In late October, Baja Marine announced that it had acquired the assets of Donzi Marine, Fountain Powerboats, and Pro-Line Boats from American Marine Holdings, Inc. According to a press release from Baja, the four brands will run as separate entities and will be manufactured at the Baja Marine facility in Washington, N.C.
Quoted in an article I wrote in speedonthewater.com the morning the news was announced, Johnny Walker, the chief executive officer of Baja Marine said, “We are going to visit each of the brands and revise their offerings. There are some boats in the Fountain brand, for example, that haven’t been built in seven or eight years. So we are going to refresh everything, and take a look at the boats that are in demand and are not in demand.”
What exactly could that mean for each brand? I caught up with Walker a few days later to follow up, and while he wasn’t ready to reveal which boats in each line would stay, which would get makeovers, and which would get the axe, he was ready to go into a little more detail. Here’s what he said.
Baja Marine will remain an entry-level sportboat brand with its Outlaw and Islander series models. They have done retooling and restyling on the current Baja offerings, which at present go up to the Outlaw GT 30, the model showcased at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in late October. The big question is: Will Baja release bigger models down the road?
“We’re looking at the 36 and even the 40, but we’re just not sure right now,” said Walker.
Both Donzi and Fountain make sportboats and center-consoles. In fact, if you compared them by length you could say that each brand’s model has a competitive counterpart in the other brand. But while Fountain’s sportboats and center-consoles will remain “production-built” offerings, Donzi models will continue to head in the custom-boat direction.
“Donzi boats are about 99 percent custom now,” said Walker. “The level of customization for Donzi has been much higher than the level of customization for Fountain for some time.”
Walker also said Donzi and Fountain models that appear to be in direction competition, such as each brand’s 38-foot center-console, aren’t necessarily competing for the same buyer.
“I see the Donzi 38 ZRF as much more of a performance-oriented, pleasure center-console than a serious fishing center-console like the 38 Fountain,” said Walker. “The Fountain center-consoles have always done better with the SKA (Southern Kingfishing Association) angling crowd.”
Look for deck lines and styling for some of the Donzi sportboats, the 38ZR being one, to be updated in the next few years. The hulls, which Walker and his team believe are excellent, won’t change anytime soon.
While the Fountain hulls won’t change in the near or distant future, the look of the models that make the final cut—and no final decisions have been made yet—will certainly change. “The hulls of Fountains are the fastest thing out there, but their looks haven’t been updated in a long time. And there are models in the line that haven’t been built since 2004. So those will likely go away.”
Although Fountain and its namesake/founder Reggie Fountain, who has been gone from the company for almost two years, built the company on sportboats, center-consoles carried it for several years before company went bankrupt in 2010. Fountain’s center-console fishing line caught on big with kingfish tournament anglers, in part because those anglers need to cover lots of water in a hurry and Fountain offerings have always been faster.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Fountain will end up as a builder of fast, production-built center-consoles dedicated to fishing, with no high-performance sportboats in its line.
“I do believe there still is a market and a demand for Fountain sportboats,” said Walker. “We will update the decks and interior styling of the models we keep in the Fountain line. As I said, the hulls don’t need to be changed.”
Business as usual—that’s the skinny from Walker on Pro-Line once it restarts production. Walker said he sees Pro-Line as a “mid-level” center-console brand that competes favorably with the likes of Century, but is not as pricey as Boston Whaler and Grady White.
“Pro-Line offered the best value at the best price in the market, and it still does,” said Walker. “Once we start production again, we expect to be right where we were, which means very popular with consumers.”
Like the other brands, Pro-Line will be updated in time. However, Walker said the need for updating is much less acute with Pro-Line than it is with Fountain and, to a lesser extent, Donzi. (Updates to the Baja line are well underway, and have been for some time.)
“I’ve been telling our people here and our dealers that this is like a football game,” said Walker in reference to all the brands. “We elected to receive and we called for the fair catch. Now we’re on the 20-yardline. We’re not going to go for a Hail Mary. We’re going to go one first down at a time.”