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A template for boatbuilders

I’ve always been amazed at how often nothing short of a crisis is needed to produce changes that logically should have happened outside the context of desperate times. Case in point: Brunswick’s announcement last week that it will move the intro date for 2010 models to September (the industry standard at one time).

The decision is being hailed by MRAA, which for many years has called for this. It’s also encouraging news for dealers of all other brands. In Brunswick’s case, the brands involved include Bayliner, Crestliner, Cypress Cay, Harris, Kayot, Lowe, Lund, Maxum, Triton and Trophy. To my knowledge, no other manufacturer has yet announced it will follow Brunswick’s move. But there is a ringing hope others will. And when they do, we’ll be able to point to a very good change that has come from these bad times.

Certainly Brunswick deserves acclaim for what is clearly a pro-dealer decision. Still, it seems fair to ask: Why now, why not then?

I’m referring, of course, to the fact that when, some years ago, manufacturers began moving the new product changeover date back from September to midsummer, MRAA loudly called the move what it was — bad for retailers. But manufacturers ignored sound advice and, instead, put themselves in an annual race to be first to get as much of the dealers’ available credit before the next guy!

Dealers argued such a change had four strikes against it. Strike one: A model changeover in midsummer instantly devalued the dealer’s current inventory right in the heart of the prime selling season. Strike two: It hurt every dealer’s ability to continue selling his inventory because it suddenly made it all non-current smack in the middle of the selling season! Strike three: New model intros in midsummer served to confuse customers. Strike four: It handed lenders justification to lower consumer credit amounts on the existing inventory.

Were all these arguments sound? Absolutely! If you want confirmation of that, just read Brunswick’s announcement that boldly includes exactly those reasons for its decision. Oh, how a crisis can give us a better view of the landscape!

There’s no question, of course, that Brunswick’s decision is also good for Brunswick. That’s as it should be — a win, win! Moreover, it documents the fact that our industry should not expect to return to “business as usual” again. These days, we are being both challenged and changed for the better, and I say pour it on.

So kudos to Brunswick. They’ve set a terrific template for all the other boatbuilders. Who is going to step up next?

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