Walking out of Mercury Marine’s historic 75th anniversary dealer meeting, it was hard not to have a sense of connection to the company and dealers from around the world.
Fred Kiekhaefer, John Pfeifer and Mark Schwabero put a sentiment of inclusion and Carl Kiekhaefer’s motto of hard work front and center – there was even a team-building drum circle.
That inclusionary message was appreciated, and necessary to bring together the more than 1,400 Mercury dealers from all around the world. Finding common ground between 600 dealerships with radically different businesses and far-flung locations like Shanghai, China, and Freeport, Illinois, was no small feat.
To do so, Mercury leaned on company history and the memorable faces of the past. Kiekhaefer shared the legend of Mercury Marine from the first engines Carl Kiekhaefer serviced to the launch of the new company darlings, the 250HP MerCruiser 4.5L sterndrive engine and new range of outboards. Schwabero gave dealers a great snapshot of where the company is and Pfeifer painted a picture of Mercury’s future as a supportive, robust company.
Dealers I spoke with really appreciated the message. Since they typically only deal with the boat manufacturers who partner with Mercury, they said the dealer meeting was a great way to reconnect with the company and share strategies, war stories and tips with other dealers.
Dealers (and I) were also motivated by keynote speaker Vince Poscente’s impassioned story of hard work in the face of setbacks. His central message was about creating an “emotional buzz” also had dealers talking about how to share their passion for boating and their products when they returned to the dealership. Mercury obtained a copy of Poscente’s book The Age of Speed for all the dealers on top of a beautiful (and massive) book detailing Mercury Marine’s storied history.
Despite the dragging sterndrive market, and the slow growth of the entire industry, the event was chiefly celebratory and hopeful for the future.
One hopeful item in the coming months was an ongoing tease for everyone. I was certainly taken by their cliffhanger teases a few times as they promised a new product that would be “next big thing” at a few different intervals throughout the event. Dealers were abuzz about what the new product might be, rumors swirled about a bigger Verado engine or a new version of their 4.5L sterndrive engine. I’d bet on a 200HP version of the new 4.5L with their new, custom engine blocks. But we’ll all have to wait until February 12 to see for sure.
Testing the new line of engines was an exercise in efficiency for company reps and Disney with a fleet of boats on the water and a line of dealers up the dock. The engines performed great, everyone seemed impressed with the new RPM locking technology especially.