First, we’re not going to dare to summarize a very detailed and thorough report by financial publishing monolith Forbes but we will comment on what maaaybe Polaris’ re-entry into boating. Recently, Polaris, the $5.4 billion (sales) maker of snowmobiles, off-road vehicles and motorcycles, agreed to buy the country’s largest pontoon boat maker, Boat Holdings, for $805 million in an all-cash transaction (expected to close in the third quarter), and will, according to Forbes, “round out Polaris’s portfolio of power-sports products and, it hopes, give it opportunities for cross-selling.”
“Most of our competitors have water products. We’re kind of late to the party,” Polaris CEO Scott Wine told Forbes. While Forbes notes that Yamaha, Kawasaki and others that compete with Medina, Minnesota-based Polaris in these existing markets, Kawasaki does not offer boats or outboards; strictly JetSkis. Yamaha, conversely, is the industry leader in jet boat sales, and wields the second-largest marketshare in PWC sales. BRP, Polaris’ biggest competitor on this scale, builds both Side-by-Sides, snowmobiles, outboard engines and PWC.
According to Forbes, “the U.S. market for new powerboats is $8 billion, and pontoon boats are the largest and fastest growing segment of the industry with an 11% compound annual growth rate since 2010. There’s strong overlap between the different types of powersports with some 30% of Polaris’s existing customers owning a boat. (…) Boat Holdings, which manufactures its boats in Indiana, has been growing faster than the industry, and has been at the forefront of the shift to high-featured, high-performance luxury boats, according to Polaris. Even without custom finishes, these boats are pricey: A 25-foot Bennington R Series fastback pontoon boat can run $60,000 or more.”
If Polaris’ acquisition of Boat Holdings earns dividends in a reasonable timeframe, the brand maker may seek to explore re-entry into the personal watercraft market – particularly as the PWC industry is experiencing double-digit growth over the last two years.