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Did we miss the boat, too?

Just about every newspaper and newscast these days has a story about the potentially disastrous situation facing GM, Ford and Chrysler. And, certainly the possible demise of any of these giants would have terrible repercussions for an estimated 100,000 or more jobs for openers.

Critics have pointed out that Detroit’s big three really lost focus in the 90s when they opted to put their emphasis on America’s love affair with SUVs and light trucks. Sure, that brought them billions in profits but they were also allowing Honda and Toyota to take over the small and mid-size car market. Today, the price of gas has all but doomed their SUVs and pickups, and maybe even them!

All this has got me wondering if there is some parallel in it for our industry? It seems just as the big three looked to bigger vehicles, the boating industry appears to have been following suite. Boat builders put their resources and promotion behind consistently bigger, more profitable models, too. And, this turned in good profits, too, until fuel prices skyrocketed, the economy started to sour and the boat buyers began disappearing.

Return with me to yesteryear! It’s not hard to recall the time in our industry when Brunswick was the leader for the growth of boating by bringing to market complete rigs (boat, motor and trailer) for an amazing $7,995 or $9,995. The boats were ideal models for first-time buyers and, particularly important, well within the financial reach of millions of families -- in other words very affordable. The result was these boats sold well. They drew many new boaters into the sport to begin their eventual trek up the ladder to progressively larger models.

Now, I’m not an auto expert so I don’t know exactly what the big three should do. But, it occurs to me that it’s time for some boat manufacturers to take a cue from past sucess and bring back to market a package rig for an entry-level price virtually anyone could afford. Perhaps these units wouldn’t produce great profits, but they would be a needed stimulus for our industry and go a long way to seeding the future of boating.

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