NEW YORK — Mercury Marine will continue to hold events like the one here on Monday to help spread the word to the public that issues like docking and engine trimming — traditionally seen as barriers that prevented boat novices from taking up the recreation — have been virtually eliminated with the advent of new technology.
“We’re trying different events to do a better job of giving people access to exploring new intuitive controls,” Mercury president John Pfeifer told Trade Only Today at the event held at Chelsea Piers.
Explaining that you can anchor your boat with the touch of a button doesn’t have the same effect for novice boaters as allowing them to try it themselves, Pfeifer said.
“We’re trying to do a better job on the marketing front,” Pfeifer said. “If you don’t experience things like the joystick, or Skyhook, you don’t understand. Skyhook takes all the stress and anxiety out of having to sit perfectly still to allow a boat to pass or to fish a spot because it can cause anxiety, even for commercial operators or experienced boaters. We do these events to promote people’s knowledge.”
Skyhook is Mercury’s GPS-enabled station keeping technology.
“Even the most experienced boater has some anxiety when at the helm in a docking situation, and this takes the anxiety out of it,” Pfeifer said. “That’s a very important part of what we’re doing.”
The company has such a diverse range of product offerings that it has needed to implement quality controls over processes to ensure each product is built correctly.
“Today what we make in Fond du Lac [Wis.] is different than 20 or even 10 years ago,” Pfeifer said. “We have a lot more SKUs. If workers don’t use the correct processes, the system will lock them out. There’s so much variability among products you need that quality control.”
Like many companies, it has been somewhat of a challenge to find skilled workers.
“There’s an abundance of opportunity for people who have a skill set in manufacturing, because I don’t think the sophisticated jobs [like the ones at Mercury Marine] have been off-shored,” Pfeifer said.
Though the marine industry is only producing 65 percent of the units as it did pre-recession, the dollar value has risen above its pre-recession peak, Pfeifer said. “It gives you an idea of where consumers are.”
Still, “we’re trying to bring technology to the mainstream as well as the high end,” Pfeifer adds. “We have to do it in an affordable way. That’s the challenging part of the industry — keeping that sweet spot in giving new technology at the right price.”
Read more about the event in the September issue of Soundings Trade Only.