Boat sales decline slows in 1Q

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Sales of fiberglass boats fell again during the first quarter, but the pace of decline slowed from the same period a year earlier, particularly in the popular 14- to 30-foot segment.

Sales of aluminum, pontoon and jet boats rose for the quarter, and the pontoon market was the highlight. Pontoon sales rose 9.9 percent on more than 3,000 boats; they fell 3 percent in the first quarter last year.

Overall, U.S. boat sales set a record low for a first quarter. The sales information is based on registration data from 47 states, or 98 percent of the U.S. market. Iowa data were incomplete for March because of data-entry delays.

The fiberglass market as a whole fell 9.9 percent for the quarter, an improvement from a decline of 11.1 percent in the 2010 quarter. The personal watercraft segment, where sales fell 17.9 percent, was a sizable chunk of the dip in the fiberglass market. PWC sales rose 11.4 percent in the quarter last year.

Sales of 14- to 30-foot fiberglass boats fell 6.9 percent, compared with a drop of 17.6 percent a year earlier. Sales of fiberglass boats 30 feet and larger fell 10.5 percent, compared with a decline of 19.6 percent in the 2010 quarter.

Sales of aluminum boats increased 2.2 percent, compared with a 9.7 percent drop for the same period last year.

Jet boat sales also improved, jumping 13 percent. In last year’s quarter, the segment gained 5.2 percent.

Ski boat sales dropped 11.3 percent, compared with a 15.1 percent decline in the 2010 quarter.

Sales of deckboats fell 4.8 percent, compared with a decline of 23.2 percent for the quarter last year.

— Aarn D. Rosen

National Marine Sales Manager

Statistical Surveys Inc.

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