For Fountain Powerboats, Donzi Marine and Baja Marine company owner Fred Ross of Kansas City, Mo., a weekend trip to the Lake of the Ozarks always is a mix of business and pleasure. On the business side, Ross usually logs time at the Big Thunder Marine Speed and Luxury Showroom in Lake Ozark, where he has an office and works closely with Jeremy Anderson, the general manager of the multi-brand dealership. On the pleasure side, Ross and his significant other head out on the Central Missouri waterway.
Captured here with Reggie Fountain, Jr., during the 2017 Lake of the Ozarks Shootout, Fred Ross is committed to continue rebuilding the Fountain, Donzi and Baja brands. Photo by Jason Johnson copyright speedonthewater.com.
As you’d guess, Ross—who is enjoying the lake this weekend—has his choice of rides for his weekends at the lake. His current favorites is a Donzi 41 GTZ powered by triple Mercury Racing 400R outboard engines. We learned that and a whole more from the passionate entrepreneur during a telephone interview this morning.
What do you like about the Donzi 41 GTZ that’s made it your boat of choice lately?
Well, with triple 400s it makes the lake a lot smaller (laughs). I have a bad back and bad knees, so I like sit-down boats. I can ride in the 41 GTZ for hours and have fun because it takes on the rough water well. It tops out at about 85 mph, but if I want we can run down the lake all day at 70 mph.
I did get out a couple of weekends ago in the twin Mercury Racing 860-powered Donzi 38 ZRC with (Big Thunder Marine salesman) Ed Champion. We got it up to about 98 mph with a whole lot left, but the water was rough. What I’d like to do is get out on a calmer day than a Saturday at the Lake of the Ozarks (laughs again). I think Billy Moore got the boat to 122 mph. I’d like to get it to 125 mph.
The “sleeper” boat is the Fountain 43 NX with quad 450s. So is the 39 NX with triple 450s. They are like luxury performance automobiles, like Mercedes and BMWs.
Ross’ current favorite ride at the Lake of the Ozarks is this Donzi 41 GTZ.
Given early sales, interest in Fountain’s Sport Console (SC) line seems strong. Does that surprise you?
It doesn’t. The SC line is actually one of the things I was pushing for. I pushed really hard for that.
You’ve made the most obvious headway with the Fountain brand. What are your immediate plans to achieve the same progress with the Donzi and Baja lines?
Fountain is moving at a great pace, for sure. On the Donzi side, I am happy with where we are so far but we’re considering bringing in a “brand champion,” a Donzi guy rather than a Fountain guy. It seems like the Donzi guys don’t care about Fountain and the Fountain guys don’t care about Donzi.
So you’re looking for someone who has lived and breathed Donzi first and foremost to help it evolve.
Yes, somebody like that. Jeff Harris (the chief operating officer for the Fountain, Donzi and Baja brands) is a Fountain champion and he knows how to build boats of any brand. But I’m looking for the Donzi guy who has a vision for Donzi and we are going to put the person in that position.
What’s the current thinking for reinvigorating the Baja line?
We are going to bring back the Islanders. Baja is still a great boat. Baja people love them, especially the open-bow Islander series. Of course, the Outlaws will be available.
Jumping back to the Fountain line for a moment, is there anything you believe that the general buying public misses about it?
There is a perception that Fountains are just fast, and they are fast. But they are also extremely safe, stable, dry and fuel efficient. That matters to fishermen, of course, but it also matters to people who go island-hopping. Fountains are efficient, fast and built with the latest technology. The more we get that word out, the more it is going to drive sales. You are going to see some new models come out of the Fountain and Donzi sides, but I just can’t talk about them yet. I wish I could, but I can’t.
Said Ross about the Fountain SC series, “I pushed really hard for that.”
How involved is Reggie Fountain, Jr., in day-to-day operations in Washington, N.C.?
We are still working with Reggie as a consultant. He’s a wealth of knowledge and he lives right there by the plant. I’m happy he’s on the team. He’s an iconic guy, and he still has great ideas.
You seem pretty settled in your ownership role
I am. If you look at my business history, I am not the guy who wants to get in and get out. I enjoy building the right team and I am really happy to be where we are right now.
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