Sales of up to $1 million per hour during an early December yacht expo, along with strong second-quarter numbers, put Brunswick Corp.’s Sea Ray division on sure footing at the end of 2014.
Sea Ray finished its 2014 yacht expo Dec. 5-9 at the South Seas Resort on Captiva Island in Florida with nearly $40 million in sales. Sea Ray second-quarter sales and market share numbers, presented to media representatives at the expo, showed strength across almost all boat categories, with a particularly strong sales increase in retail cruisers 36 feet to 40 feet. Sales were up 76 percent in this category, compared to an increase of only 3.7 percent industry-wide, according to Sea Ray, which obtained the information through Statistical Surveys. Sea Ray now holds 31.4 percent of that market segment, up 12.9 share points over the previous quarter, according to Sea Ray.
Sea Ray has held the yacht expo at the South Seas Resort for the past 15 years. Consumers, dealers and brokers attend the Friday and Saturday events, while a select number of media attend Sunday through Tuesday to test drive and review Sea Ray boats.
Consumer attendance of 320 was up 50 percent over last year, says vice president of marketing Matt Guilford, and only 13 percent of those people had attended last year. “We are bringing in more and more new consumers each year,” he says.
A total of 100 dealers from 34 outlets attended, along with 20 journalists. Sea Ray and parent Brunswick Corp. brought 70 people, including members of Sea Ray sales teams, designers, engineers and executives — a total of 500 people.
The focus was on Sea Ray’s new luxury line, the L Class. The annual event has always been focused on sales, says Guilford, and numbers sold in Captiva are strong every year. He says about $40 million in sales were racked up during the 36 hours of the Friday and Saturday consumer event — about average for the past five expos.
Sea Ray released 11 new boats in 2014, starting at the February Miami International Boat Show and continuing through the autumn Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. The new boats have been introduced across four product lines — the SPX, Sundeck, Sundancer and L Class — and range from 19 to 65 feet.
“We’ve introduced a tremendous amount of new product across a broad portfolio, and we will continue to do so,” says Brad Anderson, senior vice president of marketing and planning. “We plan on introducing 10-12 products next year , and we would like to see the cadence of new product introduction be 10 to 12 every year.” That is more than the total number of products some competitors carry, he says.
The new L Class models for North American customers are built in Sea Ray’s Palm Coast, Fla., plant. Boats in the 19- to 35-foot range are built in Knoxville, Tenn., and Sea Rays for European and South American customers are built in Europe and in Brazil.
Product design is driven by the consumer, says Guilford. During the development of the new luxury L Class, one of the things Sea Ray looked at was defining the traits of the buyers of boats in the $1.5 to $3 million range. They found this was a small group of people, but within the group they were really diverse.
Media representatives had access to nine boats across four lines. Boats available for testing included the L650, L590 Fly, 470 Sundancer, 290 Sundeck, 270 Sundeck OB, 21 SPX Sterndrive, 21 SPX OB, 19 SPX Sterndrive and the 19 SPX OB.
Trade Only took demo rides on the new L Class 590 Fly and 650 in the Gulf Mexico. Both boats ran at more than 35 knots, remaining stable and comfortable in a light chop and light breeze. The 590’s flybridge, with a view of miles and miles of the Gulf’s grey-blue water, was the best seat in the house during the morning runs, even during sharp turns and 360-degree maneuverability tests.
Engineers and designers have maximized the use of both exterior and interior space on the new L Class models and other new models, says Ron Berman, vice president of product development and engineering.
Berman and Guilford, along with Brunswick director of engineering Bill Gowan and Sea Ray program manager for yachts and sport yachts Chris Walker, took 20 media representatives through the high points and features of the new models, during the onshore presentations and on-water test runs. The customizability of the new boats (more than 200 options to choose from), was a strong selling point across all classes, as was the maximizing of space. Berman says engineers and designers worked together to get more interior volume in the same space with the same beam. Through this cooperation, Sea Ray was able to gain 7 inches of interior space in the 270 Sundeck, which has the same 8-foot, 6-inch beam as the older 260 Sundeck. “Maximizing space, on the 270 and on other models, was made possible by new configurations, and new integrations,” he says. ‘We want [the boats] to be first reliable and durable, but we challenge the engineers to find space for the boat’s systems in a creative way.” The exhaust system on the 650 is virtually hidden behind the sofa, he says. This extra space plays into another design trend of open, airy interiors.
Build times on the new 650s are targeted at 10 to 12 weeks, from laminates to delivery, Berman says.
The 590 and 650 are built to order, with customers often visiting the factory in Palm Coast, and then meeting with Sea Ray representatives in the company’s Merritt Island design center. The 590 has about the same build rate as the 650, but both models now are six months to a year out, due to demand.
The new SPX models are one of Sea Ray’s high-value products, Berman says. The 19- and 21-footers make maximum use of their footprints, he says. In the Sundeck series, Sea Ray is a true market leader, Berman says, and the new Sundeck 270 and 290 have added storage and space, along with new bold styling. The 290 Sundeck Outboard features a no-compromise transom, which leaves a clear platform space between port and starboard sides.
There are several top options with the new Sundecks, including a standard Bimini and an aluminum watersports tower. The gelcoats are made in the mold, in the factory, Berman says, and allow better finishes on the multi-color boats.
Features on the 470 Sundancer include fresh styling and big upgrades, Berman says, along with a large sunroom. The boats blend interior and exterior space and include a strong focus on social layout and advanced ergonomics at the helm with its Zeus drives and joystick control.
This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue.