The name says it all: Bar Crusher. These plate aluminium, trailerable sportfishers are made to endure (well, crush actually) gruelling bar crossings and the sometimes nasty conditions hardcore anglers encounter while out on the bluewater or when running back to harbour. It’s a good choice of name.
Back in the late 1990s, brothers Warren and Peter Cleland noticed a gap in the marine industry. “We felt many of the larger boat manufacturers were making a middle-quality, mass-produced product,” says Peter. “We observed a lot of boats being put on the market where the customer’s experience wasn’t great and the packaging wasn’t done well – the boat wouldn’t go on and off the trailer well, or didn’t have the right prop, or was underpowered to meet a price point.”
Peter says at the time, the marine industry was lacking boats built for specific purposes, especially for hardcore fishos. “This niche wasn’t being serviced so we went about setting up a business to do that. We had a look around, came up with some designs we felt were suitable for the purpose, and worked hard to create a product that did those things, focusing the whole time on building a premium-quality, better-performing boat to satisfy buyers who wanted to be a bit more adventurous and perhaps take their boats out in rougher weather.”
In 1999, the brothers launched their brand Bar Crusher Boats. Success came early and the business has grown steadily to become possibly the largest manufacturer by volume of plate aluminium fishing boats in Australia. Twelve years on, Bar Crusher can safely lay claim to being one of the country’s iconic brands in the hardcore fishing boat segment and is renowned for building premium-quality, great-performing boats.
The first innovation Bar Crusher brought to market was its Quickflow water ballast system. Simply put, it employs a hole under the pod at the rear where water pours in when the boat stops, reducing the buoyancy and dropping the boat down on its chines. “This allowed us to build a deep-vee hull that would be quite stable as a fishing platform,” says Peter, adding: “Traditionally, without water ballasting, deep-vee hulls tended to be a bit tender at rest … they’d pitch and roll.”
More recently, the innovative Gen2 hull design (launched in March, 2013), with its distinctive Delta Flare, is being phased into the Bar Crusher range and will gradually be available across all models.
To describe the typical customer Bar Crusher attracts, Peter uses an analogy from the motorcar industry: “Your first car is going to be something basic. Down the track, if you’re going camping or whatever you’re doing, your car might be a 4WD or a vehicle built for a specific purpose that will perform better for whatever you’re going to use it for. And as your financial capacity grows, you might put a few more dollars in and buy something a bit better.
“After someone’s had several boats they’ll often get to the point where they’re going a bit further offshore or going out in rougher weather. They want a more durable boat they can use and abuse that will give them better performance. A lot of entry-level boats just don’t perform that well whereas, in our boats, if you’re running down the face of a wave or you’re running home in rough weather, they will give you a margin of safety because they do perform well and they’re good for their purpose.
“In any segment of the market, you can’t underestimate the sophistication of the buyer. Our customers generally have had a number of boats, they research wisely and buying a boat is a high-involvement decision.
“They’re not entry-level buyers and accordingly we have to make sure we’re satisfying their requirements. We sell a tool for fishing, and our customers are quite passionate about their hobby and quite specific in what they want.”
Peter can’t emphasise enough the importance of building a really good product, having a consistent approach to the brand and how it’s represented, fostering a company culture of inspirational leadership with a clear understanding of purpose, and creating demand through happy customers – qualities which he says are paramount to the business’s success.
“Every time someone buys one of our boats it’s a bit special. That person decided to spend good money on a boat and has put their faith and trust in us that we’re going to build a great boat for them and stand behind it. You can’t take that for granted. You’ve got to continue to work on that trust and faith in the product, and we’ll never lose sight of that.”
Bar Crusher’s relationship with its dealers is equally important. “Our dealers are at the coalface and the way they approach things is very important to the brand and to the customer,” explains Peter. “We try for consistency in the way our dealers operate and like everybody, we want to ensure our product is represented appropriately so that the brand experience at the retail level is consistent with what the brand communicates.”
Bar Crusher isn’t Warren and Peter’s first joint venture, having been involved in several successful businesses together over the past 30 years. The boys grew up with boats in the family and have ‘mucked around’ with all sorts of boats since they were little. While they don’t manage to get on the water as often as before they started building Bar Crushers, the Cleland brothers thoroughly appreciate the Aussie marine industry.
“It’s a wholesome industry. We’re interacting with people who love the outdoors, love fishing and boating,” says Peter. “Not just the customers – our dealer group, too. It’s a great industry to be in and we enjoy being a part of it.”
Aussie-made Bar Crusher Boats are designed and manufactured in Dandenong South, Victoria. Contact: Bar Crusher Boats, tel: (03) 9792 2999. Web: barcrusher.com.au.