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Sea Ray rides innovation ‘wave’

Brunswick confident a technology-driven ‘new normal’ can transform the boating experience

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Brunswick Boat Group president Andy Graves is calling Sea Ray’s Next Wave initiative a “commitment to redefine the boating experience through every platform.”

Sea Ray introduced seven new boats for model-year 2013 in Miami. The lineup includes the 370 Venture, which won the National Marine Manufacturers Association Innovation Award in the power category, as well as Boating magazine’s Boat of the Year Award. Sea Ray’s aggressive product launch is just part of the Next Wave initiative, according to Graves. “We are applying our best new technology in clever new ways,” he says.

Brunswick’s vice president of product development, Ron Berman, says the focus on new and innovative products will be the “new normal” at Sea Ray.

Graves says he has challenged each of the company’s brands to lead their segments in innovation and product value. How each brand executes that directive in the marketplace will differ by market position and business priorities.

“For Sea Ray, the focus has been incorporated under the Next Wave initiative, and Sea Ray is actually expanding that to fundamentally redefine the boating experience,” says Graves. “We’re doing that not only to distinguish ourselves in the industry but also to bring more people into the industry, to keep boaters in boating and boating more often.”

Sea Ray is focusing on the “practical application” of technology, introducing such ideas as Quiet Ride, a technology that has been implemented on larger SLX bowriders and the new 370 Venture. “If you’re out on those boats, the noise level is half what a traditional sterndrive would be,” Graves says. “There’s essentially no vibration. If you stand at the helm of the 370 Venture in your bare feet, you won’t feel any vibration at 30 knots. So it makes the boating experience much more enjoyable. It’s easier to have conversations, and [there is] much less wear and tear on your body. That’s the kind of thing we want to continue to do in terms of improving the boating experience and using the practical application of innovation and technology.”

The Venture’s Quiet Ride, along with its concealed outboards and a larger cockpit, offer advantages in the marketplace that are unique to Sea Ray, Graves says.

An example of Next Wave on smaller SLX models is the Dynamic Running Surface. “We can automatically trim the boat so you’re not leaning from side to side, and we can optimize the boat so the bow rise is less and you can have the boat plane at lower speed,” Graves says. “In effect, you can change the handling of the boat through these dynamic trim tabs to improve the boating experience. Those are small, frustrating things for consumers that we can remove to make the experience more appealing to them. That’s part of Next Wave.”

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Sea Ray employees talk a lot about “inspired execution,” Graves says, adding that those words are thoughtfully chosen. The point is to inspire boaters to recognize Sea Ray for delivering benefits they consider valuable.

The new jetboats have a single throttle, making them easier to handle. They also can offer a true neutral with their jet propulsion systems, a feature that existing jetboats didn’t have without drift, Graves says.

The 370 Venture incorporates some of the vision of MarineMax CEO William McGill — most notably, the idea for engines to tilt completely out of the water at the dock to avoid corrosion and other problems, says Graves. “He also asked, do we have the ability of taking the Mercury Verado benefits of less noise and vibration [and applying them to the Venture],” Graves says. He also suggested some layout changes based on consumer feedback at his 55 locations.

“So we give Bill a nod for pushing us into thinking very creatively around hidden outboards, as well as asking ourselves, ‘How do we solve some of these consumer issues?’ ” Graves says. “Listening to Bill and other MarineMax folks and other dealers is part of our approach. We not only talk to consumers but also to dealers because they see and hear the everyday frustrations from boaters.

“We’re using Next Wave to position and force ourselves to drive to the next level of innovation and execution, to really change the whole boating experience.”

This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue.

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