Brunswick Corp., which operates the Sea Ray Boats plant at Forks of the River Industrial Park in Knoxville, TN, announced Tuesday that it will cease operations at that plant by the end of the year, ending 225 jobs there.
However, the company’s plant in Vonore, TN will remain open as Brunswick pursues a plan to consolidate all production of its Sea Ray brand at that facility and at its plant in Palm Coast, Fla.
The closing will end a prominent presence Sea Ray Boats has had at Forks of the River. In 2009, Sea Ray Boats closed two plants there and cut 540 jobs. That year it also put one of its idled plants up for sale.
In a prepared statement, Brunswick outlined the closing of the Sea Ray plant as part of a strategy to revamp its Bayliner product portfolio and consolidate all its U.S. cruiser production. Brunswick will introduce new Bayliner models, focus production at its Brazil operations and suspend sales and production of Bayliner models outside of South America.
“This strategic repositioning of Bayliner further reduces the need to maintain the Brunswick Boat Group’s current cruiser production capacity in the U.S., particularly in view of current market weakness for cruisers,” Andrew E. Graves, president of Brunswick Boat Group, said in a statement.
The U.S. boat market has improved, but the recovery has been uneven across brands, Dustan E. McCoy, Brunswick chairman and CEO, said in a statement.
“While sales of smaller boats, such as popular fishing boats and pontoons, have improved, demand for cruisers and larger boats remains weak,” McCoy said. “We believe this is due to a number of factors, including continuing economic uncertainty as well as a cautious and evolving consumer.”
Brunswick estimates consolidation of its U.S. cruiser production will save the company $10 million to $12 million per year.