Is change in the model year launch date dead?

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For longer than I can remember, the retail side of our industry has been advocating an industry-wide change back to September 1 for the new model year launch. It was that way many years ago. But, for the 2009 model year, it seems safe to report the idea will be DOA.

To say it is disappointing is an understatement. I am one of many who thought this might actually be the ideal time to change over to a September 1 intro date. What with sales as slow as they are, resulting in reduced production of 2008 models, there might not be a better time. It seems logical that the timing for such a move would be advantageous for several reasons. For example, it would meet an oft-spoken need for our industry to move the model year changeover away from the peak retail selling season of summer.

When you stop and think about it, changing the model year in mid-season may benefit manufacturers, but it’s never made marketing sense for retailers. Since builders can’t keep building unless retailers keep selling, it seems logical that doing anything that helps dealers move boats, engines and accessories out the end of the distribution pipeline makes infinite sense. Another benefit would be the elimination of the summer dealer meeting hassle.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I think dealer meetings are a good thing. They provide valuable information, training and benefit for dealers -- just not in the middle of the summer selling season!Does it make any sense to pull the retailer out of his store at peak selling time when both the manufacturer and dealer need to see products moving?

Still, another plus would be an extended time this year for dealers to sell down their ’08 and older inventories, thereby increasing their financial strength. Let’s face it, orders at this year’s dealer meetings will likely be as plentiful as sharks in Lake Michigan.Some extra time to relieve current inventory can only help increase the orders for ’09 models. But alas, it’s not going to happen. In spite of the fact that last year, leaders like Bill McGill, Chairman of MarineMax, stated such a change in industry practice would be a positive move; no one is even talking about it today.

In spite of the fact, that just a couple of years ago, Irwin Jacobs, Genmar Chairman, pushed for change by saying all his brands would adopt the September changeover idea, other manufacturers refused to follow his lead and he withdrew his plans.So, with summer just ahead, we’re left with a simple question regarding changing the model year intro date -- if not now, when?

Or, is this good idea truly dead?

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