• 11 in 2011- #6 High-End Center Consoles

    by Serious Offshore

    One of the bigger stories of 2011 was the dramatic market shift towards center consoles. What was a few years ago looked upon as a way to pick up a few extra sales by re-decking an existing sport boat, these boats have become significant profit centers for many builders. We believe there are several factors at play in driving this trend. There’s no doubting the utility of this type of boat. They’re not only capable of respectable speeds, they’re certainly more family and group-friendly.

    A strong factor in this shift is the change in how performance boaters view these utilitarian boats. We like to think of it as “The OK Factor”. For a long time center consoles were an inexpensive way to run out to the fishing grounds. But as more and more performance boaters either added one to their fleet, or replaced their sport boat with one, it signaled to the world that it was OK to be seen in one. Lets face it, the Type-A folks buying offshore boats are image conscious. Ten years ago, trading the Ciggie in on a Scarab Sport signaled to the world that the Mrs.was calling the shots. Looking at the offerings below, you won’t find a boat in the group that won’t get a slip up front at the hottest watering hole.

    Cigarette’s latest performance boat in this market is the 39 Top Gun Open. “The all-new 39 Top Gun Open center console is Cigarette’s response to their customers’ requests for a center-console hull designed more for the performance boating lifestyle than fishing,” per Mercury’s Rick Mackie in Fort Lauderdale. In addition, Cigarette also has two 39 Top Fish models they’ve been producing for a few years, a cuddy cabin and an open bow.

    Statement Marine, our fairly new builder of high-end offshore performance boats now has a new 34 SUV Center Console on the market. Statement will show off the Verado 300 outboard powered 34-foot SUV outboard center console and provide demo rides on the unique 37-foot SUV powered by Cummins MerCruiser Diesel sterndrives at the Miami Boat Show.

    Nor-Tech has expanded its center console offerings with its all-new 340 Sport Center Console powered by twin or triple Verado 300’s. This joins their current offerings of the different 390’s which debued in 2009, the 390 Sport Open, 390 Sport Cuddy, and their all new redesigned 390 CC Tournament model which will debut at the Miami boat show in February. To make inroads and assist with insight into the tournament fishing market, they hired Alden Thornton as their national saltwater sales manager and fishing team manager. Alden is known for his Kingfish tournament competition and as a former powerboat racing champion, He was the regional sales manager and fishing team manager for Fountain Powerboats, According to Nor-Tech’s release “he was heavily involved in the design, testing, and sales of Fountain’s fishing boat products.” Nor-Tech also offer their 4300 Cuddy, and the big 500 Center Console Cuddy.

    Sunsation Powerboats, which is celebrating their 30th anniversary, have also announced their expansion into the center-console market. According to sources there, the company will begin offering 29′, 34′, and 38′ models beginning with the 2012 model year. Development of the center consoles has been outsourced to Marine Systems, Gary Bridges, and Paul Gallup, experts in this field, who will work with the Sunsation team. The basic dimensions of the first models are 34′ x 9’6″ beam. Sunsation is planning on having a scale model on display at the 2012 Miami International Boat Show.

    MTI will also be offering a new center console, and has filed for multiple patents for their new 42-foot beam model that sports a 11 foot 6-inch beam. MTI is calling it an SV- short for Sport Vessel. Owner Randy Scism says the boat will have a six-person seating arrangement behind the center-console and include a windshield which will completely cover the seating section. It will also have a flip-down bench seat ahead of the transom and twin lounges ahead of the center-console. A cabin with air conditioning and a head compartment will be in the center-console and it will have a side-entry door to make access in and out of the boat easier at a dock. They are hoping to have one ready for the Miami International Boat Show in. Power options will range from triple, quad and even five outboard engines. They will also offer inboard variations if a customer wants to go that route per Scism; everything from a pair of Merc 525s, up to turbocharged 1100s.

    Outerlimits has jumped into the market with their 38-foot center console, based off the original 37’ Stilletto. The new 38-foot-long center console will be powered by triple 300-hp Mercury Verado outboard engines.

    Frisini’s Sonic has their most recently released 360CC, 36 foot center console, and Frisini is also tooling up an all new 39’ PCB (Performance Center Console). These PCB boats will feature larger “wide-body” versions of their Sonic SUV center consoles according to press releases. The new 39 foot will have a 9 foot-6 inch beam. They will also offer a 42 foot with a 12 foot beam and a 36 foot with a 10 foot- 6inch beam.

    Velocity Powerboats is offering their all new 400 XAVER, a cabin up front center console style and claiming that with Triple Mercury 300 HP, speeds over 80mph.

    One other innovation that will likely have an impact on this trend isn’t even a boat. It’s a powerplant. The new supercharged GM V-8 powered 557 by Seven Marine is certain to have an impact on this market. These bruisers have a couple things going for them Their power-to-weight ratio makes it an attractive alternative to a full row of outboards. But maybe more importantly to some, sound emanating from the supercharged GM engine under the cowling is going to keep even the most hard-core performance boater smiling. Seven Marine was our #11 story all by itself, but a center console story without mentioning this paradigm breaker just wouldn’t be complete.

    A potential effect of this shift goes beyond the fast boat builders jumping into this market. There are more than a few builders that have been constructing center consoles for years. Are the sport boat manufacturer’s showing them a path to new markets for their products? One signal of this may be the introduction of Deep Impact’s introduction of their all-new 399 Center Console. Seen running in FPC’s Key West Poker Run last November the boat soon after appeared in Powerboat Magazine.

    Could a reverse group of offerings from the performance center console builders into the offshore performance market be in the works? Maybe that’s not an all-bad thing. It’s said that competition improves the breed. Running down the list of builders we’ve highlighted above, it would be tough to spot one in need of improvement. But you never know what a fresh mind might bring to the table. And who knows. If this trend continues, will it be long before we see a “Center Console Outboard Vee” class out on the race course?