ORLANDO, Fla. — Mercury Marine will be introducing new engines at the Miami International Boat Show in February, company president John Pfeifer told me Tuesday on the final day of the engine company’s global dealer meeting.
Pfeifer had referred to the new product a couple times in speeches during the three-day event at Disney’s Coronado Springs Convention Center, but remained tight-lipped about the size, type and technology of the new engines. “I think it is safe to say we will have new engines — plural — but that’s all I am prepared to say.”
About 1,400 people representing boat and engine dealerships from around the world came together for the Sept. 21-23 meeting. Mercury held business seminars and displayed its engines on new boats in the facility’s expo center and had 36 boats in the water on a small nearby lake for engine-testing opportunities.
The largest boat was a 29-foot Crownline with twin 4.5-liter 250-hp gasoline sterndrives. The 250-hp engines were one of three new powerplants that were being highlighted at the event. The Mercury 75-, 90- and 115-hp FourStroke outboards also were displayed at the expo center and on boats in the water.
“This has been a great event for us,” Pfeifer said. “It is really great to pull so many people together. There is all sorts of productivity that is born during an event like this because people get to interact with one another. You see boatbuilders and dealers connecting and sharing. We connect with everyone.”
The global economic crisis has prevented Mercury from holding a global dealer meeting for more than a decade, Pfeifer said. “There was such a drive to reduce costs,” he said. “At the time we said [internally] we need to be as cost-efficient as possible and we need to hold these meetings regionally or country by country, versus a massive global event that costs everybody more money. Having said that, I think we will be more comfortable doing events like this than in the past. We think it is important.”
Mercury displayed only the four new engines at the event, clearly trying to generate interest and enthusiasm as the boat show season kicks in.
The 250-hp sterndrive is the first gasoline engine that Mercury has built entirely in-house instead of relying on the automotive industry. Pfeifer has been pleased with the feedback he has received about the manufacturing change.
“Mostly the reaction from inside the industry has been really positive because people are confident that Mercury can do it,” he said. “I have talked to people who are a little skeptical about our strategy. But once they get on the boat and test the engine, they are sold immediately because the performance is just fantastic. There are features we have built into the engine that are incredible upgrades to the sterndrive category — features like the Adaptive Speed Control, which holds the engine’s rpm setting when turning the boat.”
Pfeifer said environmental requirements are driving the auto industry to make changes in their engines that don’t suit the marine market.
“The auto industry is adding a lot of features that are really needed in the automotive world, but would add no value for the marine customer,” he said. “They are also going to have a faster pace of product evolution; for us to keep our pace of innovation at the exact same pace of automotive engine innovation is a very unpredictable situation and can lead to a lot of really high costs. So one thing we are 100 percent confident in is controlling the pace of innovation for the marine industry to give us the best cost equation that we can get.”