DThis customer is typical of what boat dealers experience these months. Before the summer holidays, the father of the family asked a North German dealer about a motorboat for inland waters and the coast. Because of the corona restrictions, his family does not want to go on vacation abroad.
But now the father of the family is facing a six-week holiday in the caravan on his permanent campsite on the Schlei with two teenage daughters. So that it doesn’t get “boring”, he needs his own boat beforehand.
Another customer discovered an offer for a sports boat at a Hamburg dealer on the Internet. The man who had nothing to do with water sports so far bought the motorboat from the catalog. He paid right after the order was placed, several weeks before he could pick up the boat.
He just didn’t want to take any risk that the good piece might go away elsewhere, he justified the hurry. He did not need a boating license in this case, because the engine with 15 HP is just below the driving license requirement.
Boat dealers report experiences that they have not come across in decades. Customers who have not yet had any contact with motor boating or sailing stand in their exhibition halls and choose a boat.
There are hardly any discounts at the moment
If you come across any exhibition specimens at all: At one of the largest dealers in Germany, Gründl in Bönningstedt near Hamburg, there are just three motor yachts and a sailing yacht in the large hall – a Prestige 420 Fly, a Merry Fisher 38 F and a Sun Odyssey 410 at prices of 289,000 euros for the sailor and 420,000 euros and 686,000 euros for the motor boats.
In normal years there are a dozen offers in the exhibition. The purchase price has also changed: boat buyers will currently not achieve the price reductions of up to ten percent customary in other years.
The corona pandemic brought the boat market a sell-off. Dealers and manufacturers report a 25 percent increase in the past year and expect this also for 2021. The limitation comes from the boat builders. The largest German industry companies Hanse-Yachts from Greifswald and Bavaria in Giebelstadt near Würzburg will be sold out on many offers until next year.
At the end of the financial year on June 30, the publicly listed company Hanse-Yachts reported that the order intake of 1,000 boats had been exceeded for the first time. This is due to orders of over 230 million euros, which is more than in the boom years of 2007 and 2008. Waiting times of a year or more are not uncommon.
Expensive motor yacht bought unseen on the phone
Even with a comparatively expensive motor yacht, a boat dealer reports that a customer from southern Germany bought the exhibit over the phone. Only after two months did the boat buyer come to northern Germany for inspection.
The family business that has been running for 60 years did not say that such a motorboat was bought unseen. “Today customers invest much less time buying a boat,” says Richard Gründl, managing director and co-owner of the boat dealer Gründl.
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In previous years, buyers would have upgraded the new boat to the desired level and equipped it with accessories. “Today everything has to be ready immediately,” says Gründl. In his opinion, the situation will only change in 2024 in such a way that the long waiting times will be over. In the next two years, demand will be even greater than supply.
Motor boating is particularly popular. Customers buy inflatable boats that barely justify their name: Boats from the French manufacturer Zodiac, for example, cost 60,000 euros or even 150,000 euros and can travel between 60 km / h and 80 km / h. For rallying on the water, there is a fiberglass-reinforced plastic hull and engines like the Mercury model with 425 hp.
In Germany, all you need to drive on the water is a sports boat license. “A boat customer used to have a history in water sports and once started small,” says Gründl. Today some buyers start right away with larger types of boats.
Gründl is one of the five largest boat dealers in Germany and last year sold 185 motor yachts and large sailing boats, a third more than in previous years. The market is highly fragmented, in addition to the larger medium-sized companies, around 500 significantly smaller retailers cavort in the business.
When it comes to used vehicles, the good offers are quickly gone
Anyone who still wants a boat quickly will find it difficult to find their destination via the used trade route. Even if there are still offers in the relevant boat magazines and internet portals, the good offers are gone.
The used boat market is almost empty, according to the German boat and shipbuilding association. The driving license schools also report highs. Water sports enthusiasts obtained more than 80,000 boat license in the year before Corona.
Last and this year, according to the boat associations, it should be significantly more, without any figures being given. But for example in the nationwide represented Skipper Academy by AW Niemeyer, the driving license courses are fully booked until the second quarter of 2022.
However, the dimensions of the boat market cannot be compared with other leisure areas such as campers or mobile homes. Last year, according to data from the boat and shipbuilding association, almost 34,000 boats were added to the inventory, but almost 30,000 units were small boats under 7.50 meters in length. Most of the boom took place in this segment, with a plus of a third. Often these are boats up to five meters in length and equipped with those 15 hp engines.
Hamburg-based boat outfitter AW Niemeyer is one of the larger providers in this segment. At the beginning of June, managing director Christoph Steinkuhl said he sold a series of 15 motorboats within 72 hours. “We will sell up to 100 boats this year, but we could also sell twice that number,” says Steinkuhl.
The reason for this is: The shipyard in North Rhine-Westphalia simply lacked components such as the stainless steel railing, chips for the navigation or parts for the outboard motors in order to be able to produce higher quantities.
Customers spend significantly more money on boats
In the market beyond small boats, the numbers are also increasing, albeit at a comparatively low level. In 2020, around 1200 larger sailing boats and 1800 motor yachts were added to the inventory. For sailing yachts up to twelve meters in length, for example, the increase in the number of units was a high 41 percent, according to the association statistics.
In the case of motor yachts, the value of the boats bought rose by 35 percent. The trend is clear: in 2020, significantly more customers in Germany bought a boat and they spent more money on it. The association cites 260 million euros as the turnover figure for the industry for larger boats. The German boatyards produced around 7,700 units that year, around 80 percent of which were exported.
“I hear from all sides at the accessory companies and the shipyards that they have a lot to do,” says Claus-Ehlert Meyer, managing director of the boat and shipbuilding association. There are also indications from other sources. Skilled workers for the companies are desperately looking for on the job exchanges.
And after buying a boat, the next challenge comes right away. Because the approximately 3,100 German sport boat harbors hardly have any berths anymore. On the Baltic island of Fehmarn, for example, the five ports are fully occupied. “I just hope that this will not be a no-brainer and that boat buyers will stick with water sports in the long term,” says Meyer.
The concern is justified. For for many years the market for used boats, for example, suffered from the imbalance between a high number of older boat owners and a lack of younger entrants. The result was a boat market flooded with offers, often with low prices.
Prices for used cars have risen by up to 15 percent
It was not until the corona pandemic and the new interest in water sports that the prices for used boats rose again, according to industry information, by an average of up to 15 percent. According to a study by the European Boating Industry, the Federal Association of the Water Sports Industry and the Boot Düsseldorf trade fair, the majority of the almost 300 industry companies surveyed expect an increasing interest in sports boats in the short and long term.
But pleasure in boating or sailing is not overwhelmingly great in Germany, at least in international comparison. According to data from the boat and shipbuilding association, there is one boat for every 174 Germans in this country.
In Finland there are ten and in Norway only seven people who share a boat. Even Switzerland has one boat for every 80 conspecifics, and that in a country with no access to the sea. But the Swiss boat owner is quickly on the Mediterranean from Genoa in Italy and can be admired in the relevant ports with the often expensive motor yacht.
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