Boating Industry

March 2016

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March 2016 | Boating Industry | 31 /// Market Trends /// seeing a number of these new sterndrive-FWD powered boats in dealer showrooms this year from more than a half-dozen builders." The industry has only scratched the sur- face of what wakesurfing can mean for boating, Huibers said. "I think that wakesurfing is the best thing to happen to boating, even better than water ski- ing," he said. "Go ask the general population if they know what water skiing is. Let's say it's 90 percent. But if you ask them what wakesurfing is — I used to say it was one out of 10, but it's probably even less. My point is that when the population at large knows what wakesurfing is at the same ratio as water skiing, there's nothing but upside for all of us in the boating industry." Two different paths Both Mercury and Volvo Penta have launched new sterndrives in the last year as well, albeit fol- lowing different strategies. Mercury introduced new 6.2-liter, V-8 300hp and 350hp purpose-built sterndrives last summer. Like the V6 introduced in 2014, the engine was built and designed specifically for marine use. "With respect to the product, we've had a lot of positive feedback from OEMs and consumers on the path that we've taken," Bass said. "We have made a lot of improvements to the stern- drive engine as we rolled out this new product line. We do believe that it has to have a positive impact on demand because it is a superior prod- uct in so many ways." Mercury's path offers more control and flex- ibility for the company, Bass said. "We see where the automotive regulations are going, so even if we think the current prod- uct works, [and] we can buy from an automo- tive company and make it work, we don't know what the future product looks like and it's not going in the right direction for a marine applica- tion," he said. "The investment we made in our product portfolio was quite a bit larger than we would have made just to simply marinize the next generation of automotive engines. That alone should tell you that we feel very strongly about our strategy." On the other hand, Volvo Penta believes that continuing to work with GM offers the best solu- tion for the industry. "Our long-standing relationship with GM gives us access to the latest advances in automo- tive engine technology and economies of scale that cannot be achieved in a low-volume custom manufacturing operation," Huibers said. "GM builds about 4,500 Gen V blocks per day, and has fielded more than 1.7 million units. These engines are proven performers. The technologies built into the Gen V engines have never been available in any marine gas engine." That technology forms the foundation of Volvo Penta's next-generation V8, released at IBEX 2015. "Based on the revolutionary GM Gen V plat- form, the new Volvo Penta gas engines leverage the latest new advances in automotive technol- ogy: all-aluminum block, exhaust manifolds and heads; variable valve timing; direct fuel injection, wideband O2 sensors; and standard fresh-water cooling," Huibers said. "These add up to a major leap in performance, fuel economy and emis- sions. Boaters who have experienced the new engines have commented on their impressive acceleration across the full range of RPMs." New technology and innovation are the keys to growth in not only the sterndrive segment, but the entire industry, Huibers said. "There have been changes in water sports and boating styles, and until now there has been little in the way of new innovations in marine sterndrive technology," he said. "That is why we continue to invest to bring new technology to the marketplace, including our next generation of the most power dense engines yet combined with our new Forward Drive to give boaters more versatility. We continue to invest and will bring out more new innovative products over the coming years." Mercury's Bass echoed that dedication to product development, noting Mercury's recent investments in new products. "We have a very realistic view of the stern- drive market going forward, but that realistic view includes the fact that sterndrive is going to be a very important part of our product line and our future," Bass said. "We know there are [fewer] sterndrive customers today than there were 10 years ago by a wide margin, but there are sterndrive customers out there. The stern- drive customers that are out there are premium customers, so the uptake on some of our ad- vanced control systems, like joystick, has grown even though the market has shrunk. We think the value proposition for sterndrive will continue to be appealing to that particular customer." Four Winns (top) and Monterey are two of the boat manufacturers adding the Forward Drive to their offerings.

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