German automobile giant BMW is known worldwide for its luxury sports cars, SUVs and motorcycles, but it could earn a reputation in another vehicle category: boats. BMW has partnered with several boat designers and manufacturers to create new toys for the water, but it’s still too early to estimate their success. Does BMW have a legitimate future in boating? Let’s find out.
The Sundancer 370 Outboard
Designworks – a BMW Group company – is the organization leading the charge into boating. It partnered with American boat manufacturer Sea Ray in early 2021 to create a new boat called the Sundancer 370 Outboard. This boat is BMW’s biggest water-based project to date and could preview what the car company has in store for the future. These are the 2022 model’s main specifications:
- Class: Cruiser
- Hull Material: Fiberglass
- Length: 39 feet and 9 inches
- Weight: 21,008 pounds dry, 22,947 pounds total
- Bridge Clearance: 12 feet
- Fuel Tank: 250 gallons
- Capacity: three people
- Top Speed: 50.8 mph
- Longest Range: 201 miles
Designers said they wanted the boat to have four characteristics: sleek, confident, athletic and distinctive. At first glance, it contains hints of previous Sundancer models but has sharper lines and a more aggressive look overall. It looks more like a vessel built for high speeds than a luxury cruiser.
The four qualities the builders were looking for certainly come to mind when you approach the boat. The hull has innovative design features with their own new names, such as the S-sheer line, jawline and center crease.
These lines make the boat look more muscular and rugged, while the glass windshield goes all the way up to the hardtop canopy, allowing for better climate control and more comfortable driving. In fact, drivers describe the experience as yacht-like, as the boat delivered a smooth ride with few bumps and splashes.
Things get more luxurious once you step onboard – as expected for a BMW-influenced boat. The bow space is more open than usual for Sea Ray vessels, with plenty of seating and storage space. The stern also has comfortable, roomy seating, complemented by hardwood tables and surrounded by a powerful Fusion stereo system.
You enter the cabin from the port walkaround, where you’ll find a complete kitchen, bathroom and lodging for three. The stained hardwood and white fiberglass pair together remarkably well. A custom diamond pattern makes subtle appearances here and there, making it feel like a proper luxury vessel.
BMW has also established itself in the production of boat engines, most notably with Swedish diesel outboard company Oxe Marine. BMW agreed to provide engine blocks for the company’s 200-horsepower (hp) engines and collaborate on a new 300-hp engine that will be released in the near future.
The BMW logo and caption “In Cooperation With BMW” will appear on every device as a sign of the partnership’s long-term intentions. BMW officials said the partnership “offers the BMW Group a chance to re-enter the marine business after several years of absence.”
These partnerships with Sea Ray and Oxe Marine show that BMW is serious about increasing its influence in the boating industry. But what kind of success can a car company expect to have on the water?
Although BMW has the brand awareness and technological capabilities to make a splash in the boating industry, the industry itself might not have room for another power player. Like many other lines of business, boating is facing supply shortages that could inhibit the production of the Sundancer and Oxe engines.
As a result of the supply shortages, options are limited, prices are high and buyers often have less time to consider purchasing a boat before someone else snatches it up. This rush leads to risky agreements, incomplete documentation and an overall lack of trust between sellers and buyers. These factors might stifle the growth of BMW-related boating products that many buyers aren’t familiar with.
But we’re being pessimistic and premature. The Sundancer was only released in early 2021, and the new Oxe Marine engine isn’t even finished yet. It’s far too early to determine the success/failure of these products.
The most likely scenario is that BMW’s boating products will gain a niche following from wealthy buyers and luxury car enthusiasts looking to add to their collections. This group will be large and stable enough for BMW to dodge economic pitfalls and remain profitable, though further expansion will be difficult.
The Future Looks Bright… Enough
The Sundancer 370 Outboard has all the makings of a successful luxury cruiser and the partnership with Oxe Marine looks promising as well. The only thing stopping BMW from gaining influence in the boating industry is the industry itself. However, BMW has the reputation and resources to overcome subpar market conditions and attract a sustainable group of buyers.