Comeback Kings

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Brunswick Corp. said it has stepped up production of its larger Sea Ray models to keep up with demand.

Brunswick’s Integrated Manufacturing Center in Merritt Island, Fla., where Sea Ray yachts and sport yachts were built until the company discontinued those models in 2018, is producing larger Sea Ray boats.

“We are building the Sundancer 350 there and the 400 SLX Outboard,” Brad Zoelle, vice president for category management at Sea Ray, told Trade Only Today. “It essentially has doubled our capacity on building the 400 SLX, and that still is just a very high-demand product. It’s been a huge success — even better than anticipated when it launched.”

The company announced last year it would build larger Sea Rays and Boston Whalers at the Merritt Island facility to relieve pressure on its Tellico, Tenn., plant, and take advantage of the experienced workforce in Florida, Zoelle said.

“We had a core group of employees that were there, but we’ve been hiring and trying to hire more people back into that facility,” he said. “As demand for product on the sportboat and cruiser side has gotten really strong, we need those employees to build our product. Down in that area they are highly skilled. They are really great boatbuilders with years of experience, so it’s been a great benefit for the sportboat and cruiser lineup as we’ve moved a couple of models down there and our demand remains strong.”

Zoelle didn’t have an exact number of employees at the Merritt Island facility, or specifics on how many Brunswick was adding, saying that “there’s a lot of activity there.”

Sea Ray introduced the SLX-R 400e at the show. The boat, which Brunswick displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year, features Mastervolt’s Fathom e-power system. Fathom replaces a gas genset with a lithium-ion battery system. The boat won an Innovation Award in Miami.

“It just got tons of people and interest,” Zoelle said. “People were all over that boat.”

Brunswick touted its overall success at the Miami show, saying Sea Ray, Boston Whaler and Bayliner all debuted new product. In addition, Freedom Boat Club announced it had added franchise locations, including a company-owned club in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“We laid out our strategic initiatives and growth plans during our annual investor meeting prior to the show, and we are confident in our vision and our plan to achieve those goals,” said Brunswick CEO David Foulkes in a statement. “Brunswick will continue to define the future of the marine industry, and that was evident again this year in Miami.”

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