dealer agreement at all. They have been promising to have one since the committee recommendations were published. To date no agreement.
    It takes two parties willing to work together to solve problems and work out compromises good for both. So far I see no eveidence boat manufacturers are willing to committ to this process. At this point all the good work done by the Slikker’s committee is in jeopardy of being veiwed as a delaying tactic. If this happens the call for manufacturer/dealer legislation in many states will be renewed once more.
    Solving this problem and creating stronger partnerships between boat manufacturers and dealers will ultimately lead to higher consumer satisfaction and a stronger industry. Neither manufacturer or dealer support of the Grow Boating initative should be effected by this debate. Both must continue to give GB their full support while we work thru our differences. This issue is not Grow Boating 800-pound gorilla. It is a fundimental problem our industry must solve if we are to raise the ceiling of our mutual business opportunities.

  2. Douglas Smith

    I think many mfgs. are reluctant to jump in with both feet, the dealer agreements are great for the bigger more professional dealers but many mfgs. have a wide varity of dealers and many of them don’t have the same business ethices. Even some larger dealers will commit to handle aline of boats just to keep his competor from having the line. Bottom line good companies will always respect thir dealer network, what happen to the day when a mans word was his honor.

  3. Dick Cromwell

    Loyalty is earned. Both from the dealer and the manufactuer. Unfortunately a good dealer earns his loyalty from his customer. Too many manufacturers forget the dealer is their customer and not the the reverse. Thus the relationaship fails. Without good agreements the relationship will always be filled with suspect.

    A franchise that does not respect the work of its franchisee is not a successful franchise.

    This will not change without legislation. It is coming.

  4. Bruce Rutherford

    boat manufacturers are still living in the past! without future dealer franchise agreements, they will be fighting the same battles 20 years from now. Adding more dealers do not create more market share!! No retail dealer wants to spend the $$ to build facilities, etc to be at the whim of the manufactures current management control(which tends to change constantly). If manufactures decide to step up to todays world, so will the retail dealers. Manufacturers need to “put up” or “shut up” or their bottom lines will continue to get smaller and smaller.

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