BRIGHT SPARKS 413 - Rafting Up

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Major players in the marine sector are forming more and more strategic alliances, among them electronics giant Garmin

BRIGHT SPARKS 413 - Rafting Up
BRIGHT SPARKS 413 — Rafting Up

The American electronics giant Garmin has had what some might describe as an understated presence in the Australian marine sector. But this is set to change.

Garmin is gearing-up strongly with a dedicated channel manager, newly joined Beau Smith, and the arrival of an overseas staff-member to train tech installers, bringing the headcount locally to more than 70.

Smith, the new national sales manager for Australia and New Zealand sees Garmin’s big R&D budget, which produces a wide product base, as ensuring a much greater presence in the sailing and motorboat sectors. "We cover a lot of bases, in that we supply gear for tinnies right up to superyachts, which is something a lot of our competitors can’t," said the former Andrew Short Marine sales manager.

Supplying the company’s dedicated dealerships with new products, such as the entry-level Echo 550 and top-of-the-range 550c fishfinders, especially the new GHP 12 autopilot, will strongly improve Garmin’s boating credentials, said Smith. Backing this up with an already strong technical support staff base on the east coast of Australia, he said, will give the brand a much higher profile among the yachting fraternity.

Offering an integrated solution for instrumentation and steering was a high priority, according to another company spokesman and this is being facilitated with arrival of the new GHP 12 autopilot, which should land in time for Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show in May. Suitable for boats between 20- to 70-foot, the autopilot is available with a choice of drive units — for boats up to 28,500lb displacement (Class A) and up to 79,000lb (Class B). The suggested retail price in the USA is $2599. This unit is a linear drive only, but rotary functionality will follow, allowing it be factory-installed by more boatbuilders.

One builder will be Bavaria, following a January announcement by the German manufacturer of its alliance with Garmin. Factory-fitted by Bavaria will be multifunction displays from the GPSMAP 4000 and 5000 series, theG GPSMAP 750s with the 7in touchscreen display. Initially, the GMI 10 readouts will be fitted but these could well experience an upgrade in the near future.

Locally, this has been warmly welcomed by Bavaria dealer North South Yachting, whose proprietor Bob Mulkearns is very keen on the new alliance. "A very good thing about Garmin is the relatively simple connectivity, and their gear is also very competitively priced," says Mulkearns. The North South Yachting proprietor expects the first boats with factory-supplied Garmin gear to arrive during June and July, with a Bavaria 55 an expected early arrival for the Sydney boat show in late July.

Like competitor Hanse, Bavaria has grown recently through acquisition —
the troubled French builder Dufour and Grand Soleil have been taken under the wing of the German mass-production boatbuilder. The new group will employ between 1200 and 1400 staff in three locations and will become second only in size to Group Beneteau in the world sailboat market. Bavaria Germany appointed a new marketing director in March and strategic changes are expected for the brand here in Australia as well, where Dufour already has a presence but not Grand Soleil. The mid-market quality of Dufour and the upper-market niche of Italian Grand Soleil will give the Bavaria Group wide market reach.

Garmin’s other major alliance announced in February is with Swedish engine-maker Volvo Penta, which will see its GHP 10V autopilot system designed specifically for the IPS drive also being fitted to Bavarias using this system. Volvo Penta is linking engines and transmissions with instruments, controls and accessories in the electronic platform known as EVC (Electronic Vessel Control), giving joystick-operated docking capabilities.

"The Volvo Penta and Garmin strategic alliance will provide our mutual
customers access to state-of-the-art communication technology and a complete programme of multifunctional instruments, which will significantly strengthen our world-leading position when it comes to complete, integrated drive systems for boats," says Göran Gummeson, President of Volvo Penta.

Photos: Bavaria’s flagship 55 will be the first to be fitted with Garmin says Bob Mulkearns from distributor North South Yachting; The unheralded Garmin GHP 12 autopilot is expected to be developed into rotary functionality to compliment present linear capabilities and will be offered on Bavarias; Garmin entry level Echo 550 fish finder is the company’s first product of this sort for some time; Garmin were pioneers of marine touch screen technology and combining their control systems with Volvo Penta engines should mean seamless system integration for OEM builders.


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