Thursday, October 01, 2015
2016 Cobalt & Marker One Dealer Meeting Honors Top Dealers
Setting the record as the best-attended dealer meeting in Cobalt Boats history, more than 400 dealers and vendors gathered at the Hilton Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, Nevada to recap the previous model year and plan for 2016.
The festivities kicked off with a welcome reception which included the debut of five new models. This was the second year Marker One made its introduction into the platform series category and now there are three models – soon to be four. Among other announcements, the host dealer – Boulder Boats – was awarded and recognized, as well the new boat introduction with a sneak peek at each model. The evening concluded with food and beverage atop of the hotel’s scenic bridge overlooking Lake Las Vegas, a private lake with an exclusive clientele. In addition, the top dealers and customer satisfaction awards were also commended for their accomplishments in 2015.
Seminars and other breakout sessions followed the next few days including an invigorating speech by keynote speaker, Ryan Estis. Estis has been recognized as “one of the best keynote speakers ever heard” by Meetings & Conventions magazine. His presentation included Cobalt and Marker One brand specific details and enlightening “today” topics that left the crowd motivated and inspired for the upcoming season.
Also presented during the business meeting was a donation of more than $60,000.00 to the Folds of Honor Program. Cobalt and Marker One Boats donated the net proceeds from each flag pole set sold to the organization, which provides educational scholarships to the families of fallen soldiers.
The awards ceremony night was emceed by Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Gavan Hunt. He was accompanied by Vegas impersonators Marilyn Monroe and the Rat Pack, which made for great entertainment all evening.
The prestigious recognition of the outstanding service and total dedication to customer satisfaction by the Cobalt and Marker One dealers remains a key highlight to the company’s annual dealer event. “This is the ultimate award our dealer organization wants to receive and each award recipient works hard to earn it. Three of our five recipients had a perfect score of 100 determined by 40-75 surveys returned. Cobalt has a world-class dealer organization who will not settle for anything less than perfection. It is an honor to partner with them,” said Debbie Meigs, Customer Service Consultant. The World’s Largest Cobalt Dealer for the fourth year in a row went to Singleton Marine Group, Buford, Georgia. And new this year was the addition of the Largest Single-Market Dealer which was awarded to the team at Village Marina in Osage Beach, Missouri.
Also presented for the first time ever was the Marker One Largest Dealer award which also went to Village Marina. In addition, awards were presented to the following as top performers in the platform category; Rambo Marine of Hazel Green, Alabama and Parks Marina of Okoboji, Iowa. The Regional CSI award is a coveted award.
Other top dealers recognized included:
· Most Improved CSI: Nautiser-Centro Nautico, Portugal
· International CSI: BoatCity, The Netherlands
· Northeast CSI: O’Hara Marine, Inc, Brookfield, CT
· Southeast CSI: Rambo Marine, Hazel Green and Westover, AL
· Western CSI: San Ramon Boat Center, Rocklin, CA
· Central & Worldwide: Gordy’s Lakefront Marine, Lake Geneva, WI
· Top International Dealer: Powerboats, Poland
· Rookie of the Year: The Harbor, MO
Also announced were the Top 10 dealers, which are noted below.
· Seattle Boat Co., Inc., Washington
· Parks Marina, Iowa
· Premier Marine, New Hampshire
· Gordy’s Lakefront Marine, Wisconsin
· Arrowhead Boat & Yacht Sales, Oklahoma
· San Ramon Boat Center, California
· Rambo Marine, Alabama
· Boats By George, Inc., New York
· The Boat House of Cape Coral, Florida
Categories: Cobalt Boats, Customer Service, Dealer Partners, Industry News, Shows and Events | Tags: Award Winning Boat, Boat Dealers, Boating Industry, Bowrider, Cobalt Boats, Cruiser, Cuddy , Luxury Boat, Neodesha, New Boat, Runabout, Watersports
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Cobalt Boats & Marker One Launch Five New Models for 2016
Making their debut at the 2016 dealer meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada this September, Cobalt and Marker One introduced five new models – a record number of new boats introduced by the company in any one year. The Hilton Lake Las Vegas hosted more than 400 dealer and vendor participants all eager to experience the new boats. The 2016 product line takes innovation to the extreme level with superior construction, exclusive new styling, and inimitable performance and handling.
A40, in the hard-top version, made its introduction in2015 and has made big waves in the performance day boat sector. New for 2016 is the A40 Coupe with
a sleek windshield and integrated top design. The
12' beam houses roominess for
entire crew, all
while they enjoy the luxury that
surrounds them. The
impeccable slim-line styling with a
equipment shelf, sliding sunroof, and
a retractable sure shade integrated
the design. This new model
provides Cobalt customers
the freedom of choice when
comes to the style of day boating they prefer: the open air
of the hard top or the comfortable
convertibility of the coupe.
The newest addition to Cobalt’s award-winning line of bowriders is the all-new R30 – a luxurious open-bow day boat designed with “Free Space Reclamation”, Cobalt’s exclusive technique for cockpit maximization. Elegant and expansive seating options combine with its endless storage spaces to provide the legendary ride that Cobalt is famous for. The largest of the BR Series, the R30 also features an electric actuated swim step astern along with a beach of a sunpad – large enough for four sun worshipers. The port side features a head compartment that doubles as a changing room. At the helm, the captain will find the glass cockpit design provides a birds-eye-view for a safe and enjoyable day on the water – equipped with Garmin screens that keep your systems and route in view at all times.
Cobalt’s R5 Water Sports Series Surf boat featuring the FWD drive from Volvo Penta was a huge hit at the meeting. Cobalt and Volvo sponsored the SURF SHACK and provided surfing lessons to over 125 participants during the launch of this new product. The WSS Surf features a patent-pending surf control system – which
automatically tunes the boat’s attitude to the optimal surf configuration. The R5 WSS Surf combines all the advantages of a sterndrive coupled with the wake-making capabilities of a forward drive.
The wake out back is fully customizable providing smooth transitions and a wide push zone. Jumping on plane instantly, the R5 WSS Surf features the same smooth, comfortable, quiet ride that Cobalt owners have demanded since 1968.
The 2016 Cobalt CS3 is making its debut as the newest boat in the Gateway Series. Measuring over 23 feet and perfectly priced – the CS3 features a completely new hull and deck design. Innovation married with new interior styling will catch the eyes of younger boaters looking to step into a Cobalt. The CS3 features an island sunpad with port and starboard walk-throughs at the transom. Don’t think you can afford a Cobalt? This boat is the perfect stepping stone into that boating arena – and will be especially appealing to those who do not wish to compromise luxury or performance.
Marker One Platform Series launched in to the pontoon market with two fiberglass decked models in 2015 – the M25 and M27. This year, the ML4 will add to the line featuring a popular L-shaped seating layout, new exterior and interior styling, and a new aggressive price point. Its elegant styling and broad selection of features will have luxury pontoon seekers taking notes. The fiberglass liner combined with unique fiberglass hull sides will make this model a contender in this popular segment. Engine choices of Mercury, Yamaha, or Evinrude provide the freedom to choose. Couple that with the electric swim step and exciting gel coat color options and the ML4 is destined to be the buzz at this year’s boat shows!
Categories: Cobalt Boats, Customer Service, Dealer Partners, Industry News, Shows and Events, Watersports | Tags: Award Winning Boat, Boat Dealers, Boating Industry, Bowrider, Cobalt Boats, Cruiser, Cuddy , Family Boating, Lifestyle, Luxury Boat, Neodesha, New Boat, Runabout, Wakeboard, Watersports
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
"We never aimed to be the biggest boat company, just the best."
It all starts with Founder, Pack St. Clair’s vision – “We never aimed to be the biggest boat company, just the best.” From there, his team of exceptional leaders has created an essence, a passion that is felt as soon as you walk through the doors at Cobalt Boats. A passion that motivates our boat builders not only to come to work each day, but to take pride in hand craftsmanship, a trait not necessarily taught, but instilled in the people. In their eyes, the same people who mold our hulls and gelcoat boats are just as essential as the leaders themselves.
As individuals, these leaders have exceptional traits that include the obvious skills like hard work ethic and integrity. But what makes this group exceptional is the driving force behind what we do every day. To be an industry leader, it takes more than just being good at building boats. To be a front-runner in this industry, it takes innovation, constant research and the power to execute a quality product. This team does just that – continuously revolutionizing the boating world, investing in the “what else can we do”, and enlisting in a team of experts, not only in the behind the computers, but walking the floors of our facility, too.
As a result, Cobalt Boats has manifested new innovations that have lured the industry into a different way of thinking. Marker One, one of the company’s innovations, is a platform style boat – an entirely new market. Boat builders and experts took note as the platform boat debuted, and now has the industry thinking creatively about what we typically call “pontoon” boats. Marker One Platform Series embarks on an original idea and has since evolved as the new benchmark for luxury boating. It took this group of leaders to make it all come together – the diligence, research, the re-do’s and un-do’s. Marker One is a success not only because the product is unique, but also because of the people behind it.
And it should not go unmentioned that there are several other product innovations steaming behind this group. This year alone, Cobalt and Marker One will launch eight models. Not just one or two boats that stem from the same lineup, but innovative designs, unheard of for most boat manufacturers.
The worldwide dealer network and team at Cobalt Boats and Marker One have undoubtedly been a catalyst, driving the entire industry to think boldly, get creative and re-energize the market. Cobalt Boats became a leader in the industry not solely because the boats are great, but also because of the team and associates behind the product. It is because of the passion behind the product that makes this company great. The faces on every associate reflect that of our leaders; it’s our DNA.
Categories: Cobalt Boats, Customer Service, Dealer Partners, Industry News, Innovative Features, Lifestyle | Tags: Award Winning Boat, Boat Builders, Boat Dealers, Boating Industry, Cobalt Boats, Family Boating, Lifestyle, Luxury Boat, Neodesha
Thursday, May 07, 2015
'Keeper of the Culture'
Pack St. Clair launched Cobalt Boats in 1968 in an unlikely locale: landlocked rural Kansas.
If you had no experience building fiberglass boats and wanted to start a company, where would you go? Michigan? Good idea. Florida? Another fine choice. Texas or North Carolina? Sure. Kansas? Eh, maybe not.
And would you pick a landlocked area several miles from any lake large enough for boating? Well, young, entrepreneurial Pack St. Clair, a Kansas native who grew up in the small town of Independence in the southeastern part of the state, did just that in 1968 at the age of 28. And his company, Cobalt Boats, now in Neodesha, Kan., (population 2,500) has grown into a very successful business that produces high-quality, award-winning boats.
I used to see St. Clair over the years at International Marine Trades Exhibit & Conference shows and NMMA conferences, and we have known each other for a long time. He was one of the first board members of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, along with such industry notables as Eddie Smith, Dave Parker and others. He also was the third chairman of the NMMA.
Independence has a population of 10,000 and is just 13 miles from Neodesha. Both towns are basically farm communities.
“My dad was a lumber salesman, calling on lumber dealers all over southeast Kansas, northeast Oklahoma and southwest Missouri,” St. Clair says. “He was still calling on dealers when he was 85 but then had to stop only because he was getting macular degeneration. He lived to be 97.”
St. Clair apparently inherited his father’s determination.
St. Clair says he’d be hard-pressed to find a crew with the work ethic and pride of his 700 employees.
Learning about fiberglass
Boating has always been a St. Clair family passion. “As a kid,” St. Clair says, “I grew up boating. My dad bought a 14-foot Lone Star boat with a 35-hp Evinrude. We boated almost every lake in Kansas, and then we came down to boat on the Grand Lake of the Cherokees in Oklahoma. I wanted to put a new Evinrude V engine on the boat, but it wouldn’t handle it. So we got a used inboard boat to water-ski with.”
St. Clair went to the University of Kansas, where he was an end on the football team. “After graduation from college I worked in the lumber business for a couple of years, doing what my dad did — covering a territory in northeast Kansas and southeast Nebraska,” he says. “But I decided I really wanted to do something on my own and not work for someone else. So I left the lumber business.
“My next-door neighbor and I started a little company making giant slides 12 lanes wide and 40 feet high. People would sit on a burlap bag and slide down, but the slides turned out to be fairly dangerous if kids didn’t do it right. Our insurance company suggested we get out of that business and do something different. We had been making the fiberglass portion of the slides and contracting out the steel parts. And we also made a few other recreational things out of fiberglass. As a result, we gained some knowledge about making things out of fiberglass.”
When the insurance company said in 1967 that St. Clair and his partner needed to make something other than the slides, Pack said, “Well, we’ll just make boats.” And they did.
“We copied some boats.” St. Clair says. “Donzi was just getting into business and was making pretty snazzy boats, so we copied some of those. Then we had a boat designer design a 16- and 18-foot tri-hull for us. At that time these were our only boats that were of our design. Then we bought some tooling from a company in Dallas named Tem Craft that had gone out of business. They had a little 15-foot outboard bowrider, so we made a few of those.
“We had introduced our boats in 1968, and I had been traveling around the country trying to sell boats. Then I bought a Dun & Bradstreet service that provided me with a file card on every dealer they had listed in America. I put that in the front seat of my car and would take off on Monday, and I might show up at home again the next month. I traveled the whole country. I had a double-deck trailer with a couple of our boats on it that I pulled behind my car. I signed a few dealers, but I was really looking forward to going to the 1969 IMTEC because I had heard that is where dealers came to buy new lines.
“This was our first chance to see the whole industry. So we took our conglomeration of boats to the show in Chicago. The show was out at the Chicago stockyards, as this was the year that McCormick Place burned. So that is where we showed Cobalt Boats to the world, and nobody had heard of us for the most part.”
Laughing, he says, “To say that we were unsuccessful would be an understatement because we didn’t sell a single boat or sign a single dealer.”
The ‘dumbest’ name
IMTEC was an eye-opening experience for St. Clair. He saw a lot of large boat companies, such as Glastron, Sea Ray and even Outboard Marine Corp., which were making midpriced boats. He realized that to survive he had to go where they weren’t. He had to find a niche market.
“We came home from IMTEC and really scrapped this whole line of boats that we had copied, except for the two tri-hulls that were of our design,” St. Clair says. “So we started all over again. We had spent all our money and all that our partner had invested. And at this point my partner said, ‘I think I have had all the fun in the boat business that I want.’ So I bought him out and got an SBA loan and started over with a new partner, Dan Bramhall, who was at the time our fiberglass expert.”
St. Clair’s first boats were built in Chanute, Kan., and were named Kustom Craft. A couple of months before he went to his first IMTEC show, he tried to register that name. His lawyer said he couldn’t use the name because a company in the industry had already registered it.
So St. Clair called the printer who was just about to print his very first brochure and said he had to change the name. “How much time do I have to get a new name for the brochure?” St. Clair asked.
The printer said he needed the new name by noon that day to deliver the brochures in time for the show in Chicago. “I hung up the phone and didn’t think about a new name for more than about 5 or 10 minutes,” St. Clair says. “I called the printer back and told them the new name was going to be Cobalt.
“I had heard the name Cobalt because it was the promoter that is in the resins that we use that interacts with the catalyst that causes the resin to cure and get hard. I have liked the name, so that is what I chose. I went home that night and told my wife, Jill, that I had changed the name of the company. She said, ‘What is it?’ I told her it would be called Cobalt Marine. She said, ‘That is the dumbest name I have ever heard. That’s what they treat cancer with.’ I told her it was too late to change it. And it turned out to be a really good name. It has a nice ring to it and is easy to remember.”
“That first IMTEC show was a pretty humbling experience,” St. Clair says. “We had some of our boats inside the hall and some outside. The boat we had outside was a 23-foot cuddy cabin. We were cleaning the boat in preparation for the show, and when I opened up our cuddy cabin, I saw that the headliner had fallen off during the trip to Chicago. We had used some shag carpet for the headliner and probably used the wrong kind of glue. I saw that I could push it back in place, and it would stay there for maybe five minutes. My wife, Jill, who was looking forward to shopping along Michigan Avenue in the Chicago Loop, actually spent the entire four days of the show sitting inside that boat. I stood outside the boat, and as I saw people coming over to look at it, I would bump the outside of the hull and Jill would put the headliner back up and it would stay for a few minutes.”
When they returned home, St. Clair and his team started their new concept.
“We moved from Chanute to Neodesha,” he says. “Neodesha gave us a building if we would move the plant there. So with our SBA loan we started building just two new boats. But we made sure that they were the very best there were, high-quality and the most expensive. We finished the first new top-of-the-line boat just before Christmas that year.”
St. Clair had heard about the San Francisco Boat Show at the Cow Palace. (I worked that show for OMC for several years, and it was excellent.) At that time, St. Clair says, Cobalt’s only California dealer was in Fullerton.
“I took our first new-generation, high-end, expensive and pretty boat out there,” St. Clair says. “I wanted to see if I could get a dealer there and hopefully get to display the boat in the Cow Palace show. I called on every dealer in San Francisco before the show, but couldn’t get one to take the line. Then I called on all the dealers in areas surrounding San Francisco but still didn’t get a dealer. Most of them said, ‘Son, I like your boat, but you are just too expensive.’ So at that point I was beginning to question my new concept of building top-end boats.”
Then St. Clair learned he couldn’t get his boat into the Cow Palace to display it at the show. Still determined, he made a deal with a Mobil station across the street from the arena. He parked his boat there, close to the sidewalk, and worked the 10-day show from that spot.
“I talked to lots of people as they went by and handed out a lot of brochures,” he says. “And I asked each of them to tell dealers as they walked the show that there was a really nice boat outside by the Mobil gas station. And a few dealers did come out and look at the boat toward the end of the show. Fortunately, one of them was Frank Warren of the San Ramon Boat Center. He became a dealer and has been with us now for 45 years.
“We have a lot of dealers that I signed up in those early years that are still with us. I think much of our success has been getting a lot of dealers over the years that weren’t always the biggest in their markets, but are better financed and overall more solid. Also, we have always picked dealers that offer good service. And we don’t jump around changing dealers. A lot of times, when things are tough, it is really tempting for boatbuilders to go down that road when the current dealer is stocked up with boats. But we don’t do that. Over the years, we have stuck with our dealers, and we have not tried to get into fishing boats, cheaper boats, sailboats, etc. We have stayed with our niche market. And our dealers continue to be one of our biggest assets.”
A proud Kansan
Since those early years, Cobalt has continued to grow and increase market share and has won numerous awards, including several from J.D. Power and Associates. Cobalt has 700 employees, and many are from the local farm communities.
“The other big asset we have is our employees,” St. Clair says. “We have several second and third generations working at Cobalt.”
St. Clair’s son Paxson joined the company in 1989 and became CEO in 2007. “Paxson is doing such a good job running the company now that I do my best to stay out of his hair,” St. Clair says with a laugh. “Sean Callan, my son-in-law, is president and runs production and engineering. He is also key in the organization.”
Says Paxson St. Clair: “I travel to a lot of boat shows around the country. Folks that I meet at shows think I am kidding when I tell them we build our boats in Kansas. We could not build our boats anywhere else because of the people who work at Cobalt. We don’t believe that their work ethic and the pride they have in doing the best job possible can be duplicated anywhere else in the world. We have second- and third-generation people working here at Cobalt. As we say on our website, ‘We never aimed to be the biggest boat company, just the best.’ ”
Innovation has continued at Cobalt with the successful introduction of the company’s first pontoon boat, the Marker One, at a dealer meeting in September.
“We recognize that the pontoon market has been growing and felt there would be a market for a Cobalt pontoon with yacht quality,” Paxson says. “Our Marker One pontoon boats feature a hull design that utilizes the finest grade of materials, higher-gauge aluminum, skilled craftsmanship in the construction and a unique grid system establishing the foundation. Our Marker One hulls are bolted through a structural stringer system, which seamlessly integrates the ‘wood-free’ fiberglass deck to the hulls themselves, a fiberglass liner with UL-approved diamond nonskid, non-slip surface. We have had an enthusiastic reaction to the Marker One from our dealers and consumers.”
Making Cobalt wine
Pack St. Clair’s entrepreneurial spirit did not stop with Cobalt Boats. He has always had a strong interest in wine and decided to create a Cobalt wine.
“I have been a wine enthusiast for a long time,” he says. “I got introduced to Napa Valley through some friends. Jill and I have always enjoyed going out there and enjoying the wine. One of the wines I have always liked was from a particular company up on Spring Mountain called Sherwin Family Vineyards. Steve Sherwin got to be a personal friend. I told Steve I would love to make a high-end cabernet sauvignon wine and call it Cobalt wine. After a few years, Steve called me one day and said, ‘There are some grapes that are available here on several acres adjoining our vineyard.’ So I made a deal and bought the grapes off that property, and Steve picks them and does the fermentation and aging. My only involvement is in the blending. Steve does the rest.
“We have gotten some great ratings for our Cobalt wine,” St. Clair adds. “Our first vintage was 2005. … Our wine bottles have a Cobalt logo on the front.”
St. Clair now makes his home in Lawrence Kan., where he graduated from the University of Kansas. He spends most of the year there and enjoys going to the university’s football and basketball games. In the summer he and his wife travel often to a home they have at Grand Lake of the Cherokees in northeastern Oklahoma near the Kansas and Missouri borders. This is the lake where his father often took the family boating as Pack was growing up. He drives to the plant about once a week.
“When I come to the plant each week, I like to spend all my time out in the plant,” he says. “I think my title today would be, ‘Keeper of the culture of Cobalt.’ ”
And the culture of Cobalt and of Cobalt Boats is unquestionably as good as you can get. n
Ben Sherwood, a 50-year veteran of the marine industry, was head of sales and marketing at Evinrude and Johnson for several years during his career at Outboard Marine Corp. After retiring from OMC, he was a marine trade magazine columnist for 18 years and a consultant in the industry. He wrote the book “How to Succeed in Marine Retailing.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue.
Categories: Cobalt Boats, Dealer Partners, Industry News, Lifestyle | Tags: Award Winning Boat, Boat Builders, Boat Dealers, Boating Industry, Cobalt Boats, Family Boating, Lifestyle, Luxury Boat, Neodesha
Friday, April 17, 2015
Cobalt Boats Adds Western Regional Sales Manager
Cobalt Boats named Jeffrey Morales as Western regional sales manager, replacing 40-year veteran Alex Barry. Barry is taking a part-time position, starting July 1.
Morales comes to Cobalt with retail experience, most recently as sales manager of The Slalom Shop. Prior to his retail experience, he was a regional sales manager for an inboard boat builder.
Morales will manage the western United States and the western provinces of Canada.
Categories: Cobalt Boats, Dealer Partners, Industry News | Tags: Boat Dealers, Boating Industry, Cobalt Boats, Neodesha
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