Mercury Marine showcased its current products and future technologies at a huge media event in Orlando.
By Gregg Mansfield
Photos courtesy Mercury Marine
Brunswick CEO David M. Foulkes was looking over the room shortly after the company revealed a new Mercury V10 Verado outboard platform.
It had been a couple of years since Foulkes had met face-to-face with marine writers (outside of boats shows and trade events) because of the pandemic. The Mercury Marine event at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando showcased what the company had been working on even with record demand the past two years.
“It always a good day to be a CEO for Brunswick, but these days are particularly gratifying,” Foulkes said. “We’re a product company and when we can launch uniquely differentiated products like this one, it’s always a great day.”
Mercury Marine has plenty to brag about and spent four days giving marine writers and influencers from around the world an unprecedented look into the company, products and research and development. Media visited Mercury’s famous Lake X facility and got an inside look at the Brunswick Technology Center and the Boston Whaler plant in Edgewater, Fla.
Over the coming months, Center Console Life will produce additional stories, boat reviews and videos from the media tour. Join us for a tour.
Mercury Product Launch
Speculation was rampant on what Mercury Marine had planned to launch during the product unveiling dinner at the Coronado Springs Resort. Guesses ranged from a line of electric outboards to a monster horsepower outboard. In the end, what the media saw was much more exciting than the speculation.
CEO Foulkes was joined by Brunswick’s Chief Financial Officer Ryan Gwillim and Brunswick Boat Group President Aine Denari along with other Brunswick executives in Orlando. Mercury Marine executives included Tim Reid, vice president of product development and engineering, Perissa Bailey, VP and general manager of eSolutions and Jamie Evans, VP of Marketing to watch Mercury Marine President Chris Drees pull the cover off a new outboard.
It wasn’t just any outboard. Mercury Marine had added a V10 platform to its venerable Verado lineup and its first two outboards were 350 and 400 horsepower. Boat owners that want a Mercury outboard on their center console’s transom can now pick from V8, V10 and V12 platforms.
Clearly Mercury sees the new V10 Verados and the two outboards it launched as having a big future for the company.
The media could not publish the material until the following day, giving the marine writers the night to produce their content. Lee Gordon, Brunswick’s vice president of global public relations and communications, reminded the writers and influencers about the embargo.
“We booked your flights, and we booked your rooms. We know where you are staying,” Gordon said with a smile and drawing laughs. “Don’t make me wake you up in the middle of the night to take something down because I will.”
No one broke the embargo.
Mercury took the media on an hour-long bus ride to the famous Lake X in Central Florida to test out the new 350- and 400-horsepower V10 outboards. The remote 3-mile-long lake was the famous testing ground for the company.
Mercury Marine returned to the site in 2018 (the company left Lake X in 2004) and the property was pretty much intact. The tower with bubble windows still stands at the entrance to the small marina, giving observers a bird’s-eye view of the lake.
Mercury assembled 17 boats with the new powerplants for a day of testing on Lake X. Brands included Avalon, Barletta, Boston Whaler, Caymas, Freeman, Harris, Intrepid, Lund, Monterey, Ranger, Scout, Sea Ray, SeeVee, Tiara, Valhalla and Vexus.
With so many test boats being run on the lake, Mercury had to coordinate the boats entering and leaving the marina and nearby lagoon.
The outboards were exactly as Drees promised the evening before. Incredible acceleration and minimal sound. “Expect Mercury to tackle water and wind noise next,” a marine writer quipped while riding in the Scout 355.
Inside the Lake X building, Mercury Marine set up displays from its sister companies Mastervolt and Navico. The Brunswick companies showcased their latest products from navigation aids to charging systems.
“The event at Lake X showcased the past, present and future of Mercury Marine,” said Bill Taylor, publisher of Center Console Life. “The company not only builds great engines and boats, it has transformed into a technology company. Mercury is very bullish on its future and it’s easy to see with the products they have in the lineup.”
After a long day of testing, the group returned to Coronado Springs Resort for dinner and rest for a visit to the Boston Whaler plant and Brunswick Technology Center.
Pulling up to the Boston Whaler plant and Brunswick Technology Center in Edgewater, Fla., it’s striking how big the facility is. Nearly 2,000 boats roll out of the facility each year and if you’ve never been to a boat plant, it’s a labor-intensive process.
Kristopher Neff, president of Boston Whaler, greeted the media in an airport-hanger-like building to give an overview of the facility. Writers were divided into groups to go on a plant tour or visit the Brunswick Technology Center.
Inside the Technology Center, the company showcased its product design and engineering. The team designs all aspects of a boat for the company’s brands including Bayliner, Crestliner, Sea Ray and more. An interesting aspect to the design is that some designers will use virtual reality goggles to create the cockpit or cabin on a boat.
“It allows them to step virtually inside the interior to see how a design works,” said Jeff Etapa, director of product design and engineering for Brunswick.
Another interesting aspect of the tour was the design and consumer insights. This group takes a massive amount of consumer data and tries to predict future trends for the next three to five years.
Autonomous technology will continue to lead the trends and expect the metaverse to hang around for a while.
Our group wrapped the day up with a tour of the Boston Whaler factory, which has more than 1,000 employees building the boats. While the building process looks like a large assembly line, it’s more complicated. Lamination and fiberglass work is segregated to one building, while the rigging and interior work is done in a separate, clean part of the facility.
Wrapping up a tour, Boston Whaler demonstrated why its boats are unsinkable. The company uses a proprietary foam that it sprays into each hull to fill voids and add buoyancy when mating the hull and deck.
Workers sprayed a small amount of the foam into a large wood box with a clear acrylic face. Within a few minutes, the foam expanded to fill up most of the box and moments later the acrylic face started cracking from the pressure.
Spraying the foam is a precise operation and a little too much foam can be disastrous. It’s rare but a few cracked hulls will occur each year during the manufacturing.
The workers we spoke with had a lot of pride in building the Boston Whaler boats especially after it left the factory on schedule.
Return to Lake X
The group returned to Lake X to see some of the technology Brunswick has been working on and test any remaining boats from earlier in the week.
Engineers equipped a Boston Whaler 350 Outrage with triple Mercury Marine 300-hp outboards with a series of sensors and cameras on the bulkhead. During the demonstration, engineers pulled the center console away from the dock, touched a button on the screen and stood at the rear of the cockpit.
The boat gently moved toward the dock in windy conditions with the bow thrusters and outboards working in tandem. An engineer on the dock put an inflatable raft in the water, causing the boat to stop the autonomous docking process and working as designed.
Engineers believe the technology will not only help novice boaters docking, the collision-avoidance technology could substantially reduce accidents. Brunswick hasn’t set a timeframe for a public release of the autonomous docking technology, but engineers are getting closer.
Brunswick has lots to be proud of as the company showed over the four days in Florida. It’s just the tip of the iceberg on what Mercury has planned in the coming years.
“We have product long-range plans that go out 10 years, so we’re not like, ‘We finished one product, what do we do next?’” said Brunswick’s CEO Foulkes. “We know exactly what we need to do from a product competitiveness (and technology) perspective.”