Smaller boats played a sizable role in May as the recreational boating industry continued to rebound, posting another double-digit sales gain.
Pontoon boats, jet boats and PWC sold especially well, helping to lift sales industrywide by 16.5 percent, to 16,859 boats, from the same month a year earlier, according to figures compiled by Aarn Rosen, national sales manager at Statistical Surveys Inc.
Sales of pontoons rose 31.9 percent to 3,249, sales of jet boats were up 35.5 percent to 469 and sales of PWC climbed 21.3 percent to 3,735.
“That end of the market is certainly showing positive reinforcement,” Rosen said. “The pontoon market is just on fire. The builders say they’re selling both ends of the spectrum” — entry-level and high-end models.
Sales among larger and higher-priced cruisers and yachts fell by margins ranging from 16 to 31 percent, but overall the industry’s main powerboat segments — seven categories of aluminum and fiberglass boats — produced 10,231 sales, 16.8 percent more than they did in May 2011.
There was a familiar caveat to the cruiser and yacht data. Reports of sales of documented vessels were complete only through April 25 because of data entry delays at the Coast Guard, Rosen said, which means sales totals for boats 30 feet and larger were significantly understated.
“The Coast Guard is still behind, so you’re not seeing the volume in those categories,” but the big-boat market is not suffering, Rosen said.
Sales in the high-volume 11- to 40-foot outboard fiberglass segment rose 16.1 percent, to 3,071 boats, and sales in the core 14- to 30-foot fiberglass category rose 9.2 percent, to 1,436 boats.
Sales of aluminum fishing boats, which along with pontoons have helped to lead an industry recovery, rose 8.1 percent, to 2,331.
Sailboat sales fell 7.3 percent, to 217.
The data for May were based on information from 23 early reporting states that comprise about 55 percent of the U.S. boat market. May sales represent 15.5 to 16.5 percent of the year’s retail activity.
— Jack Atzinger