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High-Performance Market Rekindling? Four Sparks

Don’t get me wrong—the go-fast performance boat industry is still in a world of hurt. There are West Coast outfits that haven’t built, much less sold, a boat in 2009, and some venerable brands out West will likely close their doors if things don’t pick up in 2010. With Baja, Donzi and Fountain in the process of “reinventing themselves” (though I can be cynical, I am at my core an optimist) production boat-building is dormant at best. And though financing isn’t impossible to get, it’s tough.

So I am well-aware of the realities. But four recent moves—each covered in prior posts to this blog—in the go-fast world have given me cause for guarded hope. None of these will ignite the industry. But each, in its own way, is a small spark.

Shogren Takes on Nor-Tech—With the Fountain pipeline currently dry, the builder’s No. 1 dealer had to make a move before the 2010 buying season. Scott Shogren, the owner of Shogren Performance, is a Fountain loyalist, but he’s also a smart businessman who reads his customers. He knows he can sell more Fountains when and if production resumes. He also knows he can move his bigger-boat customers, at least those with the financial wherewithal, into Nor-Tech’s upscale custom V-bottoms and (maybe) catamarans.

Cigarette Collaborates with AMG on Project—Yes, car-themed performance boats have been done many times before. However, Mercedes AMG has never directly worked with a boat builder. And as dazzling as the finished product will be when it’s unveiled at the Miami International Boat Show, that completely misses the point. At a time when heavy investment in new models is rare, Skip Braver, owner of Cigarette Racing Team is spending big bucks on a concept boat. Why? He’s trying to put his brand in a front of a new group of buyers and expand the market.

Eliminator Adds 27 Speedster—Before the West Coast go-fast world went south, Eliminator added the 28 Speedster to its line and the sport catamaran, which featured a wrapaound, half-canopy-style windshield, sparked the company’s sales. In hopes of reigniting that fire, Bob Leach, the owner of Eliminator Performance Boats, and his team have added a 27-footer that, at least by custom boat standards, will be moderately priced.

Nor-Tech Introduces Center Console—So convinced was Terry Sobo, Nor-Tech’s director of sales and marketing, that the company needed a center-console offering that he paid for the new 39-footer’s tooling himself. Sobo saw a trend—go-fast boat owners buying more-versatile center-consoles as their second “everyday” boats. In adding the 390 CC, Sobo hopes to appeal to Nor-Tech existing clients, as well as new buyers.