Boating Industry

February 2014

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/// Market Trends /// Yamaha's VMAX SHO150 won an IBEX innovation award in 2013. outboards, Foulkes said. "Once you've experienced the technology, especially if you're more on the new boater side, it's difficult to get away from it," he said. "Even for experienced boaters, the ability to do GPS station keeping, whether its for convenience … or for keeping position over a wreck or whatever the applications might be, the technology sells itself very, very well." The goal is to make joystick piloting a seamless experience for the user by integrating with the full offering of Mercury electronics and software, such as VesselView, the Skyhook digital anchor and integrated autopilot. "That kind of system that takes something that can be very complicated to operate like a multi-engine outboard boat and transforms it into something that is much easier to operate," Foulkes said. "I think that joystick piloting as applied to outboards … really makes a huge improvement in that boaters can concentrate on what they'd like to be doing as opposed to getting nervous and frustrated about some of those aspects of boating." Suzuki has also embraced joystick technology, offering Suzuki Precision Maneuvering early this year on models equipped with Suzuki Precision Control, currently 150, 175, 250 and 300 hp models. The company will be showcasing the 36 | Boating Industry | February 2014 P32x36-BI14FEB-MarketTrends.indd 36 technology at this year's Miami International Boat Show. "We feel like that's another area where you're going to see a technology shift from standard cable control to electronic controls," Blakely said. "It's easier for the boat companies and installation. Don't have the wear and tear of cables, get a real positive shift, positive neutral. We think that's the future." By allowing aging boaters and those intimidated by maneuvering larger boats to take on the challenge, the technology should help to expand the pastime. "My hope is that joystick control will appeal to a lot of younger people," Blakely said. "It just really makes it easy to operate a boat." While not ready to release pricing information at press time, Blakely said Suzuki expects to have its system "at a more reasonable price" than other current offerings. "Over time, like any technology, I think you'll see the price come down," he added. Future focused We can expect to see continued focus on weight reduction, propeller improvements and fuel economy, along with more technology, Blakely said. The integration of technology will only speed up, Burnett said. Yamaha is looking at features such as the as the ability to read computers on engines remotely or the ability to communicate directly with service shops or the consumer via wireless communication. "That technology exists today and when we get questions from consumers those are the kinds of questions we're getting," Burnett said. "The marine industry generally lags behind the automotive industry in technology, but we're all looking at it. The economies of scale make it a slower transition." The "How big can we get?" question will also continue to be a prominent one. "What's next after 350? We're looking at product plans through 2020 right now that will hopefully answer those questions going forward," Burnett said. "We'll continue to look at products that are lighter weight, better horsepower." Foulkes agreed, saying the question is if there is a "logical upper limit" to outboard power. "Is it better to have more outboards on the back of the boat or fewer, more powerful outboards on the back of the boat? And where's the right break point?" he said. "As they become very large, the outboards tend to become somewhat unwieldy and very expensive. On the other hand, people want more and more power on the back of the boat." 1/8/14 12:54 PM

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