Growth also spurs sales of larger units
When Sea-Doo launched the Spark more than two years ago, the primary goal of introducing a value-priced, lightweight PWC to the market was to increase personal watercraft sales industry wide.
Though it’s likely other factors have also led the PWC segment to year-over-year increases each month since July 2013, there’s no doubt that the Spark is playing its part. In 2015, the second full year of Spark availability, sales of those units grew 35 percent.
“The watercraft business is doing well overall in the U.S. 2015 was a great year,” said Louis Levesque, vice president of Global Marketing and Customer Experience for BRP. “On our side, we also did very well from a market share standpoint. But also … Spark is resparking the industry, no doubt about it.”
The appeal of the Spark has always been its price point, which currently starts at $5,199, 35 percent more affordable than any other PWC on the market. But Sea-Doo also emphasizes its easy tow-ability, as Spark is 45 percent lighter than its competitors. Levesque said he was recently in Australia, where it’s currently PWC season, and he ran into a man who had towed a Spark to the boat launch using a smaller car. While the man said the price was one of the factors that led him to purchase the Spark, he was also impressed with how easy it is to tow and store.
“There’s a lot of people that are looking at the watercraft business as ‘This seems so cool, great for family fun. It would be fun to be on the water with this.’ And now with Spark, it is possible and more accessible than ever before,” Levesque said.
The Spark is reaching its key demographic, which was originally slated for 25-35 year olds, however Levesque pointed out that Sea-Doo is seeing a wide variety of buyers. Grandparents who have waterfront property are buying them, for example, as a way to encourage their children and grandchildren to visit.
“Dealers see new customers walking in, people they haven’t seen before. And it means those people are getting into the powersports industry, and they are buying Spark,” Levesque reported.
Spark buyers are also frequently buying more than one unit, and some even visit a dealership with the intention of buying a Spark, but they walk out with a larger, higher price point Sea-Doo.
“Some won’t buy Spark at the end of their journey because they find out, ‘You know what, maybe I want more horsepower. Maybe I want more space.’ So they find the best unit for them, and the dealer helps them out to do this, so it’s good for the dealer,” Levesque said.
Sea-Doo and its dealers are also starting to see Spark buyers return for service, and the early Spark adopters are beginning to trade up for newer, larger units.
“We have to bring more new types of buyers into our stores, and Spark is doing that very well. And that’s also right now why we’re seeing the industry growing,” Levesque said.
Though Spark has been a large success for Sea-Doo over the past couple years, the rest of the lineup has also been performing well. Lineup sales, which include everything but Spark, also saw an increase in 2015, Levesque said.
For the 2016 season, Sea-Doo is looking forward to seeing its new RXT-X 300 and RXP-X 300 models, featuring the new 300-hp Rotax 1630 ACE engine, on the water.
“There’s still a lot of enthusiasts in the watercraft business, and they’re looking for an adrenaline rush, which is good, so this new watercraft, with also the Ergolock seat, is very different than what we had and what’s out there from the competition. And this, so far, has been a win,” Levesque said.
In places like Australia, where the new units have already been in use, the performance of the Rotax 1630 ACE has exceeded expectations, he reported.
“It’s too soon to tell how it’s going to perform in terms of retail sales, but I can tell you we have a lot of traffic on our website, a lot of traffic at our boat shows, and usually those types of enthusiast units are sold earlier in the season because those guys are thinking about it even in the winter, and those people usually go to the boat shows, so we’ve seen those people a lot in our booths.”
With those two new performance models in the lineup, along with three new Spark colors, an updated second generation iBR and updates throughout the lineup, Sea-Doo is looking forward to the year to come.
“We’re expecting a great year this year, and on top of it, the U.S. economy is doing well so far, so hopefully it will stay that way for the whole year. So I think it will be a great summer for all of us, for dealers and BRP,” Levesque said. “So far all the signs are pretty positive.”