Dealers question whether $10 million is enough

LAS VEGAS – While dealers at the 2004 Marine Retailers Association of America Convention have expressed great excitement about plans for the industry’s Grow Boating campaign, some of them also have questioned whether the $10 million planned to be raised through boat sales will be enough.

During the Industry Leaders Boat Panel held at the convention last night, Larry Russo of Russo Marine, who served as a moderator, said the industry should be mindful it doesn’t underfund the plan.

“We are broken at retail right now,” he explained. “MRAA and retailers are admitting we have clean-up to do, which will take money and time.”

Some of that money should come from the Grow Boating fundraising efforts, he suggested.

“We should be capable of raising more than $10 million per year,” he added. “Fifty million dollars would be one quarter of 1 percent of our industry’s annual revenues. If we underfund it, it will die its own death.”

The panel’s boat builders weren’t as convinced that more money is the solution.

Dusty McCoy of Brunswick Boat Group pointed out that $10 million is a start and that improving dealer/manufacturer relationships is the first step in solve what is “broken at retail.”

“If we don’t improve those relationships, coming up with $30 million won’t solve anything,” he stated.

Dumping among hot topics boat builders addressed

Grow Boating was far from the only topic the boat builders addressed during the panel discussion.

During a discussion on the impact of the dumping controversy, Genmar’s Roger Cloutier said the company has “serious concerns,” particularly because “customers will pay the price, which isn’t good for our industry.”

“It will make getting into boating more expensive,” he said.

Godfrey Marine’s Bob Deputy acknowledged that the company has seen increases in engine prices from several outboard manufacturers in recent weeks.

“This issue is putting the focus of our company and our dealers on the wrong thing,” stated Jim Lane of Chaparral Boats.

McCoy responded by defending Brunswick’s intentions in filing the dumping claim against Japanese engine manufacturers doing business in the United States.

“Dumping laws have as their foundation that someone is competing unfairly,” he said. The industry will ultimately be damaged tremendously if everyone’s not playing by the same rules.”

Dealer agreements evolving?

Also tackled during the discussion was the issue of dealer agreements.

Both Deputy and Cloutier said they’re encouraged by the progress being made toward creating dealer agreements that meet the needs of both dealers and builders.

“There are more things being done now than over the past 10 years,” Deputy commented.

Paxson St. Clair of Cobalt Boats told the story of his company’s adoption of a dealer-friendly agreement earlier this year, which all but three of Cobalt’s dealers have signed.

The range of agreements being offered in the industry was highlighted when the discussion turned to the length of each boat builder’s agreement.

St. Clair said Cobalt’s new agreement is seven or eight pages long, while Deputy said his company’s agreement is two pages long. Genmar, however, offers a “spiral bound” agreement, Russo pointed out.

Other issues tackled by the panel were water access, consolidation, vertical integration, attracting new talent, dealer improvement, regulations and model year timing.

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