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BRP exit opens up burgeoning jetboat market

The jetboat segment's gain in market share since 2008 and the exit of Bombardier Recreational Products from that market have led two companies to announce their entry into the segment this week.

Chaparral Boats and Rec Boat Holdings, which builds Four Winns, Glastron and Wellcraft, both announced that they will use BRP’s Rotax 4-TEC inboard jet propulsion system, which wasn’t available to other builders prior to BRP’s exit from that segment last September.

“We had been asking them to get their power for a long time and they didn’t want to sell it for obvious reasons,” Rec Boat Holdings president Roch Lambert told Trade Only Today. “But since they decided to exit the business they were able to offer it to companies like us and I’m certainly happy that they did.”

Jim Lane, president of Marine Products Corp., which builds Chaparral Boats and Robalo Boats, told Trade Only that BRP contacted his company in October, a month after announcing its departure from the market.

“They mentioned an opportunity that might be available for them to purchase their jet engines,” Lane said.

Chaparral has been successful entering the sportboat market with its H2O products, which are sterndrive-powered, and its entry-level Robalos, Lane said.

After looking at the volume there, “we felt entering the jetboat market could deliver some of the same results for us as a manufacturer and give our dealers an opportunity to gain some additional business and some additional profits,” Lane said.

BRP cited a sales decline in the global marine industry, as well as declining sportboat sales, when it announced its exit last year. It left Yamaha as one of the only major jetboat builders until Sea Ray announced it was moving into the segment last summer through an exclusive agreement with German engine manufacturer Weber Motor, which supplies Sea Ray’s jet propulsion systems.

Lambert told Trade Only that the segment grew from 8 percent of the overall market in 2008 to 18 percent five years later.

“The segment is showing some good growth in spite of the downturn we’ve seen in the industry,” Lambert said. “This fits our game plan 100 percent. It leverages our dealer network. It complements our current offerings — it might cannibalize it a little bit — but third, we have the manufacturing capability. Fourth, I think it will make us better financially because it leverages all our resources.”

Rec Boat Holdings plans to relaunch the Scarab brand, which had been absorbed into the Wellcraft line, as its own jet-powered entity, as well as add jet models to its 2014 Glastron line, Lambert said.

“Everybody knows Scarab, and it’s an asset we own that was, frankly, underutilized,” Lambert said. “This was a way to resuscitate a brand that has huge potential. It’s a totally new brand. It won’t look like Four Winns or Glastron.”

Lambert plans to introduce the new line in the late summer.

There are tentative longer-term plans for introducing jet propulsion to Four Winns, Lambert said.

Chaparral is in the earlier phases of development, Lane said.

“We’re in the developmental stage at this point and hope to have product available for the 2014 model year,” Lane said. “We’re being very careful about entry into this market. We want it to be right. So at this point we’re not saying exactly when the first model will be.”

— Reagan Haynes

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