For the recreational boat industry, 2013 has been a tale of two seasons — the wet spring, when sales ran disappointingly behind the encouraging pace of a year earlier — and the bright summer, when the sun came out and builders and dealers shot past their 2012 marks.
Americans were ready to buy once June melted into July and third-quarter figures from Statistical Surveys that cover 47 states, or 96 percent of the industry, illustrate the strength of the summer quarter: Sales in the main powerboat segments were up 13.8 percent, or 4,315 boats, to 35,580, from the same quarter last year, and industrywide sales rose 12 percent, or 6,484 boats, to 60,469.
“This reiterates what we’ve been seeing in the monthly data,” said Statistical Surveys national marine sales manager Ryan Kloppe, referring to the trends that July, August and September reports from early-reporting states were revealing.
The robust summer quarter pushed 2013 sales ahead of their 2012 pace. Through September, the industry had sold 181,625 boats, 2,098 more than the 179,527 that customers had bought at the same time last year.
Kloppe said he thinks the industry will continue to show moderate growth as the year ends and finish with higher sales than it did in 2012. Industrywide sales totaled 202,403 last year, topping 200,000 for the first time since 2009 as builders and dealers began to recover from the Great Recession.
“With the slow [spring] season we had, to get this kind of growth is positive for the industry — to finish positive,” he said.
During the rainy and chilly second quarter, sales were up a modest 3.7 percent in the main segments, which include aluminum fishing and pontoon boats and fiberglass boats ranging from bowriders to large yachts, and they were 1.8 percent lower across the industry.
The figures from both quarters were for all states except Illinois, which is not included because of data entry delays, and Hawaii and Maine, where data are only available annually.
The aluminum pontoon category was the top third-quarter performer among the main segments’ highest-volume groups, gaining 19.6 percent, or 1,763 boats, to 10,770, and 11- to 40-foot fiberglass outboards were close behind with a gain of 18 percent, or 1,590 boats, to 10,427. Both categories have been steady gainers as the industry rallied from the recession, as has the aluminum fishing boat segment, where sales climbed by 1,100 boats, or 13.2 percent, to 9,431.
Through September, the industry had sold 34,749 pontoons, 3,395 more than the 31,354 a year earlier, and it had sold 33,070 small to medium-size fiberglass outboards, 2,332 more than the 30,738 that were sold at the same time last year. Aluminum fishing boat sales totaled 33,215, 1,087 more than the 32,118 reported last year.
Two of the three big-boat categories, whose totals are often incomplete on monthly reports because of data entry delays at the Coast Guard, had a solid third quarter. Sales of 31- to 40-foot cruisers were up by 61 boats to 342 and sales of 41- to 62-foot yachts climbed by 64 to 244.
Personal watercraft and ski boats, both traditionally strong summer sellers, posted double-digit gains for the quarter. PWC sales were up 15.4 percent, or 2,060 units, to 15,467, and ski-boat sales rose by 21.2 percent, or 338 boats, to 1,929.
Sales of jetboats were down 28.5 percent to 909, reflecting the loss of Sea-Doo, which withdrew from the market. Sales are expected to rebound next year once jetboats from Four Winns, Glastron and Chaparral enter the segment.