Few changes in J.D. Power boat rankings

MIAMI – Bass Cat, Correct Craft, Grady-White, Manitou, MasterCraft and Regal rank highest in new boat owner satisfaction, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Boat Competitive Information Study released yesterday at the Miami International Boat Show.

Now in its seventh year, the study examines the sales, service and product experience of new boat owners. Owner satisfaction with new boats is measured in seven segments: ski/wakeboard; fiberglass bass boats; small runabouts (16 to 19 feet); large runabouts (20 to 29 feet); coastal fishing (17 to 30 feet); pontoons; and express cruisers (24 to 33 feet). Overall customer satisfaction index scores are based on performance in eight factors: cabin; engine; ride and handling; helm and instrument panel; design and styling; sound system; water sports; and fishing.

Owner-reported problems decreased compared to the 2007 study and are at the lowest levels in the study’s history, down four problems per 100 boats in 2008.

“Boating manufacturers have done well in improving quality year over year, particularly in light of current conditions across the industry,” said Todd Markusic, senior director of the powersports practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “Despite the decline in sales over the past few years, many manufacturers are still improving their manufacturing processes—they understand the importance of delivering a product with zero problems to their customers. It is essential that a brand delivers on all aspects of the ownership experience—product, sales and service—in order to satisfy its customers.”

At the segment level, while most boating segments have demonstrated improvements in quality since 2007, both the small and large runabout segments experienced declines, with the small runabout segment experiencing the most considerable drop in quality.

“More than 40 percent of reported problems in the small runabout segment concern the engine and propulsion, which is primarily driven by the high concentration of four-stroke carbureted sterndrive engines,” Markusic said.

Bass boat segment
Bass Cat ranks highest in the bass boat segment for a fourth consecutive year, performing particularly well in each of the five factors that determine overall satisfaction: ride and handling; fishing; design and styling; engine; and helm and instrument panel. The company also receives the highest overall index score in the study for a third consecutive year. Following Bass Cat in the segment are Ranger and Triton.

Coastal fishing segment (17 to 30 feet)
For a seventh consecutive reporting year, Grady-White ranks highest in the segment, performing particularly well in four of the six factors driving overall satisfaction: fishing; ride and handling; design and styling; and helm and instrument panel. Grady-White also has the fewest reported problems of any manufacturer in the segment. Boston Whaler and Triton follow Grady-White in the segment rankings.

Express cruiser segment (24 to 33 feet)
Making steady improvement in the study for the past three years, Regal ranks highest among express cruisers for a second consecutive year. Regal performs particularly well in ride and handling, which is the greatest driver of overall satisfaction. Sea Ray follows Regal in the express cruiser segment rankings.

Small runabout segment (16 to 19 feet)
For a third consecutive year, Regal ranks highest in the small runabout segment, performing particularly well in all six factors that drive overall satisfaction: engine; water sports; design and styling; ride and handling; helm and instrument panel; and sound system. Regal also has the fewest reported problems of any manufacturer in the segment. Sea Ray and Chaparral follow Regal in the small runabout segment.

Large runabout segment (20 to 29 feet)
Cobalt ranks highest in the large runabout segment for a seventh consecutive reporting year, performing particularly well in all six factors that drive overall satisfaction. Cobalt owners report having the highest satisfaction with the buying experience at a dealership and are also the most likely to say they “definitely will” recommend and repurchase from their dealer compared with customers of other manufacturers in the large runabout segment. Regal closely follows Cobalt while Four Winns ranks third in the segment.

Pontoon segment
Manitou ranks highest among pontoon manufacturers, performing particularly well in ride and handling. Manitou is closely followed in the segment by Bennington, while Harris FloteBote and Premier tie to rank third in the segment.

Ski/wakeboard segment
Correct Craft and MasterCraft tie to rank highest in the ski/wakeboard segment. The 2008 study also marks the sixth consecutive reporting year that Correct Craft has received the highest ranking in the segment. MasterCraft is the only brand in the ski/wakeboard segment to improve in overall satisfaction since 2007, while Correct Craft performs particularly well in engine satisfaction. Malibu follows Correct Craft and MasterCraft in the highly competitive segment.

The 2008 Boat Competitive Information Study is based on responses from 9,718 owners who registered a new boat between June 2006 and May 2007.

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