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Boat sales on the rise in 2012

New numbers released by the National Marine Manufacturers Association showing a 10 percent jump in powerboat sales in 2012 are grabbing headlines at news outlets from the Wall Street Journal to the Miami Herald.

NMMA president Thom Dammrich was set to appear on the Fox Business Network’s noon news hour today to discuss the estimated increase in new powerboat sales, which the group says is driven by smaller vessels and signals that the tide is turning for the recreational boating industry.

Early projections indicate that the industry will see additional increases in 2013 by as much as 5 to 10 percent, the NMMA said in a statement. The level of growth in 2013 will depend on a number of factors, including continued improvement in economic conditions that affect recreational boating — namely consumer confidence and the housing market — and sustained increases in Americans’ participation in outdoor recreation.

“Improving economic conditions and what seems to be a resurgence in Americans’ love for the outdoors helped fuel steady growth in new powerboat sales in 2012,” Dammrich said in a statement. “A 10 percent boost at retail in 2012 is significant, as this is the first time since the recession we saw healthy growth across the powerboat market, which will create momentum in 2013.”

The NMMA said another new trend that’s contributing to new-boat sales is the creation of innovative, more versatile and accessible boats that appeal to a variety of interests and budgets and fall within the 15- to 26-foot range.

It’s these smaller boats, those less than 27 feet, that make up 96 percent of the 12.4 million registered boats in the United States and are leading the industry out of the recession, the NMMA said. Boats that fall into this category include aluminum all-purpose boats and pontoons, fiberglass bowriders, fish and ski boats, and jet boats.

“One of the most significant trends we’re seeing in boat manufacturing is the versatile boat — one that can pull tubers or wakeboarders, can be used for fishing outings, relaxing with family or entertaining friends,” Dammrich said. “After a decade of decline, Americans are participating in outdoor recreation in growing numbers, and as they look for ways to spend time outdoors, boat manufacturers are taking cue, producing innovative boats that offer an all-encompassing entry to the boating lifestyle at a variety of price points.”

In 2011, boating participation increased 10 percent, to 83 million — the largest proportion of adults (34.8 percent) who went boating since 1997 (35.8 percent).