Scout: The Lexus of the boating industry?

If Dave Wallace has his way, all Scout boats on the water will look brand new – no matter how old they are.
“You seldom see a dull, beat up Lexus on the road,” says the vice president of operations. “Ultimately, I would like to see a Scout boat, whether five years old or brand new, look the same.”
Wallace has watched the Lexus certified used car program evolve and has patterned Scout’s used boat refurbishing program after it. He says it gives the consumer confidence in the product they’re buying, something the boating industry needs even more than the auto industry.
“We’re decades behind the auto industry in terms of warranty and customer satisfaction,” he says. “It shows our customers we will stand behind our product.”
Changing dealers’ perceptions
Part of what Scout intends with its program is to change dealers’ perceptions about used boats.
Wallace says dealers often stick their used boats in the back corner of their lots, letting them get dirty and grimy. However, if they just had a little TLC, the dealers could be more profitable with their used boat sales.
This TLC is what Scout’s used boat refurbishing program is all about. The program began because Scout boat owners were calling the manufacturer directly, asking whether it would refurbish their boats for them. After a certain number of calls, Scout came to the conclusion that there was a lack of qualified boat detailers in the industry.
Under the used boat refurbishing
program, Scout has created a small department at its facility to detail those boats. In addition, it has offered the same service to boat dealers that have taken in a Scout on trade.
“Instead of putting it on the back of the lot, we’ll tell the dealer they can send it back to us, we will spruce it up for them, return it to them, and they can resell it as a certified used boat that looks like new,” Wallace explains. “I’m told Lexus dealers make more money on their used boats than their new boats.”
Scout doesn’t operate the department as a profit center. Wallace says the company is offering the program as a service to existing and future customers, and as a tool to help its dealer be more profitable.
There are three levels to the program. Level one involves minor repairs and cosmetic work. Level two involves items that need to be replaced, such as rub rails and seat covers. Level three is a complete overhaul of the boat and at the end, includes a certified warranty for the boat.
Not for every boat builder
The program isn’t for everyone, according to Wallace. He explains that Scout is a high-end coastal fishing boat manufacturer that appeals to buyers with a high income level, who are likely to be more concerned with the appearance of their boats than your average buyer.
In addition, the success of the program is tied directly to the quality and reliability of the product, according to Wallace. Such a program may not be financially viable
for a manufacturer with average quality
and reliability.
While Wallace says the program, launched in September, hasn’t developed as quickly as he might have liked, he explains that the main reason for the slow growth has been the strength of new boat sales for Scout over the past year.
Scout plans to continue to work on expanding the program, in particular by encouraging its dealers to use it.
“They have to see the program as ultimately [resulting in] higher profits for them,” he states. “It takes time to let the consumers know and also [for] the dealers to [develop] confidence it will work.”— Liz Walz

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