From Nordic Boats owner Randy Davis and John Tomlinson of TNT Custom Marine to Boostpower USA’s Alexi Sahagian and Peter Hledin, the legendary founder of Douglas Marine/Skater Powerboats, the general consensus is that business is strong—a phrase the go-fast-boat industry hasn’t uttered in several years.
While interviewing some of the most influential and innovative people in the high-performance community over the past couple of weeks for speedonthewater.com’s Highs and Lows from 2013 series, it’s been refreshing to hear that so many businesses are beginning to see the pendulum swing the other way.
Of course, I realize there’s going to be a lot of positives when you’re collecting a list of highlights from the boating season, but we’re also discussing low points and business being down has yet to be brought up. In fact, nearly everybody has mentioned an upswing in their respective businesses, whether or not that is their “high.”
None of this means that the industry is back to normal, if you can call the days of Fountain Powerboats and Eliminator Boats cranking out hundreds of boats a year normal. But it is good news. There are issues, of course, in regard to rising costs when it comes to parts, materials, insurance and even taxes.
Davis, who purchased Nordic in 2005, said it seems to be getting harder every year to stay in business. That being said, the owner of a successful framing business in California is happy with how things are going at the Nordic Boats shop in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. He said the company has built more than 60 boats this year, which is the most it has produced in five years.’
Although he’d like to see some of the West Coast custom builders get back on track and start building more boats, Davis is quick to point out that Nordic has kept tooling new models—including a 39-foot V-bottom, a 26-foot deck boat and a 24-foot catamaran—throughout the downturn, which he believes gives the company an edge over the competition.
Marine Technology Inc. (MTI) founder and owner Randy Scism understands that philosophy as MTI’s most popular models right now include the new 52-foot catamaran and the new 42-foot center console. Scism is thankful MTI moved forward with the development of the 42-footer a couple of years ago as the center console is “starting to take off.” Five of the V-bottoms were delivered in 2013 and a few more are in production.
Scism gives a lot of credit to the Mercury Racing QC4v engines—the turbocharged 1,100-, 1,350- and 1,650-hp power plants—for boosting new boat sales over the last couple of years. And he’s not the only builder to credit Mercury for sales. As the Fond du Lac, Wis., company keeps cranking out engines from 1,650 hp down to the new 520-hp offering, there again is another positive sign about the industry. And it’s not just Mercury—Ilmor Marine, Sterling Performance, Teague Custom Marine and many other engine builders and parts suppliers have seen an uptick in business.
There’s no doubt it’s going to take some time for the high-performance powerboat business to really hit its stride again, but a slow and steady increase is the only way that can happen. And from the buzz around the industry as the year comes to a close, that seems to be exactly what is happening.
Former Powerboat editor Jason Johnson was an integral part of the magazine staff from 2005 through 2011, utilizing journalistic integrity and experience in and around performance boats to report on all aspects of the go-fast lifestyle. The award-winning writer resides in Southern California and is the executive editor and co-publisher of speedonthewater.com, and writes for Sportboat and Powerboating in Paradise magazines.