Outboard power to lead the way
Boating Industry readers are optimistic about many market segments for 2016, but expect growth in outboards to dwarf any other category.
That’s according to the latest Boating Industry survey, which polled readers of our print and digital editions in December about their outlook for 2016. Respondents include a roughly even mix of dealers, manufacturers, suppliers and others working in the industry.
Stop us if you’ve heard this one …
Outboard power continued to be the propulsion of choice in 2015 and survey respondents don’t expect to see that change this year. In fact, their outlook for 2016 is little changed from 2015 in every category.
Eighty percent of Boating Industry readers said they expect industry-wide sales of outboards to grow this year. Nearly 24 percent are expecting sales growth north of 10 percent in 2016, while 56 percent said they expect growth of less than 10 percent. Slightly more than 2 percent expect outboard sales to decline in 2016.
There was no other propulsion type that even 40 percent of readers expected to grow this year. Jet (36 percent) and inboard engines (35 percent) are expected to grow by just more than a third of readers. Thirteen percent expect jet sales to decline, while 17 percent expect to see inboard sales go down.
Readers are least optimistic about the sterndrive and sail categories. Despite the efforts of Mercury and Volvo Penta to roll out a bevy of new engines and improvements, just 25 percent of respondents expect sterndrive sales to be up this year, and 22 percent of them expect that growth to be less than 10 percent. Thirty-one percent expect sterndrive sales to continue their long decline in 2016, and 11 percent even expect a decline in sales of more than 10 percent.
The majority of readers (64 percent) expect the sail category to be flat in 2016. Only 16 percent expect it to grow and another 20 percent expect it to decline. Overall, 93 percent expect sailboat sales to be within 10 percent (up or down) of 2015 numbers.
Saltwater, pontoons poised for growth
Pontoons have been the darling of the boating industry for the last several years, and readers expect that to continue.
Since 2010, pontoon sales have increased 75 percent, compared to growth of 33 percent for all segments, according to data from Info-Link.
Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they expect pontoon sales to increase in the coming year, down slightly from the 82 percent who said the same in 2015. Even with the strong growth of the last several years, 23 percent still expect industry sales to be up more than 10 percent this year. Only 4 percent expect a sales decrease.
(Read more about the pontoon segment in our Market Trends article here.)
Saltwater fishing (up 58 percent since 2010) also appears poised to continue its growth in 2016, as 71 percent of readers said they expect growth – with 21 percent calling for growth of more than 10 percent. Again, only 4 percent expect to see sales decline.
Freshwater fishing boats have trailed the recovery somewhat, with only 22 percent growth since 2010, but readers are optimistic about 2016, with 60 percent calling for growth this year, and only 3 percent expecting a decline.
With the success of pontoons, many manufacturers have been adding new deck boats to their offerings, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that many in the industry expect that category to grow this year as well. Sixty percent expect deck boat sales to be up in 2016, while 9 percent expect a decrease.
The ski/wake market has also outpaced industry growth the last several years, with unit sales up 54 percent since 2010. Fifty-nine percent expect that growth to continue this year, but it’s also worth noting that 19 percent expect sales to decrease this year – the highest rate for any powerboat category.
Readers are least optimistic about cruisers, with just 32 percent expecting sales to be up this year. Still, that’s better than the 24 percent who expected the same in 2015, perhaps reflecting what seems to be a modest recovery in sales for the category in 2015. Only 16 percent of readers expect a decline for the segment this year, compared to 29 percent who said the same last year. Overall, cruiser sales have been down 4 percent since 2010, according to Info-Link data.
There also seems to be a little more optimism for the runabout segment, with 42 percent expecting an increase in 2016, compared to the 34 percent who expected sales to grow in 2015. Last year, 23 percent expected the category to decline, while this year only 14 percent expect it to be down.