Power Profiles

Hillcrest Marine – Alton Bay, NH – June 7, 2004

Route 28A
Alton Bay, NH 03810

Rick and Anita Carignan

The Carignans purchased a service and storage facility in 1996 and became a franchised Bombardier dealer (Sea-Doo PWC and jet boats, Ski-Doo snowmobiles, and Traxter ATVs), plus they sell VIP powerboats, Odyssey pontoon boats, Angler fishing boats, and enclosed, boat, watercraft, and snowmobile trailers. ATV is the largest-selling segment, with all other segments about equal, “so we are not as inclined to be affected by a turn of the economy, or if one segment goes up or down,” says Rick Carignan. “We have continued to show growth every year.” The 10-acre site includes a 3,500-sq.-ft. showroom, an 18,000-sq.-ft. storage building, and a 2,400-sq.-ft. service building. 11 full-time employees.

“The powersports industry does not work together,” says Carignan. “It’s not like the recreational vehicle industry, which has an organization that spreads the word about the enjoyment obtained from using an RV. Boat//engine dealers and manufacturers all pretty much work against each other. The NMMA and the MRAA don’t know how to handle the problem. Also, the marine OEMs do not manufacture a superior product. They only have to sell the product once, to us. I grew up in the automobile business — my parents owned a dealership for 40 years — and the marine industry is always about 20 years behind in technology and dealer support.”

Hot at Hillcrest: The Sea-Doo Utopia jet-drive sportboat, and “everybody’s asking for four-strokes, so the basic GTX 4-TEC is probably the bestseller, with the supercharged model right behind,” says Carignan. “The new Traxter Outlander 400 ATV has a nice, smooth ride — it has a CVT belt and a clutch drive. Bombardier was the first OEM to make a full line of legal two-passenger ATVs. In snowmobiles, the Rev chassis is definitely hot, and Bombardier has expanded that chassis this year to the first three-person snowmobile. That will be the next craze, like three-person watercraft were.”

Carignan says Hillcrest’s customer base includes “local people, the typical blue-collar worker, as well as the seasonal resident and the retired person in his early 40s who has million of dollars in the bank. We really have to appeal to a wide variety of consumers.” The inland marine facility (3.5 miles from the water) stores 585 boats. Carignan notes that “the consumer has become more educated and is less inclined to spend money unwisely. They’re just researching their purchases better.”

“Certain people on or around the lake who feel that powersports are something to be frowned upon have always been an issue,” says Carignan. “But there are different organizations now that try to educate people that powersports use can be safe — it’s all in the operator. It’s just a matter of keeping everybody properly educated to make sure they’re responsibly operating whatever they purchase.”

Hillcrest has six technicians, a service manager, a service writer, and a receptionist. “We’re a platinum-certified service dealer for both Mercruiser and Bombardier,” says Carignan. “A lot of the OEM training courses now are on websites or DVDs. During the winter months we send techs to whatever schools are necessary to keep them certified. In parts, we continually do whatever we need to in order to keep up with changing times, whether it’s purchasing software and laptops, or adding vehicles and trailers.” The dealership stocks $30,000 in Sea-Doo accessories, $40,000 in Ski-Doo accessories, and a full line of parts and accessories for Mercruiser, “so we have a lot of merchandise on-hand.”

“If a customer badmouths another dealer, we try to explain that there are always problems and sometimes things can’t get resolved in a fashion that everybody is satisfied with,” says Carignan. “It’s most important to not take advantage of the customer. Try to resolve whatever issues you might have. There may not always be somebody buying product, but there will always be product that needs to be fixed.” What about vehicles no longer being sold — like Tigershark? “We’ll take them in on trade; a lot of dealerships won’t, and won’t work on them. We tell people we are not schooled on Tigersharks, but we’ll fix them. If you send that person away, then they won’t come back and buy another vehicle from you. Service is what brings them back. I won’t put aside a service customer to get a new vehicle out the door. If we make a commitment to somebody, it’s done when it’s supposed to be. 90% of our business is either on referral or comeback business.” psb

—Julie Filatoff

If you would like to share your story with the readers of Powersports Business, please contact Julie Filatoff at filatoff@cybermesa.com.


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