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Boat sales figures hit record lows for the first quarter of 2008

Sales of new boats showed a substantial decline in the first quarter of 2008, according to data compiled by Statistical Surveys.

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The total fiberglass segment, including personal watercraft, fell 22.1 percent, and sales of aluminum boats were off 17.5 percent.

This report is based on registration data from 46 states, representing 96 percent of the U.S. boat market, with four states not reporting.

Sales in the popular fiberglass 14-foot-and-up segment declined 23.6 percent on volume of 22,356 boats. Builders bucking the prevailing trend were Beneteau and Blue Wave Boats, which both posted sales increases.

Market share leaders for the 14-foot-and-up segment were Brunswick Marine Group, with 20.2 percent; Genmar Industries, with 14.6 percent; Tracker Marine, 6.2 percent; Yamaha, 5.4 percent; and Carolina Skiff, 3.8 percent.

The sterndrive boat segment (all lengths) took a significant hit in the quarter, dropping 28.3 percent on volume of 6,584 units. Starcraft, VIP, Doral, Smoker Craft and Dave’s Custom were able to defy the downward trend and post positive numbers.

Market share leaders for sterndrives were Brunswick Marine Group, with 40.1 percent; Genmar Industries, with 15.3 percent; Marine Products, 6.6 percent; Tracker Marine, 5.3 percent; and Crownline, 4.5 percent.

The market for bigger fiberglass boats also declined, with vessels 30 feet and up falling 21.1 percent. Builders posting positive unit growth were Beneteau, Jeanneau, Intrepid, Pursuit, Chaparral, Bavaria Yachts, Everglades and Viking Yacht.

The 17.5 percent drop in sales of aluminum boats came on volume of 18,738 units for the quarter. The aluminum segment was less affected for the period than its fiberglass counterpart. Aluminum builders who outperformed the market included Xpress, Sea Ark, Weldbilt, Alweld, Odyssey and Beachcomber.

Aluminum market share leaders were Tracker Marine, with 24.9 percent of the market; Brunswick Boat Group, 18.6 percent; Alumacraft, 10.8 percent; Yamaha, 7.3 percent; and Smoker Craft, 3.6 percent.

The personal watercraft market was down 20.7 percent in the quarter on sales of 6,008 units. Market leaders were Bombardier Sea-Doo, with a 39.6 percent share; Yamaha Wave Runner, 37.3 percent; Kawasaki Jet Ski, 11.9 percent; and Honda, 11.1 percent.

The overall boat sales figures represent record lows for the first quarter, but the industry can take some comfort in the realization that it has company during these difficult times. The recreational vehicle industry and most other vehicle segments are declining at similar rates.

The RV motorized segment, for example, is down 24.8 percent year to date, and the RV towable segment is down 19 percent. Economic and financial experts are indicating we’ll see some relief by 2010.

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