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EXCLUSIVE: Irwin Jacobs talks to Trade Only about a new boat line

This spring, Larson Boats will unveil a new line designed to compete with pontoons that will be built at a new 35,000-square-foot factory at the company's Little Falls, Minn., complex.

That’s according to co-owner Irwin Jacobs, who told Soundings Trade Only that the competitively priced Escape line will debut in May or June and initially will be offered in models of 20, 23 and 25 feet.

“I think this will be very much embraced by customers in salt water looking for a pontoon,” Jacobs told Trade Only in a phone interview Thursday, stopping short of labeling the Escape a pontoon. “The Escape answers this question in more ways than one.”

The early renderings have been “hidden away” in a sealed area at the 650,000-square-foot Larson complex in Little Falls. Even Larson dealers have little idea of what’s in store but are excited about the new boats, Jacobs said. During the Escape’s two years of development, focus groups signed confidentiality agreements before providing input.

“I’m going to be very careful in this discussion because this really isn’t out there yet,” Jacobs said. “I will tell you that the term pontoon is not fair for this new product we’re coming out with, which will be an early 2014 product. No other company in pontoons or in the boat business has come anywhere near to what this product will be.”

Each Escape model will be composed of both aluminum and fiberglass and will be priced competitively but feature-rich, Jacobs said. All will come with Larson’s patented VEC (virtual engineering composites) technology hulls and patented rotomolding technology that Larson has “spent a lot of money developing.” The line has three additional patents on various features.

One of the patents is on the unique sponsons that will enable it to outperform competitors in terms of speed and handling, Jacobs said. The boats will come in “unusual colors and be visually different from top to bottom.”

“They will be in the middle of the market price-wise, and it will have features that no other boat or pontoon company has, even in the high end of the market,” Jacobs said. “This is clearly a game changer in that it’s going to offer features never offered before, but it’s clear that the market today is embracing pontoon boats and even some deckboats. We think this offering will replace features that they have in either of those segments today, and we don’t believe that they will be duplicated.”

The new facility at the Larson complex was converted into a factory from a storage facility, Jacobs said. “We will have support with upholstery and fiberglass and so forth from the other facilities around it,” Jacobs said. “This will be an assembly operation.”

The consumer feedback was important to development of the Escape, Jacobs said.

“There are so many family-friendly features on it, I think it’s going to boggle the mind of the dealers and the customers,” he said. “They’re going to see things they never dreamt of seeing on a pontoon — they’re missing a lot of things still, and you’ll see them all in the Escape. It’s not just another pontoon. This will grab market share the day it comes out.”

— Reagan Haynes

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