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Triton Boats Rockets to Top of Fiberglass Fishing Boat Sales

Posted: 3/14/2002

NASHVILLE, TN - From launching pad to the top of the bass boat world that's the super success story of Triton Boats, an Ashland City, Tennessee-based company, that is setting national sales records in just four short years.

Formed in 1996 by former world power boat racing champion Earl Bentz, Triton Boats has emerged as "America's No. 1 fiberglass fishing boat manufacturer."

According to the most recent retail sales figures compiled by Statistical Surveys, Inc., of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Triton Boats has moved into the top spot - leaping over all manufacturers of fiberglass fishing boats.

As the top brand marketer for the January - June, 2000 period, the most recent retail sales figures show Triton with a commanding increase of 13.3 percent in market share. The rise in units sold is even more impressive in the "1999 year-to-date" figures reported by the survey with Triton showing a 36.4 percent market share increase.

How has Triton Boats made such a sky-rocket shot to the leadership in fiberglass fishing boat sales?

"We're a new brand - a fairly young company - but our management team has many, many years of experience in designing, manufacturing and marketing recreational fishing boats," explains Earl Bentz, who at 48 has spent 34 years of his life in the business.

First, as a championship driver for the Mercury Marine racing team, Bentz founded Stratos Boats. After OMC acquired Bentz's firm in a buyout, he headed up the Outboard Marine Corporation's fishing boat group of Stratos, Hydra Sports and Javelin.

"When Earl left OMC and announced plans to start another boat building company, we had our pick of the best in the business," says Neal Hart, Triton's vice-president of marketing-advertising. "People - good, top-of-the-line people - called us wanting to get on board."

The other veterans of Triton's front office, include: Roark Summerford, director of engineering; Tony Meadows, vice president for production; VP Paul Rieger in charge of product development and quality control; and Ken Premo, the company's administrative vice-president. This management team adds a combined 117 years of marine business experience.

From the start-up announcement in April 1996, Triton cranked up production by September 1996. Recently, the company completed a 65,000 square foot expansion at its plant, located at 15 Bluegrass Drive in Ashland City. The manufacturing facility and administrative offices now cover nearly 270,000 square feet, building a full line of fiberglass bass boats and saltwater hulls.

The recent plant expansion will allow for Triton's growing model offerings in the saltwater market. But, it is in the bass boat market - the performance, highest quality arena - that Triton has grown by leaps and bounds. With the new 2001 model year, Triton's lineup of 17 to 22-footers commands a retail value of $15,000 to $45,000 bass boat packages. The flagship Triton TR-22 (Tournament Ready) with a 300 horsepower outboard, matching trailer, trolling motor and all the fisherman's fantasy gadgets leaves the Triton dealer's showroom for 45-grand.

"When fishermen talk about Triton's popularity, two things are mentioned, first and foremost," says Ray Scott, founder of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.), who signed on as Triton's national spokesman 24 months ago. "The unique hull design gives a dry, solid ride no matter what the water conditions," points out Scott. "The fishing pros, also, like the layout - the fishability - of the Triton's interior design."

"We've listened to fishermen," says Earl Bentz, an avid fisherman and outdoorsman. "They want the maximum cubic feet of storage, and easy access to that storage. What's the use of having a big hole, if you've got a downsized lid to get into the storage space? The casting deck space, the tacklebox P.A.L.S. storage system, the heavy-duty livewell systems and ease-of-operation control panel are all input from serious fishing minds."

"Our wood-free construction and all composite hull has been a strong selling feature with our dealers," adds Neal Hart. "With no wood to rot, we can offer a lifetime warranty on our boats. The unique interior hull design makes for the soft, dry ride with zero flex and shimmy, as in some boats."

Hart points out, "The streamline, low profile offers another fisherman's plus. There's not as much wind resistance with the boat being blown around when you're fishing."

But, it is the 200-plus, worldwide dealer network Triton's most eager to credit with the success of the business. "With Earl's reputation for boat building and our strength as a group," says Hart, "there was instant acceptance by established marine dealers, everywhere. They signed on, sight unseen, and came to us ready to do business. 'If Earl builds it, we can sell it,' was the attitude," acknowledges Hart, who, himself, has over 25 years of experience in the marine business.

"We pride ourselves with the quality of the Triton dealers, the service to our customers, and our organization of Triton sales representatives. Our policy is service - the customer comes first," vows Earl Bentz, who sees the challenge to stay on top of the fishing boat market. "We didn't surprise ourselves," said Bentz, "but we may have sneaked up on some of our competitors that had it so good for so long.

"New ideas, forward thinking, listening to fishermen's needs and wants, and providing a quality product and the best service to back up the sale are keys to winning in the bass boat market," continues Bentz. "We know it takes work and dedication to stay ahead."

Bentz is quick to credit his association with Ray Scott, an icon in the bass boat and fishing market, as to providing a boost to Triton's marketing plan. "We've been rewarded with Ray's input and presence in our advertisements, TV commercials, and as a major draw for fishing fans to our dealer's booth at sport, boat and travel shows the past two seasons. Ray is 'Mr. Bass' in the market's mind. As our spokesman, Ray attracts attention. And, if we can get interested boat buyers to stop and listen, sooner or later, they'll be in a Triton," opines Bentz.

The "Team Triton" of over 40 top professional anglers on the Bassmaster Top 150 tour, the PWT circuit and the Women's Bass Fishing Association (WBFA), gives the Triton brand high visibility in the tournament fishing world. Bassin' greats, like Roland Martin, nine-time B.A.S.S. Angler-of-the-Year; Classic champions Davy Hite and Ken Cook; two-time Angler-of-the-Year Gary Klein, and TV fishing show host, Shaw Grigsby, plus legends like Guy Eaker, Ron Shuffield, Paul Elias and more are headliners on the Triton pro staff.

The Michigan-based Statistical Surveys, Inc., monitors the leading manufacturers in automobiles, motorcycles, snowmobiles, and compiles the results of the fiberglass fishing boat market from retail boat registrations. The units actually sold at retail are measured on a quarterly basis.

Besides the full line of fiberglass bass boats, Triton builds a lineup of walleye models and the saltwater rigs, to include a new 27-footer for coastal and off-shore action. Also, new for 2001, Triton offers the industry's first "no-wood, 100 percent composite" deckboats in 21' and 25' lengths.