Bayliner dealers: Halting cruiser production the right decision
With the recovery of cruisers severely lagging other segments, most Bayliner dealers interviewed by Boating Industry were not surprised the brand would cease cruiser production in North America following the closure of a Brunswick manufacturing plant in Knoxville, Tenn.
“It didn’t surprise me in the least,” said Jim Rautio, president of Traverse Bay Marine in Traverse City, Mich.
In talking with dealers, the consensus was that it was the right business decision, with the only criticism that it could have come earlier.
Rautio said the market for cruisers began to decline even before the recession. Today, he still holds a Bayliner cruiser he bought in 2010.
“The boat is priced unbelievably well, and there is nothing wrong with the product, but there just isn’t a demand for that style of boat,” Rautio said.
Although lack of demand spans the entire segment, some dealers say that the value-conscious reputation of Bayliner does not fit well in the cruiser segment.
Scott Brundle, managing partner at Lakefield, Ontario-based Town & Country Marine, said buyers of cruisers are already spending around $100,000 on a model; therefore, spending $15,000 more on a luxury brand like Regal or Sea Ray is justifiable.
“It is like if I was going to spend $45,000 on a Hyundai, I would probably spend another $10,000 to $15,000 to get an Audi or BMW,” Brundle said.
Rautio said the issue extends beyond Bayliner and into a segment that seems to be falling out of fashion with boaters. Although it may be easy to point to price, Rautio said he has had success selling pontoons that approach $100,000.
“The consumer has chosen not to have a need for that type of vessel at this time, and it isn’t just dollars,” he said.
Since many deemed the move necessary, dealers are actually encouraged by Brunswick’s decision to cease production of Bayliner cruisers in North America.
“It strengthens my relationship with Bayliner because they made a good business decision,” Brundle said.
Before the announcement, Jeff Wilcox, president of George’s Marine & Sports in Ottawa, Ontario, was already considering dropping the cruiser segment within the Bayliner brand, but he remains especially confident in Brunswick’s upcoming models in the 17-to-24-foot range.
At Laurel Marina in Bristol, Tenn., owner Dale Thomas said Bayliner models less than 22 feet have been especially strong. Bayliner sales have been outpacing Sea Ray models at Laurel Marina, which has the highest market share for stern drives in its area, according to Thomas.
Brunswick announced its Sea Ray headquarters would remain in Knoxville, according to a Knoxville News Sentinel report. With the news, Thomas said it would be interesting if Brunswick opts to keep the production facility, leaving the door open for a return to cruiser production.
“I think it is something they are doing for right now, but if demand picks up in the next few years, they would have the option,” Thomas said.