A new pontoon manufacturer has entered the market, hoping to bring convenience and ease of use to the industry.
Unique Pontoons exhibited its first show at the Minneapolis Boat Show Jan. 19-22, which CEO Jeremy Little considered a big success for the company. Unique Pontoons will focus on fulfilling orders from the show and gaining dealers in 2017, with plans to gear up for other shows in the Midwest next year.
How it works
Unique Pontoons’ model is an 8-foot-wide, 24-foot-long pontoon that can expand and retract. Its expandable and usable size is 11.5 feet wide, which offers a capacity of 16 passengers. The 8-foot-wide size allows boaters to trailer and tow the pontoon on the road at its maximum size.
“So essentially, you have the widest pontoon in the world that you can legally trailer down the road,” Little said.
The expand/retract feature is achieved through limit switches and takes a total of 90 seconds to complete.
Unique Pontoons offers two models: a trailer-less model and a model with a built-in trailer. When the pontoon is launched, the wheels begin to float; as the pontoon is expanding, the wheels and the trailer tongue both retract up and out of the water.
“That’s going to take away from a lot of the hassle … for the user that wants to go from lake to lake,” said Little. “Getting a pontoon on and off a trailer is a hassle. With our product, we essentially take the hassle out of boating.”
The trailer-less model is built for boaters who launch once per season at a slip or lake home.
“They love the fact that they can fold it up and get it in their slip and up on their boat lift, and when they’re ready to go boating they can drop it down in the water, off their boat lift and fold it out to 11.5 feet wide at their dock,” said Little. “But they don’t really have a use for the trailer because they don’t put it in and take it out [as often].”
Unique Pontoons are built with triple tubes for additional performance and stability, with lifting strakes to get the boat on plane faster. Because the wheels are located outside of the tubes, the center tube makes up for the buoyancy displacement as well.
The pontoon also comes in two floor plans: Luxury and Fishing, which offers different standard and optional amenities for those specific consumers. One option amenity is an expandable bimini top, which telescopes out with the railings from 8 feet wide to 11.5 feet wide. The bimini locks into place after expanded. Another upgrade is the Infinity Luxury Woven Vinyl. Carpet comes standard with the pontoon but Little’s team highly encourages the upgrade.
“They really impressed me with their product. It’s maintenance free – I’ve had guys with muddy boots walking down the deck, and you really don’t even have to clean it – you just wait for the mud to try and you can spray it off with an air hose,” said Little. “Nothing sticks to it, it’s stain-resistant, mold-resistant.”
Changing the pontoon industry
While dealers had been attracted to Unique Pontoons, there was hesitancy with such a new product and skepticism over how it would sell. However, Little went into the show hoping to demonstrate the strong appeal it has to consumers.
“What we were gaining from the show was we wanted to show dealers the public interest that we knew this product would have, and I think we absolutely solidified the interest,” he said. “After the dealerships have seen the public’s overwhelming response, we had a lot of dealerships approach us.”
Unique Pontoons plans to schedule test rides with dealership in the spring and market its performance and functionality through professional videography. Little’s goal is to expand the pontoon industry to be more convenient for a middle-class buyer. For instance, one issue with pontoon boats is they sit too tall on the trailer and can’t be stored in a garage. Unique Pontoons built its pontoons with a maximum height of 6 feet 4 inches to be stored in a standard garage.
“We took that into consideration when we were designing this pontoon,” he said. “We’re opening up new markets in suburban areas to people who can afford a pontoon or a boat, but are unable to have it because of city ordinances,” and they can save money on storage they might believe they can’t afford.
The Unique Pontoons team – which currently consists of seven salespeople and a team of mechanical electrical engineers – will soon be moving into the company’s new facility. Little is working with a commercial real estate agent on finding space to accommodate the orders Unique Pontoons picked up at the Minneapolis show and any orders from new dealers nationwide that may be interested in the product.
“We have a great product, we have a great team on board and I’m looking forward to establishing relationships with multiple different dealerships and vendors, and solidify our name in the industry,” said Little.
He added that his long-term hope is to brand the name “Unique” to be easily recognizable across the industry.
“Somebody will say ‘What kind of boat do you have?’ ‘I have a Unique,’” Little said, “And they’re going to know right away ‘Oh, you have one of those expanding pontoons. Is yours with the trailer or without?’”