Three manufacturers announce cutbacks

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Boatbuilders continue to adjust to slumping economic conditions, with several announcing layoffs or furloughs to meet the lower demand for boats. Here’s a roundup of recent announcements.

Neodesha, Kan.-based Cobalt Boats today announced the layoff of 30 employees because of the poor economy.

“It is very difficult to see fellow associates leave our company. Our heart goes out to them,” CEO Paxson St. Clair said in a statement. “But to be clear, our intention and expectation is not only to weather these challenging times but to position our company to take advantage of a market rebound when it does occur.”

St. Clair said Cobalt’s sales are down 18 percent from the prior year, though, he notes, “Most of our competitors are off 35 to 40 percent. We are pleased to be experiencing positive momentum through gains in market share.”

Company officials say they have adjusted production schedules to serve the reduced demand and do not have any factory stock boats.

“We feel fortunate to be in the position of building boats on a routine basis today,” Cobalt president Sean Callan said in a statement. “Our experience tells us that the logistics of shutting down a boatbuilding operation and restarting weeks or months later can make it very challenging to maintain your boat’s quality and seamless communication with your dealers and customers.”

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Tiara Yachts is temporarily laying off 300 employees, director of marketing Dave Walsh confirmed this morning to Soundings Trade Only. The company expects to bring them back within 30 days.

Approximately 100 employees are unaffected by the temporary layoffs.

“Business just has not come back to the point where we can go to full production,” Walsh said.

Base in Holland, Mich,. Tiara Yachts is a subsidiary of S2 Yachts Inc.

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Beneteau USA laid off 30 people at its Marion, S.C., plant because of a drop in sales, according to a report on SCNow.com.

“This very difficult action is sadly taken as all of those affected were part of the best boatbuilding team in America,” Beneteau USA President Wayne L. Burdick said in the report. “We are confident that with our modest production plans for the balance of 2009 and a strong team of about 150 associates remaining at our Marion facility, Beneteau USA will be poised for the needed rebound of boat-buying confidence, which should lead to a return of normal demand for the floating dreams we create.”

No one answered the phone today at the company’s Marion facility, and there was no reply to an e-mail sent by Soundings Trade Only.

Earlier this year, Beneteau celebrated the completion of the 7,000th hull built in Marion and in 2006 celebrated its 20th year there.

Beneteau has five factories in France in addition to its U.S. operation.

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