New boat registrations have fallen 12.1% year-to-date and 9.2% year-on-year in the main categories of motor boats, according to preliminary data from statistical surveys, using figures from 27 states representing roughly half of the U.S. boat market. However, early sales data shows new boat sales rebounded strongly in May, up 59% from April and 9% from pre-pandemic levels on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the National. Marine Manufacturers Association.
Overall, the industry was down 1.5% year-on-year and 11% year-to-date, partly reflecting strong activity in the personal watercraft and jetboat segments. There have been increases in all major segments, said Vicky Yu, NMMA’s director of business development.
“This was a positive start to the summer boating season and underscores an increased interest in boating as a way to enjoy summer while responsibly recreating yourself,” said Yu, noting that personal watercraft, saltwater fishing boats and jet boats were the growth leaders in May. “We expect this momentum to continue with deliveries of outboard motors to boat builders for the second consecutive month through June. This is encouraging as outboard boats account for 60% of new boat sales each year, and it suggests that dealers are placing orders and manufacturing is picking up steam.
According to preliminary registration data from the SSI, jet boats have seen a 27.6% increase in registrations, from 554 in May 2019 to 707 this year. PWC registrations jumped 18.6%, from 7,189 units in May 2019 to 8,527 last month. “It’s a great indicator of new people entering the industry,” said Ryan Kloppe, SSI director of sales.
Several states were missing data due to the pandemic. They included California, Michigan and South Carolina, Kloppe says. “They’re so messed up right now, we don’t even have 2020 data from them,” Kloppe says, indicating that the numbers could increase later. “We’ve worked with these states left and right, and I know some of them are fed up with hearing from us, but we know there is a lack of data and there are going to be late registrations. The statements we publish are those that appear to be complete.
Florida, the # 1 state for boat registrations, saw a 16% increase in registrations from May 2019, and North Carolina is up 21% from the same period last year , Kloppe said. But not all states have experienced a surge. Registrations in New York, for example, are down almost 22%. “New York has been stranded for three straight months,” Kloppe said. “California has been stranded for three consecutive months. It will go down.
North Carolina increased 21% and Arkansas registrations increased 20%. “So there is some positive data in there,” Kloppe says. “There’s no bright spot with Covid unless we talk about an industry, if it can bring new people into recreation, and people can go out and buy a boat and have a mini vacation.”
This article originally appeared in the August 2020 issue.