Yamaha Motor Corp. U.S.A. acquired Bennett Marine in July, adding another prominent accessory company to the Japanese engine manufacturer’s Yamaha Marine Systems Co. Inc.
Bennett Marine is best known for its hydraulic trim tab systems. The company recently introduced electric tabs and the AutoTrim Pro automatically adjustable trim system.
Yamaha refers to its Helm Master system, which includes a joystick for steering, as a “fully integrated boat control system.” It would make sense that one of the first products of the combined companies would be integrating AutoTrim Pro into Helm Master or some other type of merging the two.
“We have some control systems. They have some automated control systems. We’re taking a hard look at all of that,” says Bill Boehman, vice president of the Yamaha Marine Group.
He’s also the man in charge of Yamaha Marine Systems. “Improving the boating experience — that’s what we’re ultimately after,” Boehman says.
Understandably, a week after the acquisition was complete, Boehman didn’t have much more in the way of details about how the merged companies will move forward. Bennett Marine will continue to operate as a separate entity from its headquarters in Deerfield Beach, Fla., where the company employs 72 people in a facility that covers 27,684 square feet on nearly 15 acres.
After both sides got serious, Boehman says the negotiations took about six months. Terms of the agreement are not being disclosed.
Yamaha Motor Corp. USA president Ben Speciale is also president of Yamaha Marine Systems.
“Through the acquisition of Bennett Marine, Yamaha Marine has the ability to further broaden our offerings to boatbuilders and to provide even greater integration of Yamaha marine systems,” Speciale said in a statement after the purchase was finalized.
“Bennett Marine has a long-standing reputation for building durable, reliable trim tab systems that can be found on boats all over the world. The integrity of the Bennett Marine brand aligns well with the Yamaha Marine brand, and we look forward to delivering top-quality products together.”
Yamaha Marine Systems also recently bought Kracor, a company that makes rotationally molded plastic products such as fuel tanks. In 2008 Yamaha purchased Precision Propellers Industries and renamed the company Yamaha Marine Precision Propellers in 2016.
“From day one, we broaden our offerings,” Boehman says. “Our goal of becoming a marine systems company starts at the stern and looks forward.”
Bennett Marine was founded in 1959. Most recently, with the increased popularity of electric trim tabs such as those by Lenco Marine, Bennett came out with its Bolt line of electric units.
Earlier this year Bennett Marine introduced AutoTrim Pro, a pretty self-explanatory name for the company’s new automatic trim system, which Bennett says levels the pitch and roll of boats.
“We’re seeing tremendous growth there,” says Craig DeStefano, marketing director at Bennett Marine, referring to electric trim tabs. “We don’t see that slowing down anytime soon.”
Moving forward, Boehman says, Yamaha will not order its boat manufacturing partners not to use competitive tabs on their boats, explaining, “We’ve never dictated to our boat partners what products they can or cannot use. We want to be very competitive in hydraulic and electric and we want to improve in all aspects of the trim tab market.”
Bennett sells its tabs directly to manufacturers through OEM relationships and through distributors such as West Marine and other retail outlets. Having access to Yamaha’s network of manufacturers could provide an instant boost to Bennett’s sales.
One thing DeStefano says Bennett is working hard on is removing the “fear factor” from the minds of owners who are considering installing tabs on their own boats.
“We have a lot of headway to make in terms of communicating ease of installation to the weekend warrior do-it-yourselfer,” DeStefano explains. “We’ve set out to do a bunch more do-it-yourself help videos. The benefits of [trim tabs] are indisputable, but drilling into a transom is still intimidating.”
As total-boat control systems such as Helm Master continue to gain popularity because of the ease of operation they offer, that’s where the pairing of Yamaha and Bennett Marine is most likely to see growth in the short and long term.
“We’ve had very positive results from the control systems that we’ve developed,” Boehman says. “The opportunity it presents for integration down the road, we’ve had nothing but positive response at this point.”
This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue.