Like everyone else in the high-performance marine industry, I’m hoping for the beginnings of a turnaround in new-model sales in 2012. But optimistic as I am, I’m also a realist. If there is a turnaround, it won’t happen overnight, just as an easing in consumer credit for loans on go-fast boats won’t happen overnight.
In the meantime, the restoration and refurbishment business is hot—and getting hotter with the start of the boating season. And it makes sense, because even though restoring a twin-engine go-fast boat’s interior and freshening up its engines might cost in the tens of thousands of dollars, that’s a bargain—and one a lot of owners don’t need to find financing for—compared to the mid-six-figures it would cost to replace it with a new one.
“The demand for restoration work is big and getting bigger, which is why we’re focusing on that as one of our main services,” says Scott Shogren, the owner of Shogren Performance Marine, a new and pre-owned go-fast boat dealer in Waukegan, Ill. “For a fraction of the cost of a new boat, you can redo its interior, brighten up its gelcoat or paint, and rebuild its engines. That’s one of the reasons we added a $15,000 propeller dyno.
“We always been a service center, but later this year we’ll be ramping it up and moving into the pre-owned boat rehabilitation and restoration business,” he continued. “The dyno enables us to test our customers’ pre-owned boats under load, and that will help us troubleshoot, as well as verify owner-claimed horsepower. We provide inspection and certification for our pre-owned and consignment boats, and once we get the prop dyno we can verify horsepower ourselves in those models.”
Shogren is far from the only outfit getting with the restoration program. Fountain Performance Marine, the latest iteration of the fledgling business founded by Reggie Fountain of Fountain Powerboats fame, in Washington, N.C., is basing its entire business on the restoration and service market. Reportedly joining Fountain in the business are his sons Wyatt and Reggie.
“With the 10,000 boats we built, almost $1 billion worth when I had Fountain Powerboats, we think there’s a big market for restoring, servicing, refreshing, and upgrading those Fountain models, as well as any other models our customers bring us,” said Fountain.
On the high-performance engine side of the business, Mike D’Anniballe, the owner founder of Sterling Performance in Milford, Mich., says he sees much of same trend. New-engine sales are few and far between, but the demand for rebuilds and refreshment has him and his staff running flat out.
“In the last month, our business of rebuilding and refreshment of engines from other builders, as well as our own, has exploded,” said D’Anniballe. “I have at least 20 pairs of engines in the shop, from Mercury Racing 525EFIs to 1075s to a pair of Zuls, all getting either rebuilt or refreshed.”
So at least for now, restored, refreshed, or rebuilt could be the new “new.” And while we’d all love to see a sales jump in new go-fast boats with new go-fast boat engines, that’s not a bad thing.