Older & Wiser

Much has been made over the years about the poor
relationships between dealers and manufacturers. The palpable tension between the two sides has existed since the beginning of time, it seems, and until recent years, little has been accomplished to rectify the core issues at the center of the conflict.

It was two years ago that our “Broken Promises” special cover report outlined a trio of torn relationships. Dealers applauded us for being accurate in our reporting; manufacturers angrily accused us of sensationalism. Perhaps, on this subject, both of them were right.

Well, we have grown up some since that time, and we’ve realized that our resources and energy are far better spent providing real-world, actionable solutions to the industry’s challenges as opposed to sounding a horn and waving a man overboard flag when something doesn’t look right.

I’m now 145 words into this column, and since I have been typing, I’ve learned of another dealer who has gone out of business, one boat building conglomerate who has shuttered one of its brands, and another builder who has closed an office. In these incredibly brutal economic times, I don’t have to tell you that we need better cohesiveness between our builders and dealers. And we need it now.

Some people think of Boating Industry as a dealer-centric magazine, largely because of how tightly our Top 100 Dealers Program is aligned with our brand. And the resulting Top 100 Dealer best practices have been so highly received that they’ve only added to this perception.

Take a closer look, though, and you’ll see it is actually a misperception. Boating Industry is and has always been — for 79 years and 10 issues now, to be exact — an all-industry publication. This particular issue couldn’t make that fact more clear. Foremost among the articles in this issue are the results of our first-ever dealer satisfaction survey, which has culminated in a phenomenal best practices piece on boat builder/dealer relations strategies in the area of inventory management.

This effort has been a painstakingly difficult process, especially for Senior Editor Liz Walz, who has immersed herself in making this, the first in a series of surveys, a complete success. The survey itself was constructed with the help of boat builders, industry consultants and dealers alike, all key stakeholders in improving and expanding the marine business. Our aim with it is to help the industry understand — and improve on — its successes and failures in some of the most critical components of the relationship between dealers and manufacturers.

This collaborative approach to such a project underscores our team’s commitment to improving the industry, and it underscores the willingness on both sides of the supply chain to work with us to gather best practices that, implemented today, can improve our collective tomorrow.

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