Sales of aluminum fishing and pontoon boats buoyed the boatbuilding industry again in September as the fiberglass market continued to struggle.
Sales of aluminum pontoon boats rose 12.8 percent for the month, to 787 boats, compared with September 2010, and sales of aluminum fishing boats climbed 7.6 percent, to 1,324 boats, according to figures compiled by Aarn Rosen, national marine sales manager at Statistical Surveys Inc.
Together, the categories, comprising aluminum boats 16 feet and larger, produced 2,111 sales, 8.7 percent more than in the same month a year earlier, in early reporting states. The sales information is based on registration data from 26 states, or 62 percent of the U.S. boat market. Reports on sales of documented vessels were incomplete because of data entry delays at the Coast Guard.
Rosen says one reason aluminum boats have been selling well is that there are fewer obsolete boats in the sales channel. The aluminum market was the first one to be hurt when boat sales slumped, he says. Aluminum boats also “have lower price points, which is appealing to the customers that can afford to buy a boat,” he says.
Rosen said pontoon boat sales also have benefited from an improved economy in some states. “Michigan is the leading pontoon state, and the automotive companies are recovering,” he says.
Through September, pontoon boat sales had risen 11.3 percent, to 14,478 boats, and sales of fishing boats were up 6.3 percent, to 17,444 boats.
Sales of aluminum boats smaller than 16 feet fell 18.1 percent for the month, to 677 boats, limiting the gain in the overall market. Sales of all aluminum boats rose 1.2 percent for the month, to 2,788 boats.
Gains in the aluminum categories helped the industry’s main powerboat segments to achieve a 2.1 percent sales increase for the month, to 4,772 boats, and a 2.9 percent increase through September, to 68,360 boats.
Industry sales across all categories fell 4.4 percent for the month, from 7,610 boats in September 2010 to 7,277 during the same month this year. Through September, 109,323 boats had been sold, 1.1 percent fewer than the 110,524 sales that were recorded during the first nine months last year.
A total of 4,489 fiberglass boats, including personal watercraft, were sold during the month, 7.5 percent fewer than the 4,855 sales that were recorded in the same month a year earlier. Within the fiberglass market, sales in the core 14- to 30-foot segment fell 15.9 percent, to 856 boats. Through September, sales in the segment had fallen 6.9 percent, to 14,470 boats.
Sales of personal watercraft fell 16 percent in September to 1,205 units. Through September, PWC sales had fallen 8.9 percent to 22,216 units.
Fiberglass categories that showed growth included outboard-powered boats in a range of 11 to 40 feet, where sales rose 5.2 percent for the month, to 1,661 boats. For the year through September, sales in the category were up 2.9 percent to 20,102 boats. Sales of 41- to 62-foot yachts rose by 10, or 20.4 percent, to 59 yachts. Through September, sales in that category were 1.8 percent higher at 775 boats.
Ski boat sales fell 8.2 percent to 212 boats; for the year, sales in the category were 3.9 percent lower at 2,974 boats. Sales of jetboats fell 10.7 percent in September to 125 boats; for the year to date, the decline was a much narrower 4.7 percent, to 2,127 boats.
Sales of sailboats fell 15.4 percent to 104 boats, but sales through September were up 4 percent to 1,404 boats.
This article originally appeared in the December 2011 issue.