Broken Promises

There’s nothing like a nasty fight to break up a good party.
And that’s exactly what the struggle over dealer agreements seems to be doing to the industry’s celebration of the many improvements it has made over the last few years.
From the very beginning, the Grow Boating Initiative was designed to be a lot more than an ad campaign, and so far it has delivered. The industry is working together to address many of the most challenging obstacles to a bigger and brighter future.
As National Marine Manufacturers Association President Thom Dammrich keeps reminding everyone, the initiative has a long way to go. Maybe it’s a little soon to celebrate, but there’s never a good time to kill the effort’s momentum with infighting and discord. Unfortunately, however, that’s what seems to be occurring with the issue of dealer-manufacturer contracts.
In May 2005, when the NMMA’s Dealer-Manufacturer Agreement Task Force produced a list of suggested guidelines, more than 60 manufacturers pledged to adopt them by the 2007 model year. Today, it appears that while many manufacturers have adopted some of the guidelines, few have adopted them all.
Brunswick Corp., for example, which considers itself an industry leader in dealer-manufacturer relations, says that although it intends to put all of the principles addressed by the task force into place with its agreements, it’s a work in progress. And at one of its rival builders, a dealer told us you get the “new and improved contract” only if you ask for it. A third builder suggested that it had only adopted those guidelines that fit its strategy.
Some boat builders are certainly more challenged by their dealer relationships than others. While Tracker Marine Group, for example, told us in a statement it prepared for this article: “We value our dealers immensely and we try, at every turn, to treat them fairly and professionally,” an anonymous survey of their dealers suggests a large percentage believe its policies are unfair. Bubba Perrilloux of Boat City USA, pictured above, is one such dealer.
Meanwhile, dealers continue to pursue contract legislation at the state level
— the need for which was the very thing the task force’s compromises were intended to eliminate. And economic and industry trends are driving change in boat builders’ strategies, making dealers more vulnerable to cancellation.
The following package of three articles looks to underscore that fact. As David Slikkers, CEO of S2 Yachts, Inc. and chairman of the Dealer-Manufacturer Agreement Task Force, said upon release of the task force’s recommendations: “We have created a foundation for future collaborative efforts to provide consumers with the finest products and the best boating experience.”
With that promise apparently broken, perhaps it’s now time to sit down together, pick up the pieces and begin to analyze what exactly went wrong. Standing under the umbrella of the Grow Boating Initiative, can anyone deny there is a lot at stake?

Read the articles in the package, by clicking the headlines below.
One Step Back
No Safety In Numbers
Threats, Lies & Audiotape

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