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OMC Sputtering Along 
by Steve McCadams

(Story from June 2001)

Part 2 of a 2 part series: for Part 1 click here

 Johnson and Evinrude outboard motors have been two of the leading brands for recreational boaters and anglers for many years. Back in December, something happened and it pulled the plug on a giant corporation who had also acquired a series of boat companies under its umbrella.

 Since December 22, Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC) has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. All the while the assembly lines at the outboard and stern drive engine plants have been silent. No research and development. No manufacturing of new units. Parts distribution almost at standstill as have been processing of warranty claims to dealers.

 At the Tennessee based boat companies of Stratos and Javelin, two companies in the series of boat manufactures owned by OMC, the lots are filled with boats. Some were slated for distribution to dealers while others are there for repair or mold problems when they came off the line.

 Workers are unemployed and some have scattered finding work elsewhere in the market. Others are in limbo with an uncertain future.

 Massive machinery sets idle in the plants. From paint to resin used in the building of boats, some of the material has a short shelf life. One has to wonder how much has been lost just in the materials end of the business.

 Even though the company has gained approval for sale through a federal bankruptcy court two weeks ago, many questions remain as to the overall status of the company. From local dealers to the fishermen at a boat show just looking at a new rig. Everyone has a few questions yet no one seems to have many answers.

 OMC's assets were purchased for $95 million by the two companies of Genmar, known as JTC Acquisition LLC, and Bombardier Corporation.

 When the company got the Okay to sell last week, court proceedings got underway and now the lawyers and sorting out the details. Meanwhile the two companies, one of which bought the boating lines while the other purchased the engine side of the business, are still getting their ducks in a row.

 Genmar and Bombardier, in separate press conferences at the Miami Boat Show held last week, said they'll do their best to support OMC boat dealers and  Johnson and Evinrude outboard dealers with product warranties.

 Neither wants to announce details, though, until their deals are finalized and  their evaluations completed. Meanwhile sales of Johnson and Evinrude outboards have almost stopped. Retailers have been encouraged to offer their own warranty.

 Apparently, there are still a lot of details forthcoming. Dealers and owners of OMC products are still somewhat in the dark as to warranty status and what's instore in terms of parts and buyer incentives.

 "I've been an Evinrude dealer since 1980 but I haven't heard anything new on the situation this last week," said Shelly Jones, owner of Blue and Gray Marine at Paris Landing. "I think things will get straightened out soon but right now, dealers haven't heard much."

 Meanwhile, the boating season is already underway in southern states while it's peak time for many major boat, sport and travel shows across the country. This is the time of year when many boat buyers shop and make their plans on purchases.

 Spring fever stimulates outdoor activity and a lot of boaters like to trade in the spring and have a later model rig as the fishing and recreational boating season kicks in for their geographic area. Yet OMC products have been somewhat scarce at shows lately with local dealers having to carry the load for display and advertising, a burden that hasn't set well.

 Potential buyers of OMC products have migrated to other brands in a big way, say many dealers. They're scared of OMC's situation and the "not knowing" is a real dilemma for both buyers, workers and dealers.

 In a stock-boosting pitch to securities analysts Feb. 12, reports The Boating News, Brunswick (Mercury Marine) CEO George Buckley predicted that  Bombardier won't build outboard motors for at least a year and that it would take an act of God for the Canadian company to succeed in the competitive outboard motor market.

 Other outboard motor companies are taking advantage of the void in the market left by OMC's departure. Such brands as Suzuki, Yamaha, and Nissan are reporting increases in sales. Other boat manufacturers separate from OMC brands will no doubt follow suit.

 Still, once things settle down and the OMC transition is finalized, this company could bounce back and regain some of its lost market share assuming the new owners put the capital in it to retool and restart the assembly lines. Promotion and advertising could recreate the strong support this company once had.

 Yet few doubt the road ahead is long and winding for OMC. The news has had a devastating throughout the industry and some of the pain is just now being felt.

 The overall fishing industry has been hurting for a few years and most experts agree that OMC returning and getting back on its feet would help everyone involved sooner or later.

 Until the company addresses the questions that linger on everyone's minds, the degree of uncertainty remains high and the support and purchases of the products will remain low.

 Small dealers cannot afford to offer their own warranty on big engines or parts and labor for very long. Those who already own OMC products really don't know if the new company will honor the warranty they thought they had.

 Professional anglers who are under contract to OMC are considered assets of the company and cannot change over to other brands until things are finalized, leaving them somewhat unsponsored on the tournament circuits and frustrated.

 Time will tell. Few ever thought it would come to this. Most hope to see a silver lining in a dark cloud but for now, too many questions remain and if the new companies expect to make a go of it they better act quickly. Time, tide and the fishing season waits on no one!

Steve McCadams
 is a professional hunting and fishing guide here in the Paris Landing area and host of The Outdoor Channel's television series  IN-PURSUIT.