Outboards, pontoons poised for 2015 success

Readers less optimistic about sterndrives, survey shows

Those working in the boating industry expect the growth of outboard power to continue in 2015, especially in the pontoon segment.
That’s according to the latest survey of Boating Industry readers. Conducted via the Internet in December, the survey includes a cross section of the industry including dealers, boat and engine manufacturers, service providers, suppliers and others.

Outboard optimism

Outboards were the first market segment to recover and sales have been growing for the last four years. Through September, outboard-powered boat sales were up 7.6 percent year-over-year from 2013, according to market data provided by Info-Link.

Click image to view larger (Source: Boating Industry survey)

Click image to view larger (Source: Boating Industry survey)

Survey respondents are confident that trend will continue in 2015, with 84 percent predicting an increase in outboard sales this year. Only 2 percent expect to see a decrease in sales. The outboard segment easily topped the confidence list, as no other propulsion type had more than half of readers predicting growth.

Forty-six percent of readers, though, expect to see the personal watercraft portion of the business continue to grow in 2015. The PWC segment was particularly strong in 2014, with sales jumping 21.4 percent through September, with 46,923 units being sold over the previous 12 months, according to Info-Link.

There are two major factors driving that increase, said Peter Houseworth, Info-Link’s director of client services. One is the higher scrap rate of PWC — they don’t last as long as boats and are often cheaper to replace than make major repairs. Secondly, BRP’s Sea-Doo Spark also made a major impact on the market this year, both in direct sales and its large marketing campaign that raised awareness of the entire category.

Click image to view larger (Source: Boating Industry survey)

Click image to view larger (Source: Boating Industry survey)

“The Spark from BRP did very well,” Houseworth said. “It hit a sweet spot, with a high attraction of first-timers and more … female buyers.”
When it comes to powerboats, readers were least optimistic about the sterndrive segment, which continues to struggle. Sales were down 8.8 percent through September, continuing a trend that started nearly a decade ago now.

Despite the engine innovations coming from Mercury and Volvo Penta last year and this year, only a quarter of all respondents expect to see sterndrive sales increase in 2015. Thirty-one percent expect sales to decrease this year, while 44 percent expect them to be unchanged from 2014.

The only category about which readers are less optimistic is sail, with only 16 percent predicting a better year in 2015 than in 2014, with 22 percent expecting a sales decrease.

A familiar story

When it comes to specific boat types, there are many segments about which readers are feeling confident.

Not surprisingly, considering the success of the last several years, pontoons lead the way, with 82 percent calling for continued growth in that market. It’s worth noting, though, that some respondents did express concerns about the segment reaching a “saturation point” this year or in the near future.

The saltwater fishing segment also garnered high marks, with 67 percent of readers predicting that those boats will continue to rebound from the market crash.

A majority of readers are also expecting deck boats (62 percent) and ski boats (53 percent) to continue their growth in 2015. Just less than half of readers expect the bass boat segment to grow.

Click image to view larger

Click image to view larger

When it comes to runabouts and cruisers, though, they are markedly less optimistic. Barely a third of readers expect growth in runabout sales this year, while 23 percent expect a decline. Expectations for cruisers are even lower, with only 24 percent expecting growth and 29 percent predicting a decrease in sales.

Optimism for 2015

Readers continue to report strong year-over-year growth and are optimistic about the overall market for this year.

For the fourth quarter of 2014, 67 percent of readers said they had higher revenues than the same time in 2013. Only 13 percent reported a decline in revenue, with 20 percent flat from a year earlier.

That’s in line with reports from other industry groups, with Info-Link data showing overall sales up 9.4 percent year-over-year through September and the National Marine Manufacturers Association putting the increase at about 8 percent for the year.

Readers expect that success to carry over into the first quarter of 2015 as well. More than 70 percent are planning for a better quarter than Q1 of 2014. Only 5 percent expect revenue to be down from the poor start to 2014, when cold weather hampered sales in much of the country.


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