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Liberty brands increasing production, CEO says

Liberty Associates' boat brands - Donzi Marine, Fountain Powerboats and Pro-Line Boats - are seeing increases in sales and overall brand growth, the company said.

"The adjustments we've made, combined with the sales and marketing efforts at each of our companies, has made a real significant impact on the overall health of our organization," John Walker, president and CEO of the Washington, N.C.-based Liberty boat companies, said in a statement.

Liberty, he said, is now focused on ramping up production to meet demand.

"We've been hiring and training. We need to produce more boats and shorten our lead times," Walker said. "We knew that with such a diverse product line there would be a learning curve, which is why we started this process last fall. Today we've got 20 boats in production. We've got 120 full-time employees, and we expect to grow that number to 200 by the end of March."

A key for Fountain, he said, was eliminating factory-direct sales, which restored dealer confidence.

"Since Jan. 1 we have signed four new Fountain dealers, and we are working with several others," Walker said. "We've seen an increase in retail sales - everything from 38-foot Lightnings and CCs, a 47-foot Lightning and a quad-engine 38-foot TE. All told, we have grown our order backlog from essentially zero in November to a two-month backlog today for Fountain product."

Unlike Fountain, the Donzi and Pro-Line brands had order backlogs in place at year's end. However, they, too have seen substantial growth, he added.

"Today the Donzi backlog approaches three to four months, and it consists of mainly retail-sold boats," Walker said. "On the Pro-Line side, thanks to our commitment to dealer support, and in turn, our dealers' confidence in us, we've got nearly 100 units to build."

Walker said an effort is under way to bring the Baja line back.

"We've been teaming up with key dealers to get their feedback on our renderings, and we're giving Baja a new look," he said. "We've got a new 26-foot Baja prototype in the works that we're really excited about, and we plan to show it in April."

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