Boat registrations grew 2.5 percent in January

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Boat registrations in January increased 2.5 percent in the main powerboat categories, a positive sign after underwhelming results at the end of 2018, according to preliminary data from Statistical Surveys, a Michigan firm that tracks new boat registrations.

Although it’s modest growth, it’s a good sign for the industry because it offsets concerns that the softness late last year might carry over to this year, SSI sales manager Ryan Kloppe said.

“It’s off to a positive 2019,” Kloppe told Trade Only Today. “It is January, so let’s be real. There’s still snow on the ground; it’s not going to be a huge month. We are seeing some growth in there.”

The registration data came from 31 states, almost 64 percent of the U.S. boat market.

Pontoon registrations were up 13.4 percent — the segment still leads industry growth — and ski and wake increased 12.2 percent. Fiberglass outboard boats — the largest January category, with 2,138 boats registered — were up 0.7 percent over last year.

Much of the pontoon growth is from Florida, where there were 177 registered. Not surprising, Florida had more boat registrations in January than any other state.

“We’ve really set a tone here over the last few years — not really much has changed in terms of segmentation, and what’s grown and what’s not,” Kloppe said.

One standout was sterndrive and inboard boats, which increased 12.6 percent, indicating that segment might be finding a new foothold. “We are seeing some growth there,” Kloppe said.

The yacht and cruiser segments have been erratic but mostly down since Sea Ray exited those segments. Cruisers and yachts saw double-digit January declines, despite feedback from dealers at shows, who said high-end products and larger boats were selling best.

Those numbers should show up in registration data soon, Kloppe said.

“You don’t buy a boat and register it the same week as the boat show,” he said. “Those will show up in February and possibly even March.”