Small but smartPosted on Written by Chris Landry
Honda Marine continues to focus on the portable and midrange engine segment, introducing to dealers and journalists this fall a trio of 60-pound 4-strokes at a product introduction and demo event in Buford, Ga.
“Honda Marine wants to give end-users products that exceed their expectations for value and performance,” says Honda Marine senior manager Mark DiPietro. “That is how you want the entry-level user to enter the market. We are working hard to bring in new people to boating so they can step up in the products they choose.”
Sales of 200-plus-hp engines have fueled the outboard market, but Honda says it is outpacing the industry with its midrange and portable engine sales. “Our focus has been growing the customer base. By focusing on product development and improving our midrange product and introducing new portable models, we are bringing more boaters,” says DiPietro.
Growing market share requires strong partnerships with dealers and “timing your incentives correctly,” says DiPietro. “So a lot of what we do is focus our incentives in the selling season — the summertime. You can’t just have the best products, which we feel we do across the board. You also need those very good incentives that help bring customers to dealers.”
Although Honda has continued to introduce small engines, it’s also continuing research and development with its high-horsepower technologies, DiPietro says. “We are not standing still,” he says. “We are doing well in the large-outboard segment, but again, we are trying to reach the greatest amount of people.”
To help achieve this goal, he says, the company has added all portable — BF 2.3 to BF20 — tiller-handle engines to online sales availability through its dealership websites.
Honda’s BF225 debuted in 2002, and the BF250 was introduced in 2011. Last year, the BF100 debuted at the 2015 International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference. The new 4, 5 and 6 were introduced to the industry at this year’s IBEX in Tampa, Fla.
At the media event the kickers and most of the other Honda models were installed on 30 boats from 8 to 25 feet. Boatbuilding partners included Cape Craft, Clearwater, Blackshear, Manitou, Apex, Alumacraft and Bass Cat. “Honda is known for their longevity,” says Bass Cat company president Rick Pierce. “They make a quality, durable product.”
The Honda dealer meeting — about 70 dealerships consisting of about 150 people attended — followed the media event. “By holding the media event alongside the dealer meeting we were able to get more boats and engines here,” Southeast regional communications manager Kathy Graham told me.
I drove four boats, including an Alumacraft Trophy 185 with a BF150 and BF5 as a kicker. I liked a couple of the BF5’s safety and operational improvements.
The red stop button only needs to be touched to kill the engine. Most require the operator to firmly push the button for a few seconds. “It is a safety feature — you know that engine is going to cut out when you hit that button,” says OEM sales manager Dennis Ashley. “It’s not going to kick back on.”
The tiller arm swings 360 degrees for easy storage.Honda has virtually eliminated tiller handle vibration. The engine powerhead is separated from the tiller handle, so although the engine might be vibrating, the user does not feel it, says Ashley. He’s right — the tiller of the BF5 was indeed steady.
“These 1-cylinder engines vibrate — everyone’s single-cylinder engine does,” Ashley says. “It’s tough to stop the vibration with all the opposing weights. We’ve isolated the tiller handle. The engine, although it is connected to the handle, is also isolated from the handle. It is vibrating, but you are not going to feel it on the tiller. This is important because over the course of time that vibration can cause your hand to go numb.”
In case of an oil pressure drop, a new low-oil alert will limit engine rpm to 2,300, which allows you to continue operation, but at a level that will have less of an effect on the engine.
This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue.