Q&A: Roch Lambert on Rec Boat Holdings strategy
Back in 2010, Platinum Equity acquired the Four Winns, Glastron and Wellcraft brands at auction from the bankrupt Genmar Holdings.
Since then, Platinum has formed Rec Boat Holdings and hired industry veteran Roch Lambert to lead the company. Platinum has also made major investments in design and engineering to refresh the boat lineups for Four Winns and Glastron, with changes expected for Wellcraft as well. Rec Boat Holdings has invested more than $8 million in product development over the last two years, with 28 new models being introduced in 2012.
In August, Rec Boat Holdings held its first joint meeting for the three brands. Boating Industry talked to Lambert then about the challenges facing the company and his optimism for the future of the industry. For more coverage of the meetings, be sure to visit BoatingIndustry.com.
Why bring all three dealer groups together?
Lambert: We wanted them to get a sense for the magnitude of the effort that went down in the last 24 months, both from a product and team-building standpoint.
The second goal is to give each of those dealers an opportunity to look at the other brands. I’m not saying that if a guy is Four Winns and he wants to have Glastron that we systematically give it to him, but it’s interesting to have options.
You’ve made it very clear the brands are going to have different identities, to the point of locating design for Four Winns in Michigan and designing Glastron in Europe.
Lambert: When we took over the brands, the dealers were concerned we were going to make the boats the same. If we wanted the two brands to survive, we were committed to making them different.
Why are the new designs so important?
Lambert: The challenge for [boat builders] is we all use the same propulsion system. Imagine a Cadillac using the same engine as a Chevrolet Cavalier.
You can debate product performance plus or minus, but it’s an argument that’s pretty hard to win. So that leaves us with fiberglass, upholstery, the windshield, elements that you can utilize to differentiate your product. For most boats today, if you peel off the name I challenge you to tell me which is which.
The design team came up with lines that we believe will be more modern. We think that we have pushed the envelope in terms of design.
How has the reaction been from dealers to the new models?
Lambert: Very positive. They really like the family look of the brands – they are totally different and they appeal to different customers.
Two years ago, we were being criticized for having an old offering in both of the brands – which was fair. Because of the financial problems Genmar had they had cut back significantly in investing. It was one of the things that people were criticizing us for in a huge way.
What’s your outlook for the next year?
Lambert: If we sat here 12 months from now and had 6-percent growth, I’d say we could have envisioned that. We could have a conversation in a year and it grew 50 or 60 percent, and I wouldn’t be surprised. There’s pent-up demand.
Certainly, the international market is going to be soft. I strongly believe the U.S. is going to start going up – the question is how quickly is it going to return. I would expect Canada to be stable, maybe up a little bit.
Can we expect more acquisitions for Rec Boat Holdings?
Lambert: The easy one is the ski segment. It fits in our market position. We’re definitely looking at some opportunities.
What do we do with our cruiser segment? Is there a way to increase our presence in the bigger boats? Do we grow organically or make an acquisition? We’re debating those questions today. The odds are pretty high that we’ll be extending our reach, but we’re going to do what makes sense and fits with what we’re trying to accomplish.
We’ve seen a lot of growth in the pontoon segment. Any possibilities there?
Lambert: If it made financial sense, if it came with other pieces of business that would fit what we do, potentially we’d look at it. We’re not chasing pontoon companies to acquire. It’s not something we’re excited about at this point.