Outboards continue growth push in 2018

Pontoons, saltwater boats segment leaders in survey

Boating Industry readers still have a great deal of confidence in propulsion and boat market segment growth based on data collected during the first months of the year. Sales for outboard-powered vessels are expected to remain consistently strong.

That’s according to the latest Boating Industry survey, which polled the readers of our print and digital products on their outlook for the rest of 2018 after another strong first quarter. The poll was conducted via email in April and respondents were a mix of dealers, manufacturers, distributors, and others in the industry.

Outboards top propulsion list

Outboard engines still pack a hefty amount of market thrust and remain on a market domination trajectory. Boating Industry readers don’t expect that trend to change at all in 2018.

The vast majority of survey respondents – 82 percent – expect outboard sales to be up this year. Half of those expect sales to increase by more than 10 percent in 2018. Only 4 percent of readers expect outboard sales to decline. 

Those results mirror last year’s spring propulsion survey, which also indicated more than half of those responding expected outboard growth this year.

Inboard market growth was anticipated by 40 percent of those surveyed by Boating Industry. Electric and jet propulsion were expected to each increase by 29 percent, sterndrives 24 percent, and sail only 10 percent.

About 18 percent of readers expect inboard sales to decline this year, up 3 percent from last year, while 24 percent expect jet engine sales to decline, up 10 percent.

Readers were much less optimistic about sterndrive sales this year than they were in 2017, with 24 percent expecting sales to increase for the segment – a significant decrease from the 39 percent who expected growth for the segment in last year’s survey. 

At the same time, 41 percent of Boating Industry readers expect sales in that category to decline this year, the highest number for any category.

Almost a third of readers expect the electric propulsion segment to grow this year, while 62 percent expect it to remain flat. Nine percent expect it to decline.

Respondents also think the sail market will continue to founder this year, with only 10 percent expecting sales to grow, while 26 percent predict they will decline. Sixty-four percent expect sail propulsion to be flat in 2018, which matches figures from last year.

Pontoons ride high in boat segment

Readers are expecting the same segments that were strong in 2017 to continue to grow in 2018.

The pontoon segment’s continued upswing was evident once again in this year’s survey, with 85 percent of survey respondents expecting growth in 2018. Almost 55 percent expected single-digit sales growth and slightly more than 30 percent of those surveyed expected sales to be up by more than 10 percent. Slightly more than 12 percent expected flat sales, and only 2 percent thought sales
would decrease.

Readers also think fishing boats are poised for growth. Seventy-two percent expect the saltwater fishing category to grow this year, while only 3 percent think it will decrease. Twenty-five percent of readers think those sales will be up by more than 10 percent in 2018. 

Readers are almost as optimistic about freshwater fishing sales this year, with 65 percent expecting sales to increase. About 12 percent expect sales to be up by more than 10 percent, and only 4 percent think sales will decrease for the year.

They are also positive when surveyed about the ski/tow boat category, with 63 percent expecting growth and nearly 19 percent expecting sales to be up by more than 10 percent, and only 5 percent expecting sales to be down.

More than 40 percent of readers expect the deck boat segment to grow this year, although most expect that growth to be less than 10 percent. Twelve percent expect the category to contract this year.

Finally, less than half of readers expect sales of personal watercraft, jet boats and cruisers to be up this year, with only 28 percent of those surveyed expecting an increase in cruiser sales.   


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