BRP exits boat market, sticks with proven PWC growth
September was a busy month for BRP’s Sea-Doo brand. In the space of less than two weeks, the company shocked much of the boating industry by withdrawing from the sport boat market, held its annual dealer meeting outside Washington, D.C., and — for the first time in recent memory — elected not to announce any truly new craft for the coming model year, but instead rely on nearly the identical lineup from 2012.
Sport boat exit
Clearly the biggest news from the manufacturer is the brand’s withdrawal from the sport boat market, an arena in which it offered no fewer than 10 models in 2012. Split between recreational and performance offerings from 15-23 feet, the line reportedly had been faring well in the overall boating market, leading to genuine surprise that the brand had elected to essentially pull the plug without any advanced warning.
In a brief company statement on Sept. 14, BRP cited the “continuing global sales decline in the marine industry, particularly the drop in sales of sport boats since the financial crisis” as the primary reason for exiting the business.
“This is a difficult but necessary decision for BRP,” BRP president and CEO José Boisjoli explained. “We worked hard to grow our sport boat business through a serious sales decline that began in 2007. But now, we must focus our research and development resources and capital investments in areas of our business that offer greater growth potential.”
Speculation is that the sport boat line, while successful, is not appealing on a balance sheet, especially compared to the Can-Am and Ski-Doo product lines, which currently enjoy strong sales.
BRP entered the sport boat business in 1994 and acquired the assets of Celebrity Boats in 1995, a year in which it moved boat production to Benton, Ill. Boisjoli confirmed that BRP had looked for a buyer for the sport boat business, but that the search had proven unsuccessful prior to the announcement. “Consequently, we decided not to resume production of the upcoming model year due to seasonal production planning requirements.”
In an interview with Powersports Business sister publication Boating Industry, BRP vice president and general manager of North America Yves Leduc described PWC as one of BRP’s most interesting growth industries and said the PWC division stands to benefit the most from the decision.
“We see mid- to long-term growth in that industry, which we tend to drive almost all by ourselves,” Leduc said. “ But to get there, we needed more concentration, more focus. And that is how the boat decision appeared.”
BRP indicates that it will continue to provide parts and honor existing consumer warranties. About 350 impacted employees, many of whom had already been off since June on scheduled, seasonal layoffs, were reportedly offered a “good” transition package.
Dealers we spoke with indicate the announcement was not expected.
“We were highly surprised and not too thrilled, but there’s not a whole lot we could about it,” said Danny Rossner, sales and finance manager at Ft. Worth’s Cowtown Powersports. “We knew about a day before the world knew.
“The only thing that I’ve been able to figure out is that for the amount of boats they were selling, and what it cost to R&D and produce, they just didn’t see a value in continuing the line.”
As Rossner explains, finding an alternative boat line won’t be easy. “We’re looking into it, but it’s very difficult. We don’t have a lot of experience in the stern drive market, and the only other major jet boat on the market is from Yamaha. They really don’t do business with anyone other than boat dealers.”
“We didn’t see it coming,” admitted Chris Veach, in sales at Powersports of Cleveland. “It’s just the nature of the business. The whole market is in a shuffle right now with the economy.
“People enter and exit marketplaces based on the focus of the corporation. BRP decided they were going to put more emphasis on Spyder, more on their side-by-sides and ATV product line. It’s just the nature of the beast right now. Who’s to say they won’t be back?”
2013 PWC lineup familiar
Ten days later, the company revealed that it would also be playing things safe for the immediate future with its Sea-Doo watercraft line, unveiling what it termed “the most complete watercraft line in company history,” but essentially returning its identical 2012 lineup.
The brand’s iControl technologies, particularly Intelligent Brake & Reverse (iBR), remain central to the current models. iBR is featured on every model but the entry-level GTS, offering braking capability by utilizing the reverse bucket to redirect water flow and slow equipped craft. Controls are located on the handlebars, meaning riders are not required to take their eyes off the water. iBR technology also allows Sea-Doo craft to start in a stationary, neutral mode at the dock or launch ramp, and be intuitively shifted into forward or reverse, offering a level of low-speed control not normally associated with personal watercraft. Intelligent Throttle Control (iTC) also allows riders to choose between differing acceleration profiles, depending on the desires of the driver or demands of the task at hand. An ECO mode is also offered to achieve best fuel consumption.
As in previous years, the returning models are broken into distinct categories. The flagship, or Luxury Performance, series includes the GTX Limited iS 260, GTX 215, GTX S 155 and GTX 155. The performance-oriented, or Musclecraft, series includes last year’s RXP-X 260, along with the GTR 215, RXT-X 260, RXT aS 260 and RXT. Recreational models are comprised of the GTI Limited 155, GTI SE 155, GTI SE 130, GTI 130 and the aforementioned GTS 130. The fourth line, geared toward wake sports, consists of the WAKE 155 and WAKE Pro 215.