Boating Industry

April 2016

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28 | Boating Industry | April 2016 /// Market Trends /// the industry than there were before. "The watercraft business is doing good in the U.S. It's increasing thanks to the Sea-Doo Spark model. It helps to bring new people into the in- dustry, and by bringing new people in the indus- try, it's good for the whole boating industry," said Louis Lévesque, vice-president, global marketing and consumer experience at BRP. "It's good for competition because there are more people buy- ing and getting people into water sports." The Spark has been seen as an option for entry-level buyers to easily enter the boating lifestyle with an accessible price point. However, Lévesque says there is more to the story of the Spark than its price tag. "The price point by itself, and not delivering the promise, will not fi x anything," said Lévesque. "You need to deliver an experience. You need to deliver something the consumer will be wowed by. After that, price comes in. And if it is afford- able, this is the perfect equation because you will be able to have volume." Stable, reliable, affordable All manufacturers in the segment are aware of the affordability issues boating faces and its criti- cal role in bringing those newcomers into the industry. This means creating stable, reliable products that offer the experiences users crave. "We want to make sure that we have prod- ucts at price points but also with the features that consumers are looking for," said Seti. "We know that if they have a good experience with that product, they're going to move up the line with us. … So it's critical that entry-level prod- uct maintains the excellence in design and build and that we don't cut any corners the way we build that product, whether it's the hull, the deck, the engine we put into it." AVERAGE AGE OF BOAT BUYER HOLDS STEADY IN 2014 After years of increases for the average buyer age, the recreational boating industry has effectively moved the needle back to zero, ac- cording to analysis by Info-Link. Contributing to the steady hold of the boat buyer age is the decrease of the age of the average personal watercraft buyer. In 2014, the average per- sonal watercraft buyer was 46.7 years, down from 47.9 years in 2013. The decrease in the age of the personal watercraft buyer could lead to long-term trends for other propulsions as well, said Houseworth. "PWC is an entry point for many boaters where they fi rst get exposed to being on the water at all," he explains. "It's kind of a low area of entry in terms of cost and ease of participation, and [some] PWC owners will move on to purchase boats and get more involved in boating." While Houseworth would not point to any single model signifi cantly affecting the age de- crease of the personal watercraft buyer, he did say that many companies in the segment con- tribute to widespread awareness and a lower price-point has been successful in attracting those younger buyers. "Anything that we can do relatively to afford- ability is going to be useful," said Houseworth, "and I think the industry has really started to respond to some of the affordability issues." (To see more stats on the average age of boat buyers across categories, see our 2015 Market Data Book, which can be purchased at A wide range for Kawasaki's 2016 model lineup Kawasaki released several new products this year: The STX-15F, which is an entry-level jet ski; the Ultra LX and four different models of the Ultra 310. The STX-15F is equipped with an agile hull for sporty handling and ample storage. "It's a great vehicle for entry-level riders but they can grow into it, and then it's just as good as they get more experience. Then they can really tap into its potential," said Oventhal. The STX-15F was built for a new buyer to enjoy, learn how to use and have the opportunity to grow into as they become more experienced. "It just gives the consumer [confi dence], when they're buying something, that they aren't back in the dealership the next year going 'I need something a little quicker'" said Jon Rall, senior public relations coordinator at Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. The Ultra LX provides the same hull quality and performance of the STX-15F, but it holds more fuel for longer rides. "[The STX-15F and Ultra LX] are both great handling vehicles, but the Ultra LX has got that deep V hull, which really equates to a smooth ride, especially when you're in rough water. And it's got the largest storage and fuel capacity in its class, so that really equates to going out for long rides," said Overthal. The four 310s are the Ultra 310 R, Ultra 310X, Ultra 310 SE and the Ultra 310LX, each serving a specifi c higher-end clientele. Each of the Ultra 310s in- cludes Kawasaki's fi ve-way tilt adjustment and are built for extreme power and rough water stability. The units also feature the SLO (Smart Learning Opera- tion) system that allows engine speed to be limited as needed. "If you put somebody on there that you want to have it at a little slower pace for them, you can use the yellow key," said Oventhal. "And then for full-power operation, you can put in the green key. So it gives you a little customization of who's riding and how you want it to perform." The STX-15F is an entry-level model built for new buyers to grow into over time.

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