A View from Here

Bill's Sisson's weekly Trade Only blog

An open letter to outboard manufacturers

It’s time for the outboard manufacturers to stop charging their dealers to sell their products. Times have changed, and with sales at a new industry low, my dealership, for one — I know I’m not alone — has had to adapt by cutting costs in every way possible.

It does not feel like a “partnership” situation to be charged a fee just to do business online. You are spending less on staff and penalizing the dealers to do so. We sell and service five brands of outboards. That’s somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000 a year of “fees” that could go toward efforts to stay in business, perhaps stock your parts, send our techs to schools, buy the “special tools” that we are required to have collecting dust in our shops, or advertise your products.

We try to make your brands respected by properly representing them with quality service. There will be less and less outboard dealers to charge that average $60 or more monthly “fee” for the “privilege” of selling and servicing your products in the near future.

Seems to me that with the sales programs weighted toward big dealers, the seemingly accepted — and sometimes encouraged — sales of “backdoor” motors, which are killing our profits on legitimately purchased inventory, you might consider giving your dealers a break. Unless you don’t want to have small dealerships.

There will be no one there to replace many of your faltering dealers with for some time to come. Consumers tend to purchase what they can get serviced locally. Might be time to appreciate what you have and treat us as true business partners instead of profit centers.

Marc Grove
President, Wefing’s Marine
Apalachicola, Fla.


16 comments on “An open letter to outboard manufacturers


    I would like to echo Marcs concerns to the “Backdoor Sales” of boat manufacturers to unauthorized dealers and internet crate sales by dealers to indepents and retail customers.

    Outboard manufacturers will tell you that they do not allow such practices yet they consistently fail to enforce. In fact most turn their heads. This practice continues to destroy the profitability of full line dealers who have committed thier business to the highest quality of customer service and satisfaction.

    The benifits of having a strong dedicated dealer network will far outweigh the number of units a “nobody beats our price only our service” dealership can push out the door.

    Manufacturers should take a strong stand against violations of policy and aggresively monitor and terminate their relationship with the repeat offenders.

    Nobody likes a “cheater” and thats exactly what the offenders are.

    Thomas Mackie
    South Harbor Marine
    Waretown NJ

  2. Russ Salter

    Marc hit the nail on the head. Seems the large dealer sells the product and the little dealer at the fishing lake gets the problems. He helps the consumer in hopes of selling this consumer his next motor.
    Special tools, when I think of all the special tools that have never left their boxes and think of how that money could have been better been used, this sickens me. Many times a small dealer never see’s the models these tools are order for, he may be on a small lake and would never see a large motor. (Over 200 hp)
    Grow Boating has turned into no more than an added fee or a manufacturers tax. This is money that could have been used for local advertising to help the small dealer directly.
    The next few years are going to be tough, tighten those belts AGAIN.

  3. John Chadwick

    Small, local dealers are the ones I most trust, and tend to drive the most brand loyalty and repeat business. It is always a shame when manufacturers miss this important point, as they often do when favoring the large volume dealers.

  4. Larry Keeter

    If you haven’t figured it out by now, its no secret the outboard manufacturers could care less about you. No one wants small dealers anymore. Even my largest distributor didn’t invite me to their annual show this year after never being a day late in payment for 25 years. I don’t buy enough I was told and a lot of small dealers show up with 5 guys and drink beer all day. They penalize me and I don’t drink. I’ll never go to one again.

    A friend of mine told me yesterday that he was going to Indiana to pick up a load of boats. He’s buying his motors from the boat builder (plus a few more) because the discount is 17% and not 7% as from the engine maker.

    Outboards are nothing but a commodity today as no one really cares about brand like they once did. I was a diehard Mercury guy for many years and my personal boat has an Evinrude. Perhaps a Yamaha next.

    I use motor companies like lawyers and toilet paper.

  5. david bearden

    Marc is right on. Discounts should be the same for all dealers to level the
    playing field. OEM backdoor sales stopped. Repower sales are a thing of the
    past unless you want to sell the engines at cost and figure out how to make
    money on rigging and makeready. The guys with the larger discounts work on
    the backend. There is no profit in box engine sales anymore.

  6. Larry Holcombe

    It has always amazed me that my potential customers come in and tell me how much they can buy the same engine for less I can. Customers cannot wrap their head around the fact that the same dealer that gives the engine away will still cost more than my dealership’s rigged price! Level the playing field! These internet dealers are playing unfair and the manufacturers could care less. Why not base, my pricing or the amount of special tools that I buy based, on my CSI score?

  7. Gordy McKelvey

    Maybe one “Silver Lining” to the bad economy is the oppertunity for the dealers to take back this industry from the “Bean Counters, Lawyers, Marketing Gurus and most of these so called Marine Industry Experts, who couldn’t show you where the propeller is supposed to be installed. The “Tail has been wagging the dog” way too long. The dealers have and always will make this industry go. The time is ripe for all you hard working guys and gals to take back what is really yours. This business used to be profitable and for the most part a lot of fun. Time to get that back. I totally agree with all of the comments posted so far.

  8. Schwarzel

    The problem is we have these “MARKETING” people who are in charge who don’t boat, fish and they could care less about the product and the customer who comes in the dealership door. SELL MORE is all they care about. ” You need to sell more to get the next discount level”, sell more. Well I for one have had it with these wet behind the ears people and Gordy your right most can’t tell a 25 hp prop from a 60 hp prop let alone who’s prop it is. One good thing about the down turn is that these people will have to find work in another industry! I just hope that all of us dealers can “hang” on till times get better. I guess time will tell.

  9. Thomas Mackie

    I am surprised that there are only 8 responses to Marcs letter. This issue will haunt us forever unless we voice our concerns. I urge all of you who read this to respond. Take advantage of this opportunity to be heard, encourage others to do the same.

  10. Art Jeffries

    All of the above are excellent gripes and opinions about the outboard industry. I feel like we should entertain a class action suit to address the fact that the outboard companies, Yamaha in this case, are giving away the warranty that I used to make a handsome margin on. They state to the public that it is free to the consumer and then charge us a large fee for something they are giving away. So gee lets see sell the warranty and make money or have to pay for the warranty so that the manufacturer does not have to. Lets get it started I am fired up just writing this!

  11. Wally Eastman

    What has hurt us more than the internet slobs are all the local “package only” dealers who are buying engines from boat companies and off the internet cheaper than we are from the manufacturer! Then the engine companies sell them parts and allow the warranty work at the same rate as we full line dealers who jump through the hoops year after year. The next year The package guys don’t buy any boat packages but who cares! They are still kept on the parts programs and are paid warranty, sell an engine here and there and advertise as usual.
    I guess We could do that too. It would cut overhead. I would only send one tech to school not all 5. We could sell our facility and work out of an old gas staion! It would be the 70s all over again may be my hair would grow back and I would be 20 pounds lighter!

  12. Marc Grove

    I want to thank everyone that has read and commented on this issue . I hope the manufacturers pay attention and are a little more proactive before we have no dealers left . Why would anyone be a full line dealer at this point ?

  13. Harry Arends

    I have been in tne Marine Industry for more than 30 years. I’m afraid this might be my last year in business. I’m sick of the Outboard Manufactures taking advantage of the small dealers.Where is the bailout for the Marine Ind? ha ha. Without floor planning credit there’s no hope for a lot of Dealers. It’s going to be tough to get thru this year. Any buddy want to buy some dusty special tools for Hondas , yamahas or Mercs.
    Harry out

  14. Jerry Richardson

    Amen to the above posts gentlemen, They portray very well my sentiments as to engine mainufacturers. The overhead inccurred by the fees imposed are seemingly more than is realistic by anyones imagination. We also have multiple brands and though some companies take advantage of the position they are in, some do respond to dealers more positively. I would hope the response they adopt would enchance the co-operation between dealers and manufacturers. Complete look at the operating procedures relating to dealer requrements is in line. Jerry

  15. Mark Hattman

    Having been a full line dealer an outboard line for over 10 years I to am appalled at the lack of concern or action the mfg’s take in protecting the loose motor distribution channel. I have actually had other dealers advertise, stock, and sell loose motors that are not “authorized full line dealers”. I have also serviced newer engines that were sold as repowers to customers. These engines as it turned out were sold originally to an OEM boat builder, who sold them to one of their dealers, who sold it to a retail customer. Like many before me have already stated, this distribution chain is completely out of control, and the mf’s do not care. This back dooring of engines is so wide spread and common place now it completely devalues all the investment I have made with engine mfg’s. Add on this that the engine mfg’s decide to run a promotion and then ask us to pay for it is beyond comprehension. I know that participation is volutarily, but who could imagine going to a major boat show as a dealer and not offering the extended warranties????

    My 2cents.

  16. Roberts

    I agree with everyones point on back door deals. (remember back door) I have been in the business for over 35 years and my sons are finally taking over slowly. I warn them on the issues with no dealer help and warranty issues with boat companies. I am trying to teach them to push more with service, parts dept, and customer service even though we don’t get that with the manufactures. I just want to you all a little story. I did some service in the panhandle of Fl on a customers boat (yes I went out my way for a customer), well I went to alot of shops looking for a part and everyone keep telling me to go see this young man when they didn’t have the part, everyone of these dealerships said his name so I went to the shop. I met the young man and acted like a typical customer with out a serial # and part #. This guy knew his stuff and he made sure I was taken care along with the other 3 gentleman around me. I thought to myself this business is doing good, customer service, knowledge, service and parts. Why can’t I be treated like that as customer of these manufactures, its like we are going out our way to sell their products why can’t they treat us as a customer. All my sales reps are part of the good ol boy network, that got the job not for there personality, customer servuce, or knowledge but who they know. We need to refresh the Boat business and get back to customer service, not us, but THEM. There is no merchandising or marketing help from the manufactures, or savings for the small dealers. It’s all the promo crap that customers are seeing as same old …. If we can’t sell as much product let us the parts of the product and make money. I will tell you that gentelman that helped me should be snatched up by one of these manufactures and show them the way on marketing. I will tell you the show room was better than west marine or soon to be late boaters world. I was very impressed and emailed to let him know how grateful I was and offer him a job, but he didn’t answer. ha ha
    small dealers are the best dealers that what we were founded from!

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