Acquiring a new boat brand, especially as the market in aluminum boats has dipped this summer, may sound risky. Apex Marine president Mark Dupuie, however, sees his recent purchas of Polar Kraft Boats as the opportunity to buy a known brand that has been around for nearly 70 years.
“Last year, they sold about 450 boats,” Dupuie told Trade Only Today. “We think they have the potential to sell 1,500 boats annually, so there’s no way to go but up.”
Polar Kraft was founded in 1951, and has had a succession of owners, including Godfrey Marine, which purchased it in 1983 and increased its model offerings, including pontoon models, deep-V fishing boats, jon boats and bass boats. From 2000 to 2003, it introduced 80 new models. In 2006, Polar Kraft was acquired by Nautic Global Group. It now manufactures multiple models across three lines that total about 70 possible configurations. The company was sold in 2016 to two RV industry veterans.
“It’s a well-respected brand, and well built,” says Dupuie. “I’ve never heard anyone say anything negative about it. It’s got a very good reputation among owners.”
Polar Kraft will join Apex’s Qwest Pontoons and Angler Qwest Pontoons. Polar Kraft will retain many of its own dealers but the three brands will also combine dealers. “Their dealer base isn’t what it was,” he says. “The whole expansion plan is to go through our dealer base and be able to offer our dealers new styles of boats.”
What about the slowdown in the aluminum and pontoon markets?
Dupuie believes that slower sales are almost entirely weather-related, saying it’s a “temporary thing.”
“We had a very poor spring and didn’t see summer temperatures until July 1,” he adds. “A lot of the lakes around the Midwest and Great Lakes are flooded. Mother Nature is the culprit.”
New-boat orders at Apex’s recent dealer meeting were down compared to last year, but Dupuie says that prior to that, orders have been up 30 percent for the last three years. “It was tough for dealers to get enough product last year,” he says. “We couldn’t make them fast enough. Then we had this weather glitch this year, so there is more inventory at retail than normal. There’s a bit of apprehension out there, but there’s also a lot of optimism. People are buying boats.”
Apex manufactures its pontoon boats in St. Louis, Michigan, but the Polar Kraft facility in Syracuse, Indiana, will continue to build its line. “It’s situated on 18 acres, with 385,000 square feet of building space,” says Dupuie. “There’s plenty of capacity.”
Dupuie said in a statement that the shared relationships with vendors and floorplan companies that “will really be a benefit” for Polar Kraft. “We’ll also be able to leverage our purchasing power with raw material vendors, and outboard suppliers, so all of our brands will become more profitable without the consumer seeing a higher price tag,” he says.