In a move that still has the ground shaking in Osage Beach, Mo., Cigarette Racing Team has named Big Thunder Marine as its new dealer at the Lake of the Ozarks. The news was first reported by Speedboat magazine this morning.
“There were a number of factors involved in the decision, both our strengths and other people’s weaknesses,” said Fred Ross, who owns Big Thunder Marine as well as the Fountain Powerboats, Donzi Marine and Baja Marine powerboat brands. “Cigarette looked around and saw we were their best option for maximum growth. Our goals for the future are aligned.”
Big Thunder Marine is now Cigarette’s Midwest dealer at the Lake of the Ozarks, as well as its South Florida location. Photo from yesterday’s Fort Myers Offshore Burnt Store Lunch Run by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
A full-service dealership with multiple locations at the Lake of the Ozarks, Big Thunder Marine carries the Fountain, Donzi and Baja lines in addition to its pontoon and tow-boat lines. Ross said the addition of Cigarette is a complement—rather than competition—for its current high-performance powerboat lines.
“We see this over and over again,” Ross explained. “Usually, Cigarette guys want Cigarettes and Fountain guys want Fountains. There is very little crossover. They are two different brands with two different price points. Cigarette is a very niche brand that only builds so many boats a year. That said, I could not be more proud of our Fountain brand.”
Big Thunder Marine general manager Jeremy Anderson sees offering the line as a significant opportunity for not just local but ongoing national expansion of its business.
“We are proud to also offer the Cigarette line in our Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) location as we continue to grow our presence in Florida,” Anderson said. “We are excited to work with Cigarette. The boats are gorgeous and their fit and finish is amazing.”
That means Osage Beach-based Performance Boat Center, which has carried the Cigarette line since 2015, is out. Brett Manire, who co-owns Performance Boat Center, said he was informed of the change via text message Friday evening.
According to Manire, in the seven years Performance Boat Center has carried the Cigarette line, the dealership has moved approximately 150 new and pre-owned boats for the Opa-locka, Fla., boat company. The dealership hosted its first Cigarette Owners Rendezvous six years ago and built it from 55-boat affair to a signature event attracting more than 100 boats for the past three years.
Plans for the 2022 event are uncertain. Mark Waddington, Manire’s partner in Performance Boat Center, said the dealership will host a rendezvous on its planned June 16-19 dates regardless, as they already have 56 boats registered for the weekend-long event. “If we can’t call in the Cigarette Owners Rendezvous, we’ll call it something else,” Waddington said. “But we are definitely having it, at least as a farewell.”
“But that’s just one weekend,” Manire added. “We are disappointed with Cigarette’s decision and the way it went down, but will continue to doing everything we can to keep our Cigarette customers happy now and in the future. We provide a level of service that nobody can match, and we will continue to do just that. This isn’t like selling used Hyundais. We sold 180 performance boats last year and more than 220 boats overall.
“That said, we are extremely happy with our MTI and Sunsation brands,” he continued. “We have 22 MTIs on order right now. And we get two 32 Sunsations a month, one 34 Sunsation a month and one 40 Sunsation every other month. That last three guys we delivered Cigarette’s have also ordered MTIs.”
The dealership also recently added the Velocity Powerboats line of sportboats to its offerings.
On the Big Thunder Marine side of the equation, Ross is bullish on the future of his dealership. With Cigarette, he believes he has added another piece to the multi-brand dealership’s puzzle.
“Big Thunder has proven it can sell multiple brands,” he said. “When we started up just five years ago, a lot of people were laughing at us. I don’t think anyone is laughing anymore, and that’s because we have the best team in the industry.”
Cigarette leadership/management is equally delighted with its new dealer. Quoted in the Speedboat magazine article, Cigarette representative Ralph Navarro said, “With the new growth of the company, we have decided that the best partner to have in Missouri and the Palm Beach area is Big Thunder Marine.”
Though Performance Boat Center’s Waddington said he believed the change was coming based on his interactions with the Cigarette’s new ownership team, he was still stung by it.
“I would be lying if I said it didn’t hurt, but not from a financial perspective,” he said. “When you build a partnership and establish a reputation, you expect your partners to treat you well and with respect. I don’t think the new owners at Cigarette understand Performance Boat Center.
“We are not selling ‘fiberglass,’” he continued. “We are selling lifestyle and services. Whether you own a Cigarette, an MTI or a Sunsation, you are part of the Performance Boat Center family. At the end of the day, I have no problem with people’s business decisions. It is what it is and—as I said—I knew it was coming.”
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