Detroit Boat Show rides wave of recovery

Published online: Feb 27, 2012 News Bob Boughner

After a six-year downturn, the boating industry is on the rise in Michigan.

The recent Detroit Boat Show rode on a wave of tentative recovery, featuring more boats, brands and exhibit space than in recent years.

Sales of luxury yachts are up and yacht club membership is recovering. A renewed interest is evident at the Detroit Yacht Club, where membership is on an upswing, according to membership director Jack Lyon.

Other indicators, such as fewer boat repossessions, are also producing optimism. But the number of boats registered in Michigan is down.

This year's boat show at Cobo Hall featured hundreds of boats, including paddleboats, pontoon boats, kayaks and inflatables.

Among the unique features of the show was the unveiling of the first all-electric wakeboard boat valued at $200,000.

The show is not just for browsing. Consumers purchase more than 1,500 boats, worth $50 million, during the show and in the weeks following the event.

We were impressed with the large number of pontoon boats on display and the number of special options being featured including - for the first time - cocktail bars.

Pontoons come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colours and horsepower - at least one sports a 350-horsepower outboard engine.

Several dealers we talked with were pleased with the turnout and the interest being shown in new boat purchases.

"It's a signal that the economy is improving,'' said a Crestliner dealer. "It has a long way to go but it's on the right track.''

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