A defining moment

Dusty McCoy is excited.

The Brunswick Corp. executive recently rolled out a new program for the boat and engine builder’s 5,000 dealers that he says “eclipses anything being offered in the industry today” and “fundamentally redefines the marine industry’s dealer/manufacturer relationship.”

The program — called Dealer Advantage — will offer products and services in a three-prong focus (operations, employees and customers). It’s set to go into effect in the 2008 model year, though dealers can sign up today. To prepare for that launch, the company is sending people across the country to 18 different cities to talk to its dealers about the program’s features.

Dealer Advantage is being marketed as a way for dealers to become more profitable. The big — and seemingly unknowable — questions of the day are whether it will deliver what is being promised. And if it does, what the long-term impact on Brunswick will be.

One dealer thinks he may know. Ralph Stokley, owner of Stokley’s Marine in Kentucky, recently served as a member of Brunswick’s Dealer Advantage Advisory Board, and he was convinced after hearing McCoy’s presentation that Brunswick is sincere in its desire to help its dealers become happier and more successful.

“I applaud them,” he says. “No one else thinks from the dealer perspective about how to make us more money. Everyone in the room [the advisory board] felt it was a worthwhile venture.”
While Stokley points out that each dealer will have to put pencil to paper to calculate the benefits it will offer their business, he says, “regardless of whether it’s a huge impact or a small impact, any impact is going to be beneficial.”

Certainly, Brunswick is not the first boat builder to offer its dealers any of the single benefits its program features. Several smaller builders, for example, work on an individual basis with their dealers helping to provide them with tools to improve their businesses. And Brunswick isn’t the only one to offer dealers multi-year agreements.

But no other company has formalized a program that offers so many of these features together in one package — and none have the ability to reach such a large number of dealers.

The impact may not be dramatic or immediately evident. In fact, industry analysts say it may take 3 to 5 years to determine its impact. But Stokley says if it comes time for him to consider adding another product line, “this would weigh heavily on my decision” — as he expects it would for other dealers as well. And that’s something that could add up over time.

“If a manufacturer shows a great deal of loyalty to me, it makes it a lot easier to be loyal to them,” he comments. “A lot of boat builders want you to be loyal to them, but they offer little in return.”

While some speculate that Dealer Advantage is a gift for which Brunswick expects exclusivity in return, McCoy says that’s not exactly the case.

“We’re actually not asking for exclusivity,” he explains. “The dealers that do best are exclusive because there’s less friction in their dealerships. But we understand we have to earn the dealers’ business. We’re hoping we can win exclusivity.” — Liz Walz

What IS it?


1. Dealer operations focus (Goal: Improve profitability)
a. Business insurance assistance from Arthur J. Gallagher
b. Payroll and tax administration services from ADP
c. Real estate services from Grubb & Ellis
d. Partner purchasing (small package delivery from UPS, credit card processing from US Bank, office supplies from Staples, technology products from CDW and wireless service from Sprint)
e. Wholesale financing from Brunswick Acceptance Company
f. Succession planning (coming soon)

2. Dealer employee focus (Goal: Retain talent)
a. Retirement plans for dealers and their employees from AXA Equitable
b. Scholarships for children of dealers’ employees from Brunswick Dealer Sons and Daughters Scholarship Program
c. Health care benefits for dealer employees (coming soon)

3. Customer focus (Goal: Close more deals)
a. Retail financing from Blue Water Finance
b. Retail insurance from Boater’s Choice
c. Extended warranty from Brunswick Product Protection Program

Bonus: Certification opportunities (like Pro Dealer and Master Dealer) for dealers of all Brunswick brands, the benefits of which will include multi-year agreements.

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