The story behind Genmar’s FinCraft line

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Genmar says improvements to its VEC closed-mold technology led to the development of its new FinCraft line of family fishing boats.

“This is a major improvement for us, one that we’ve been working on for the past three years,” Genmar Minnesota president Al Kuebelbeck told Soundings Trade Only Tuesday from his office in Little Falls, Minn.

During the last six months, engineers finalized improvements that allow gelcoat (and hull color) to be applied as part of the VEC process. Previously, the gelcoat had to be applied after the hull came out of the self-contained VEC chamber.

“Essentially, VEC has gone color,” said Kuebelbeck, adding that the improvements mean Genmar can now build a boat in an hour instead of two to three hours.

That increased efficiency allows the company to offer FinCraft boats at a lower price than competing aluminum family/fishing boats, according to Genmar chairman Irwin Jacobs.

“For a $2,000 to $3,000 down payment you can own boat for $139 a month, which is like $5 a day,” said Jacobs.

Genmar introduced the first model in the FinCraft line in January at the Minneapolis Boat Show. The FinCraft SC (side console) sells for $13,995 with a 50-hp Yamaha 2-stroke and trailer. Standard equipment includes three pedestal seats, a 28-gallon live well and a trolling motor. The boat can take up to a 115-hp outboard, and Genmar also hangs Evinrude engines.

Genmar plans to introduce three more models in June — 17- and 18-foot dual consoles and an 18-foot center console that’s targeted for saltwater use, said Kuebelbeck.

The VEC, or Virtual Engineered Composite, process is used to build FinCraft and several Glastron and Larson boats up to 20 feet, said Kuebelbeck. The process injects resins and catalyst into a closed mold. Because the mold is closed, more styrene is forced to bond with the composite rather than escaping into the air, making the finished component stronger while protecting the environment, according to the company.

Genmar last year considered getting back into the aluminum-boat business, after selling Crestliner, Lowe and Lund to Brunswick in 2004, according to Jacobs.

“We were looking into attempting to buy one or two existing aluminum boat companies,” he said. “We saw no way of lowering the price of aluminum boats to the level we wanted. We didn’t just want to become another aluminum-boat company.”

“During that time, our VEC engineers had been working on a new VEC process and a new way of manufacturing this type of a boat with VEC that we thought would take at least another eight to 10 months,” he said.

The improved VEC process allows Genmar to sell the FinCraft (with a lifetime warranty) for $2,000 to $3,000 less than a comparable aluminum boat, said Jacobs. “We are going into the entry-level market with a medium-market type product,” he said. “This is not an entry-level product. We wanted to be able to offer people an alternative to the present market.”

Jacobs said the goal is to build 10,000 FinCraft boats a year, starting in 2010. Genmar can hit this mark “because of the market share we think we will be able to take in aluminum as well as new buyers,” he said.

Jacobs also anticipates 200 dealers will sell FinCraft boats. “They’ve got something new and fresh that they can offer the customer that they have not had before,” he said.

The FinCraft has a deadrise of 21 degrees at the transom and a “fairly wide hull for stability,” said Bruce Sargent, FinCraft sales and marketing manager. With a 50-hp outboard, the boat tops out at 28 mph and accelerates from 0 to 30 mph in less than six seconds, he said. With a 90-hp Evinrude E-TEC, the boat can reach about 38 mph, he said.

Optional equipment includes a forward live well, additional pedestal seats, and a stereo system. Sargent also pointed out that the boat has a deep cockpit, and fore and aft casting platforms.

— Chris Landry

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