MDCE 2012: Panel urges ‘backbone’ to fight regulations

The marine industry needs to come together to lobby Congress and fight regulations that are adding costs to the price of boats without adding value for the consumer, and builders might even consider lawsuits to counter some of the regulations that already have been enacted.

That was the message from four industry giants who sat on a leader panel Wednesday at the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo and answered questions from Boating Industry editor-in-chief Jonathan Sweet, as well as members of an audience of about 200.

“I attended a day on the Hill where you meet with congresspeople and we don’t do it very well,” said Paxson St. Clair, CEO and co-owner of Cobalt Boats. “You kind of have to scratch your head. We are small, but we appear even smaller in Washington. We don’t support our PACs well, and we need to do better as an industry.”

St. Clair joined Yamaha Marine Group president Ben Speciale, GE Capital marine group president Bruce Van Wagoner and Brunswick Corp. CEO Dustan McCoy for the panel, which lasted close to two hours.

“The cost added as a result of engine regulations is huge,” Speciale said. “It’s a better product, but it’s a regulation-driven change and it’s pretty significant. It’s wonderful that gas doesn’t evaporate at the same rate it did, but the best thing we can do as an industry is know your congressman and senator by name. The next wave is worse because there’s no benefit to the consumer.”

“At the American Boating Congress three or four years ago, our PAC was one fifth of the sand and gravel industry,” St. Clair said. “The number of people ... depends on the marine industry, and we all need to be involved in that PAC.”

“The 3.0L sterndrive engine costs 32 to 38 percent more than it did because we had to catalyze those engines,” McCoy told attendees. “I can sit in my office in Lake Forest, Ill., and see more emissions go by my window in one hour than sterndrives produced in a year.

“We’re probably going to have to initiate a bunch of lawsuits in coming years and that’s something we’ve not been ready to do, but something we might have to do in the next four or five years,” McCoy said. “We are a small industry, but we might have to get backbone and fight some of these regulations.”

“There are more farmers than ethanol manufacturers,” McCoy added. “Who won this battle? The farmers weren’t ready for it and they took the whooping and now we’re going to have to live with it.”

Read more about the panel and dealer conference in January’s Soundings Trade Only.

— Reagan Haynes


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