The suddenly resurgent jet boat market

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June 14, 2013
Filed under Features

With BRP’s exit from the jet boat market last year and decision to license its jet propulsion technology, it was probably only a matter of time before other boat builders decided to give the market a go.

Chaparral and Rec Boat Holdings announced within days of each other that they would be doing just that. Both companies will be using the BRP Rotax inboard jet propulsion system to power their offerings.

“It is clear there is an opportunity out there,” said Rec Boat Holdings Group President Roch Lambert, citing the “thousands” of boats BRP was selling before exiting the market.

The segment has been dominated in recent years by just two companies – Yamaha and BRP.

Lambert said Rec Boat Holdings – which builds Four Winns, Glastron and Wellcraft boats – can bring a boat builder’s perspective to the segment and noted that many of BRP’s Sea-Doo boats had not been redesigned in years.

Rec Boat Holdings will be introducing the boats in late summer or early fall. Most of its jet boats will be built under the Scarab name, which has existed as a small line of fishing boats under Wellcraft, but will now be a stand-alone brand. Two jet boat models will also be launched under the Glastron brand and the company is evaluating options for Four Winns.

“In the case of Scarab, we wanted to come up with a brand … that would appeal to the BRP dealers and our existing dealer base,” Lambert said. “At some point in our debates we realized we had the Scarab name that was underutilized and yet there was still a lot of brand equity.”
As for Glastron, jets fit well into the brand’s recent restyling, which emphasizes “fast and performance,” Lambert said.

Chaparral’s jet boats will be introduced during the 2014 model year, as part of the company’s efforts to draw more people into boating, much like the 2011 launch of the H20 line, said Chaparral President Jim Lane.

“I think it’s a good alternative for some people that like the jet product that they’ve experienced as they’ve owned other personal watercraft,” he said. “Our goal is to take those people and move them into our product line.”

Lambert, who worked at BRP for several years, said he sees a great opportunity to leverage the network of former Sea-Doo dealers, as well as existing Four Winns, Glastron and Wellcraft dealers.

“We’re going to pick what we believe to be the best combination of dealers in each market,” he said.

Both Lane and Lambert said they aren’t worried about the other’s company entering the market, feeling that it just adds more credibility to the segment.

“Back in the very beginning, it was our understanding that BRP was going to talk to more than one manufacturer,” Lane said. “It doesn’t bother us a bit that they’re in the market.”

Sea Ray announced last year that they would also be producing jet boats, even before BRP’s formal exit from the market. Sea Ray introduced the first model, the 21 Jet, at boat shows earlier this year, but boats aren’t yet available for order. Sea Ray’s jet boat offering is powered by a Weber engine.

 

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