LAS VEGAS — Brunswick Corp. and Sea Ray are using the world’s largest technology showcase, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, to help redefine both brands as the technology leaders in the recreational marine industry.
CES attracts 170,000 attendees from around the globe to see the latest products from the world’s largest electronics manufacturers and thousands of smaller exhibitors.
At CES, Sea Ray is debuting the SLX-R 400-e, a 40-footer powered by triple 450-hp Mercury Racing outboards, with an innovative high-capacity, lithium-ion battery pack electrical system that replaces a traditional genset. Sea Ray president Steve Langlais said that this first-of-its-kind power-management package, called the Fathom e-powered system, is capable of powering all of the boat’s accessory systems, including air conditioning, gyro stabilization and more, for up to eight hours on a single charge.
“These batteries are house batteries, totally separate from the engine batteries, and will recharge from shore power or from the electrical output of the engine in five to six hours,” Langlais told Trade Only Today at a Brunswick press event Monday evening.
Down the hall, Intel was having its annual press event, and Ford would follow Brunswick with the announcement of a new electric car.
The significance of Sea Ray’s groundbreaking electrical system was almost lost on the room of non-marine journalists, whose normal beat is covering new televisions and must-have consumer devices that 4,500 exhibitors will debut at the four-day tech show.
For Brunswick, that seemed to be expected, as the 175-year-old company has set out to redefine its corporate image beyond the boating industry. Rather than being seen as a collection of boat and engine brands, Brunswick wants the world to view it as the leading tech company in recreational marine, much as automotive and aviation firms are doing in their respective industries.
“We are a pure-play marine company,” Brunswick CEO David Foulkes explained to the room of journalists at CES. Foulkes spoke about how Brunswick had shed its Fitness and Billiards legacy businesses to get there, while acquiring some of the tech companies that these reporters are accustomed to covering.
“We added CZone, MasterVolt and firms strongly in touch with telematics, who all use the same sensor suites and communications technology in more complex ways to provide reliable power and smooth boat rides, often in more demanding environments than your car,” Foulkes said.
Foulkes also made a pitch to smaller exhibitors and startups to consider Brunswick as a potential backer. “We want attendees at the show to stop and think about how their inventions could perhaps be used to enhance the technology that makes boating a much richer experience for today’s consumer,” he said. “We are hoping to identify and partner with startups who have an idea but may need the backing of a company like Brunswick through our many brands.”
Foulkes, whose engineering background is originally in automotive, has been coming to CES for seven years. He noted that in that time that automakers have gone from showing off one or two cars of the future at CES to making major product introductions ahead of the traditional car shows.
Brunswick is taking that approach with the Sea Ray SLX-R 400e — on display for the first time — a month ahead of the Miami International Boat Show. As part of an elaborate display on the CES show floor, its interactive display includes AI technology from partners like Raymarine, joystick control simulators and a futuristic voice command helm.
“This is all technology attendees are familiar with but perhaps never imagined in a boat application,” Foulkes told Trade Only Today. “We’re expecting to not only generate new partners, but a few sales as well.”
New-model introductions at CES probably won’t happen across the boating industry, Foulkes added, “but Brunswick wants to highlight our technology leadership, particularly in our strategy of autonomy, connectivity, electrification and shared access that will help define the future of recreational marine.”
During the press conference, Foulkes said it takes exciting technology to get today’s boat buyers on the water. “Tech is reshaping the recreational marine industry,” he said. “We believe Brunswick is very well-positioned to define boating’s future.”