True blue

Cobalt Boats unveils new models on Lake Coeur d'Alene

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Coeur d'Alene's Sophia Avery checks out the new Cobalt 336 bowrider on Saturday during Cobalt's dealer meeting at The Coeur d'Alene Resort.

COEUR d'ALENE - Cobalt Boats didn't endure the economic tidal wave by sitting still.

The manufacturer of luxury power boats took the choppy ride to embrace change.

And that philosophy, which includes new boat models that were unveiled to the company's dealers during the world premier on Saturday at The Coeur d'Alene Resort Floating Boardwalk, is expected to pay off, said Pack St. Clair, Cobalt founder.

"It's not necessarily a robust marine market, but there are plenty opportunities for companies that offer new and exciting products," St. Clair said.

"New products are the lifeblood of our industry and, if you've got a new product that performs, it will bring good results. We have been able to capitalize on a growing trend of the high-end market, which is where we compete."

Coeur d'Alene's Chris and Sophia Avery were impressed by the Cobalt 336 bowrider, which has a suggested retail price of $348,455. Ten to twelve adults can be entertained on the boat and it has a cabin with a TV and bed.

"It's brilliant," Sophia said of the boat. "We like to camp on a boat, and this is really logically laid out."

Avery already has a Cobalt and was curious about the 2013 models.

"The Cobalt boat is amazing, and we just wanted to check them out," she said.

The boats even have stainless steel hardware, whereas many others have plastic.

"These are lifetime investments," said Paul Nielsen of the Hagadone Marine Group, a Cobalt dealer.

St. Clair said Cobalt, a 45-year-old company headquartered in Neodesha, Kan., spent the past four years focusing on new products.

"We saw the downturn in 2008 as a time to accelerate our new product introduction as opposed to pulling in our horns and not spending money," he said. "It took a bit of a risk."

St. Clair said sales were down 40 percent in 2008, but they gradually rebounded the past three years.

"We saw a 20 percent improvement in 2012 and we are now back to where we were before the downturn," he said. "As a company, we're doing better because we all learn from those downturns and do a better job of managing of managing our operations."

Cobalt is currently building about 2,000 boats per year, similar to what it was just before the recession.

"I'd say business has been pretty good at Cobalt," St. Clair said.

St. Clair said there's a strong demand for larger boats.

"A lot of lakes have gotten rougher with more boats and traffic," St. Clair said. "Bigger boats handle water better. And, as years go on, people expand their boat size."

The industry has expanded sizes over the years. Cobalt's 21-foot bowrider in 1985 was considered the largest in the industry at the time, but today the company offers a 36-foot bowrider.

This marks the fourth time Cobalt has chosen Coeur d'Alene for its dealer meeting, which includes 400 guests representing 100 dealerships and 11 countries.

St. Clair said scenic Lake Coeur d'Alene, The Coeur d'Alene Resort's hospitality and the high-performing Hagadone Marine Group brought the company back.

"It's one of the most desirable places in the country," he said. "It's the perfect stage for hosting our dealer meeting. We always look forward to coming. It's an absolute pleasure, and the Hagadone Marine Group has consistently been among our top 10 dealers.

"We've seen surveys of how the Hagadone Marine Group has treated customers. Once a customer buys from them, they become part of a family."

Cobalts have been sold in Kootenai County for about 30 years.

"Coeur d'Alene loves Cobalt boats, and I can tell you we are fired up about this visit (from the company and its dealers)," said Craig Brosenne, Hagadone Marine Group general manager.

Paul Nielsen of Hagadone Marine Group checks out the cabin of the Cobalt 336.

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