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Jet venture not a waste, Sea Ray says

After pulling the plug over propulsion issues, company says its research will pay off in its other models

Sea Ray says the work it put into its now abandoned foray into the jetboat segment will pay off in greater knowledge of what consumers want in its other small-boat sterndrive and outboard products.

“There were enormous insights we got into consumer taste and preferences in the recreational dayboat segment, and that helped our understanding of what consumers are looking for in the 25-foot-and-under category,” marketing president Matt Guilford says.

In a written statement, Sea Ray said it aborted the jetboat project because of “the unacceptable quality, reliability and durability of the propulsion systems in our prototype boats.”

 The company did not mention its supplier by name, but had said in June 2012 that it was teaming with Germany-based Weber Motors to launch a series of jetboats, adding that Weber had earned accolades for its marine propulsion systems.

Guilford says other reasons, such as BRP’s decision to sell its jet propulsion systems to at least two boatbuilders after quitting the boatbuilding business itself, were secondary considerations at best. BRP’s Evinrude product manager, Jason Eckman, told Trade Only in July that the company was considering offering its jet propulsion system to additional companies after already making it available to Chaparral and Rec Boat Holdings (Four Winns, Glastron, Wellcraft).

“Obviously the landscape changed significantly” since Sea Ray made its decision to enter the segment, Guilford says. “When we started the project, we knew BRP was leaving the industry and at the time had made its jetboat business for sale, so that part of the landscape changed,” he says. “That played a role, but that certainly wasn’t the only reason.”

The propulsion inadequacies were the overriding factor, according to the company. “Sea Ray and its employees hold themselves to a very high standard to ensure that the quality of Sea Ray boats and subsequent consumer experiences live up to the brand promise of the boldest vision, finest craftsmanship, fullest lifestyle and best customer support,” the company says in a statement. “This means designs perform as required, engineering tolerances are strictly adhered to, and vendor product quality and delivery schedules fully meet Sea Ray standards. After thorough testing and analysis, Sea Ray has determined the propulsion system in its prototype jetboats does not provide the quality, durability and reliability necessary to meet the rigorous requirements of the Sea Ray brand. Sea Ray has concluded that the brand promise can be better met by putting resources into developing exceptional small sportboats, both in sterndrive and outboard configurations.”

“Even though we are not pursuing the jetboat business, I think the insights we got are going to increase our competitiveness in that category,” Guilford says. “It wasn’t a waste. As we got to the end of this thing we were able to say, ‘That’s not the right path for us,’ but it has illuminated other market opportunities. We’re not coming out with jetboats, but we are laser-focused on delivering highly competitive sportboats.”

This article originally appeared in the October 2013 issue.


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