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Triton Industries

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Introducing: The New and Improved Pontoon Boat
Manitou takes tried-and-true qualities and adds accessories, performance

 

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If you’re looking for your grandfather’s pontoon boat, keep right on looking.

Because Triton Industries is taking what’s long been considered the brown-paneled station wagon of the water world and making it, gasp… cool.

The 29-year-old Michigan manufacturing operationbuilds boats under the “Manitou” brand from a 50,000-square-foot facility in Lansing, and is using innovative designs both above and below deck to make itself a go-to choice for buyers in a burgeoning post-recession recreational market.

A move to a new building with triple the manufacturing space is planned later this year.

The company has 80 employees these days – a rise of nearly double since the depths of the economic downturn, and still an uptick from the 60-65 who were on staff before the trouble began.

“It has come up incrementally,” said Greg Van Wagenen, Manitou’s director of marketing and sales communications. “There was one really tough year and things have started to gain back every year since then. And now we’re past the point of where we were before.”

Traditional pontoon boats had just two tubes, but three-tube models have increased in popularity. Overall pontoon sales rose by 12.2 percent in 2013 over the previous year, according to Statistical Surveys Inc., a provider of market intelligence to the marine, manufactured housing, RV-motorized and RV-towable industries. Sales of fishing boats were up by 3.9 percent in 2013 as well.

Manitou is counting on growth that’s fueled in large part by a patented “V-Toon” hull design – in which the middle of the three tubes that provide buoyancy for the boat is not only 4 inches larger in diameter than the other two, but also 1¼ inches lower, which provides a differential of 5¼ inches that boosts the handling capability closer to what’s typically associated with a runabout boat.

All tubes are fitted with positive-angle lifting strakes, which allow Manitou’s boats to retain their ability to smoothly reach top speed in a straight line while significantly decreasing their turning radius.

Manitou did extensive testing to determine optimal depth for the inside tube as compared to the other two. It found that positioning it a little higher reduced turning acumen, while lowering it a bit more made turning too severe. Securing the patent took a couple years, Van Wagenen said, and the company went back to get a broader patent with different depth variations to prevent infringements.

Once the paperwork was finalized, the impact was obvious.

“It’s been huge,” Van Wagenen said. “When we had just the triple-toon pontoons and then just started with V-Toon, our production was about 7 percent three-tube pontoon boats and 93 percent twin-tubes, and right now today we’re at 75 percent V-Toons and 25 percent traditional twin-tube models. It’s just completely turned over.”

Manitou’s 23-foot Legacy SHP model placed second on Boating magazine’s “20 Best Pontoon Boats” list, with a review that celebrated its many above-deck properties, too.

“Forward, horseshoe lounges feature flip-up armrests,” the magazine said.“An L-shaped bench with a rear-facing portside backrest begins adjacent to the helm to enhance conversation. Aft, a nearly 6-foot-wide sun pad offers room for sun lovers. It lifts on a gas strut to reveal the ‘toy box,’ an expansive compartment that will swallow up skis, wakeboards and the like.

“Captains will appreciate the elevated helm, raised 3 inches off the deck to provide a less-obstructed view forward. SeaDeck matting covers the base. The same traction material is used on the extended, molded-fiberglass aft deck.”

It’s those design elements and floor plans that Manitou has pursued in order to differentiate itself.

Deck furniture is available that transforms fromloungers to regular seats, and some pontoon models are available with bars, galleys, sinks and built-in grills as well, which allows prospective buyers to have their rides fully tricked out before unveiling them on the water.

The company has six pontoon models – X-Plode, SES, Legacy, Encore, Oasis and Aurora – in its 2014 product line, ranging from 18 to 27 feet in length and between $17,000 and $75,000 in price. Three more angler-centric varieties, the Encore Pro Angler, the Oasis Angler and the Aurora Angler, go from 20 to 24 feet and $17,000 and $65,000.

“We’re offering a lot more creature comforts and luxuries to the customers,” Van Wagenen said. “There’s a lot of companies now with different floor plans and different things out there, but what we tried to do is not just limit the customer.

“Our lounging boats are transformable in that you can lift the chairs up, put a table between them, or use them as loungers or asa picnic seating group.We try to see what’s out there and make it a little bit more usable and a little bit more versatile and give our customers some more options than our competitors in terms of how they use the boats.”

Manitou’s typical customer these days falls within the Baby Boomer age demographic and comes to the market with a history of fiberglass boat ownership. The increased performance and enhanced design of the pontoon variety is attractive to those customers, as is the extra deck space that can accommodate more family members – often-times children and grandchildren.

In fact, Van Wagenen said, many have chosen to consolidate their collections by getting rid of other boats, and the associated insurance, docking and fueling costs, to become pontoon-only owners.

“Once we got this hull locked in and everything ready, we did see that people could keep everything they’ve loved about a pontoon boat, but now add everything they’ve loved for a long time about their runabouts,” he said. “They’re not giving up anything in a traditional pontoon and they’re adding quite a bit of performance.”

AT A GLANCE

WHO: Triton Industries Inc.

WHAT: Manufacturer of leisure, luxury and performance pontoon boats under the Manitou brand

WHERE: Lansing, Mich.

WEBSITE: www.ManitouPontoonBoats.com

Short URL: http://www.businessworld-magazine.com/?p=3523

1 Comment for “Triton Industries”

  1. Please help. I am having trouble with the Manitou dealer (Donnie McDaniel), Manitou service manager, and customer service (Bob Hurley) to remedy the problems with my new 2014 Manitou poontoon boat. I used it 7 times. The battery was dead 5 of the times. Today my wife and I were going to take a cruise and dead it sits again. The pontoons have white streaks that make it look like it is 20 years old. Everybody is giving me the runaround. Can you please help escalate this problem up the Triton/Manotou management chain?

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