MIAMI INTERNATIONAL BOAT SHOW REFLECTS THE CHANGING INDUSTRY

Chris Craft launch 36

For the marine industry, the 2014 Miami International Boat Show began with a session held by GE Capital where a wide range of business information and intelligence was shared with the audience. The overall message was that 2014 has the potential to be a very good year and an overall 8% marine industry increase was predicted, but there was also a caution about global and market volatility to temper things a bit.

It’s no secret that the industry suffered a huge decline from 2009 to 2013 but conditions seem to be improving steadily, especially in some segments like pontoon boat sales where volumes are almost back to pre-crash levels.  

This is an important fact to note because pontoon boats are a reflection of the changing way people want to use their boats. They seem to want to take the whole gang along for the day, have food and activities like wakeboarding, skiing, tubing, fishing and swimming. They seem to love the stable and spacious platform that a pontoon offers and the latest four-stroke outboards can deliver amazing performance with clean air and good fuel economy too.

Chris-Craft Launch 36 – Introduced by Stephen Julius and Steve Heese of Chris-Craft Corporation, their new Launch 36 is another example of innovative thinking. In their press session, they emphasized how the Launch 36 was designed around toys and having a great time with family and friends on the water. The Launch 36 is a large day boat and it is available with all kinds of water sports equipment for the family including a neat little water scooter plus plenty of onboard storage for all the toys. It got a lot of media attention and certainly this is a dramatic new interpretation of what a 36 foot power boat can be.

Mercury Marine 75th Anniversary – Mercury president of global sales and marketing Kevin Grodzki lead the company’s press event at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

This is the company’s 75th Anniversary and they are celebrating by opening a new Mercury Museum in the company’s home town of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Founder Carl Kiekhaefer started Mercury Marine in a converted barn in Cedarburg and the new museum will chronicle Mercury’s many milestones in the past 75 years.

At the Miami show, the company announced its partnership with Simrad to bring “glass bridge” electronics systems to Mercury’s lineup. This will be both navigation and a state-of-the-art system that is fully integrated into all of the engine diagnostics.

Mercury’s VesselView 4 and VesselView 7 will work with Simrad multifunction touch-screen systems to deliver such information as sonar, radar and Mercury’s Smart Tow, cruise control and Eco Control functions, Grodzki said.

Other announcements at the session included the new availability of Verado engines in two shades of white to match the high-end performance and salt water fishing boats. Starting in April, Mercury Racing will offer a 540-hp 8.6-liter multiport fuel-injected V-8 engine. They seem to be stepping up their diesel lineup including their partnership with Volkswagen. We reported on the TDI 4.3L 370-hp diesels in a video shot at the 2013 IBEX show.

Mercury also has put a lot of effort into their joystick steering technology. There were 17 different boats at the show with the company’s Joystick Piloting for outboards. They also talked about the new Mercury 200 Pro FourStroke coming in March and new MotorGuide products, such as the Xi5 wireless trolling motor. We are seeing many more new product announcements it seems.

Perhaps the most important announcement was from Sea Ray who proudly announced the world premiere of an entirely new yacht class, the L-Class by Sea Ray. The introduction took place at the Yacht and Brokerage Show in Miami Beach, which was held at the same time as the 2014 Miami International Boat Show.

This new Sea Ray is the flagship L650 Fly, a stunning example of design innovation and a very large yacht indeed. The L650 Fly will be the first of many L-Class models on the horizon according to Sea Ray.

Overall, there is a clearly a move to more upscale boats, more high-horsepower outboard powered boats and to new designs that accommodate the boater who is time-short and needs to get their fun in smaller doses than the weekend cruisers of a decade ago.

Standby for more news in 2014!

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