Just days ahead of the imposition of a 25% tariff on US imports, Michigan-based Sunsation Powerboats delivered its first outboard-powered centre console to Europe, through its new dealer, Offshore Agency Prettin of Germany.
A Sunsation 34CCX, powered with twin Mercury Racing 400Rs, is now berthed in Mallorca, Spain. The uniquely American concept of a luxury performance centre console is a fast-growing market segment on this side of the Atlantic, but virtually unknown elsewhere, according to Offshore Agency owner, Wilhelm Prettin.
“There are very few centre consoles in Europe at this time, with most of them being old style fishing-type boats. My client wanted something stylish, fast and dependable for his family, with a preference for an American-made boat,” Prettin said in a statement.
Sunsation vice president Joe Schaldenbrand told IBI that the company – which built its reputation on high-performance V-bottom stearndrive boats – has not sold in the European market since before the global recession in 2007. “We had high expectations of selling several boats, but now I have some concerns,” Schaldenbrand said. “We will still sell some boats, but not what we were projecting,” he added.
Schaldenbrand is referring to the impact of the EU’s tariffs on boats and other goods imposed in retaliation to President Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminium, which Prettin – in an e-mail exchange – described as making it difficult to be competitive. “For any kind of boat business we have a disaster going on now,” he wrote.
The tariffs apply to any US-made boat delivered to Europe after June 22, regardless of order or payment date.
The pair met at the Miami International Boat Show, where Prettin tested several models from various manufacturers before deciding on Sunsation and visiting the factory.
“I’ve got to tell you, Wilhelm is one of the most knowledgeable customers we’ve ever had at the shop,” Schaldenbrand said. “He thoroughly inspected the boat and had a professional knowledge of virtually every component. He laid out specific elements that his customer wanted in our 34CCX model and we went to work. The most difficult part of the build for us was making sure that the boat met all the technical, and structural requirements for CE Certification.”
The centre console hull design and use of the four-stroke, 400hp outboards meet or exceed European emission and noise regulations.
Both Prettin and Schaldenbrand are hopeful that European boaters – like their American counterparts – will see the advantages and versatility an outboard-powered centre console promises. “People are getting tired of the high maintenance and operating costs and depreciation,” of traditional performance boats, Schaldenbrand said, adding that the romantics will miss the noise and rumble of big motors but not the breakdowns and expense.
“It’s more enjoyable when the boat starts every time and you can talk to people,” he said. “And it’s a beautiful thing when your cooler is bigger than your tool box.”