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Into the Stratosphere

Soundings April 2021

Comparing boat sales from this past April to the same month in 2020, when strict lockdowns caused the widespread closure of boatbuilders, would seem to be skewed.

However, the preliminary data from to Statistical Surveys — a Michigan firm that tracks new-boat registrations — showed the boat-buying trend that skyrocketed in late spring and early summer last year has not waned in the slightest and is seemingly picking up steam.

Registrations in April were up 86 percent in the main powerboat categories and 47 percent on a year-over-year basis in those segments. The numbers, representing 33 states, approximately 59 percent of the U.S. boating market, are sure to rise as more data come in.

For the month, registrations for all categories were up 81 percent to 26,795 units. Industry registrations were up 55 percent YOY with 80,305 boats sold for all of 2021.

As for units sold, personal watercraft soared: PWC sales totaled 7,169 units for the month (from 3,979), an 80 percent jump. PWC sales are at 19,980 for the year, up 96 percent on a YOY basis.

Outboard fiberglass boats also continued a strong showing. The class — representing a range of boats from 11 to 50 feet — was up 66 percent for the month (to 5,256 from 3,159).

Pontoons, a perennial favorite, remain a popular option, up by 77 percent YOY (to 15,506 from 8,679) and posting an even higher, 127 percent surge for the month with 6,140 registrations (from 2,700).

In a trend that likely reflects an influx of new boaters, bowriders and deck boats experienced 96 percent of growth for the month (to 920 from 468). The segment is up 55 percent in a year-over-year comparison.

One other development of note: Electric boat sales are getting a bigger slice of the market share. April saw e-boat registrations of 33 units, up 200 percent on a YOY basis. And with 105 units sold, the segment is up 176 percent from 2020 (to 105 from 38).

Per usual, Florida held the top spot for registrations, but with a modest gain. The state posted 6 percent more registrations (to 3,716 from 3,500) when compared to April of 2020.

The same cannot be said for the No. 2 Texas and No. 3 Michigan.

With 3,198 registrations for the month, (from 1,180) numbers in the Lone Star State were up by 171 percent from April 2020. Not to be outdone, Michigan — among the states with some of the strictest lockdown measures last April — put up some incredible numbers, with a 526 percent gain in new registrations for the month (to 2,542 from 406).

North Carolina and Georgia rounded out the top 5.

Builders are betting that the buying trends will continue into the rest of the year and beyond, even as supply chain issues remain, with several — including Barletta, Hurricane, Limestone and Oyster— expanding facilities. And Brunswick Corp. aims to increase Boston Whaler production by 40 percent once its Palm Coast, Fla., facility is fully operational; the first boats are expected to come off the production line during the second half of the year.

Suppliers are also beefing up and expanding, a surefire sign that we will be riding this wave for the foreseeable future. 

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