There are many issues facing this industry in 2005. I think the biggest need is getting a seriously funded “Go Boating” campaign underway to stop the decline of this industry. But that needs to be backed up by better boat quality, paying shop labor rates to dealers on warranty work and getting every boat builder to have written dealer agreements that are fair to both parties. No more “handshake” agreements.
When a customer buys a boat for $30,000 or $40,000 he has the same expectations he would have if he bought a car for that amount. But too often the expectations are not met. Builders sometimes use screws when they should use through bolts, sometimes interior trim is installed with hook-and-loop closures that allow them to pop off in choppy water and I even hear from dealers that sometimes when they launch a new boat it doesn't float level. This is all pretty sad.
Dealers tell me that they usually have to do something to every boat/motor package that they receive from their builders before they can sell it. So if we are going to promote the sport, we have to upgrade the experience new boaters have when they buy and start using their rigs.
Editor's Note: Ben Sherwood is a regular columnist in Boating Industry magazine. A marine industry veteran, he was head of sales and marketing for Johnson and Evinrude outboards before retirement. After retirement he owned and operated a Chevrolet dealership, which he later sold. He now operates Sherwood Marine Marketing, a marine industry consulting firm in Pleasant Prairie, Wis., and he is the author of “How to Succeed in Marine Retailing.” You can read more of his work by clicking here or by picking up the latest issue of Boating Industry.