Heard at the Show

The Miami International Boat Show, historically, is the pace setter for the rest of the year. In many cases, it’s the perfect way to gauge an outlook for the coming season. The following is an overview of observations, conversations, product introductions and other functions that the staff of Boating Industry and its sister publications, Trailer Boats, Bass & Walleye Boats and Watercraft World witnessed at the show.
The biggest news coming out of the Miami Boat Show was the launch of the Grow Boating campaign. With more than 500 industry members in attendance, industry leaders — including Thom Dammrich, Phil Keeter, Richard Strickler, Jim Frye, and Larry Russo among many others —teamed up to present the results of the initiative, which included a viewing of the television and print advertising. The two-and-a-half-hour presentation also included videoclip testimonials, which demonstrated the depth of support the campaign has received from across the industry. A selection of companies that had contributed to the Grow Boating campaign also presented testimonials on what contributing has meant to their companies and their business.
… J.D. Power and Associates released its 2005 Boat Competitive Information Study during a press conference Feb. 17, ranking the top boat and engine brands in each of the 11 segments examined. Of the more than 70 boat brands encompassed by the seven boat segments surveyed — large runabout, small runabout, coastal fishing, ski/wakeboard, pontoon, express cruiser and bass boat — six distinguished themselves by repeating as the highest-ranked brands in their segments. Cobalt (large runabout) and Grady-White (coastal fishing) lead their respective segments for the fourth-consecutive time, while Correct Craft (ski/wakeboard), Bennington (pontoon) and Sea Ray (express cruiser) ranked highest for the third consecutive time in their segments. Crownline tied Chaparral for the highest ranking in the small runabout segment, with each brand ranking highest once previously.
… Bass Cat, which was included in the study for the first time, received the highest ranking in the bass boat segment.
… Ski/wakeboard and bass boats received the highest scores in product quality, while express cruisers were given the lowest product quality scores by their owners.
… Of the 12,530 boat owners surveyed — all of whom purchased boats between March 1, 2003 and May 31, 2004, — 27 percent said they were first-time boat buyers.
… The runabout segment had the largest number of first-time buyers, while the bass boat segment had the fewest number of first timers.
… The study also revealed that among the comparable problems reported in the 2003 study, there was a decline of .42 problems per boat in the 2004 study and that higher product quality has increased customer satisfaction in 2005.
… Customer-reported problems dropped most in the bass boat, coastal fishing and pontoon segments compared to 2003.
… Yamaha DI engines ranked highest in customer satisfaction among two-stroke outboards, receiving a score of 904 on a 1,000-point scale and especially high ratings from owners for engine reliability and starting ease.
… Honda and Suzuki EFI engines tied for the highest ranking among four-stroke outboards, with a score of 919.
… In the inboard segment, Indmar EFI engines ranked highest with a score of 907, receiving high ratings for all key engine factors measured. Pleasurecraft Engine Group trailed by just 1 index point.
… Volvo Penta EFI engines ranked highest among sterndrives with a score of 843. Volvo Penta received high ratings from owners for quietness at cruise, fuel economy, lack of engine fumes and shifting smoothness.
… Speaking at Mercury Marine’s Press Breakfast on the morning of the show’s first day, company president Pat Mackey said Mercury is “delighted” with the reception the Verado engine line has received during its first year in the marketplace. “I’m glad to say we just can’t make enough of them,” Mackey said. “Our people are busy in Fond Du Lac, Wis., and that’s the way it’s going to continue.” Mackey went to China at the beginning of March to dedicate Mercury’s new manufacturing plant in that country. The plant was to begin manufacturing 40 to 60 hp engines, to be marketed internationally, sometime in March.
… Mercury said it is working closely with its boatbuilding partners to certify the installation of its engines. Mercury said certified builders have reduced their defects per unit and have increased efficiency by 20 percent.
… Ted Lund, the managing editor of Sport Fishing magazine won a drawing, sponsored by Mercury, for the use of a Mercury outboard on the boat of his choice for one year. Hmmm … we’re not sure if Ted’s last name had anything to do with it.
… Sales were up 36 percent last year and are up already for 2005 for Charles Marine & Industrial Group, the marine electrical products manufacturing company reported at a press conference during the show. Company president and CEO Joe Charles announced construction of an indoor/outdoor boat storage facility in Stuart, Fla. The River Forest Yachting Center, which is to be completed by April, will include a 45,000-sq.-ft., climate-controlled storage building. There will also be a 6,000 sq.-ft. indoor storage building for small to medium-sized vessels, and a two-acre freshwater lagoon with 1,400 ft. of deep-water broadside dockage, and hurricane-protected dockage available for vessels up to 100 ft. in length.
… Charles said he had also begun a “Hurricane Club,” which in return for annual dues, will guarantee its members either wet or dry storage space at RFYC’s hurricane-protected freshwater location on the St. Lucie Canal.
… The Boating Writers International named the 2004 recipients of its writing awards, and Boating Industry’s own Liz Walz was honored as a first-place recipient in the “Business of Boating” category. Liz was recognized for her article “The Ultimate Hassle,” which was published in the July/August issue of 2004. The entire list of recipients from all 11 categories can be found at www.boatingindustry.com.
… Marine University announced expanded efforts to train and certify dealers for Boater 101 education at the point of sale. The program, which began as a way to offer boating education to youth in Florida has expanded to a nationwide effort.
… Volvo Penta unveiled its IPS (Inboard Propulsion System) at a reception on the first evening of the show, touting the performance, low noise and vibration and efficiency of the forward-facing, counter-rotating propellers. Volvo Penta says IPS can improve speed by 20 percent, acceleration by 15 percent and lower noise and vibration levels by as much as 50 percent, when compared to like boats equipped with mechanical diesel engines and traditional shaft installations.
… IPS will be launched in two versions — IPS 400 and IPS 500 — both of which are based on the company’s proprietary developed diesel engines D6-310 and D6-370. Volvo Penta says those platforms are appropriate for boats ranging from 35-50 feet in size. Volvo said that in the future it is more likely the company will make IPS for even larger boats, before it it would expand IPS into smaller vessels.
… Suzuki Marine introduced its two big block 150- and 175-horse engines, noting that outboard retail sales on four stroke engines of 100 hp and higher exceeded all two stroke sales in 2004.
… Monterey Boats celebrated its 20th anniversary with a new model introduction. Monterey Director of Sales and Marketing Lou Vazquez said the company invested in research to gain a better understanding of the consumer mentality in order to improve its product line. Co-Chairman Charles Marshall Jr. reflected on how the company has grown, noting that “we used to be in a tent out back with a couple boats” and now the company says it has exceeded $100 million in sales and boasts 25 models in its line-up. Monterey also just completed construction of a new facility, a 150,000 square-foot addition.

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