Pontoon start-up didn’t work as planned
By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
On Dec. 3, approximately 50 – 60 people were laid off from Larson Boats in Little Falls. President Rob Parmentier and Chief Financial Officer Steve Christensen both said it was due to, in part, to the economy and in part to issues with the company’s new line of pontoons.
“Larson Boats was busy coming up with a new product,” said Christensen. “We were hiring at that time in anticipation of 300-400 pontoon orders. We only received 70.”
There were issues with the product, said Christensen, and the company got a black eye because of it.
The issues included the pontoon leaning to the right or left when it should have been more stable.
Not just pontoon workers at Larson Boats were laid off, but people in sales, customer service and other areas. The problems affected the entire plant.
More layoffs are pending.
“The pontoons are running well now, the issues have been corrected and we have more dealers on board since the MDC Boat Show in Orlando, Fla., in November,” said Parmentier. “We are now ready for the winter boat shows.”
The boating industry took a huge hit with the downturn in the economy. Its heyday was in 2006, and since then, sales of inboard/outboards and runabouts have declined 70 percent.
People have gravitated to pontoons because of the ability to seat more people, the boat’s safety record and that it’s easier to accommodate both the elderly and small children.
“Fishing boat lines are doing better than before and we are now putting money into that product development,” said Christensen. “Larson offers both the FX freshwater and the Striper saltwater fishing boat.”
Christensen said other excellent lines, along with the pontoon, will be new in 2015.
“We are hoping our customers and dealers will be patient as we work out these issues,” said Parmentier.