Indiana-based boatbuilder Smoker Craft Inc wrapped up what is being billed as the largest dealer meeting in its history last week, in the face of ongoing concern over tariffs and their potential impacts on international trade.

Addressing dealers and a significant number of dealer prospects gathered at its production facility last week, the privately-owned manufacturer of aluminium, fibreglass and pontoon boats sold under its Smoker Craft, Starcraft, Sylvan, SunChaser and Starweld brands said that in spite of challenges including tariffs and intense domestic competition for skilled labour, the company posted 20% growth last year.

“In fact, we've enjoyed four consecutive years of 20% growth,” said senior vice president of marketing and corporate development, Peter Barrett. “Credit for that lies with our unbelievable sales team, our incredibly dedicated workforce, and our dealer councils that have helped guide us in developing new product that sells. Our target for the coming year is another 20% growth, and from what we see in the market, we believe that is absolutely achievable.”

In spite of ongoing concerns over tariffs and trade, more than 230 dealerships worldwide were represented at the event, including dealers from Sweden, Russia, the Netherlands, Australia, Colombia and Canada. Dealers facing higher import costs due to tariffs were largely focused on finding ways to mitigate the increases, said Barrett. “We’re working very closely with our dealers to find efficiencies in other areas, such as shipping for example, to help mitigate those added costs.”

Apart from enjoying the opportunity to see several new models and test-drive more than 20 boats on nearby Lake Wawasee, dealers were brought up to date on company objectives and possible future expansion plans.

Smoker Craft recently completed an extensive renovation to its aluminium fishing boat production line, allowing it to increase production capacity. The second major plant investment in four years, it follows a substantial 90,000sq ft addition added to the company’s pontoon plant in 2014.

On the supply chain side, the 2019 model year will see Smoker Craft replace the Murphy touch-screen displays that it has used extensively in its runabout and pontoon lines with Simrad Evo 3 units with the 2019 model year.

“It's a great product, the functionality is fantastic,” said Barrett. “The Simrad displays work nicely with what we're trying to do, and really dress up the dash. We’ll be using it in all of our product lines.”