First-quarter boat registrations down 7.1 percent versus Q1 2018; up 3.2 percent on a rolling 12-month basis

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Boat registrations were down 8.2 percent in the main powerboat categories versus the first quarter of 2018, and down 7.1 percent overall.

Registrations on a rolling 12-month basis grew 2.6 percent in the main categories during the first quarter of the year, and 3.2 percent overall, according to quarterly data released by Statistical Surveys Inc., a Michigan firm that tracks registrations for the marine industry, as well as powersports and RVs.

“This is obviously a recap of the monthly data we put out, but we’re adding the 15 or 20 states that weren’t captured in that monthly data release,” SSI sales director Ryan Kloppe told Trade Only Today.

The comparison to the first quarter of 2018 was not particularly tough, since that quarter was up 1 percent, said Kloppe.

However, the marine industry is not alone; RV registrations are down 7 percent year-to-date, and powersports are down 5 percent.

“The boating industry is tracking within the other recreational industries,” said Kloppe. “RVs had a banner year in 2018 — it was the best year in history in terms of new retail registrations. So just to show what’s going on in this quarter, it really correlates with other industries. The industry cannot continue to have positive signs every month.”

Ski and wake continued to outperform the market, one of only two segments in the main powerboat categories to see year-to-date growth at 2.9 percent; the segment has grown 9.6 percent on a rolling,12-month basis.

The other positive category was semi- and custom yachts 66 feet and above, which were up 17.2 percent, from 29 units in 2018 to 34 units the first quarter of this year.

Outboard-powered fiberglass boats were down 5.8 percent year-over-year, though still positive on a rolling 12-month basis at 1.2 percent. That slowdown could be attributed to a 4.8 percent overall decline in Florida boat registrations versus the first quarter of last year, said Kloppe.

“If you look at the map, there are not a lot of states that are positive for the first quarter,” said Kloppe. Florida, Texas, Michigan, Minnesota and California are all down year-over-year, though they remained positive on a rolling 12-month basis.

The Carolinas were up, as well as Tennessee, New Jersey and Connecticut — a state that recently reduced its boat tax by about half.

Aluminum fishing boat registrations were down in the first quarter of this year versus the same period in 2018 — 14.3 percent — and pontoons were down 5.4 percent.

“Usually aluminum fishing boats dominate in the Midwest where the weather’s been bad,” said Kloppe. “As you know, it’s not been a great kickoff to the season. It’s been a slow, slow start.”

It is unclear whether potential price increases as a result of aluminum tariffs have affected sales, but the aluminum fishing category was up almost 2 percent on a rolling, 12-month basis, and pontoons were up 5 percent by that measure.

PWC continued to do well with a 4.2 percent growth in the quarter versus last year, and a 9.8 percent increase on a rolling 12-month basis.

With 48 states reporting — excluding Illinois and Maine — the data represents more than 95 percent of the U.S. market. Though Maine is trying to make an effort to report quarterly rather than the annual report it usually gives, the state said it had gotten tied up with moose hunting licenses.

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