The Marquis-Larson Group is charging into the boat show season after gaining momentum from an unprecedented dealer meeting in August in Fort Myers, Fla. Nearly 60 dealers and 33 vendors gathered at the Sanibel Harbour Marriott for the Marquis-Larson Group dealer meeting, marking the first time the two builders have met under one roof.
“The first move I made was to let the two facilities talk to each other,” Marquis-Larson Group president and CEO Rob Parmentier said at the Aug. 9-10 event. “We had certain talents in the engineering department in Little Falls [Minn.] and certain talents in Pulaski [Wis.]. Those two operations were operating in silos. I knocked down the silos and let all of the employees talk to each other. If you give people the opportunity to come to the table with ideas, you’ll find success.”
In his 30-minute presentation at the meeting, Parmentier, who was hired by company owner Irwin Jacobs two years ago, thanked his new boss (who was in attendance) for the opportunity to make significant changes at Marquis-Larson.
“When things are tough you cannot stop spending on marketing and product development, and that man believes as much in that as I do,” says Parmentier, the former president of Sea Ray.
Jacobs is the owner of J&D Acquisitions, based in Hopkins, Minn., which builds Marquis, Carver, Larson, Larson FX freshwater fishing boats, Larson Escape pontoon boats, Striper saltwater fishing boats and Triumph boats. Marquis and Carver models are built at J&D’s manufacturing facility in Pulaski. Larson, Striper and Triumph boats are built in Little Falls.
A sharing of ideas
Parmentier was named Larson Boat Group president and CEO in September 2013, and the following April he was named president and CEO of Carver and Marquis. “What we have done is joined them,” says Parmentier. “We share engineering ideas. We have consolidated teams. We are running our operations more efficiently. We have allowed everyone to communicate with each other.”
Parmentier gave an example of the teamwork. “We have an unbelievable metal shop at Carver, and now they will be building the T-tops at Larson,” he says.
Parmentier says the Marquis-Larson Group offers dealers a wide variety of boats types, styles and sizes. “There are a lot of you that carry only one of our brands,” he says. “There are some that carry two. We want to be your company for all the brands. I know a lot of you carry brands from other manufacturers, but by the time you get done looking at what we have to offer and talk to our people and run our boats, you will be impressed. We want to be your OEM for everything.”
Parmentier in his presentation to an audience of roughly 200 noted that the boat business is gradually improving, but the industry still struggles with capturing new buyers that fall into the Generation X and millennial categories. “We still sell boats to baby boomers because baby boomers have all the money,” says Parmentier. “[The younger generation] is still trying to pay off their college educations. They are still trying to find themselves. We have kids out there with master’s degrees working at McDonald’s. That is changing, but it is going to take a while.”
On the positive side, Parmentier says, “baby boomers are healthier and living longer. They are retiring and still want to have fun on the water.”
A pontoon era
Parmentier urged dealers to take advantage of the hot markets, particularly pontoons. “If you are not selling pontoons, you better start thinking about it,” he says. “Baby boomers don’t want to climb in and out of boats anymore. They want to walk onto a flat platform. These boats are unbelievable. It’s like staying in a luxury hotel. They feel safe and comfortable. They can take their kids and feel comfortable. And their grandkids.”
Parmentier also suggested that dealers invest in the fresh- and saltwater fishing boat markets. Noting a nine-year decline in sterndrive boat sales, Parmentier says the group will step up its focus on developing outboard boats for its smaller lines, such as Larson and Striper. “I think the [sterndrive] numbers are going to continue to drop,” he says. “So instead of crying about it, we need to fish where the fish are.”
Parmentier also notes that the Marquis-Larson Group will continue to work with contract build partners Gekko (ski boats) and Van Dutch (luxury dayboats).
Several other group executives made presentations before the dealers hit the docks. Josh Delforge, Marquis and Carver vice president of design and engineering, told the crowd the Carver C50 Command Bridge will be introduced at the Yacht & Brokerage Show in Miami Beach Feb. 11-15, and the Carver C51 Coupe is scheduled to debut at the 2016 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. “We’re extremely excited — these boats have been in the works for a long time, and we are proud of what we have done,” says Delforge.
The three-stateroom, two-head boats will be built with resin-infused hulls for weight savings, sound deadening and strength. He points out that Carver designed the yachts with consultation from the naval architecture, design and engineering firm Donald L. Blount & Associates.
Delforge donned a virtual reality image-viewing headset to show — and control — a 3D animation of the C50 Command Bridge on two large screens. While on stage he (virtually) took the audience from the swim platform to the saloon and staterooms, onto the foredeck and up to the raised command bridge. Along the way he explained the features of each area of the yacht.
Delforge also says Marquis is planning to come out with a 57-footer in 2017 (the 570 Sport Yacht), bridging the gap between its 500 Sport Yacht and the 660 Sport Yacht.
On the water
Dealers braved the 95-degree heat to test-drive the fleet of boats in Pine Island Sound and the Gulf of Mexico. I drove the Carver C43, a sleek coupe-style yacht powered with twin Cummins 480-hp 6.7QSB diesels with Cummins Joystick Control, which uses the inboards and thrusters for precise low-speed maneuverability.
Marquis dealer Mike Nunmaker, owner of Nunmaker Yachts in New Orleans, became a Carver dealer this year. He was anxious to get on board the C43. “From what I hear, it should be a fine-running boat,” he said. Nunmaker also sells Sea Ray, Cobalt, Meridian, Pursuit and several other brands. “I know Rob [Parmentier] from his years at Sea Ray. He is straightforward — no fluff. I like that.”
The boat cruises comfortably at 28 knots with the engines sitting at 2,800 rpm. With the deckhouse door open to the cockpit, engine noise level at the helm was low, allowing for easy conversation. The seas were calm, and she shouldered aside a few 2- and 3-foot wakes from large yachts. The boat can ride on plane at a relatively slow speed of about 12 to 15 knots with good visibility over the bow.
I spent some time on the Striper 270 walkaround, powered with twin 200-hp Evinrude G2 E-TEC outboards. They pack a pop, with great acceleration out of the hole and at cruising speeds. The boat racks up good mileage, too, with its award-winning direct-fuel-injected 2-strokes. At nearly 40 mph we were getting 2.2 mpg. This 27-footer also is made with a northwest Pacific-style pilothouse with large side windows, and there is a center console version.
More than 30 vendors had displays set up throughout the halls and banquet rooms of the Marriott. Companies such as Cummins, Honda, Raymarine, Infinity Fabrics and Yanmar were on hand.
Craig Wood, Midwest regional sales manager for Garmin, says Garmin “gets high exposure” at a multibrand event such as this. Garmin recently became partners with Striper and is looking for more partner opportunities under the Marquis-Larson umbrella, says Wood. “We’ve got our foot in the door,” he says. “We’d like to establish a relationship with Larson and also the pontoon boats.”
After the boat testing, dealers, vendors and journalists gathered for an awards dinner. The president’s award for Larson went to the Inland Boat Center in Perris, Calif., and the Marquis/Carver president’s award was given to Sovereign Marine Group in Stuart, Fla.
This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue.