Consumer satisfaction is one of the buzzwords of the big corporations these days but what this actually equates to when it reaches the customer seems to vary considerably. One of my most memorable examples happened in the early ‘90s after I purchased second-hand a low kilometre Toyota 4WD and the motor broke a push rod about a year later at 85,000 km.
My mechanic informed me that Toyota advised that they had never seen that problem before so I decided to write them a letter asking for a contribution to the parts used in repairs. Imagine my surprise when I received a letter from them acknowledging my importance as a customer and covering the entire repair costs!
An example like this tends to set a precedent when products that don’t quite live up to expectations come along. Being considered a ‘high public profile’ user of such an item adds another important factor to the equation.
With any items I use on a day-to-day basis, clients constantly want to know why a particular hook/reel/sounder/outboard is favoured, while magazine readers and TV watchers make similar enquiries from my frequent media forays. This may explain why high profile guides and writers in the USA have tackle and boating companies falling all over them to use and endorse their products!
Of course, Australia doesn’t come close in respect to the huge recreational fishing industry in the States. However, when you have plenty of promotional ‘runs’ on the board with a particular company after using their product exclusively for 7 to 8 years, you’d expect that they might like to keep your business!
So, what happens when a very costly major breakdown, just out of the warranty period, follows a couple of smaller niggling problems, taking into consideration that, in the past, a number of items of the same model as the faulty product have had no comparable problems? You do what any other unhappy consumer would do and contact the company.
I don’t wish to reflect on what happened next, only to say that for the 2005 guiding season, my boats have all changed outboard brands. The three craft in my fleet now sport Suzuki 4-stroke motors!
I had been reluctant to consider 4-strokes because of a bad experience early in my Weipa career. Minor and major problems over a 15-month period on an early model 4-stroke amounted to more down time than I’d experienced in over a decade of guiding, so it was back to the ever reliable 2s!
The other problem was the weight of the average 4-stroke, which is as much as 80% more than its 2-stroke counterpart. The extra weight on the transom would obviously cause the hull to sit lower in the water, inhibiting its ability to get into the skinny stuff or cross shallow creek mouths at low tide.
Sure, the fuel consumption figures and significantly longer engine life were very attractive but the memories of the 4-stroke fuel related problems I’d experienced frequently, as had other owners to whom I’d spoken, were hard to overcome. It was not until I started hearing about some startling engine life figures from a couple of commercial operators that my opinions started to change.
Deciding earlier this year on building another custom Hooker 5.9 for the 2005 season was the easy part, what power to use a little more complicated. My enquiries seemed to point in one particular direction – Suzuki 4-strokes. After much agonizing, the new hull was duly fitted with a high transom and extra long shaft 115HP Suzi.
Some 6 months and over 500 hours down the track, I can report that the Suzuki has changed my view of 4-stroke motors forever. Apart from being whisper quiet and smooth, yet responsive off the mark, the fuel consumption is comparable to the 70HP 2-stroke!
This fuel consumption is achieved at a significantly faster rate than before. At 4,600 revs, boat speed is 25 knots, at 5,000 around 30 knots, with top speed of 36 knots at 5,800.
My clients are arriving at destinations 30% faster than before, which means more fishing time and an extra drink when it’s beer o’clock! I’m burning about the same fuel, an important factor with today’s soaring prices, so everybody is happy.
The weight issue that caused so much angst proved to actually be a bonus! Yes, the extra transom weight caused the Hooker to sit a little lower in the water but the improved bow-up ‘attitude’ of the boat under power made the hull much drier in windy conditions and seemed to enhance the overall ride.
The Hooker 5.9 just loves rough water and the big Suzuki handles the bumps no problems when the occasion arises. Conversely, when trolling at low revs, the smoothness and quietness of the motor combined with ‘oily rag’ fuel usage demonstrates its welcome versatility.
I routinely use a Minn Kota electric when lure casting the mangrove creeks but the quietness of the motor in such a closed location is another distinct advantage over similar 2-strokes. This can make a difference when the motor is being used to position or move the boat against the tide or wind and fish become spooked by the activity.
When you fish around 200 days a year, the life of a 2-stroke is only one season and the motor has virtually no resale value at the end. With 4-strokes regularly lasting 3 to 4 times the engine hours before needing a rebuild, the extra capital investment in purchasing a 4-stroke starts to look very cost effective indeed.
It’s fairly obvious that the guides here at Dave Donald Sportfishing are all very impressed with their new Suzuki outboards. My only regret is that we didn’t make the change sooner!
1) The Suzuki/Hooker 5.9 combination has proved to be very popular with the author’s guiding operation.
2) A couple of hard-working clients powered by Suzuki.Reads: 467