MRAA gets behind Jacobs’ model year initiatives

TULSA, Okla. – The Marine Retailers Association of America (MRAA) is "solidly behind" Genmar Corp. Chairman Irwin Jacobs’ initiative to delay shipments of model year 2005 units until next August 1 and to schedule the company’s national dealer meeting in September, instead of during the busy summer months, according to MRAA President Phil Keeter.

"It’s a page right out of our playbook," Keeter explained.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the boating industry’s model year begins each August 1, but manufacturers have been known to ship new model year product before August 1 in an effort to gain a competitive advantage, Keeter said. However, that practice hurts dealers because it lowers the value of the inventory dealers already have in stock.

The Coast Guard’s August 1 model year changeover regulation is not always observed because government agencies do not have enough enforcement resources, Keeter added.

During the late 1980s, the MRAA, with its "Just Say No" campaign, attempted to get the dealer body to refuse to accept shipments of new model year boats prior to the generally recognized model year changeover date. However, the Federal Trade Commission blocked the effort on the grounds it would have violated anti-trust laws, Keeter said.

NMMA also supports initiative

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Meanwhile, National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) President Thom Dammrich said Jacobs’ moves "sure seem like a good idea. It’s more efficient for them [Genmar] and the dealers."

Many other manufacturers "are attempting to move their model year starts back to the late summer time frame," Dammrich added.

There are boat builders who have viewed July 1 as the first day of the new model year, and some may push their model year starts back next summer while others may wait until the summer of 2005, he said.

However, because anti-trust laws prevent the NMMA or anyone else from mandating the starting time for the model year, Dammrich said, "Every manufacturer will make decisions that are best for them."

Among the boat builders who will observe next August 1 as the beginning of model year 2005 are Grady-White, Cobalt and Regal, Keeter said.

Model years are not as big an issue as far as boat engine manufacturers are concerned, Dammrich said. Currently, inboard engines do not have model years and, in the case of outboards, Dammrich said, "I wouldn’t be surprised if the engine manufacturers move to eliminate the model year."

Jacobs announced on Tuesday that Genmar will hold one dealer meeting for all of its brands next September in Las Vegas to introduce its 2005 models. The consolidated Genmar dealer meeting is scheduled for September 12-15 in the Las Vegas Convention Center and on nearby Lake Mead.

Genmar’s brands include Aquasport, Carver, Champion, Crestliner, Fish Hawk, Four Winns, Glastron, Hydra-Sports, Larson, Lowe, Lund, Ranger, Seaswirl, Stratos, Triumph and Wellcraft. Traditionally, certain Genmar brands have conducted separate national dealer meetings, requiring dealers stocking several Genmar brands to make two, sometimes even three trips each summer to attend the dealer meetings.

Typically, the dealership principal travels to the national dealer meetings, which creates a hardship, because the dealership principal often needs to approve each sale made at his or her shop, Keeter said. If the approval of a sale is delayed, often the prospective buyer loses interest or buys from another dealer, Keeter said.

Consequently, Jacobs’ decision to schedule one meeting for all Genmar brands, and to schedule it in mid-September, instead of during the crucial summer months, helps the dealer body a great amount, Keeter said he believes.

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-- Jeff Kurowski

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