Speculation and Rumor

Lead Line — July 2002
Lead Line — July 2002
By Richard Thiel

Speculation and Rumor
U.S. Marine will offer a new line of cruisers.
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Power & Motoryacht is a magazine that deals mostly in fact: We do boat tests, explain in detail how to take care of your boat, present first-hand cruising stories to great places--that kind of thing. But every once and a while it's fun to leave the realm of known facts and wander about the land of what-if. Or to put it bluntly, to engage in a little speculation, maybe even rumor. And that's what I'm going to do here.

The subject of my speculation is the Brunswick Corporation in general and U.S. Marine in particular. As many of you are aware, Brunswick recently purchased Hatteras Yachts from Genmar, adding to an imposing stable of boatbuilders that already included Sea Ray, U.S. Marine (Bayliner, Maxum, and Trophy fishing boats), Sealine, Baja, and Boston Whaler. (It also owns Mercury Marine.) Given the brand recognition associated with each of those names, it's not hard to understand why a corporation would want to own them, and on the surface they represent what seems to be a pretty strong strategy. Boatbuilders, and the corporations that own them, know that given a pleasant ownership experience, boaters tend to stay with a brand until it no longer offers them the boat they're looking for, whether it be a different type of boat or a larger one.

That being the case, Brunswick seems to be in the catbird's seat: Its brands offer boats from around 17 to 100 feet in a host of configurations, plus niche models dedicated to high performance and fishing. But its brands also compete against each other. Sea Ray, Sealine, and Maxum all offer express, bridge, and aft-cabin vessels, for example. Sea Ray and Bayliner both offer small boats, and Boston Whaler and Trophy offer fishing boats. Sealine doesn't have any entry-level boats, so it must get at least some of its customers from other builders--conceivably, some of it's sister companies under Brunswick.

It's fair to assume that Brunswick's basic game plan involves being able to take owners from entry-level Sea Rays and Bayliners to the largest Hatteras. Perhaps it also intends to allow its companies to compete against each other for customers in some cases. But I have to believe that right now Brunswick feels it may have too many competing models and somehow intends to winnow those out by perhaps refocusing a few brands.

And so to speculation: Given that Sea Ray, Bayliner, Maxum, and Sealine all offer midsize cruisers, one could imagine some shake-out here. Its European heritage arguably makes Sealine different. Sea Ray is the 800-pound gorilla of express cruisers, so Brunswick would be unlikely to mess with that line, which could mean changes at Maxum, which also makes express cruisers. Bayliner's price-conscious motoryachts are strong sellers in the Northwest but have never done too well elsewhere. Plus I suspect Brunswick would love to have a strong line of aft-cabin boats to compete with Carver and Silverton.

So here's the rumor: U.S. Marine will introduce an entirely new line of cruisers, six or seven boats ranging from the mid-30s to around 70 feet, called Meridian. They'll be upscale aft-cabin and/or flying bridge models that will complement the Sea Ray and Sealine offerings, but not compete against them. Clearly, if this were so, it would require a refocusing of Maxum and perhaps call into question the future of Bayliner's motoryachts.

Again, this is all rumor and speculation, and no one at Brunswick or U.S. Marine is talking. But such a move would give Brunswick an impressively comprehensive lineup. I may be completely off base here. On the other hand there is that mysterious ad for a "new yacht" in this issue and the Web site  www.thenewyacht.com.

This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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