FORT MYERS, Fla. — Nearly 60 dealers and 33 vendors gathered at the Sanibel Harbour Marriott in Fort Myers this week for the three-day 2015 Marquis-Larson Group dealer meeting — the first time the two boat manufacturers have held a joint event.
"We think it is very important that you understand what we have been doing at our facilities for the past few years and what we have planned strategy-wise," Marquis-Larson Group president and CEO Rob Parmentier told a crowd of about 200 at the Monday morning business meeting.
"There are a lot of you that carry only one of our brands. There are some that carry two. We want to be your company for all the brands. I know a lot of you carry brands from other manufacturers, but by the time you get done looking at what we have to offer and talk to our people and run our boats, you will be impressed. We just want the opportunity to be your company.”
Parmentier, who was hired by company owner Irwin Jacobs about two years ago, thanked his new boss (who was in attendance) for the opportunity to make significant changes at Marquis-Larson.
"When things are tough, you cannot stop spending on marketing and product development — and that man believes as much in that as I do," said Parmentier, the former president of Sea Ray.
Jacobs is the owner of J&D Acquisitions LLC, based in Hopkins, Minn., which manufactures Marquis Yachts, Carver Yachts, Larson, Larson FX freshwater fishing boats, Larson Escape pontoon boats, Striper saltwater fishing boats and Triumph boats. Marquis and Carver yachts are built at J&D’s manufacturing facility in Pulaski, Wis. Larson, Striper and Triumph boats are built in Little Falls, Minn.
Parmentier was named Larson Boat Group president and CEO in September 2013, and the following April he was named president and CEO of the Carver and Marquis Yacht Companies.
“Both of the companies have been running in their own separate silos," said Parmentier said. "What we have done is joined them. We share engineering ideas. We have consolidated teams. We are running our operations more efficiently. We have allowed everyone to communicate with each other.”
Parmentier gave an example of the merging of resources: “We have an unbelievable metal shop at Carver, and now they will be building the T-tops at Larson," he said.
Parmentier in his 30-minute presentation noted that the boat business is gradually improving, but the industry still struggles with capturing new buyers that fall into the Generation X and Millennial categories.
“We still sell boats to baby boomers because baby boomers have all the money," Parmentier said. "[The younger generation] is still trying to pay off their college educations. They are still trying to find themselves. We have kids out there with master’s degrees working at McDonald's. That is changing, but it is going to take a while."
However, on the positive side, Parmentier said, "baby boomers are healthier and living longer. They are retiring and still want to have fun on the water."
Parmentier noted that the pontoon market continues to thrive. "If you are not selling pontoons, you better start thinking about it," he said. “Baby boomers don't want to climb in and out of boats anymore. They want to walk onto a flat platform. These boats are unbelievable. It's like staying in a luxury hotel. They feel safe and comfortable. They can take their kids and feel comfortable — and their grandkids.”
Parmentier also urged dealers to invest in the freshwater and saltwater fishboat market. Noting a nine-year decline in sterndrive boat sales, Parmentier said the group’s smaller boat brands will sharpen their focus on developing outboard-powered boats.
“I think the [sterndrive] numbers are going to continue to drop,” he said. “So instead of crying about, it we need to fish where the fish are.”
Several other group executives made presentations before the dealers hit the docks. Josh Delforge, Marquis & Carver Yachts vice president of design and engineering, told the crowd that the Carver C50 Command Bridge will be introduced at the Feb. 11-15 Yacht & Brokerage Show in Miami Beach, Fla., and that the Carver C51 Coupe is scheduled to debut at the 2016 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.
"We're extremely excited. These boats have been in the works for a long time and we are proud of what we have done," Delforge said.
Look for more coverage of the Marquis-Carver dealer meeting in the September issue of Trade Only.