A local car dealer is floating a new sales idea.
Palmetto Ford of West Ashley, in conjunction with Sea Fox Boats of Moncks Corner, plans to park some boats on its truck lot by year's end.
Palmetto Ford will sell the locally made boats at its Truck World operation on Savannah Highway and is considering adding them beside its Quick Lane automotive service shop on Johnnie Dodds Boulevard in Mount Pleasant, said Graham Eubank, president of the family owned car dealership.
"I think there is an opportunity there to represent their boats in a little bit better way," Eubank said. "It's a great line, and they have a lot of neat products. Their new Bay boats are really nice and will do really well here. We will be the only dealer from Beaufort to Orangeburg to Georgetown."
Eubank expects to house eight to 12 boats at each location.
"For those wanting one custom-made, I can have a boat built in 14 days, so we don't need to stock as many," he said.
The new boat ventures would operate as Sea Fox Boats of Charleston and Sea Fox Boats of Mount Pleasant, but the inventory will be owned by Palmetto Ford, said Fred Renken, president of the boat manufacturer.
"I will sell the boats to him," Renken said. "We will offer our full support and training."
Eubank will supply his own staff of marine professionals to sell the boats, he said.
The business arrangement came about after Renken severed ties three weeks ago with Hankel Marine, which had been the exclusive dealer in the Charleston region for Sea Fox Boats.
Renken said the business deal with Hankel didn't work out and mentioned it to Eubank, a longtime friend.
"He said he was interested, and it went from text messaging to coffee at Starbucks," Renken said.
Renken hopes to capitalize on Eubank's retail experience to help him sell more boats.
"In today's world, it's very important to be able to get financing for your boat purchase," Renken said. "Graham's expertise in retail is very strong."
Though not near the $60 million in sales Sea Fox experienced in 2006 before the boat market capsized, Sea Fox's boat sales are up 50 percent this year and should be about $33 million by year's end, said Renken.
"Sales aren't back to where they were, but they are getting better," he said.
Renken expects to see sales of about $45 million next year, driven mainly by the company's new Bay series.
"The momentum with this new series is really having an effect on the company," Renken said.
While the idea of a car dealer selling boats locally might be new, Renken said a car dealer in Florida has been selling the Sea Fox brand for 10 years.
"It's been very successful," he said of the Florida operation.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.
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