Momentum key to continue sales ‘uptick’ next year
With the 2012 season almost completely wound to a close, the PWC industry is looking back on what has proven to be one of the better years in recent memory.
Sales, long declining or stagnant, actually turned upward in 2012. The summer months saw nearly 5 percent growth year-over-year after touching bottom in May. Even September was promising, with nearly 6 percent growth year-over-year for the month. This shift in the positive direction is also being matched by refreshingly low levels of inventory at season’s end.
It might not be time to bust out the champagne, but it’s certainly cause for optimism.
“This year was probably another 10 percent better than last year,” said Duane Hawk of Jet Thrust Performance in Atlanta. “Sea-Doo knocked it out of the park, at least in our dealership. RXP-Xs sold, and GTIs sold well. Not a whole lot of in-between stuff — it was mainly GTIs and RXP-Xs.
“Last year was an increase as well, with Yamaha doing better. Every year seems to be getting a little bit better. Low lake levels kind of hurt the end of the season for us, but overall we had a good season. I think every year is getting a little bit better.”
Dave Bamdas, co-owner at industry powerhouse Riva Motorsports in Florida, also shared a positive outlook on the year.
“We saw some positive signs and sales were good,” Bamdas said. “We’ve definitely had an uptick over 2011. It was a good season for us. It wasn’t knocking over the world as far as increases, but incrementally it was better percentage wise. We were definitely in a better position for ’12 than we were in ’11. Our inventories are very clean, with all of our PWC stock. We sold through everything very nicely to line up for the 2013 season.”
While dealers are certainly ushering 2012 out with fond memories, the 2013 season has already raised a number of questions. The most obvious concern is how to keep the enthusiasm going when not one of the OEMs has introduced any truly new product.
“It’s a good question,” Hawk said. “I really think it’s just going to kind of continue what was going on this year. There’s really no big new model that’s going to create a buzz; it’s just new colors. So for us, it’s just going to be about maintaining what we have going forward. There’s nothing to brag about, so it is going to be interesting.”
“There wasn’t any revolutionary new product in the PWC market introduced by any of the brands, so there’s not really a new product buzz,” Bamdas agreed. “The existing product is great, but it’s carryover product. There’s not a bunch of people saying ‘I want to buy this or that’ that’s new for ’13.”
One key for dealers to remember is that not all prospective buyers are the type to demand the very latest and greatest. Many have little knowledge of what changed in 2012, while others likely haven’t been into a PWC dealership in years. As a result, product lines overall can still be considered fresh, with exciting, innovative technologies. Even those who have kept closer tabs on recent offerings may have yet to check out 2012’s most exciting new offerings.
“If a customer hasn’t been into a PWC showroom in several years, it’s all fresh,” Bamdas said. “If a customer just bought within the last couple years, it’s not as fresh, but with Sea-Doo you have the new RXP-X on the performance side, which is only a year old, and you have all the new iBR technology to talk about. With Yamaha you have new models like the FX, which is a fantastic recreational machine that was introduced new for ’12, so it’s also still very fresh. Both companies also have the good economy models — the GTI and the VX series. So for someone new coming in, it’s all fresh.
“It’s just harder to capture the existing buyers in the market without new product. But you can’t come out with something new every year. It comes in waves.”
And as has been stated for years, it’s always important to consider the enormous installed base of two-stroke customers who have yet to upgrade to four-stroke technology.
“Obviously there’s two-stroke people out there that will never give up their machines because they love them so much,” Hawk said. “But it gets to a point where either parts are getting hard to get for an old one or its just not cost-effective anymore. This group of people will eventually have to get a new one if they want to be on the water.”
Dealers would be wise to provide those consumers with some attention.
“We’ve got those who love their two-strokes and will never give them up, and we’ve got the guys who, as soon as I get them on a four stroke, were like ‘What was I thinking?’” Hawk said. “They love the four-stroke and they buy one. We’ve still got a lot of people on old two-strokes that haven’t made the switch yet, but they’re starting to look.”
And whether they’re pondering the 2012 or ’13 models, it will be a sign of continued momentum.