Strength in numbers
It took Mercury Marine 24 years to sell its first million sterndrive units, but only 10 years to reach the second million — quite a testament for a product that was reluctantly brought to market and met with a cool reception by boat dealers, boat builders and the boating public at large.
Outboard power was king in 1961. Even though the new-fangled “inboard-outboard” (sterndrive) technology offered increased horsepower, it initially did not entice outboard loyalists. Mercury field product engineer John Bakos helped turn the tide, literally selling the first MerCruiser to dealers door to door from the back of a pickup truck. But it was his first-place finish in the renowned Miami-to-Nassau offshore boat race the same year that proved the reliability, speed and performance of the new power package. After that, boat builders took it from there.
The one-millionth MerCruiser unit rolled down the assembly line in Stillwater, Okla., in 1985 and was “christened” with a bottle of champagne by assembly workers. Things were different 10 years later. When the two-millionth sterndrive — a 454 EFI/MP Magnum engine coupled with a MerCruiser Bravo Three drive — was built in 1995, a celebration attended by 500 people was held at the Miami International Boat Show. Indianapolis 500 racing legend Mario Andretti, a MerCruiser customer, paralleled the traits required to win in racing and in business.
“To be a winner, you need the right equipment, attitude and total commitment,” Andretti said. “You also need to stay focused, be relentless, work hard and play by the rules. Consistency is the hallmark of a champion and when you think of the boating industry, the most consistent force ever has been Mercury Marine.”
Andretti autographed commemorative “Two-Million MerCruisers” hats and other racing memorabilia while sharing stories about his need for speed on land and on water.
Fittingly, the two-millionth MerCruiser was manufactured the same year (1995) its parent company, Brunswick Corporation, celebrated its 150th Anniversary. Despite slow sales due to the economy the past several years, MerCruiser remains a widely popular choice among boaters and boat builders. The three-millionth MerCruiser package was built in 2011.