Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:10 pm
The Evinrude Edge product demo tour will take over the South Shore Yacht Club in Milwaukee this weekend. Other tour stops this year include Oshkosh, Detroit and the Minneapolis area, but spending the weekend in Milwaukee is special for a company that got its start here and is now based in Sturtevant.
“We’ve had this one circled on the calendar for quite a while,” said Tracy Crocker, Evinrude senior vice president and general manager and president of the new BRP Marine Group.
The event, which runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, is open to the public. It includes product presentations and demonstrations. BizTimes participated in one demonstration designed to compare Evinrude and Yamaha engines head-to-head. Evinrude staff highlighted differences in acceleration, handling and technology.
“It’s an opportunity to engage consumers as close to the point where they experience the product and as close to the point of where they would make their purchase decision as possible,” Crocker said. “The fancy marketing term is ‘activate,’ we’re trying to activate consumers with a full experience.”
Boat dealers are on hand at the event and while Crocker said the expectation isn’t to sell boats, it does happen.
“If we have the right consumer here and they have the right experience, we’re either going to sell them a boat with our engines on it or go from that awareness down to consideration in terms of the decision funnel,” he said.
The product demo will stay in Milwaukee on Monday, one day longer than a normal stop, to give Evinrude employees a chance to experience the products they work on, Crocker said.
The Sturtevant-based BRP Marine Group was formed when Quebec-based BRP Inc., Evinrude’s parent company, acquired Minnesota-based Alumacraft Boat. The pending acquisition of Michigan-based Triton Industries, will also add to the group.
Crocker said the addition of the boat companies will give Evinrude a chance to continue growing.
“That won’t happen overnight,” he said. “We have to earn that business, but we’re off to a really good start, we will see the production in Sturtevant continue to ramp up.”
But there are also challenges, one local and one international. On the local level, the arrival of Foxconn will increase the competition for available talent.
“It makes us really think of what our ‘A’ game is going to be in terms of how we attract and retain employees,” Crocker said of Foxconn’s arrival.
He pointed to giving employees a chance to experience the product demo and providing them all with a free weekend boat rental as perks that help with attraction and retention, in addition to a work environment that has attracted multiple generations within families.
“We don’t underestimate somebody like a Foxconn or an Amazon, but we know what they do and what an employee will do on that manufacturing floor versus the autonomy and empowerment they would have on ours. We think (that) gives us a competitive point of difference that we’re trying to leverage,” Crocker said.
Internationally, Evinrude and BRP face challenges created by aluminum tariffs and rising prices. Crocker said it creates uncertainty for the business moving forward.
“Everybody I think is hoping that this is a short-term, measured in months, sort of issues that’s going to work itself out, but the longer it goes, ultimately it hurts the consumer,” he said.