- an RBBI White Paper
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U.S. Commercialization of Innovative, Propeller Driven, Recreational Marine Drive Designs

Some Thoughts From the Trenches

An RBBI White Paper

Polson Enterprises Research Services

by Gary Polson
originally published 2 June 2000
Copyright © 2000 by Polson Enterprises
A companion paper, "Propeller Driven Recreational Marine Drives: Learning from the Past with an Eye to the Future", can be reached from our RBBI White Paper Page.
We recently received the following e-mail message, "I heard from a friend's friend that Mercury is working on a new drive down at lake x.... have you heard anything??" This article is an outgrowth of our response and my experiences in the development of several marine drive designs.

Table Of Contents

Introduction & Scope

This article provides insights into the industry dynamics behind the process of moving new marine drive technologies from the drawing board to the marketplace. It separately discusses the challenges for drives being developed by the majors, by other large companies and by individuals or small firms. It does NOT address the technologies themselves.

In order to limit the size of the paper, we limited its scope to drives meeting these requirements:

  • Propeller driven
  • Mechanically powered
  • Recreational use (no racing drives)
  • For use as primary propulsion drives in 16 to 28 foot boats
    (no electric trolling drives)
  • Mass produced (over 500 units/year)
  • Made in the U.S.A. (not necessarily by a U.S. company)
  • Drives incorporating significant propulsion innovations
  • Drives launched or to be launched since 1980

A Historical Perspective, Major Innovative Marine Drives Since 1980

"Iron Fist, the Lives of Carl Kiekhaefer" by Jeffrey Rodengen covers the history of Mercury Marine history from the 1940's - 1980's and also presents an excellent historical overview of marine drives in general. One segment discusses the introduction of the stern drive.

Major propeller driven drive innovations since 1980 include:

  1. 1982 Volvo Duo Prop, the first production twin prop stern drive
  2. 1985 MerCruiser Alpha 1, the first drive manufactured in very high volumes
  3. 1989 Mercury Marine/Force L Drive, a through the bottom of the hull drive
  4. 1990's Honda four stroke outboards, the first production high horsepower, four stroke outboards
  5. 1991 Yamaha Hydradrive stern drive, the first hydraulic shifting stern drive
  6. 1994 MerCruiser Blackhawk, the first production twin prop surface piercing drive
  7. 1996 MerCruiser Black Trac, the first production two speed transmission
  8. 1996 Mercury OptiMax DFI two-stroke outboards
  9. 1997 OMC FICHT direct injection outboards
  10. 1997 Suzuki 4 stroke EFI outboards
  11. 1999 Yamaha VMax TRP outboard, the first production twin prop outboard

Now, let's test them against the criteria established for the scope of this paper.

Number Drive Accept/ Reject Why
1 Volvo Duo Prop REJECTED Built in Sweden
2 MerCruiser Alpha 1 REJECTED Incremental improvements
3 Mercury Marine/Force L-Drive ACCEPTED  
4 Honda four stroke OBs REJECTED Built in Japan
5 Yamaha Hydradrive REJECTED Built in Japan
6 MerCruiser Blackhawk REJECTED Low volume, sand cast, high performance unit.
7 MerCruiser Black Trac REJECTED This is a transmission, not a drive
May not have met the volume requirements
8 Mercury OptiMax DFI two-stroke OB REJECTED The drive still looks the same
9 OMC FICHT direct injection OB REJECTED The drive still looks the same
10 Suzuki 4 stroke EFI OB REJECTED Built in Japan
11 Yamaha VMax TRP OB REJECTED Built in Japan

That leaves the U.S. with a single entry, the now discontinued Mercury Marine/Force L Drive, for the last 20 years!

But Haven't They Been Making Improvements?

Yes, today's U.S. built drives exhibit numerous improvements in hydrodynamics, corrosion resistance, fuel efficiency, emissions reductions and durability. Outboards and stern drives are available in much higher horsepower packages than in 1980. Cost reduction efforts have kept drives affordable. Soft side issues (guarantees, warranties, express parts delivery, field diagnostics, serviceability) have improved. But conventional U.S. built inboards, outboards and stern drives still look the same with the possible exception of MerCruiser's Bravo Three which followed Volvo Penta's earlier efforts into the contrarotating propeller area.

Things are the same with inboards (inline and V-drives). Special engines have been developed for ski boats, and many incremental improvements have been introduced for inboards, but the drives still look the same.

New engine technologies abound: EFI, DFI, FICHT, four stroke outboards and other clean burning technologies. Technology resources (engineers, technicians and money) required in meeting emission regulations have consumed a large portion of R&D budgets leaving few funds for new drive development.

Great advances have been made in manufacturing processes, automation, quality control and in minimizing environmental wastes. New corrosion treatment processes (painting, dipping, plating) have replaced earlier less environmentally friendly processes. These advancements have resulted in much cleaner, more efficient manufacturing operations.

The answer is yes, today's drives are much better, but they still look the same.

High Cost of Entry

Even for firms already in the industry, engineering, tooling, manufacturing and associated costs to launch a new drive are astronomical.

The ability to die cast aluminum, cut gears and either manufacture or purchase large quantities of engines requires huge amounts of capital. Little guys can't get in. Konrad managed to get a toehold as a Mercury supplier and then started making their own stern drive unit. Several players make ski packages consisting of marinized engines and purchased transmissions, but the U.S. has settled down to three major drive manufacturers, one of which is the local presence of a Swedish firm (Volvo Penta).

Marinization is a core technology of U.S. stern drive manufacturers (MerCruiser & Volvo Penta). They take frequent new engines and engine changes from GM and adapt the components necessary to mount their stern drives. This is why they have high tech cad systems, rapid prototyping capabilities, in-house aluminum die casting, larger engineering, testing and purchasing departments than other mature industries. With the constant expense of ongoing marinization efforts, there is a strong tendency for manufacturers to spend the remaining engineering dollars on cost reduction efforts and incremental innovations.

For those pondering entering the industry, the added cost of constant marinization is a cost of entry not seen in other mature industries. Mature industries typically just keep on making the same widget over and over. Their engineering departments rarely contain a large number of Designers and Manufacturing Engineers, they are usually small departments with a few Industrial Engineers.

The need to establish a dealer network for sales and service or to become part of an existing one is a another staggering expense in both time and money.

One two sided advantage new entrants do have, is they do not have to support dozens of years of legacy drives in the field, but they do not receive the millions of dollars of service parts revenue generated by them either. Service parts revenue can be especially helpful when the market takes a downturn.

Long Time to Enter

It takes a long time to launch a new drive. Tooling alone can take years. In recent years, regimes have came and gone fast enough to disrupt a drive that might be in progress. For example the major upheaval at OMC may have unseated efforts there. Brunswick having problems trying to find a new leader with the departure of Reichert and now the move by Buckley could be disruptive to new drives in their system. New products this big need long term stability or at least a long term commitment.

The Birth Canal

The initial concept may come from a corporate setting, existing patent literature, personal experiences, or a racing heritage, but once the concept is generated, it must be further developed and tested. Once tested and proven a manufacturer is sought. There are three possible birth paths for new drives.
  1. "On the Inside": Designed & Built by major corporations currently in the industry
  2. "On the Outside Looking In": Designed by individuals or small firms seeking a licensing agreement with a major firm
  3. "All the Way On the Outside": Designed & Built by individuals and small firms or by large firms not currently in the industry

What is it Like Trying to Develop One on the Inside?

Capitalizing on innovations at large companies is very difficult. It is fairly easy for them to throw a few people and a little money at skunk works projects, but far more difficult to commit huge sums required to commercialize new products. Funds and people required to support constantly ongoing marinization efforts plus those consumed by ever increasing emissions regulations place a significant drain on R&D war chests. Little money is left for new drive development. All three firms are simultaneously involved in many other efforts under their corporate umbrellas. Funds are shifted to where they will do the most overall good.

Additionally, the industry is cyclic. Good times come and go. In good times manufacturers try to squirrel away profits to last through the rough times. In rough times they just hunker down and try to exist. The cyclic nature of the market is another reason the industry does not frequently commit to long term new drive development funds.

View From the Corner Office

In times of plenty, top executives in mature industries like the status quo. They think, "Things are going ok, why should I put my neck on the line for millions of dollars to bring a new product to production? If things go bad, I'll get canned." Right now, any dummy can look good in the corner office because the economy is so good. Why should they risk it?.

At Mercury Marine, you even have to back up further and look at it from the Brunswick standpoint. Things get even bigger and slower. Like most large conglomerates, Brunswick has a strong aversion to risk.They have done well over the years, but they have not introduced many major innovations of their own. Like several large firms, they grow by acquisition. If a great new drive begins to show up in the marketplace (I use the term marketplace instead of horizon, because there are currently many new drives already on the horizon and some have been there a while) they will either copy it or acquire the rights by license or acquisition.

On rare occasions, a feisty top executive at a large firm will champion a product and push in through the system. David Jones and the L Drive at Mercury Marine/Force was an example (See U.S. Patent #5,108,325). Could he do it again at OMC?

Speaking of feisty top executives, Carl Kiekhaefer set the example for others to follow. In the early days he personally pioneered many recreational and racing drive innovations. Today Mercury continues to "press the envelope" in the racing field, but racing drives are beyond the scope of this paper.

Good Ideas Are Hard to Kill

Not only is it hard for the majors to move innovative drive ideas to production, it is just as hard to kill them. Efforts in the same areas have gone on in the background at some firms for decades. These innovative drive concepts will never make it to production. They are trapped in limbo. Sometimes they drop out of sight a few years, but they resurface. They are just like the Energizer Bunny, they go on and on and on.

Bad Ideas Are Even Harder to Kill

Not all new drive concepts are good ones, or they may be for a segment too small to be economically feasible. Some, like Mercury's ill fated late attempt at entering the PWC market may have once been a good idea, but their time is past. Bad ideas are often even harder to kill than good ideas.

Low Cost Launch

Not all new drives are expensive to launch. Some are compositions of existing products. For example the twin prop drives required drive housing changes and new gears but still shared perhaps 90 percent of the existing parts. Considerable investment is still required, but much less than a more radical approach.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

It is well known in this industry, that if one firm adds a widget, everybody else's marketing department wants one too. This occurs not only at the drive level, but also for incremental improvements, accessories and soft side issues (longer warranties)

Sometimes in a Crisis

At the end of the great depression many major innovations surfaced as desperate last gasp hopes when many companies were fighting for their very existence. Long term back burner projects were launched with hope and a prayer.

Economic times are great now, even if a company was struggling like OMC a few years ago, they might be more interested in making themselves look better as an acquisition than long term existence. Companies in the boating industry are accustomed to the cyclical pattern of fast and famine tied to the economy. In bad times, they know they can hunker down a few years and the economy will pick back up. The "desperation launches" at the close of the great depression might not occur in a major downturn today.

Which of the Big Three Might Be Most Open to Innovation at This Time?

The three way oligopoly (Brunswick, OMC and Volvo Penta) somewhat parallels the automobile industry a few years ago when Ford, GM and Chrysler were at the mercy of an onslaught of Japanese competitors.

In Brunswick's case, their recent acquisitions, a down turn in the bicycle industry and legal expenses associated with the various lawsuits have been a major financial drain.

At OMC, the pressures to turn the business around and show profit, plus early on problems with the FICHT drives leave little room for R&D expenses.

Volvo Penta has a good track record of making major drive innovations, they launched the first stern drive and the duo prop. In more recent years they have released several product and soft side innovations: remote engine diagnostics, remote electronic engine controls, longer warranties, faster parts delivery, Kamewa water jet applications and several new industrial applications. Their willingness to accept risk was also recently demonstrated by the construction of a Volvo Penta plant in China. Financially, in addition to potential access to cash from the sale of Volvo's automotive unit, they avoided the huge expenses the other two players incurred trying to bring a line of outboard in compliance with upcoming emission regs.and even received a boost in sales from their recent lawsuit against Brunswick (BC boat builders to use Volvo engines in certain applications.)

These events combined with the current status of the other two players probably makes Volvo Penta the best innovative new product seedbed at this time, however a new entry by them might actually be manufactured outside the U.S.A.

What is it Like From the Outside Looking In?

The interaction between those on the outside trying to license new drives with Brunswick and OMC is similar to early day Christians being thrown to the lions. Innovators die with their products, at least with innovations in their early stages.

At first, we may think this is a bad way for Brunswick and OMC to operate, but if you or I were calling the shots it would be the same way. Or we would make a few rash decisions and be fired by the board.

Historically, most innovations are launched in small firms. These designs are either copied, licensed or acquired by larger firms.

Many times these ideas come from those currently employed at major firms in an industry. If the innovation is outside the scope of the company they are working for, or if the innovation is not pursued by their firm, they form their own company to develop the idea, or take the idea elsewhere. The stern drive was an example.

Another problem for those on the "Outside Looking In" is once a major manufacturer does cut a license with them, the design may become one of the "drives in limbo" discussed earlier and still never see the light of day.

In a Roundabout Way

The lack of major innovative product introductions does not make large firms evil. Besides making "me too" products affordable for the masses, they initiate and advance many innovations. They employ and train engineers, technicians and executives that often move to startup firms commercializing these ideas. Large firms frequently indirectly provide first round financing for startup firms as individuals risk their personal savings and pension funds in pursuit of their dreams.

Large U.S. boating industry firms may not recognize it, but the process actually helps them. When individuals leave to develop ideas, some are successful. The industry adopts them and boating becomes easier, more fun, less costly and more hassle free. Large firms either copy or acquire the ideas or benefit from the general increase in boating activity.

All the Way on the Outside

Possible new heavy weight entrants to the industry are occasionally mentioned. The list includes those now using similar manufacturing processes (building engines, die casting aluminum, and cutting gears), automotive manufacturers, motorcycle companies, gear box companies, and others.

One company specifically receiving mention in recent years is Toyota Marine. In fact, they showed a drive at the 2000 Tokyo International Boat Show. Toyota's twin prop drive strongly resembles earlier single prop Yamaha stern drives, which fits in with Toyota's recent "shareholding" in Yamaha.

Traditionally, startup efforts in a new industry are much more successful when they begin with an existing technology (existing drive design) than by trying to simultaneously launch their company into a new industry and a new technology (drive design). Combine this fact with the huge market share (over 80%) Mercury MerCruiser holds in the stern drive business and only two major full size stern drive players worldwide (Volvo Penta makes the OMC drives here in the U.S.) and you have a recipe that just about eliminates a successful external entry of a major innovative drive aimed at the mainstream stern drive market by anybody except the existing players with the possible exception an Ultra-Low Cost Launch (see below)

External Ultra-Low Cost Launch

Drives based on inline or V-drives, special rudders, hull modifications, surfacing existing designs, ducts on existing drives and tunnel or multi hulls often have very low tooling and startup costs compared to traditional drives. They purchase off the shelf drives, engines or transmissions and make the necessary hull, sheet metal, bolt on modifications and all of a sudden, they are "in the business". The Penn Yann tunnels were an example. The much lower entry bar is partially why so many of these drives are found in the patent literature.

Drives Requiring Hull Modifications

Many proposed new drives require major hull modifications in the transom area or to the bottom of the hull in addition to tunnels and other design modifications. It is very difficult for these drives to make it to the big time. Even inside Brunswick, the drive manufacturers and the boat companies do not get a long very well. Once you get past the first few big names, boat builders are often small concerns with little operating capital. They have invested large sums of money (for them) in molds for their existing hulls plus they have thoroughly tested their hulls with current drives for operating safely in many different conditions. They will need a very big carrot to change their hull designs. Most new drives cannot provide that carrot. New drives might actually have a greater potential for success if they require an entirely new hull design instead of hull modifications. The PWCs and Sport Jets are examples.

Can We Predict the Future?

Technology Forecasting is the science dealing with watching current products and trying to anticipate when their life might be over. Symbols of aging technologies are extensive cost reduction efforts, small incremental improvements being toasted as major events, the industry becomes regulated (like in the emissions area), near constant volumes and the lack of new players (no new companies entering the area). This seems to paint a pretty good picture of the marine drive field. Technological Forecasters watch the horizon for new developments in the area, usually at small firms. If you move our discussion a little wider than typical propeller drives, all of a sudden we seen the sport jets, PWCs and larger water jets making major inroads in recent years. Patent databases contain a large number of new concepts from the major players as well as small firms and individuals. Numerous methods have been proposed, but none have risen to the surface. Here at Polson Enterprises, we have been involved in several of these efforts. Many are seeking the Holy Grail, the next new major marine drive design.

Today's Driving Forces

Current research investments in battery powered vehicles, hybrid vehicles, fuel cells, marine gas turbines and other power technologies may result in new forms of marine power. Some may require new drive designs.

Non-traditional hull forms (hydrofoils), new drive materials (composites) and new hull forming technologies (SCRIMP, VEC manufacturing process) along with developments in larger ship propulsion technologies might be the impetus for one of the majors to eventually launch a major new drive?

Emissions limits, rising costs of fuel, styrene emission problems during forming hulls with today's methods, the anti-PWC movement, the environmental recovery of several lakes and rivers once lost to pollution, concerns about propeller injuries and manatee strikes plus many new competing alternative leisure activities are all serving to shape the face of boating. Change brings opportunity.

A new hull type (RIBs) now being produced in large numbers by several manufacturers has certainly opened some possibilities. These relatively low cost hulls are easier to adapt to new configurations than traditional fiberglass hulls.

The ability to dynamically simulate hull forms, drives, rudders and propeller designs is now in the hands of many. New drives can be simulated before they are built. Once a drive is built and some data is obtained, computers can be used to optimize the next prototype and greatly reduce the amount of time required to tune drive parameters.

With only one major new drive being introduced by U.S. manufacturers in the last 20 years, a pent up backlog exists. Several drive designs have been knocking on the door for a long time. In addition, modern technologies, like those described above,have created more drive ideas in recent years than ever before.

Mercury Marine and OMC have both fought with the issue of direct sales of small drives and service parts to major retailers. Dealers feel as if they are being bypassed. Some new drive development efforts might be aimed at a unique product for this market.

Other major driving forces are foreign competition and the excellent state of the local economies in the U.S. and Sweden (Volvo).

These forces are trying to push dozens of drive concepts through the pipe of the three major U.S. drive manufacturers. The push from the rising forces has created a very high pressure. The combination of several emerging technologies, current U.S. entrepreneurial spirit and the increased organization of venture capital and angel money has provided a Genesis broth from which even more drive designs are being conceived. Maybe one of them will bust through?

What Features Might Be in New Drive?

Typically new innovations solve the old problems and answer some additional ones as well. In this case we could expect some help in the areas of:
  • Lower manufacturing costs
  • Planes at lower speeds
  • Improved visibility coming on plane
  • Capable of long term trolling
  • Improved salt water resistance
  • Quieter
  • Smaller
  • Lighter
  • Recyclable
  • Fuel efficient
  • Easier Winterization
  • Easier field installation
  • No need for "closed cooling"
  • Runs on alternative fuels
  • Prevents propeller injuries
  • Reduced prop impact damage
  • Manatee safe
  • Easier to drive on a trailer
  • Remote diagnostics
  • Minimal hull modifications
  • Automatic transmission
  • Drives like a car (gas pedal and brake pedal, high steering force at low speeds and low steering force at high speeds)
  • Easily maneuverable at slow speeds
  • Sideways maneuverability
  • Reverse maneuverability
  • Nice looks / stylish
  • Modular serviceability (large modules easily snap out and in)
  • Smoothly integrated with the engine and hull
  • Easy to customize and build to order
  • Ability to remove the drive from the water (corrosion & bio growth) when stored
  • Automatically controlled (trim, steering, speed coordination)
  • Ability to run stopped down (you can turn off a some of the cylinders)
  • One drive does both recreational and commercial duty with minimal modifications
  • Safe in any hull at any speed (at least safer than existing drives)
  • Adaptable to a wide range of engines from several manufacturers
  • Obviously, a new drive will not incorporate all these features, but we would expect it to have several of them.

    How Might These Be Accomplished?

    Some concepts in the literature are:

  • Tunnel drives
  • Cats & Multi-hulls
  • Hydraulic driven drives
  • Ducted props
  • Surfacing propellers
  • Inclined surfacing propellers
  • Composite gear cases
  • New u-joint type technology
  • Belt driven stern drives in composite gear cases
  • Dual propeller with only one prop engaged at takeoff
  • Combining outboard engines and stern drives with the engine inside the boat
  • New mechanisms for suspending the drive from or through the transom
  • Drives with the "leg" mounted through the base of the hull
  • If a New Drive Was Introduced, Would it Be Accepted?

    The only drive to meet our criteria, the Mercury Marine/Force L Drive received a great deal of fanfare and awards, but failed to have staying power (1989-1991); however, many are still in use. Others have patented drives utilizing some of the concepts, but no one currently mass produces one.

    New technologies go though an S shaped Life Curve just like new products. They incubate, expand, and level off at maturity. Then a new technology comes on the scene and they decline. Technological Substitution is the term used to describe the process by which one technology replaces another (such as glass milk bottles being replaced by paper cartons and then later, the paper milk cartons being replaced by plastic jugs.)

    The adoption rate of a new technology is:

    1. Proportional to the amount of benefit enjoyed by the new technology over the old
    2. Inversely proportional to the cost of the new technology (product cost)
    3. Inversely proportional to the cost of implementing the new technology (capital cost)
    4. Proportional to a coefficient specific to the industry in question
    Studies of past major adoptions in the recreational marine industry (fiberglass hulls replacing wood, power steering replacing manual steering, stern drives replacing in-line drives) have determined the coefficient for this industry, like most, has remained constant.

    The problem in our case, is trying to get the right projects launched in the first place! The very high difficulty of launch in the marine drive industry has caused many potential technologies to stack up both inside and outside the portfolio of the major players.

    Must the Next New Drive Have a Propellers?

    Two of the most successful entries in recent years, PWCs and Sport Jets, were not traditional propeller based designs. The next successful drive certainly does not have to be propeller driven. Dozens of non-propeller based designs have been proposed: crawling tracks, vertical flapping panels, true fish propulsion, advanced water jets, partially submerged jets, paddle boats (river boats), MHD drives (remember Red October?), hydraulic drives, water jet or fan propelled air cushion vehicles, nano propulsion and many others. However, if you think it is difficult to get an audience with one of the major producers or a group of venture capitalists with a new propeller drive, wait till you try to find an audience for one of these. Its always difficult to break a paradigm.


    Back to the question that launched this dialog, Mercury is probably working on one or more new drives at Lake X or somewhere elsewhere. It (or they) may be a new configuration or based on a concept they have been investigating for several years (see their patent portfolio). This entire discussion indicates if the drive spoken about in the e-mail really exists, it will either:

    1. Never surface
    2. Be regulated into effect (such as prop guards or a manatee safe drive)
    3. Make it though the system as a composition of existing parts
    4. Bubble to the surface elsewhere
    5. Be produced by being championed by someone high up at Mercury or Brunswick
    6. Be a high performance unit that never makes it to the general recreation market in large quantities.
    7. Be launched in a major economic downturn?
    8. It could be a custom or branded unit for a major sales outlet
    9. Be virtually launched (be announced and then pulled back like their PWC program)
    10. The new technology is so awesome it stands on its own (this does not happen very often)

    Time will tell.

    Vote for the Most Innovative Drive Company

    Now its your turn to be heard. Please use the form on the left to vote for the firm you think is currently the most innovative, regardless of where their products are manufactured.

    Please, no ballot box stuffing!


    Please click on the mailbox at left and let us know what you think of this article and include any comments or suggestions you may have for features that should be incorporated in the "next generation" drive. We welcome an active discussion. If we post your comments , we will remove your name and company affiliation.

    Comments From Our Readers

    Date: 23 May 
    From: B....
    To: polsong@virtualpet.com
    Hey there Gary...
    ... this may be off topic, but I heard from a
    friend's friend that Mercury is working on a new drive down at lake x....had
    the drive on a Sea Ray.
    some sort of ducted fan...definitely not a "leg" out the back of the transom
    have you heard anything??
    RBBI Response -
    The email above is the one that inspired this white paper.
    Date: Tue, 23 May 2000 From: B.... To: polsong@virtualpet.com Subject: Hey there Gary: Thanks for taking the time to comment. I agree w/ your position. They own the market with the various sterndrives and will own it for the next ten years. If they did have "next gen" drive unit, anyone with any brains would continue to tweak it and keep it under wraps...ride the $$$ wave with the existing "leg drive" until you are forced to play the ace and then obliterate the competition (Toyota , Volvo or whoever) with the new unit. I see these Z drives on tugs and just think they would be cool in a rec boat. thanks again RBBI Response- When I responded to the original inquiry with some thoughts parallel to this paper and told them I was going to further organize my thoughts into a paper, they sent the response above.
    Date: Fri, 2 Jun 2000 From: Wayne To: Rec. Boat Building Ind. Subject: White Paper Gary, liked your paper on stern drives, was very informative and entertaining. I would like to see more research being done on multi-speed stern units transmissions) and really would like to see more effort done in the area of jet propulsion ( maybe for pontoon types etc.) I enjoy your updates and you have a great website that is up to date and full of real world info.....THANKS !!
    Date: Fri, 2 Jun 2000 From: Jay" To: "'polsong@virtualpet.com'" Subject: U.S. Commercialization of Innovative, Propeller Driven Recreation al Marine Drive Designs Gary Good article! The drives that are interesting right now are the new Bravo XR (2000/) Not much info....Are they shipping? and the Weismann Surface Drive shown on Speedvision www.weismann.net Also not mentioned was the Yamaha hydraulically shifting stern drive. (now defunct) But after all that theorizing, there was nothing new and the prospect of something new seemed bleak. What no leaks to the press? Where is the smart drive that is tied to engine management, water conditions, load sensing? A stern drive that could trim out, in and up to result in a more virtual X-dimension mounting spec? Everyone is still following Volvo Penta and I expect they will continue to do so. RBBI Response - Yamaha Hydradrive - Whoops! Yes, I forgot that one. That's odd, because I once helped tear one into a million pieces (on purpose). I just added it to the list. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    Prospect of Something New - Up front we said the paper was about industry dynamics behind trying to commercialize new marine drive technologies. We did not start out to discuss the technologies themselves. But, thanks for the comment. I went back to the lead in and tried to make it more obvious. Also, I captured your suggestion of covering some of the new technologies and we may be able to at least cover some of the patented attempts in a future article. Just a note - we did recently print a 3 volume book on contrarotating drive technologies.

    Leaks to the Press - I am currently engaged in supporting several efforts in this area. We sign non-disclosure documents and leave all decisions about leaks to the firms developing the drives.

    Date: Sat, 3 Jun 2000 21:55:22 EDT From: B.... To: polsong@virtualpet.com Subject: Re: New marine drives paper completed Hey there Gary: Nice job on the paper...hard to fault the logic. I didn't read any mention of the new privateer jet drive unit with a rotating nozel that spins 360. I have forgotten their name and have tossed their literature, but it did seem interesting. I want a traditional inboard drive (simple) that can be trimmed 4 - 6 degrees up just to get better speed....need to get 6 - 8 mph more to be successful to me. This drive is a hull mod / parts off the shelf sort of drive. Could be pushed by an OEM for a niche market. The other is a ducted "fan" sort of drive...belt driven down thru the hull and around the perimeter of the duct. This drive could rotate 90 / 90 for great steering, trim vertically / and also on an angle...whatever works. Lotsa drag with that cowling down there,but still cool to think about late at night. Not all drives have to go fast. Intl hydrofoilers society...sometimes I think these guys have the idea...gotta watch for coral heads ect, but still way cool...I'd like to do a 14' alum boat version just to "tag that base" http://users.erols.com/foiler/ enough for now...hope you enjoyed the weekend. RBBI Response - The note is from the person that originally inspired the article, after they read it. Again, still seems to be a little confusion about the intent of the paper. We set out to cover the industry dynamics behind trying to launch a new drive technology, not to cover the technologies themselves.
    Date: Mon, 05 Jun 2000 From: XXX To: Gary Polson Subject: Re: RBBI white paper/Commercializing new drives Hi Gary! Great paper! ... It's a tough row to hoe bringing something new to market and I am convinced that very few people are willing to pay the personal and professional price that has to be paid to get a new concept funded and production launched within a large company. .... ... I am almost, but not completely convinced, that it simply cannot happen from within. It must come from without or perhaps way out.
    Subject: RE: Innovative Marine Drives white paper Date: Tue, 6 Jun 2000 From: D... To: "'Gary Polson'" Gary, Thanks for sending me your white paper. It's fascinating. However, I feel that rejecting innovations because the "drive looks the same" is inane. That's like saying today's nuclear attack subs aren't a significant technological advance over W.W.II diesel subs because they look the same. Well so what? PS: As an editor, I feel I must tell you. It's A historical perspective, not AN historical perspective. Use the word AN before a word starting with H only when the H is silent as in honest and honorable. History, Hospital, Heretic all require the word A rather than AN. Keep the good work coming. ... RBBI Response - I rejected some of the innovations "because the drive looks the same" because I was trying to identify truly paradigm breaking drive innovations such as the stern drive, sport jet, pwc, etc. The paper is discussing how truly new technologies, not incremental improvements find their way through the system. Thanks for the writing A/AN tips, I changed it.
    Date: Wed, 21 Jun 2000 From: Jim To: polsong@virtualpet.com Subject: White Paper Good Morning Gary, Thanks much for the copy of the "white paper", I read it with interest. ... I couldn't take exception to anything you wrote, that was saying it as it is.

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