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New outboards, market share figures and good numbers from Washington

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If you think you’ve been seeing more outboards on the water and in showrooms these days, your eyes are not deceiving you. Outboards have been gobbling market share for the last seven years.

Credit the development of clean, reliable and quiet 4-strokes and improved direct-injection 2-strokes for much of that gain. There are other factors, as well, including a decline in the cruiser market brought about by the recession and a drop in the small sterndrive market, attributable in part to costs associated with catalytic converters.

These figures were compiled by the research firm Info-Link and came out of a conversation I recently had with its managing director, Jack Ellis, on the millennial generation that will appear in an upcoming Trade Only column.

It’s clear from the chart and the graph that the percentage of new boats with outboards went from about 70 percent, where it sat for more than a decade, to about 85 percent today. One note: These figures represent all new outboard-powered boats, including powered canoes and dinghies. Ellis said the percentages would decrease slightly if they were removed, but the trend would not change.

Will it continue?

“I think so,” Ellis said. “Sterndrives have been declining for a long time. I’m not sure we’ve reached the bottom yet.” And the smaller sterndrives in many cases have been replaced by outboards.

The latest big news in outboards came out of Milwaukee over the weekend, where BRP introduced a new line of Evinrude direct-injection 2-strokes — the E-TEC G2. The company says this line represents its first totally new product in 38 years and it promises that the new engines will be more fuel-efficient, put out fewer emissions and generate more torque than 4-strokes.

The new shape, styling and colors may attract the sought-after millennial demographic, whose oldest members have just reached the age (about 33) when you’d expect to see them buy their first boat.

(You’ll also see more news on developments at Mercury Marine in today’s newsletter).

Ellis also updated me on the average age of the fleet. The average powerboat on the water today is a tad over 21 years old and the average sailboat is just under 28. He also said that about 87 percent of all boats built in the last 15 years are still registered and presumably in use.

I also spoke with George Harris for the upcoming piece on millennials. Harris is president and CEO of the Northwest Marine Trade Association and co-chairman of the Recreational Boating Leadership Council’s youth committee.

Harris had good news on 2014 new-boat sales for Washington state that’s worth passing along. The two charts here show new- and used-boat sales in units and dollars in Washington between 2003 and 2013.

The slow claw-back that started two years ago is obvious. What’s not shown are the strong numbers this year. Harris said that in 2014, Q1 is up 21 percent in units, with April climbing a whopping 51 percent and May about 21 percent.

“We’ve had great weather here,” Harris told me. “We’ve had warm, dry weather here all spring, particularly on the weekends.”

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