THE ADVOCATE BoatU.S. CONSUMER PROTECTION BUREAU BY CHUCK FORT
A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE
When dealers and manufacturers disagree about whose responsibility it is to make a
repair to a product, it’s the consumer who feels the pinch. We’re here to help
Consumers sometimes get caught in the middle of dealer and manufacturer rela- tionships if problems arise with new boats and products.
IN 2009, BOATU.S. MEMBER GARY LORETZ bought a new Bennington pon- toon boat equipped with a 40-hp Yamaha outboard engine in the Bay Area of California, and trailered it 90 miles to his home. From the first time he launched the boat, the engine had problems. It was often hard to start and when it finally did, it sputtered and ran unevenly.
Initially, Loretz blamed the problems on the Northern California late-winter weather.
Within a couple of months, though, the problem became more pronounced and Loretz took
the engine to a much closer Yamaha dealer where the technicians spent several hours replacing
the carburetors and tuning up the engine. A short time later, the engine began suffering the
same symptoms and the shop tried two more times, eventually giving up in frustration. They
said they weren’t getting the right technical support from Yamaha, or being fairly compensated
for their effort.
Yamaha, on the other hand, had a different perspective. They’d paid out a significant
amount of money to the dealer for three sets of repairs, and the dealer had failed to identify
a faulty part. Frustrated, and with a new boat that was virtually unusable, Loretz called the
BoatU.S. Consumer Protection Bureau. Before we get to the outcome of the Bureau’s efforts,
some background about customer service in the marine industry will be helpful.
36 | BoatU.S. Magazine
When a dealer sells a new boat or engine,
the manufacturer backs it up with a warranty.
Manufacturers know that sometimes things
go wrong with their products and typically
allocate a percentage of profits to be used
toward warranty work by the dealer. If a boat
has a problem within the warranty period,
the dealer repairs it and gets reimbursed for
the work. The labor rate for warranty work is
often 20-30 percent less and may vary based
on sales levels and customer-satisfaction
scores; this can disadvantage small dealers.
Also, a busy dealer may prioritize full-paying
customers ahead of warranty work because
PHOTO: SHOW MANAGEMENT
AUGUST | SEPTEMBER 2012