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Dear Santa:

Last year, I sent you my Christmas wish list. But, with all do respect, sir -- you really failed to deliver the goodies! Well, tis another season to be positive, so here’s the list and we’re counting on you to come thru this year:

1. Please arrange for government and regulators to speak in a unified voice! The big banks’ recent pledge to President Obama to take a “second look” at all loan apps isn’t going to cut it! Yes, the banking debacle of ‘09 calls for investigations, explanations and appropriate policy changes. But, the President’s call for banks to start providing “reasonable credit in their communities” won’t happen while regulators are also demanding banks shrink their loan portfolios and raise new capital!

2. Santa, remember the 85 percent of “Discover Boating” funds . . . you know, the ones that were pledged to go directly to dealers to help move products? Well, it appears they’ve gotten side-tracked somewhere, according to many dealers. So, please persuade all manufacturers to find and use that money as intended to help dealers pay for boat show space and other buyer incentives during the critical show season just ahead.

3. And while you’re at it, inspire all manufacturers who survive this recession to draft new Manufacturer/Dealer Agreements that contain ALL the provisions approved and recommended by the NMMA board in 2006. If this recession has taught us anything, it’s that we’ll never do business “as usual” again. How obvious it is now that manufacturers cannot survive without dealers and vice-versa. So, a new balanced relationship should be the birthright of the pending industry recovery.

4. Santa, make it an industry priority to immediately develop an inventory-sharing system for dealers similar to the one adopted years ago and used so effectively by the auto industry today. It will benefit dealers, manufacturers and consumers.

5. Bring on the buyers, especially to the industry’s winter boat shows. There is a large pent-up demand and you can help unleash it by stuffing a lot of desire as well as some extra down-payment money in their stockings!

6. Bring on the manufacturers who have the foresight to produce a line of reasonably-priced, entry-level boats. It’s a key for growth going forward. More standardization, fewer models, less choices and more value are where the consumer has been driven by this economic debacle. We need to be there, too.

7. Speed up the pace at which we are able to bring back the good employees that were jettisoned for budget, not performance, reasons. Companies like Regal and Brunswick (Meridian), among others, have started. Santa, we want to see more able to do it.

8. Empower all dealers to demand they be paid their customary street labor rates for all warranty work performed AND that they also receive the normal markup on all parts taken from their inventory for warranty service or they will do business with another builder who does. 

9. When it comes to the SBA programs, Santa, we need you to move the administration to cut the talk and start the walk on a program lucrative enough for more than the current limited number of banks to want in, OR make large direct loans for working capital and floorplans. And, while you’re at it, bring back down the current excessive interest rates that are sucking the life out of many dealerships.

10. Rid the industry of manufacturers who build junk. Ditto for dealers who give us all a black eye by failing to provide quality service to all customers.

Merry Christmas to all!


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