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Toyota exits marine industry

By IBI Magazine / Michael Verdon

Toyota officially announced today that, after five years and millions of dollars, it was exiting the marine industry. Speculation had been rife for months that the Epic brand was dead in the water, even though the company had officially opened a new boatbuilding facility last July. "We are closing down the facility in Florida," confirmed Bill Nichtern, Toyota's national sales manager. "But we will maintain parts availability for ten years and retain technical managers for five years."

Toyota formed its marine division in 1997, and launched its first boat in the fall of 1998. Over the past four years, it built up a dealer base of 20, and pumped up its line to five models. The high-priced ski-boats, however, never caught on with enthusiast water-skiers, who preferred brands like MasterCraft and CorrectCraft. Nichtern said that the moulds for the boats would be destroyed, and that no engines would be sold to other boat manufacturers. "It was never our intention to sell engines," said Nichtern.

"This started as a diversification project to explore the opportunities in the marine industry. We accomplished that mission and now understand the marine industry and what it takes to be in the fibreglass boat business."

Unfortunately, poor sales and a flat economy helped make long-term prospects for the brand untenable, and Nichtern says that Toyota decided to exit the industry. He says that Toyota has no immediate plans to return in any other capacities. "We've made the decision and we will be sticking by it," he said.

He added that the Toyota Marine division will survive in a much smaller form, since it will be charged with providing spare parts to dealers. "Our dealers are behind this decision," he said, "and they've all agreed to support the warranty obligations we have out there."

  • According to reports in Tokyo's The Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper at the weekend Toyota Motor in Japan has, in a bid to cut costs, teamed up with Yamaha Motor and Yanmar to co-operate in the development of diesel engines for recreational craft. The three companies say they will market the new engines independently to European boat assemblers.

(27 February 2002)

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