Groupe Beneteau’s dealer conference in Sarasota, Fla., earlier this month was hailed as a success for the company’s four Cadillac, Mich.-built brands. The company said in a statement that 450 attendees from 27 countries attended the Sept. 7-9 meeting, where the company introduced new models and engines for its Four Winns, Scarab, Glastron and Wellcraft brands.
Trade Only also attended the event and found the participants generally upbeat about U.S. market conditions. The only negatives were Canada and Europe. Export sales are being hurt by retaliatory tariffs in those markets aimed at the U.S. boating industry.
“Domestic was great, but for dealers outside the U.S. it’s a little disheartening,” said Andy Lindsay, vice president of sales for the Americas. “We had 24 dealers from other countries, including a really good representation from Canada, our largest export market. For them, it’s a challenge.”
Lindsay said Canadian dealers are taking a “wait and see” attitude to ordering models for the 2019 model year. “They’re waiting to see if some sort of relief might come, and figuring out what to do with the upcoming boat shows,” Lindsay said. “It’s a gamble. The tariffs hit the Canadians hard. They’re due when the boats cross the border, and they can’t use floorplan financing to pay for them. They have to dip into their cash reserves to fund the sales.”
Lindsay said domestic sales remain strong. “The word is that there’s a ‘soft bump’ in the economy this year, but our dealers aren’t seeing it,” he says.
Wellcraft, which introduced two 35-foot fishing boats powered by triple Mercury 400R Verados, signed 15 new dealers at the conference.
“Some were brand new to the brand and others wanted to add the line to their other Cadillac brands,” Lindsay said. “We also signed quite a few dealers for our Scarab line. The brand is still growing. Most view it as incremental business to their other lines.”
Scarab Jet is now using 300 Rotax engines and jetdrives in both single and twin applications for wakesurfing.
The dealer conference also attracted 100 supply partners who set up displays at the show. The boats were tested by dealers and press in the marina adjoining the hotel.