Boat quality improving despite downturn

MIAMI, Fla. — The latest edition of a customer satisfaction and quality study across the new boat industry shows significant gains, according to a report released by J.D. Power and Associates on Thursday at the Miami International Boat Show.

The 2009 Boat Competitive Information Study, now in its eighth year, examined the sales, service and product experience of new boat owners, J.D. Power reported in a release. The study found customer satisfaction across the boating industry was up from an index score of 813 in 2008 to 830 in 2009. (The index is a 1,000-point scale.)

The new study was based on responses from 9,790 owners who registered a new boat between June 2007 and May 2008, the release said.

Owner satisfaction was measured for seven segments: fiberglass bass boats, coastal fishing, express cruisers, small runabouts, large runabouts, pontoons and ski/wakeboards. Customer satisfaction index scores were based on eight factors: cabin; engine; ride and handling; helm and instrument panel; design and styling; sound system; water sports; and fishing.

All boating segments improved, but the express cruiser and large runabout segments, up 38 points and 25 points respectively, were responsible for most of the 17-point overall gain.

The study offered several other insights into the new boat industry.

The average number of problems new boat owners experienced, the study said, declined by 33 problems per 100.

The study made a case for the continued value of boat shows, revealing that 20 percent of new boats are purchased at a show.

Owner-reported prices for new boats increased by approximately $1,500 from J.D Power’s 2008 study to the 2009 version. This marks the smallest price increase in the industry during the past three years.

The amount of time boat owners are running their engines has by five hours each year since 2003, and in 2009, owners run their engines an average of 59 hours, down from 83 hours in 2003.

In the results for individual boat segments, many of the top-ranked brands were repeat winners.

In the Bass Boat Segment, Bass Cat ranked highest for a fifth consecutive year, performing particularly well in ride and handling, fishing, and design and styling, J.D. Power said. Ranger and Stratos placed second and third.

Grady-White ranked highest in the coastal fishing segment for an eighth consecutive year. Boston Whaler and Century followed in the rankings.

Regal and Sea Ray tied for highest rank in the express cruiser segment. This marks the third consecutive year that Regal has ranked highest.

Sea Ray also ranks highest among small runabout boats. Regal and Monterey follow Sea Ray.

Cobalt ranks highest in the large runabout segment for an eighth consecutive year. Regal and Sea Ray place second and third.

First place in the pontoon segment went to Bennington, followed by Manitou and Premier.

Finally, for a seventh consecutive reporting year Nautique ranked highest in the ski/wakeboard segment. Mastercraft placed second.

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