“The global marine market remains strong,” according to Mercury Marine president John Pfeifer, and some proof of that is evident at the engine maker’s headquarters, where a third shift was added this week to the V6 and V8 FourStroke outboard production line.
Since the beginning of the year, the Fond du Lac, Wisconsin-based company has added some 250 production jobs with fully one-third assigned to a third shift producing the 175hp-300hp FourStroke engine group.
The engine family was introduced in February and since then, Pfeifer told IBI on Monday, demand has been “way, way up in the double digits.” The company has been ramping up operations and assuring internal and outside component supplies were available to add the additional production capacity.
Despite record-low local unemployment, Mercury has had “pretty good luck filling jobs here,” Pfeifer said. In February, the company extended its labour agreement with the International Association of Machinists for five years, and, Pfeifer said, labour relations have come a long way. “I spend quite a bit of time with the IAM leadership and make sure I understand their perspective and we try and come together on issues.”
Pfeifer is optimistic that the global boating market will remain strong despite the threat of trade wars and the still unknown impact of Trump Administration tariffs and retaliatory action from the nation’s major trade partners, which he called “highly disappointing”.
“Tariffs being put in place – short-term or long-term – I think it’s incredibly damaging,” Pfeifer said in the interview. “The administration is punishing good companies that try and play by the rules, to try and get people who don’t abide by the rules to come in-line, and I’ve got a problem with that,” he said.
Pfeifer delivered the same message to members of Congress and the US Trade representative recently in Washington, DC.
After just over four years at the helm of Mercury Marine, IBI asked Pfeifer to predict the global outboard industry over the next four years. “Seventy-five plus horsepower will continue to grow; the average horsepower, globally, will continue to increase; and global demand will continue to migrate from two-stroke to four-stroke because of the benefits it provides the commercial operator,” Pfeifer projected.
“Boaters want – now more than ever – an intuitive system. From propulsion systems to every system on the boat; people want it to be simple. And those able to deliver that [to the customer] will be able to reap benefits.”