Navico – the parent company of the Simrad, Lowrance and B&G brands – recently hosted the boating press at an event to show off its latest products and what’s coming later this year.
Boating Industry was there and while we can’t share information on many of the products for a few months, we did take some time to sit down with Navico’s executive team – CEO Leif Ottosson, deputy CEO Marc Jourlait and executive vice president Louis Chemi – to gather some intel.
You can read the full Q&A in the March issue of Boating Industry.
Boating Industry: How is the health of the electronics segment today?
Ottosson: Today, I would say there are five major players in recreational boating electronics. Each one of those players is an excellent company, providing healthy competition. The pace of innovation is fantastic and much, much higher. That comes from us pushing each other.
Pricing wise, we see prices coming down every year. We’re seeing more technology being pushed into the product.
For the consumer, I think it has been a win and for the industry I think it has been a win because we are competing with each other in a way … where we are helping each other to get a little bit further along.
Boating Industry: In your segment of the marine industry, we probably see more rapid innovation then in any other part. How do you manage that innovation and make sure you’re coming up with the right ideas?
Chemi: Essentially what we do is that we have a product road map, so we’re looking out at products five years into the future – what is most important to have, what technologies are coming to bear. So there’s this “wish list” from the consumer side and the technology roadmap and by looking at when those two intersect, then we get this really tight list of about 150 different projects that we’re working on at any given time. Some of those will come out next month; some of those will come out three years from now.
It’s a continuous evolution of what is the competition doing, what technologies just came to fruition – or came to a dead end. It might have been we thought this display technology was going to revolutionize what we could do and it turned out it’s never going to be at a cost the marine industry is going to follow.
Our idea there is we de-risk the development of a product by developing technologies in compartments. For instance, we’ll take wireless technology and develop a Bluetooth module that we’ll test and confirm that we can use in our products, within our set of regulatory requirements, and then we’ll apply that across the different brands. We build the technology and share it across our brands.
Boating Industry: When it comes to new products, of those items you can talk about today, what are you most excited about?
Chemi: It depends on the brand or the segment we’re talking about. For the fisherman, there’s no doubt that our SpotlightScan technology in the HDS Gen3, with all the functionality built into the single display is going to be a core features that they’re going to love. The fact that that unit is now connected and able to upload and download the tracks that they do automatically and share in that social map gathering is a core piece that those guys love.
For sailing, B&G has come out with the H5000, which is the most advanced instrumentation series for a sailing vessel, and that’s a very exciting piece. And then again, all the software features we have on the displays, we’re really very excited about how that is going to come across to the sailing [segment].
Ottosson: And that’s something that’s very unique for our industry, right? How many industries do you see that are handing out software for free? We are continuously putting more value into the product. We are basically not charging the customer for it. Some people think that is bug fixes … there may be one or two of those, especially in the beginning, but if you look at the feature list we showed [at the event], if you already owned one of our products, you’re going to get a whole bunch of new features for free.
There are not many industries that provide you that. They’d rather build them into the next generation product and charge you for that upgrade. We are changing that. That is also very exciting.
Boating Industry: Obviously you guys are going to be biased, but what do you feel is the importance of electronics in helping people enjoy boating and bringing more people into boating?
Jourlait: Why do you go out? You don’t go out on your boat to enjoy the electronics. They’re a means to an end. For me, the time on the boat was enhanced because electronics got you there and then you didn’t have to think about it.
That’s what we’re trying to provide – a greater sailing experience, a greater fishing experience, and a greater powerboat experience. That’s why you go out. That to me is the wow factor. All this technology makes it more fun, more pleasurable.
Chemi: It’s exactly what Marc described. The reality is very few people go boating for the reason I go boating. I am that geek that [wants] to use electronics to find fish. Most people aren’t like that.
It’s us providing those needs for the consumer in the best way possible and in a way that he can do it simply. By doing that, hopefully we get them to spend more time on the water … versus in an RV or camping or hiking, or whatever those other activities might be.