Malibu discontinuing ski boats? Here’s what we know so far
The end of an era? (image: Malibu Boats Australia)
By Jack Burden
Rumors have emerged within the waterskiing community regarding the potential discontinuation of Malibu’s Response TXi model. While Malibu has yet to make an official announcement, multiple sources have speculated that the future of the company’s ski boats may be in jeopardy.
The company, which manufactures Malibu, Axis, and Cobalt boat lines, is facing significant financial trouble. Malibu’s stock price plummeted following a sharp decline in revenue, as revealed in their most recent quarterly earnings report. Adding fuel to the fire, Dennis Kelley, the longtime National Promo Team Director of ski program, was reportedly let go by the organization.
Kelley, who celebrated 30 years with Malibu in late 2022 and managed their ski program for much of that time, is uncertain about the future of the TXi. While Return to Baseline has reached out to Malibu for comment, no response has been received thus far.
Malibu dealers and others close to the organization have not received any news of changes to the program from the company at this stage, leaving us cautiously optimistic that the rumors may be unfounded. However, the plausibility of one of the big three manufacturers ceasing production underscores the tenuous situation of three-event skiing. The limited market leaves us dependent on the legacy goodwill of boat manufacturers, who typically earn much higher margins on their other products.
Malibu’s recent stockholders’ earnings call portrayed a bleak outlook, reflecting broader industry challenges. CEO Jack Springer candidly acknowledged the tough quarter, attributing it to economic uncertainty and soft retail demand. Expressing his frustration, Springer remarked, “It is a tough market to say the least.”
Bruce Beckman, Malibu’s CFO, underscored the severity of the company’s financial predicament, stating, “We anticipate a year-over-year decline in annual net sales ranging from a mid to high 30s percentage point decrease.”
The Tennessee-based boat manufacturer, founded in Merced, California in 1982, quickly rose to prominence for its innovative ski boats. Over the years, the company expanded its offerings to include wake boats, capitalizing on the rise in popularity of wake sports. Today, the company manufactures boats in Tennessee, California, and Australia.
The rumors of discontinuation have sent shockwaves through the waterskiing community, raising concerns about the future of the sport. Athletes like Regina Jaquess and Thomas Degasperi, Malibu’s remaining water ski athletes, face the loss of their primary sponsor. Additionally, the fate of the longstanding Malibu Open tournament hangs in the balance, casting a shadow over the 2024 season.
Moreover, dwindling competition and production in the ski boat market pose significant challenges for water skiers. The rising cost of boats, coupled with a smaller supply, could further inflate prices and limit accessibility to the sport. In recent years, the Response TXi has consistently been the most affordable top-end ski boat on the market, rivaled only by the limited run of Nautique 200s still in production.
While hopes remain that competitors like Nautique and MasterCraft would fill the void left by a potential Malibu exit, uncertainties loom large. Both companies have historically prioritized higher-margin wake boats, leaving waterski enthusiasts anxious about the future.
These are potentially challenging times for the sport of water skiing, and we remain hopeful that the rumors turn out to be untrue, or at the very least, that Malibu’s decision is only a temporary measure and that they are able to reenter the water ski market in the future.