Builders bullish on Suzuki Marine’s advances

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Last fiscal year Glasstream Powerboats in Panama City, Fla., ordered about 40 outboard engines from Suzuki Marine for its performance center console boats, hoping to lure more customers with a second brand of engine.

This year, the boatbuilder expects to more than double that order, said A.L. Kirkland, who owns the company with his wife, Kruis Retherford. "We'll schedule 75 to 80 engines, and even then that may not be enough to satisfy demand," Kirkland told Trade Only Today at Suzuki Marine's new product introduction in the Florida Keys on Wednesday. "I think the demand and performance and quality of the engines are very good."

Earlier in the day Suzuki announced to engine and boat dealers and members of the media the introduction of five second-generation 4-stroke outboards from 15 to 250 horsepower — the most significant product introduction since 2006, when the DF300 made a splash in the outboard world.

The new engines — the DF15A, DF20A, DF115A, DF140A and the DF250AP — were mounted on vessels ranging from a 12-foot rigid hull inflatable from Highfield to a 27-foot World Cat center console. Boat company representatives and media members were itching to punch the throttles, but a steady, hard rain hampered the on-water activities. They'll get another chance to try out the motors today, though, during the final segment of this three-day event.

In the model names the "A" signifies the motor as a second-generation 4-stroke. The 250AP is a second-generation engine and features Suzuki's "selective rotation," which means it has a counter-rotating gearcase.

Suzuki's 15A, 20A and 250AP are completely new designs, but the 115A and 140A are based on the same fundamental design as their predecessors, the DF115 and DF140, Suzuki product planning manager David Greenwood said.

For Glasstream, which had offered only Mercury power until it added Suzuki, the new Suzuki motors are good choices for several of its boats. The DF115A will power its 18- and 19-foot center consoles (180CC and 192CC), and the DF250AP will work as a single engine on its 24-footer, the 242 CCX, Kirkland said. Twin DF250AP outboards can provide power for Glasstream's 32-foot model (328 SCX), and the builder can hang a trio of these engines on its 36-foot model, the 360 SCX, he said.

Glasstream is a relatively new customer for Suzuki. Roger Dunshee, president of Twin Vee Catamarans, has been doing business with the company for more than 10 years. About 95 percent of the company's boats are rigged with Suzuki engines, he said. Its 22-foot Bay Cat can take a single DF140A and its 26 Ocean can be rigged with twin DF140As, he said.

"We're excited about the new 115 and 140. The air intake is much more efficient, and we are looking forward to the 'Lean Burn' technology on that engine," he said. "The 140 has always been a strong seller for us."

Kirkland liked Suzuki's new offerings, but he was equally enthused about the engine maker's aggressive pricing for this fiscal year. "Suzuki has become more consumer-conscious on price," Kirkland said. "For some of the boat manufacturers, [Suzuki] has come in with better deals than last year."

This is true, said Gus Blakely, Suzuki manager of sales, planning and development. "For our dealers and boat companies we're holding our prices this year, and even have reduced the price on a few models," he said.

"And we are charging the same price for the counter-rotation engine, so that's a savings, too. I think we are going to be really competitively priced in the market this year, and on top of that we'll have some really great new product. The market is growing at a rate of 10 percent, and we are doing a little better than that, and certainly we are hoping the second-generation products will generate some business and we can capture some of that competition."

Chris Landry


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