To borrow—and bastardize—from Mark Twain, reports of Eliminator Boats’ demise have been “greatly exaggerated.” That doesn’t mean things have been easy for the Perris Valley, Calif., builder of West Coast custom performance boats. Far from it. For the past two years, Bob Leach, the founder and owner of the company, has been working seven days a week, despite that annual production of Eliminator boats has gone from hundreds to handfuls.
I caught up with Leach a few moments ago via telephone. Here’s what he had to say.
Let’s get right to it. Is Eliminator going out of business?
No, no. Why do people start those rumors? Some idiot got on line the other day and said we were closed. Maybe he went by our other building in Mira Loma (Calif.). Everybody likes to say negative things. Nobody likes to say positive things. I don’t know why.
So how’s business?
It’s actually picking up. I just got an order from Bruce Bullock (principal of Bullock Marine) for a 34’ Eagle that’s going to the Ivory Coast of Africa. Stoker just ordered a boat. We’re building a 27’ Daytona for Boost Power. And we’re just finishing up the deck tooling for the new 27’ Daytona Speedster. I have two of those on order with deposits. We have huge interest in our 27’ Daytona Speedster, which will be less expensive and more economical than our twin-engine 28’ Daytona. The interesting thing is that our suppliers gave us the materials for the tooling of 27’ Speedster at no charge. They must think we’re going to be around.
What we need to get out there is not just that we’re picking up, but that 50 percent of the customers who walk in the door are saying that their businesses are picking up. That’s something that the media needs to get out there.
What it’s going to take to bring back the performance-boat market on the West Coast?
Consumer confidence. It will come back when consumer confidence comes back. I think the Gulf Oil Spill has wounded consumer confidence a little. It’s like, “We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t even fix this?” Then again, the stock market was up 247 points yesterday and we had four groups in the showroom. We actually needed help in the showroom.
What would you suggest to performance-boat owners who are feeling the pinch—and then some—of the economy?
Go to the river, tie up and raft off with your friends. Save a little gas money. You can go to the river and do that, and have just as much fun as you would making 15 trips up and down the lake. Tie off and just have fun with people.