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Dealers say new boat backlog, poor quality are hurting

Most dealer respondents said they have a service backlog, with just 10 percent saying they had none.

Most dealer respondents said they have a service backlog, with just 10 percent saying they had none.

Long term dealer sentiment softened in June, according to a new survey, dropping from 74 in May to 68 last month, with several dealers commenting about the looming trade war, weakening economy and “stock market jitters.”

Short-term sentiment among dealer respondents was up last month, from 72 in May to 76 in June.

The main theme in the comments from dealers was that they were having a hard time getting product from manufacturers, and quality was lacking on what they were getting. And this is compounded by their stretched-thin service technicians.

“Backlog to get product is really hurting sales,” wrote one dealer who responded to the June Pulse Report. (The report is conducted by Robert W. Baird in conjunction with the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas and Soundings Trade Only.) “Many quality issues on boats due to all the new hires at factories.”

The manufacturer issues were felt in both low-cost and higher-end products, said one dealer.

“Weather is finally starting to turn in the Northeast, but we still have not had a consistent stretch to really motivate buyers,” wrote another dealer. “Manufacturers are struggling to deliver product on time and in decent condition, from the low-cost producers to the higher-end product we represent. Worse we have seen in 40 years. Finding help is still an issue, and current crew is tired and stressed. No quick fix.”

Another complained about a new-boat buyer who was unable to repair a handle that fell off the boat that he’d just taken on vacation with his family six hours away.

A third dealer wrote that the quality problems “will come back to haunt many brands.”

Half of the dealers who responded said they had a service backlog between two weeks and a month, and that seemed to be exacerbated by quality issues they were having with manufacturers. Almost a third, 27 percent, said their backlog was less than two weeks, and 13 percent said their backlog was more than one or two months.

Almost all retailers who took the survey said they had some level of service backlog, with only 10 percent reporting they had none at all.

Both dealer sentiment metrics remained positive, but dealers are becoming more cautious of the trade war, which has now begun, and the rising price of boats was causing concern.

“The stock market jitters and tariff talk are definitely impacting business,” wrote one dealer.

“Pricing is starting to impact sales, too high,” said another.

Read more about the survey in the August issue of Soundings Trade Only.

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