When Brunswick Corp. announced earlier this week that it was grouping four dissimilar boat brands into its new Venture Group to save operational costs and increase margins, it seemed like an exercise the Brunswick Boat Group had undertaken in the past with its aluminum fish and bass-boat brands.
On the surface, merging Bayliner, Heyday, Uttern and Quicksilver into the newly formed Venture Group sounds even more complicated. Bayliner and Heyday are unmistakably American, while Uttern and Quicksilver are designed and built in Europe.
Keith Yunger, most recently president of Bayliner, has been tasked with bringing these different brands together under the Venture Group. “It’ll be important that our designers respect and understand each brand’s DNA while we also maximize efficiencies with manufacturing,” Yunger told Trade Only Today.
The group plans to consolidate sales, marketing, supply chain and design for the four brands.
Yunger said the main similarities between the brands are their lengths (typically less than 25 feet) and “value” standing in the marketplace. “They all tend to speak more to the masses in terms of affordability,” Yunger said. “We’re generally talking about dayboats but with specific DNA.”
The design for the four brands will now be done by a single team, with assistance from the Brunswick Design Center. Heyday’s sterndrive towboats could hardly be more different than the boxier Scandinavian styling of Uttern’s runabouts.
“Our designers will be working on different models, which is what keeps them fresh on new solutions,” Yunger said. “At the same time, they need an anchor point for each model so they understand the brand’s heritage and design. With that in mind, we let them do what they do best by bringing a design language to each product.”
Ultimately, Venture will be about increasing volume for each of the brands. “Our job for Brunswick is to figure out how to expand boating participation and access,” Yunger said. “We can do that with these brands by offering affordable solutions.”
The brands will continue to be distributed through traditional dealer channels, but Yunger said the company will also be looking at online opportunities. “The automobile industry has done a lot with online transactions,” he said. “So how do we attract more people to our boats, knowing their buying habits are becoming more digital and they may not want to negotiate in the traditional way with dealers? We’ll explore that as a group.”
Bayliner and Heyday also will supply Freedom Boat Club’s fleets in the United States, following Brunswick’s acquisition of the company. Bayliner is also being used at the dozen Suntex Marinas with Brunswick’s OnBoard boat clubs. Uttern and Quicksilver might be used in Freedom’s European network as it expands there. Bayliner already has a “secondary market” in Europe, Yunger said, since some models are built in Poland.
“We need to make these brands more volume-oriented while being smart on how we deploy resources,” Yunger said. “Smaller teams that are effective can provide strong leverage on the commercial and operational sides to present greater opportunities to the marketplace.”
According to a Brunswick statement, Corey Duke has been named general manager for the Bayliner and Heyday brands, and Benoit Verley is general manager for Quicksilver and Uttern. They assume responsibilities for the brands in the North American and European markets, respectively. Mike Fritts will be responsible for operations, including supply chain, manufacturing and logistics.
Jonathan Flesher will be responsible for product development for the four brands. “He will be the nucleus of a design and engineering team and be able to tap into the Brunswick Design Center resources,” Yunger said.
The brands will all have three-year portfolios. “This will truly be a global effort,” he said. “As we develop the products, we’ll be very focused on understanding the local markets and using the voice of the customer to guide designs. Having the right people in place is also key. We’ve got some good people on the leadership side, and we’re growing young talent in the ranks.”