BRP exit opens up burgeoning jetboat market

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The jetboat segment’s gain in market share since 2008 and the exit of Bombardier Recreational Products from that market have led two companies to announce their entry into the segment this week.

Chaparral Boats and Rec Boat Holdings, which builds Four Winns, Glastron and Wellcraft, both announced that they will use BRP’s Rotax 4-TEC inboard jet propulsion system, which wasn’t available to other builders prior to BRP’s exit from that segment last September.

“We had been asking them to get their power for a long time and they didn’t want to sell it for obvious reasons,” Rec Boat Holdings president Roch Lambert told Trade Only Today. “But since they decided to exit the business they were able to offer it to companies like us and I’m certainly happy that they did.”

Jim Lane, president of Marine Products Corp., which builds Chaparral Boats and Robalo Boats, told Trade Only that BRP contacted his company in October, a month after announcing its departure from the market.

“They mentioned an opportunity that might be available for them to purchase their jet engines,” Lane said.

Chaparral has been successful entering the sportboat market with its H2O products, which are sterndrive-powered, and its entry-level Robalos, Lane said.

After looking at the volume there, “we felt entering the jetboat market could deliver some of the same results for us as a manufacturer and give our dealers an opportunity to gain some additional business and some additional profits,” Lane said.

BRP cited a sales decline in the global marine industry, as well as declining sportboat sales, when it announced its exit last year. It left Yamaha as one of the only major jetboat builders until Sea Ray announced it was moving into the segment last summer through an exclusive agreement with German engine manufacturer Weber Motor, which supplies Sea Ray’s jet propulsion systems.

Lambert told Trade Only that the segment grew from 8 percent of the overall market in 2008 to 18 percent five years later.

“The segment is showing some good growth in spite of the downturn we’ve seen in the industry,” Lambert said. “This fits our game plan 100 percent. It leverages our dealer network. It complements our current offerings — it might cannibalize it a little bit — but third, we have the manufacturing capability. Fourth, I think it will make us better financially because it leverages all our resources.”

Rec Boat Holdings plans to relaunch the Scarab brand, which had been absorbed into the Wellcraft line, as its own jet-powered entity, as well as add jet models to its 2014 Glastron line, Lambert said.

“Everybody knows Scarab, and it’s an asset we own that was, frankly, underutilized,” Lambert said. “This was a way to resuscitate a brand that has huge potential. It’s a totally new brand. It won’t look like Four Winns or Glastron.”

Lambert plans to introduce the new line in the late summer.

There are tentative longer-term plans for introducing jet propulsion to Four Winns, Lambert said.

Chaparral is in the earlier phases of development, Lane said.

“We’re in the developmental stage at this point and hope to have product available for the 2014 model year,” Lane said. “We’re being very careful about entry into this market. We want it to be right. So at this point we’re not saying exactly when the first model will be.”

— Reagan Haynes


12 comments on “BRP exit opens up burgeoning jetboat market

  1. G B James

    WOW>>>>>>>Donzi and Proline, a chance to get back into the jet boats business, what a success that was ??

  2. Eddy

    What am I missing here ? BRP exits citing a decline in business and now 3 other builders are getting in ? And sea ray decides to use a power plant that the average buyer never heard of. Brilliant !

  3. AnonymousBob

    As a former executive at BRP, one has to wonder what kind of sweetheart deal Lambert is getting from BRP? Chaparral might want to ask for the same deal…

  4. Colby

    The Rotax powerplant is a proven marine platform that will allow boat builder to ability to create entry level products with a unique style that the low profile inline power plant offers and as opposed to outboard or stern drive SeaRay should consider this as oppsed to thier current direction

  5. BayBoater

    Yeah, and we all know how successful all of those jet powered bath-tub boats were that practically every boat builder back in the 90’s was (trying to) shove down entry level buyer’s throats… Sure, I know, they were different than what the new ones that are being offered today are, but the biggest gripe that I heard from the (very disgruntled) buyers of those previous versions, besides the boats themselves being full of sizzle but containing no steak, was the twin powered jet drives. Twice the maintenance cost, twice the headaches and twice the hit on resale value when they tried to get out of them. Once the word got out about their lack of reliability and hard to find service and even harder to find parts supply, the damage was done and the market for those things dried up. Yamaha and BRP somewhat succeeded because of price (price always sells), but once that advantage disappeared, buyers drifted on over to real boats that didn’t require twin engines and the headaches that went with them. Time (and sales) will tell with these new offerings…

  6. Ric Garland

    Think back to the 70,s,when Glastron sold many runabouts with 455 cid Berkeley jets. Why did they stop? The cost of fuel hurt the demand. While the technology has improved, a jet pump has to run most of the time over 60 percent RPM to keep the boat on plane – more costly than a prop. So if you do not need shallow water capability, where is the gain? I do not see independent builders still selling this type of boat in five years – the market will be saturated.

  7. Randy

    Does that mean that Rec Holdings is going to start hiring boat builders
    at a good wage?
    I dont under stand, Scarab? that name is associated with HIGH SPEED OFF SHORE POWER BOATS, MIAMI VICE and all that, is that what they plan on making?
    If BRP is not making boats any more than what makes Rec Holdings think that its going to be profitable? The top brass at Rec Holdings must be Real Boat Gurus? I THINK NOT
    Why don’t they look at the market i dont think there is a big market for jet boats? just as an averge boaters view on it that has been in the business for 30+ yrs

  8. Mercules

    30% less fuel efficiency than a standard stern drive or outboard, 2 engines that need to do the work of one, terrible resale value because jets are a fad, more shop tools and training for a fraction of the average dealer’s product line…yeah, sign the customer and dealer up! Here we go again..

  9. Mike657

    Perhaps trade only is not aware of the fact that the Weber motor has failed EPA testing and Weber has withdrawn it’s 2013 filing. Conveniently timed with SeaRay announcing a boat won’t be ready until 2014 even though they were shown at all the 2013 boat shows.

  10. B DeGraw

    Not only have so many jets gone “under” but those still around in our area die due to the weeds in our surrounding lakes. Slow down to come into your dock, a hoist, a restaurant or park and watch your engine over heat and your propulsion system stop. Good luck to them all. They may sell for awhile but are likely to undermine all of us when the first time boat buyer has a horrific experience with their jet.

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