In Uncertain Times, You Can Rely on Dealership Certification

By Thom Dammrich

At present, as an industry and as individual businesses, we’re facing one of the toughest economic periods we’ve ever experienced. Consumer confidence is down, people feel plagued with uncertainty about their jobs and their futures, and when you do find a buyer, you can’t get them credit. The result: Not as many people are buying boats. But, as the old adage urges, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

In the toughest of economic times, that’s when we really have an opportunity to shine; to make the best of a seemingly impossible situation and find the proverbial “silver lining” in that dark cloud. Marine Industry Dealership Certification can certainly be that lining, and now we’re making it even easier for dealerships across the country to discover just how beneficial it is—to their businesses and the consumer—to pursue Marine Industry Certification.

We want our industry to continue providing the best experience possible for the customer, while at the same time making it easier and more affordable for dealerships to get certified—without lowering program standards.

Some changes have recently been made to the Marine Industry Dealership Certification program that are intended to make it more inviting and accessible for you, the dealer, to get involved now and be primed and ready when the economy finally takes its turn for the better.

There are three major changes that have been announced to the program, effective September 24, 2008, with the aim of simplifying the certification process (and related costs) for dealerships—whether you’re enrolling in the program for the very first time, or are seeking re-certification.

Here’s a quick look at what’s “new and different” in the program:

  • For dealerships seeking their initial Marine Industry Certification, a Launch Workshop has been developed that can be attended via the Internet. Traditional, face-to-face Launch Workshops will still be offered, but the “webinar” option provides dealerships with a more convenient, cost-effective means of taking the first steps toward become Marine Industry Certified minus the concern of associated travel costs, taking valuable employees away from the dealership at critical times, etc.
  • Dealerships looking to continue their annual certification under the Marine Industry Dealership Certification program have a choice, too: They can either elect to have a traditional, boots-in, on-site visit at the standard cost of $2,495, or, as a new alternative, choose to complete Certification Continuation via an online webinar at the reduced price of $1,495 (there is, however, some quarterly reporting that goes along with this approach).
  • The program’s grace period has been extended. A temporary, one-time, six month grace period has been added to the latest certification anniversary of every Certified Dealership. This one-time grace period applies to all existing Certified Dealerships, as well as those earning their certification within the next six months.

All three of these changes are designed to reduce the cost of certification and continuing annual certification for dealerships at a time when they need it most. Actual program requirements are as rigorous as ever, and dealerships making the personal, professional and financial commitment to achieve Marine Industry Dealership Certification can still tout the same benefits of the designation to consumers.

Our aim behind the recent changes is to help even more dealerships realize the program’s value by making it easier for them to get involved—and stay involved. Being able to differentiate yourself from other related businesses is a valuable leg-up on the competition, and Dealership Certification provides that competitive edge. We hope instituting these recent changes will convince more dealerships that now more than ever, it’s time to join the certified ranks!

Since the Marine Industry Dealership Certification program was officially launched in November 2005, more than 435 dealerships have achieved “Marine Industry Certification.” Based on estimates of approximately 4,000 boat and engine dealers in the U.S. (an exact figure is not presently known), that means in three years time, we’ve managed to certify about one tenth of the entire recreational marine dealer body.

Having nearly one out of every ten dealerships certified in this relatively short period is nothing less than impressive, not to mention all the good things it says to consumers about our industry’s level of professionalism and commitment to excellence!

The full list of Marine Industry Certified dealerships is available on both GrowBoating.org and DiscoverBoating.com. The “Find a Certified Dealer” area of DiscoverBoating.com is now one of the sites’ Top 10 most visited pages.

For additional information about the Marine Industry Dealership Certification program or specific details regarding how to enroll, contact Terry Leitz at (312) 946-6500; tleitz@nmma.org.

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