By: Scott Way
2020 was a year of major change for engine manufacturers, but one is clear: the trend toward outboard power is pushing producers to new heights.
According to data released by the NMMA (National Marine Manufacturers Association) in their annual Outboard Engine Sales Trends report, US outboard engine sales reached a 20-year high in 2020. Outboards have been trending upward since 2011, culminating in a 17.6% increase in 2020 year over year compared to 2019. That accounts for 329,500 units sold, equaling the highest annual total since 2000. Total retail engine sales amounted to a whopping $3.4 billion.
All-told, horsepower segments were up across the board with growth ranging between 6%-38% depending on category. The largest sector of growth occurred in lower powered units below 100 hp. The sub-100 hp category was up 20% compared to 2019, with over 153,000 units sold compared to 127,000 units in 2019.
Even more surprising is the sub-30 hp segment, which were up 25% compared to 2019, with a total of almost 72,000 units sold compared to 57,000 units in 2019.
The reasons behind the surge are multifaceted, although two primary forces are likely the root: the growing manufacturer trend towards outboard power given its versatility and serviceability, and the major uptick in new boaters entering the marketplace as a result of Covid-19.
Higher power categories remained steadfast in 2020 as engines over 200 hp were up 17.6% compares to 2019, amounting to over 89,000 units sold.
The data shows an average horsepower rating of North American boaters to be 126.3 hp, which is down 1% compared to the 2019 average rating of 127.6 hp. Pricing on engines also remained static for 2020 despite the surge, with the average engine price only up 0.2% compared to 2019. This likely played a factor in the 2020 surge, although it remains to be seen what consumer expectations will be in 2021 given ongoing supply change disruptions.
In a company statement Vicky Yu, NMMA director of business intelligence, said “The heightened interest in boating amid the Covid-19 pandemic helped to propel outboard engine sales to historic levels last year, as more Americans took to the water, whether on a new boat or repowering a preowned boat with a new engine."
“With boating participation on the rise, boat sales expected to remain steady, and engine manufacturers catching up to meet demand, we should continue to see healthy levels in outboard engine sales into 2021,” Yu said.
You can view the full Outboard Engines Sales Trends report from NMMA, although a membership is required.