In just over a year of production, Gibbs Quadski has amassed 16 dealerships that combine for 21 U.S. locations, but Gibbs looks to increase that number significantly in 2014, with a goal of having 50 dealerships under its belt by the end of the year.
The company sees 50 as the appropriate number of marine and powersports dealerships to be able to service the customers of its $42,000 ATV/PWC amphibian while not proliferating the market, which has been deemed unnecessary for such a niche vehicle.
“Companies like Yamaha, Sea-Doo, that provide powersports products have hundreds or thousands of dealers, but we have much higher standards in terms of technical expertise, customer service, abilities of the company, than the larger OEMs because we have a specialty product,” Graham Jenkins, manager of communications, marketing and PR told Boating Industry during a February visit to the company’s Auburn Hills, Mich., headquarters.
“When we’re comparing the number that we’re looking at, we’re comparing ourselves more to Lamborghini and Ferrari. Lamborghini has 27, and I think Ferrari has 34 dealerships in the U.S., so we think 50 is about the right scale for us at this point in terms of being able to sell to and service the U.S. market.”
Though Gibbs has been focusing its dealer network building on the coasts and the Great Lakes, opportunities are also available for inland dealers that have the right clientele for the Quadski.
“It hasn’t been as big of a focus because the market isn’t is as big say in Colorado as it is in Florida, so that’s just a fact. At the same time, though, there is a market there that has the ability to be served, so we’re looking for pretty much coverage in most states by the end of the year,” Jenkins said, adding that the most Quadskis have been sold in Florida and California so far.
Already Gibbs’ dealer list includes top-notch coastal marine dealers such as 2013 Top 100 dealer Port Harbor Marine in South Portland, Maine, and Top 100 Hall of Fame member Legendary Marine in Destin, Fla., and the Quadski is also carried by Super Yacht Toy Store. What each Quadski dealership has in common is a solid reputation for providing high-quality service throughout the buying process and after the sale.
“It’s important that the dealership is able to give the kind of customer experience that we’re expecting for the type of clients and customers that we attract,” Jenkins said. “We’re not necessarily talking about the majority of people when it comes to our products, being slightly higher end and higher price. We’re talking about people that are generally used to getting higher levels of customer service, and we want to make sure that the dealerships we partner with to build the market have those same values engrained in their business plan.”
Though the Quadski is carried in both marine and powersports dealerships, Jenkins reports that marine dealers sometimes have an easier time selling them, as boats are usually higher-priced products when compared to powersports vehicles.
“Marine dealers are used to selling boats, and boats generally are a bigger investment than, say, Jet Skis are or ATVs are, so the customers that will come into a marine dealership looking to buy tend to be customers that have a little bit more cash that they want to spend, but at the same time, a lot of them are people who want to spend on a fishing boat or whatever, so all in all, the balance is pretty much down the middle. We’ve seen good performance in terms of sales in both kinds of dealerships,” he said.
Gibbs requires each dealership to carry at least two Quadskis, though many order more, so they can sell directly from the floor and bring units to shows. At least one technician from each store must also be trained on diagnosing and repairing the Quadski.
“There are special tools that they have to have in order to service the Quadski. We’ve tried to keep that to a minimum; there isn’t many, but there are, especially diagnostic equipment for the engine, that kind of thing, which is proprietary to BMW. There are certain requirements that we make sure they have, so they can adequately service our customers,” Jenkins explained.
So far, the feedback from Gibbs’ dealers has been positive, as the Quadski is not only drawing customers who are genuinely interested in the vehicle, but it’s also attracting gawkers that may consider buying another craft in the dealership.
“It hasn’t done anything but increase the overall number of visitors and inquiries that people have had at their dealerships,” Jenkins said.
Already-established Quadski dealers will also be first in line to receive orders of future amphibians the company is planning to release starting in the next 18-24 months.
“The Quadski’s never been the end game for us. We have a full range of vehicles, all with the capability to perform on land and water with great style and with great capability, so our plan is always that we’re bringing on dealers and business partners right now in order that in 10 years time we have a vibrant market in amphibians, that we’re selling all different kinds of products that are able to perform both on land and on water,” Jenkins said.
Big sales goals
Sales through Gibbs’ first full year only totaled a few hundred units, however with retooling increasing efficiency at its 150-employee plant, Gibbs expects to be able to produce and then sell a significantly higher number of units in 2014.
“This year our goal for sales is around 1,500 units,” Jenkins said. “We have stretched goals above that that we’re pretty enthusiastic about hitting, providing that we continue the kind of performance we’ve been seeing, we’re quite confident about, but that’s our main goal. And out of that 1,500, we’re going to have approximately half as domestic sales, and the other half will be international.”
Each Quadski takes about three days to complete, including the composite construction of the hull, which requires the largest amount of time. But even with that, the factory has the capacity to produce up to 3,000 units per year and the potential to increase that number by outsourcing some assembly if necessary.
Sales so far have gone to those who have bought Quadskis because they’re early buyers of new technology, or they have shorefront property, or they want to use the Quadski as a yacht tender.
“At the moment we’re finding that it’s a lot of first adopters, which is standard for any kind of product that is as new and as unique as ours,” Jenkins said. “We’re talking about higher net worth individuals, not necessarily ultra-high net worth individuals, though we do have some of those.”
With an MSRP starting around $42,000, the Quadski isn’t designed for the average personal watercraft consumer, but it does appeal to some who have the cash, are interested in its unique abilities and seek high-quality machinery.
“When you’re paying over $40,000 for a Quadski, you’re paying for the quality and level of engineering that has gone into the product and the fact that you can’t get a Quadski or anything like it anywhere else in the world,” Jenkins said.
Since the launch of the Quadski, its MSRP has always been “around” $40,000-$42,000, allowing dealers to add margin in, especially as demand is higher than supply, but Gibbs is looking to streamline MSRP this year. On top of the base model, which comes in red, yellow, blue, silver and black, Gibbs has added premium colors such as green and white to its lineup, which come at higher prices. The company is also offering a premium-priced color-matching service for customers who want their Quadski to match their yacht or to come in another color not already offered.
“In terms of later on this year, once we have a clear price structure for the different options that we’re bringing out, the color options we’ve shown you and some of the additional options we have in plans, we will formalize the MSRP a bit more,” Jenkins said, “Though we’re finding that because the demand is outstripping the supply of the Quadski at the moment for most dealers, they’re able to set prices themselves more than most other manufacturers and products have.”
While Gibbs has no plans to produce anything but a premium product, the company’s later iterations may have prices lower than the current Quadski.
“We’re never looking to compete on the level of say the Spark or those kinds of products because we’re not that kind of cut-price product,” Jenkins said. “We’re committed to quality; we’re committed to make sure that our product can perform in the way we envision in salt or freshwater, etc. But having said that, we haven’t ruled out the possibility that in the future with volumes and with other things that the price may come down, but we’re always going to occupy the upper half at least of the market.”
Increasing product knowledge
For now, Gibbs is focused on reaching its 2014 sales goal by increasing its dealer network and increasing product knowledge nationwide, by attending trade and consumer shows, attracting media coverage and through other outlets. Recent marketing pushes have included an ad in a magazine that was inserted into Grammy Award attendees’ goody bags and an appearance on BBC’s “Top Gear” TV show.
“We’re making a lot of efforts in terms of being able to get the product out there, get it seen, raise awareness about the product because this is something we find that we have enthusiasts wanting to hear about; we have people who love powersports and the outdoors enthusiastic about it; we have first adopters who like the latest and greatest enthusiastic about it,” Jenkins said. “It’s hard to find people who don’t care about Quadski when they see it.”