Skip to main content

J.D. Power: Boat quality is better

Group says reported problems are at the lowest level since it began surveying owners

Group says reported problems are at the lowest level since it began surveying owners

Grady-White and Cobalt each topped the list for the sixth straight time in their segments, and Regal rated highest in two categories in J.D. Power & Associates’ annual customer satisfaction awards.

Praising Grady-White and Cobalt for their “Lexus-type quality,” J.D. Power’s Todd Markusic says Cobalt outscored its competition in the large runabout class (20 to 29 feet) in all seven measures, racking up 908 out of a possible 1,000 points in the customer satisfaction index. Grady-White’s CSI score was 896 in the coastal fishing segment (17 to 28 feet). Regal took top honors among express cruisers (24 to 33 feet) with a CSI score of 844 and in small runabouts (16 to 19 feet) with 840. Regal leaped ahead of Sea Ray in the express cruiser segment with a 37-point improvement over last year.

“In this industry you can’t stand still,” says Markusic, senior director of J.D. Power’s power sports division. “If you stay the same, you’re going to fall behind.”

The 2007 boat and marine engine studies are based on responses from 12,140 owners who registered a new boat between June 2005 and May 2006. Seventy-six boat and 11 outboard, sterndrive and gas inboard engine brands are included in the study. Visit for more information.

He says boat quality overall has improved since J.D. Power began surveying boat owners six years ago. The number of owner-reported problems decreased since the 2006 study (based on new-boat registrations from June 2004 to May 2005) and are at the lowest levels in the study’s history — 309 problems per 100 (pp100) boats in the latest survey compared with 327 in 2006 study. The most dramatic quality improvements were in the coastal fishing segment (40 pp100 improvement over 2006), bass boats (26 pp100 improvement), and ski/wakeboarding (10 pp100 improvement).

Markusic says the results suggest that smaller, independent companies that focus on a single market niche tend to do better than larger builders who try to build for many niches. Though the bigger companies are changing, “The independents are more nimble, they make changes faster, and are more focused,” he says.

Among engine manufacturers, Honda took honors in the electronic fuel injection 4-stroke outboard segment for the third consecutive year, with a CSI of 939, and Pleasurecraft Engine Group led in the EFI inboard segment for the second year, with 917. Other segment leaders were Evinrude and Mercury, tied for first among direction injection (DI) 2-stroke outboards with 894 (Evinrude showed a 24-point improvement over 2006), and MerCruiser in EFI sterndrives, with 857.

Markusic says higher-technology engines across the board received higher marks from owners. “There’s just no comparison between the top technology engines and the low-tech engines,” he says.

Owners of 4-stroke EFI engines reported an average 58 pp100, while owners of DI 2-strokes reported 77 pp100 and owners of carbureted 2-strokes 167 pp100. “While they cost more, engines with newer technologies tend to perform better, are more fuel efficient, and have fewer problems than engines with older technologies,” he says.

Top brands in each category (with CSI scores):

• Coastal fishing: Grady-White (896), Boston Whaler (865); Scout (857)

• Express cruisers: Regal (844), Sea Ray (805), Rinker (777)

• Large runabouts: Cobalt (908), Regal (868), Sea Ray (845)

• Small runabouts: Regal (840), Crownline (809), Sea Ray (796)

• Ski/wakeboard: Correct Craft (903), Malibu (902), MasterCraft (885)

• Bass boats: Bass Cat (936), Triton (891), Ranger (883)

• Pontoon: Harris FloteBote (857), Bennington (853), Premier (842)

• Inboard EFI: Pleasurecraft Engine Group (917), Indmar (899)

• Outboard EFI 4-stroke: Honda (939), Suzuki (924), Yamaha (913)

• Outboard DI 2-stroke: Evinrude and Mercury (894), Yamaha (884)

• Sterndrive EFI: MerCruiser (857), Volvo Penta (855).