The Canadian firm BRP announced today that it will cease production of its Sea-Doo sport boats and exit the sport boat business over the coming months. BRP also manufactures Sea-Doo personal watercraft and Evinrude outboard motors. BRP will continue to market Sea-Doo watercraft.
The announcement is being made just a week before the company’s annual dealer meeting, where dealers would be placing orders for next year’s Sea-Doo product.
BRP has been “shopping” its sport boat assets, which include a manufacturing facility in Benton, Ill., for some time, according to sources in the marine industry. Apparently those assets will still be offered for sale.
"We looked for a buyer for our sport boat business, but that effort proved unsuccessful," said José Boisjoli, BRP president and CEO. "Consequently, we decided not to resume production of the upcoming model year due to seasonal production planning requirements."
According to a source I spoke to today, the sport boat business has remained profitable for BRP through the economic downturn, which has severely impacted the marine industry, in particular the market for fiberglass sport boats. In fact, the source told me, Sea-Doo boat inventories are very low right now after a very successful selling season. However, the feeling at BRP is that other recreational markets, including the Can-Am ATV division and the growing popularity of the Can-Am Spyder three-wheel motorcycle, represent a better long-term investment of BRP capital. In other words, it could be a long time before sport boat sales rebound to the point of giving BRP a desired return on investment.
BRP entered the boat manufacturing business in 1994 and purchased the assets of Celebrity Boats in 1995, at which time it moved its boat manufacturing operation to Benton, Illinois. Sea-Doo watercraft are manufactured in Canada.
“This is a difficult but necessary decision for BRP,” said Boisjoli. “We worked hard to grow our sport boat business through a serious sales decline that began in 2007. But now, we must focus our research and development resources and capital investments in areas of our business that offer greater growth potential.”
BRP says it will continue to provide parts and honor warranties for its customers.
- Charles Plueddeman