‘Everything is going in the right direction’

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Dealers at Scout Boats’ annual meeting preview new models and agree that business is on the upswing

Scout Boats president Steve Potts’ message for dealers at their annual meeting was that the “nature of our business is to do what no one else is doing.”

The 72 dealers, who came from 21 states and nine foreign countries to Charleston, S.C., for the late September event, were upbeat about the brand’s performance in what remains a difficult economy. They held business strategy sessions and sea-trialed almost every model Scout produces at its manufacturing plant in Summerville, S.C.

Emphasizing constant innovation, Scout built 750 boats last year and will complete 950 this year. The family-owned and managed company’s next model is its biggest yet — a 42-foot LXF that is being tested with four Yamaha 350s and approaches 70 mph at full load. Potts wants to compete with higher-end coastal fishing boats, but plans to design for “high performance and luxury.”

The consensus among dealers at the meeting was that sales conditions are improving.

Jim McClellan, general manager of the Hall Marine Group in Charleston, says sales “are up in double digits. Everyone is in a better place and more upbeat. Used inventory is down; fuel prices are decreasing. … Everything is going in the right direction.”

Tom Mack, of South Shore Marine in Huron, Ohio, says new-boat sales “have increased steadily but, while pre-owned sales are still strong, they’ve been flat lately.”

He says the outboard market in the Midwest “has shown very positive growth. We’re sensing steady growth, especially on the new side, which is recovering nicely.” One influence is the way “the Scout models continue to create excitement from innovation and their striking styling.”

MarineMax’s Ken Reda in Key West, Fla., says three years ago, “We had worked ourselves back up to slow. There has been a noticeable increase this year. We’re seeing improved sales and growth over last year.”

He also said that although dealer attendance at the meeting was up, he was more impressed “by the very strong vendor support of the [Scout] brand.”

In South Florida, Reda’s market trends more toward Scout’s LXF models because of “the look, the ride and the Yamaha power.” But although the hulls are “eye-grabbing and sexy-looking, it’s still a consumer education on Scout to some extent.”

He says recognition of the Scout brand has grown, adding, “I think the MarineMax affiliation gives the brand more recognition.”

Potts told the dealers that “bling is back, and you’ll see it in our design changes, like using polished stainless steel accents.”

The introduction of the new 275 Dorado prototype was an example of a model with eye-catching innovations. Potts’ demonstration brought admiring looks as he easily transitioned the model from a fishing platform to a ski boat to a luxurious entertainment center with unusual pop-up seating arrangements.

While Potts showed off the features, Greg Lewis, global digital switching product manager at Marinco/MasterVolt in Auckland, New Zealand, demonstrated the CZone, a digital switching system that can remotely trigger a number of functions in a boat.

“Similar features in cars are standard,” Potts said. “Scout is leading the way to bring similar technology to boating.”

This article originally appeared in the November 2013 issue.

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