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2017 boat sales could top 269,000

Preliminary figures show that more than 263,000 new boats were sold in 32 early-reporting states in 2017 as the recreational boating industry put even more distance between itself and the Great Recession.

Statistical Surveys said today that 263,213 boats were sold in those states, a 3.8 percent increase from 2016. The states represent about 59 percent of the U.S. market.

Florida (up 1.9 percent), Texas (up 5.4 percent), Michigan (up 5.4 percent), Minnesota (up 3.9 percent) and North Carolina (up 8.1 percent), in that order, were the top five states for sales among the 32.

Rounding out the top 15 were California (up 17.7 percent), New York (down 4.3 percent), Georgia (up 6.7 percent), South Carolina (up 2.2 percent), Alabama (down 0.5 percent), Tennessee (up 12.3 percent), Louisiana (up 4.9 percent), New Jersey (up 5.9 percent), Washington (down 1.6 percent) and Pennsylvania (down 5.7 percent).

Ryan Kloppe, Statistical Surveys’ sales director, said the remaining 18 states could add as many as 6,000 boats, which would bring the final total to about 269,000. The industry sold 258,879 boats in all 50 states in 2016, and that marked the first time in eight years that more than 250,000 were sold.

Kloppe said 50-state figures, which will be released in March, probably will show that 2017 sales were up about 4 percent. Industry forecasts were for an increase of 4 to 6 percent.

“I think 2018 is going to mirror 2017,” Kloppe said, noting strength in the financial markets and the economy.

“There is no reason why the industry can’t continue to show growth in 2018,” he said.

In the main powerboat segments 172,885 boats were sold in the 32 early-reporting states, an increase of 4.7 percent from 2016.

Four familiar categories topped sales in those states — personal watercraft (61,503), aluminum pontoon (51,464) and fishing (47,692) boats, and outboard-powered fiberglass boats (51,376). Sales growth in those categories ranged from 4 percent for aluminum fishing boats to 7.2 percent for pontoons.

Kloppe said aluminum fishing boat sales will join the other three with sales that top 50,000 once all 50 states have reported.

“This is a multiyear growth trend, with these categories leading the way,” he said.

Sales of ski and wake boats rose by 7 percent, to 9,284, and sales of jetboats rose 6.3 percent, to 4,952. Kloppe said he expects ski and wake sales to top 10,000 this year.

The only high-volume category in the main segments that had lower sales for the year in the 32 states was inboard and sterndrive boats, where sales fell 4.4 percent, to 10,715.

The sailboat category fared the worst. 2017 sales there were 1,640 in the early-reporting states, 28 percent less than in the previous year.

December sales in the 32 states rose 4.6 percent in the main powerboat segments, to 3,970, and 2.4 percent industrywide, to 5,377. December is the slowest month of the year for new-boat sales.

“It’s nice to finish the year strong, with some positive numbers,” Kloppe said

The outboard fiberglass category outdid all others, posting 1,927 sales, although that was just five boats more than in the same month last year. The aluminum fishing boat category posted 1,049 sales, 6.7 percent more than it did a year earlier, and PWC sales of 684 were 4.1 percent lower.

Florida was the industry leader, as it most often is. Sales of 1,966 were down from 2,012 in December of last year. Texas was second, with 635 (up from 630); California was third, with 379 (down from 460); South Carolina was fourth, with 338 (up from 258); and Louisiana was fifth, with 295 (up from 256).

The rest of the top 10 were North Carolina, with 261 (up from 229); Georgia, with 224 (up from 140); Alabama, with 153 (down from 173); Washington, with 138 (up from 68); and Mississippi, with 137 (up from 136).


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