For the Record: NMBA survey finds 4Q rise in lending

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Marine lenders continued to report increased activity in 2012, with 58 percent of respondents to a National Marine Bankers Association survey indicating volume was up year over year for the quarter that ended Dec. 31.

That was despite overall credit criteria tightening, 17 percent of respondents indicated, meaning that “those with strong credit profiles are leveraging it for a boat purchase,” the NMBA announced in a statement.

Similarly, 91 percent of those reporting believe that the first quarter of this year will produce new volume equal to or better than the same period last year. However, one-third of the lenders reported that their margins decreased in the fourth quarter of 2012 and the balance reported that margins were the same as in the prior year.

The increase in business could be considered surprising because these same lenders have reported a steady tightening of credit criteria throughout 2012.

Seventeen percent of the survey responses indicate that credit criteria were more stringent in the fourth quarter of 2012 than the previous period.

The data reflect three consecutive quarters of tightening, based on the NMBA member survey. To the contrary, lenders overwhelmingly reported consumer credit quality to be the same or better than the previous quarter, so those with strong credit profiles are leveraging it for a boat purchase.

The fourth quarter reflected a bump in new-boat finance activity from the fall shows, with 25 percent of the reporting lenders saying new-boat transactions accounted for more than 50 percent of their business.

This is comparable to the third quarter of 2011, when 29 percent of reporting lenders said new-boat transactions made up more than 50 percent of their loan volume for that period.

IBBI and GE Capital sign floorplan deal

GE Capital’s Commercial Distribution Finance business said in January that it signed an enhanced strategic floorplan financing agreement with Independent Boat Builders Inc., a major U.S. boat manufacturer buying group.

The program covers 21 builders that sell more than 40 brands. Cumulatively, Benton, Ill.-based IBBI manufacturers sell more boats in the United States than any other entity.

The new program provides qualified IBBI boat brand dealers in the United States and Canada with special vendor-subsidized financing programs and terms as well as a dedicated staff with extensive marine industry experience that’s committed to providing world-class customer service. Additionally, dealers will have access to COMS, GE Capital Commercial Distribution Finance’s proprietary online inventory finance management tool, and Analytics Online, which provides crucial information and insights about inventory finance management.

“It’s important for our dealer network to have access to inventory from our member-owners and to have a financing source that understands our distribution network,” IBBI president Tom Broy said in a statement. “GE Capital has the right industry expertise and the ability and willingness to offer flexible programs so our manufacturers and their dealer networks can reach their business goals.”

“IBBI member products are turning quickly at retail, and GE Capital is excited to announce a new agreement with this well-established group,” GE Capital Commercial Distribution Finance president Bruce Van Wagoner said in a statement. “This strategic program helps dealers manage their cash flow more efficiently as they acquire and stock the inventory they need to realize sales of the IBBI brands they represent.”

Discover Boating touts PR success

There were 1,400 stories about boating and the boating lifestyle in media outlets last year prompted by the efforts of Discover Boating, the group said after its 2012 tally of press coverage.

The coverage provided an estimated 110 million media impressions, the group announced.

Just three weeks into this year, the public relations team of the National Marine Manufacturers Association — the group that manages the national Discover Boating campaign — had secured 381 positive news stories about the marine industry, the lifestyle and shows.

“Public relations has been a significant element of Discover Boating and NMMA marketing efforts because it allows us to tell the boating story through a variety of media and communicate directly with the public in a meaningful way,” NMMA vice president of marketing Ellen Hopkins told Soundings Trade Only.

Discover Boating had success pitching a variety of topics, from “Top 10 Boating Destinations” to “How to Get Started,” she said.

“One of the areas discussed at length during the Growth Summit was the need to improve the sharing of information, resources and successes across the broader industry,” Hopkins said. “With Discover Boating and NMMA public relations specifically, there’s a lot of great work being done behind the scenes that sometimes only a board of directors knows about.”

“With so many platforms available for sharing our message — whether it’s social media like Twitter or YouTube, working with bloggers, traditional TV, newspapers, or magazines — we’ve been able to create a year-round national news machine to generate positive awareness for boating and our industry,” she said.

Holby Marine relocates under new owner

Roth Bilt Boats owner Tom Johnson said in January that his new company, Pilot Boats LLC, purchased the assets of Holby Marine, formerly based in Bristol, R.I.

The molds and tooling have been transported to Maine, where production will commence soon.

Johnson also announced a concurrent production agreement with Front Street Shipyard, which will be the builders of the full line of Pilot Boats for the newly created Pilot Boats LLC. The boats will be built in Belfast, Maine, at the main Front Street Shipyard facility.

The Pilot Boat product line consists of three sizes: Pilot 18, Pilot 20 and Pilot 24. The Pilot 18 and 20 are now available in a center console configuration. The Pilot 20 and 24 can be purchased as a cuddy cabin layout. The Pilot 20 and 24 have a Mark Ellis design; Ellis will continue in an advisory capacity for Pilot Boats.

“For the last 10 years we sold the Roth Bilt brand against Holby on a regular basis,” Johnson said in a statement. “Holby has a stellar reputation and possessed a nearly identical customer profile to Roth Bilt Boats. When the Holby opportunity arose, it was one of those unique opportunities to acquire a formative competitor, so I pursued this purchase vigorously. I am very pleased to own two well respected brands and have a partner like Front Street Shipyard to build Pilot Boats.”

Asked how the partnership with Pilot Boats LLC will fit with current projects, Front Street Shipyard president JB Turner responded, “The Pilot Boat line will give us another great opportunity to diversify the yard. We feel strongly that having a quality production line in our facility helps to showcase our multifaceted yard.”

Johnson said there will be changes to the Pilot models. Pilot Boats will begin production during the winter for delivery in the fall.

Brunswick signs deal with Seakeeper

In an agreement that runs through 2015, Seakeeper has been named the Brunswick Boat Group’s preferred supplier for stabilization systems.

Seakeeper’s actively controlled gyros will be offered as options, and projects are under way on the Hatteras 77 and several new Sea Ray and Meridian sport yacht, yacht and sedan bridge models in development, the company announced.

“Seakeeper sizes its gyro installations to reduce resonant boat roll by 60 to 80 percent, enabling owners to enjoy significantly more days on the water,” Seakeeper CEO John Kermet said in a statement. “With the combination of Brunswick Boat Group’s state-of-the-art vessels and our technologically advanced gyro stabilization systems, their customers will be among the happiest and most comfortable on the water.”

“We see this as a great path forward for our brands, as it enables us to offer a new value proposition to customers that enhances the enjoyment of their boats,” Sea Ray yacht sales vice president Larry Krestan said in a statement. “Seakeeper produces a superior product line, which fits well with our mission of delivering the latest technology to elevate the boating experience.”

Hodgdon Yachts delivers tender

Fifth-generation, family-run Maine boatbuilder Hodgdon Yachts said it delivered its fourth custom tender.

The 34-foot open tender is designed to match the Limousine tender the manufacturer delivered two months ago. Both were designed by Michael Peters Yacht Design of Sarasota, Fla.

The new open tender will join the superyacht of a northern European shipyard, Hodgdon Yachts said. The tender has seating for 12 and a Volvo D6-370 that delivers an estimated speed of 32 knots.

This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue.

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