Boating Industry

July 2016

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24 | Boating Industry | July 2016 aesthetics in this segment. "It's done because of styling. There is so much more you can do with fiberglass as far as styling – all the things that you can do that you can't build on an aluminum tubing," said Deurr. "It has to still contain the people safely, it has to withstand the waves and everything else, but the styling is very important and that's I think why this trend toward all the fiberglass [siding is popular]. Some of them you don't even recog- nize as pontoon boats anymore. They're getting very out there." Some of the "out there" aesthetics have come from innovations like adding bars to pontoons, which Premier first did with the Grand Enter- tainer. At the time, there were no bars of that size or magnitude on a pontoon layout. "We were actually criticized for that in the beginning and questioned on it, because we utilized so much of the layout for this galley/ bar area and we reduced the amount of seating, which isn't the traditional way of building a pon- toon," said Grovender. "But now over the course of the last few years, if you notice, there's a lot more galley/bar seating in pontoons." Evolution of the boat buyer The consumers themselves have also driven how manufacturers evolve their design process. Boat builders have recognized that the customers they are speaking to today are not entirely the same as it used to be. In some respect, they are exactly the same – just older. But as those customers age, their boat- ing needs change. Customers want comfortable boats that are easy to board. "You don't want anymore to have people jump over seats, for example, because it's more difficult. You have to go in and out in an easier way," said Lavigne. This customer is not as price sensitive, wants a boat that will perform well and has "'exactly everything I've worked for all my career to have,'" said Dorton. But the younger customers are out there too. Manufacturers are working more aggres- sively to, with the design of boats, attract the kids of Baby Boomers, and even sometimes the grandkids. While they are not currently ca- BACK TO BASICS In order to bring Millennials into the boating industry, manufacturers have taken a "back to basics" approach for designing new boats. While the prod- ucts are still incredibly innovative, they are not as flashy and feature-rich as the products aimed at Baby Boomers. "Simplicity in engineering is a beautiful thing and I think we've done a lot as far as innovation, but I think innovation can also be found in just a simple design as well," said Dorton. "We're really thinking about simplicity, and that takes just as much time as adding a bunch of features on the boat." Deurr echoed this sentiment. While the big boats bring in custom- ers to the boat show and give cus- tomers something to dream about, returning to simpler engineering will help attract Millennials to boating. "We may have to go back to some basics [to attract Millennials] but some very innovative basics. We've got to keep people in this [activity]. Not everybody can afford the $100,000 [boat], nor do they want it or have a place to keep it," Deurr said. Dorton compares how Baby Boomer and Millennial buyers are different by using an SUV analogy: the Boomers are looking for the Range Rover with heated seats and steering wheels, but the Millennial feels just as cool and happy in a Jeep with some modifications. "We've built some complex boats with some great electrical engineer- ing systems that work ... and do increase price on the boat, but it's almost like these guys are enjoying a simpler use boat with a [lower] price," said Dorton. "[The WT-1] has some limitations to it, we know that [and] admit that, but it's this price point and it does perform these as- pects, and we highlight that." Simplicity also comes in main- tenance and operation of the boat. Most of us were raised on boats all our lives and may forget that hav- ing a boat is a specialized thing that takes time to learn and understand. Creating products that enable new, young boaters to get in and go will help attract the younger generation. "I can go pick up a mountain bike … [and ride it] fairly easy. But when- ever you're boating, you're talking about trailering a boat, maintaining a boat, running a boat, listening to the Coast Guard standards," said Dorton. "There's a lot going on there and I think, through design, if we can make it as simple as possible for them, it's going to end up [providing] more consumers for us." Technological advancements in engines and electronics have driven boat design, particularly through the popularity of water sports.

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