Brunswick to sell BNT, Ben Baffled
Well, I’ll be damned! The very unexpected news is that Brunswick now plans to sell much of Brunswick New Technologies, specifically the marine electronics bundle of Northstar, Navman and MX Marine plus Navman’s non-marine operations. This plan seemingly torpedos my notion that electronics, engine, and boat builders must follow the Brunswick lead and become closely intertwined as all their products become more integrated. What don’t I understand about this picture?
Later today: Of course I’ve called a few folks in the industry; in this little world, Brunswick’s announcement is a big deal, and, it turns out, anticipated by no one I know. You’d think that Raymarine and Maptech might be celebrating; I believe they’ve both been living in fear of losing substantial business if and when Brunswick boatbuilders standardised their helms on Brunswick electronics. But there are way too many uncertainties to this deal. For starters, it’s odd that Brunswick has only announced a desire to sell Navman/Northstar, not the buyer. Some players are fearful that that buyer will be Garmin, others that it will be Raymarine. Or maybe it’s a red herring, and only Navman’s non-marine business will actually get sold (which makes plenty of sense).
As for me, it’s too bad that my recent PMY electronics columns aren’t online (it’s a manpower issue, and I’m told they’ll all go up eventually), because then I could illustrate my embarrassing bafflement with a couple of links. The main one would be my March column about the Northstar 8000i, where I described how it’s taken a few years for Brunswick to digest Northstar and Navman, how these names—now really two brands used by the same global team of developer/manufacturers—have to compete for business within Brunswick as well as without, and, finally, how the 8000i looks like the system that might realize former (good point, Russ, below) Brunswick CEO George Buckley’s vision of a totally integrated boat, and thus win BNT a big chunk of Brunswick business. I’d also have to link you to the current May issue of PMY, where I take a look at Lowrance and wonder if its acquisition by Altor, along with Simrad and a boatbuilder closely associated with Volvo, might be the beginning of a Nordic version of Brunswick. Oy, I even finished with some noodling about “how Brunswick’s electronics and engine divisions are coming together in a seamless, possibly impenetrable, fashion…” May I hereby add: Or not!