NATIONWIDE — American boat makers are getting pummeled on multiple fronts by tariffs and stand to be among the industries hardest-hit in an escalating trade war.
Pres. Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum has driven up the price of those essential materials for many boat makers. Europe, Canada and Mexico retaliated with tariffs on American-made boats. Meanwhile, new tariffs imposed on parts such as engines and navigation equipment imported from China are also pushing up costs.
As a result, they are selling fewer boats, considering raising prices and bracing for layoffs across an industry that employs 650,000 people in the United States at manufacturers, marinas and dealers.
“We have the unfortunate situation of being caught up in every part of this trade war,” Nicole Vasilaros, of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, said.
Industry leaders met with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and trade representatives and tried to make the case this is a truly American industry being used as a pawn in a trade war. Ninety-five percent of the boats sold in the U.S. are made in America.
The timetable for many manufacturers thinking about layoffs is in the next two to three months, Vasilaros said.
“The president’s trying to help U.S. manufacturing, but we are the key case to show that he’s doing the exact opposite,” she said.
The industry, Vasilaros said, is being specifically targeted for retaliatory tariffs by countries wishing to make a point to Trump.
It now faces retaliatory tariffs of 10 percent in Canada, 15 percent in Mexico and 25 percent in the European Union. That means a yacht that once cost $2 million for a European buyer now goes for $2.5 million.
Those three markets represent 69 percent of the U.S. export market, according to the NMMA.