Kudos to Scout Boats for their new Dealer Linked Inventory program! It lets dealers list their current boat inventory so other dealers can quickly locate a boat they need but don’t have in inventory. More manufacturers need to step up and develop similar programs simply because dealers are just not going to be able to stock as many boats as they did before the bottom fell out of the economy.
New car dealers can easily do what is called a “Dealer Trade.” No matter how many new cars auto dealers might have on their lots, some customers very often will want a particular model in a color they don’t have in stock. And there is no way that a new car dealer can have all models in stock in every available color and with all varieties of options at all times. The same holds true for boat dealers.
As I have written before, when I was a new car dealer, if I had a customer who wanted a certain model car or truck in a color or with options that I didn’t have in stock, I could get on the computer and search the inventory of other dealers for that particular car. When I found the particular car my customer wanted, I called the dealer who had it and worked out a dealer trade. The other dealer would pick a car or truck from my inventory as a trade for the car I needed. I would then have a part-time employee, usually a retiree, drive the vehicle from my lot to the other dealer and bring back the one I needed for a sale. It was a sweet deal!
The way I see it, boat dealers will simply not be able to inventory as many boats as they have in prior years. And most will probably carry fewer brands than they have in the past. They will more likely focus on fewer brands and niche markets. So it would be a big boost for their businesses to be able to do the same kind of search for models at other dealers who handle the same brand. Manufacturers need to develop programs similar to what Scout Boats has offered their dealers.
It is time for this industry to step up with more programs to help dealers with inventory. A program like what Scout Boats is offering is one way. Another way manufacturers can help dealers is to have more involvement in helping with dealer floor plans and maybe even consider some consignments or dating programs. What manufacturers should not do any more is to push dealers at annual meetings to commit to a years quantity of boats. It is just too hard to predict several months ahead how many boats and what models to order… especially now. And floor plan financing for a large order of boats is also harder for many dealers to arrange.
I understand and appreciate that manufacturers are struggling in this economy as much or maybe even more than dealers. But the industry needs good, healthy dealers in this very service oriented business. I think that the manufacturers that will do well in the coming years will be the ones that work in partnership with their dealers and help them with inventory, financing and other ways to grow their businesses. Manufacturers that do this will probably grow also.