There were several reasons industry veteran Rob Parmentier decided to join Larson, but they boil down to one major point: a breadth of product and an entrepreneurial spirit have the company well positioned for success in today’s market.
Larson owner Irwin Jacobs “is a dynamic, energetic, business entrepreneur,” said Parmentier, the new president/CEO of Larson Boat Group. “His boat companies have a nice breadth of product. Of all the opportunities I was looking at, it just made the most sense.”
Parmentier is replacing Al Kuebelbeck, who is retiring after 44 years in the marine industry.
Parmentier parted ways with Sea Ray at the end of 2012 after a 30-year career at the company, most recently as president. Since then, he has been senior vice president of marketing and business development for banker CGI North America. That was a “great experience,” Parmentier said, but his goal was to eventually find another boat builder to work with.
“I had high hopes I would be able to come back in and help another company,” he said. “I love boats, I love the people that are part of it. I missed dealing with the customers and the dealers.”
Going forward, Parmentier expects the fishing categories, both fiberglass and aluminum, to keep growing for Larson. He’s also optimistic about the company’s new Escape pontoon line. While outboards continue to be the power of choice for many consumers, there should soon be some improvements in the sterndrive and inboard segments, Parmentier said.
“I do believe we are at an inflection point on the fiberglass IOs and fiberglass inboards,” he said. “It has now been at a bottom where at some point, shortly I’m hoping, we should start to see some increases.”
With steady boating participation and registration numbers, there is opportunity for companies with good product to grow.
“We haven’t lost our boaters in those categories,” he said. “As we as manufacturers come out with new innovative ideas and things that will make them want to trade their boats in, and the economy gets better … you’ll see those categories that have been lagging come back.”
One segment he doesn’t expect Larson to play in is jet boats. Parmentier was the president at Sea Ray when it launched its since-abandoned jet boat project. With Rec Boat Holdings and Chaparral joining market leader Yamaha, and double-digit decreases in jet boat sales the last couple quarters, there are probably enough OEMs in the market, he said.
“I think everybody jumped in and we’ll see what happens,” he said. “Never say never, but right now we’re going to concentrate on the Escape pontoons and our fishing boat brands.”