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Controversial dealer-cost website debuts

A much-discussed website that offers consumers information about boats - including the dealers' cost for the vessels - went live earlier today.

SeeDealerCost.com includes manufacturer and dealer price information, including prices on used models, as well as dealer locator information, educational articles, FAQs, finance and insurance information and the option to request a quote.

The site also will explain that the dealer price does not include items such as shipping, dealer prep, taxes, fees, rigging and other items, according to those associated with the site.

Soundings Trade Only learned about SeeDealerCost's plans Wednesday, but agreed to the site's request not to publish information about it until today.

Dave Taylor, an industry veteran associated with the venture, recently told Soundings Trade Only that it's time for the boating industry and other recreational product providers to embrace a way of doing business that is friendlier to consumers.

"Customers expect easy access and transparency with information and pricing, and to be able to get that information on their own terms," said Taylor, who was senior vice president of sales and marketing for the US Marine division of Brunswick Corp. before joining the new venture.

Meanwhile, many in the industry fear it will hurt their business.

"Why does the consumer need to know what our cost is?" asks Phil Keeter, president of the Marine Retailers Association of America. "What purpose does that serve?"

Keeter said the price on a dealer's invoice does not include what happens to the boat at the dealership to prepare it for sale. Also, he says, there is no set invoice cost for every dealer of a specific brand. That price can be determined by many factors, including the volume the dealer does with the manufacturer.

Although he wouldn't name the site's creator, Taylor said it's a business with about 25 employees and is poised for growth.

He also wouldn't say which manufacturers have agreed to work with the site, but adds that website operators are "happy overall" with a lot of the conversations they've had with builders. However, Taylor added, boatbuilders don't have to work with the site for its producers to have pricing information.

"I don't think it provides the consumer benefit that it is perceived to deliver because it will lack substance, credibility and broad-based data support," Larry Russo, of Massachusetts-based Russo Marine, told Soundings Trade Only.

Keeter said he has talked to many manufacturers and has not found any that say they will support the site.

"I know of no one that wants to sign into the program right now," he said. "We've gotten press releases from people like Crownline and Chaparral telling their dealer networks no, no, no, no, no, we're not involved in it."

Taylor said he thinks boating consumers, many of them businesspeople, understand there is a cost to doing business and that dealers need to make money to keep their doors open and provide service after the sale. But he believes that taking the mystery out of the price ultimately will help the industry.

"We think it's going to be a pretty successful endeavor," he said.

Click here for an article on the website that appeared in the March issue of Soundings Trade Only.

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