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How CES Became a Launchpad for Boating’s Newest Innovations

by multimill
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The Consumer Electronics Show isn’t known for yachting, but the boating industry’s largest companies are identifying as much with the Las Vegas event as the biggest international boat shows.

“This is one of the few places where we can present ourselves entirely as Brunswick,” David Foulkes, CEO of the boat and engine builder, told Robb Report. “At boat shows, the attendees only see our individual companies like Mercury Marine, Boston Whaler, and dozens of other brands we own. This lets us showcase the full power of our technology.”

CES Brunswick Corporation exhibit.

Brunswick’s exhibit will include three full-sized boats, an auto-docking display and its new connectivity technologies.

Brunswick Corp.

CES also puts Brunswick in front of a much wider virtual audience. Foulkes says online impressions of the Chicago-based company typically reach about one million after a leading boat show like Miami or Fort Lauderdale. At CES, that number jumps into the billions.

Its fourth year in Las Vegas, Brunswick has made its exhibit bigger and more complex each year. “Last year, the concept was an oval aquadrome with multiple displays, but this one is a much larger marina of the future,” says Foulkes.

The exhibit features a full-sized Boston Whaler 405 Conquest with newly developed auto-docking and peripheral camera systems, a Sea Ray 280 SLX with a Fathom lithium-ion power management system that replaces a conventional battery, and a new electric boat brand called Veer that Brunswick started to appeal to a younger demographic. The Veer on display has a new Mercury Avator electric outboard.

Yachts Brunswick CES

Last year’s exhibit was packed with attendees more used to seeing new car technologies than a docking simulator.

Brunswick Corporation

Foulkes has referred to Brunswick multiple times as a tech company—most recently saying CES is “part of our DNA”—since he assumed the chief executive role in 2019. Before that, he was Brunswick’s chief technology officer. While other companies lean on the tech title to show off new technology, Brunswick last year spent more than a quarter of its annual R&D budget on its ACES—Autonomy, Connectivity, Electrification, and Share Access—strategy to modernize its boats and engines.  

Brunswick is spending far more than any other company in the boating sector on tech like autonomous docking (it has a virtual docking system on the Boston Whaler to show how it works) and electrification of outboards. “We designed and built more than 6,000 electric outboards in the last nine months, a number almost unheard of for our industry,” says Foulkes.

Yachting and Brunswick at CES

Brunswick’s recent acquisition of Fliteboard gives the display extra appeal for a non-boating audience.

Brunswick Corporation

As advanced as the auto-docking is, that technology will involve a slow penetration into the industry as an expensive option on Brunswick’s largest, priciest models. Thousands of Avator electric outboards will find an immediate place on the transoms of smaller boats, largely in Europe, often on lakes prohibiting the use of conventional combustion engines.

Brunswick’s most recent acquisition of Fliteboard, an Australian company that designs and builds e-foil boards, is also part of the exhibit. “I can’t imagine a better place to show a product like that—they will hover over the exhibit on massive screens that demonstrate the technology,” says Foulkes. “It’s visually impactful.”

And a cool, action-packed way to show the tech world how forward-looking the 178-year-old company remains.

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