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MIAMI: GE Capital’s Van Wagoner sees industry upswing

MIAMI - In a wide-ranging interview with Soundings Trade Only, Bruce Van Wagoner, president of the Marine Group at GE Capital Commercial Distribution Finance, reiterated his belief that the industry is on the upswing and opportunities abound for those willing to seek them out.

“We are very positive of the health of the industry,” he said on the opening day of the Miami International Boat Show, adding that he didn’t want to talk about the downturn anymore, but rather the recovery and prospects for the future.

Van Wagoner said he didn’t expect to “see much in terms of dealer dropoff” going forward. The dealers still in business have adapted to the realities of the marketplace and are generally successful.

Some good news, he noted, is that dealers are almost at two inventory turns. Also, he added, “We feel pretty good about margins.”

Although 2012 isn’t expected to be dramatically different from 2011, certain segments are seeing more growth than others. The outboard market, for example, should be relatively strong this year. Also, the pontoon segment is continuing to grow.

Inventory levels are healthy, Van Wagoner said, and most of the older boats are out of dealer showrooms.

GE, he noted, remains committed to the recreational marine industry. The company has invested in technology as well as in its people. Last year, 57,000 dealer orders were approved and GE provided $360 million in new credit lines.

On the consumer side, Van Wagoner said default rates have improved, and dealer defaults are “not an issue at all.” Credit, both wholesale and retail, is available to those who qualify.

In terms of the future, he said GE is looking at emerging markets, such as Brazil and Asia, and expects to see more investment in the charter side of the industry. Also, he noted, the company is receiving more inquiries about rental programs.

— Beth Rosenberg

b.rosenberg@tradeonlytoday.com

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