For the Record: Ferretti Group to open assembly plant in China

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55_record_1The Ferretti Group intends to open an assembly plant in China as its new Chinese parent seeks to drive up sales in one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

Tan Xuguang, chairman of the company and of its majority owner, Shandong Heavy Industry Group-Weichai Group, told reporters in Beijing Aug. 31 that the plant will customize boats for the local market, according to a Bloomberg News report.

The yacht builder is considering plans for the facility in Qingdao, Shandong province.

Ferretti plans to boost sales in emerging markets led by China, Brazil and Russia.

On Aug. 27, Xuguang told reporters he was exploring ways to integrate Ferretti’s engineering and branding strengths into the group’s Chinese operations, which are focused on commercial vehicle engines, according to Forbes.com.

Tan says future orders for China could be finished in Qingdao, a port in Shandong, but he emphasized that Ferretti will remain an Italian company and that operations will continue from Italy.

The state-owned Shandong Heavy Industry Group could be in a position to benefit from a Chinese trend toward luxury products after acquisition of Ferretti earlier this year.

After a debt-to-equity swap, the Chinese company’s Weichai Group owns 75 percent of Ferretti, which ran aground after yacht sales peaked in 2007, Forbes.com reported. Its markets in Europe and North America subsequently went south, and Ferretti found itself mired in debt. Now it’s betting on rising wealth in China and other emerging markets to energize the sales of its luxury boats.

The new ownership “will give us unbelievable access to emerging markets such as China, where the potential is the highest in the world,” as well as continuing focus on Europe and the United States, Ferretti CEO Ferruccio Rossi told Bloomberg News.

The boatbuilder, which makes Ferretti, Pershing and Bertram yachts, said it will retain its existing management and its headquarters and production facilities in Italy. Bertram builds yachts in Florida.

Brunswick settles Lund gender-bias case

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs reached an agreement with Lund Boat Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Brunswick Corp., to settle allegations of hiring discrimination.

In a consent judgment approved by the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges, Brunswick and Lund agreed to pay $295,000 in back wages and interest to 185 female job applicants who were rejected for entry-level positions at Lund’s manufacturing plant in New York Mills, Minn., according to a report in the Fergus Falls (Minn.) Journal.

“I am pleased that we were able to reach a settlement in this case, one which will provide immediate relief to the women involved and lasting protections for all job seekers who apply to work for Lund and Brunswick in the future,” compliance director Patricia A. Shiu told the paper. “[The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs] is committed to making sure that companies that hold federal contracts — profiting from taxpayer dollars — give workers a fair shot at employment.”

Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs investigators based in Chicago conducted a review of Lund’s New York Mills facility, beginning in September 2007. The agency determined that Lund had failed to ensure that qualified female job applicants received equal consideration for employment without regard to their gender, the paper reported.

The department filed an administrative complaint with its Office of Administrative Law Judges on Nov. 30, 2011, alleging that Lund officials had systematically discriminated against female job applicants in 2006 and 2007.

In addition to the financial remedies, the agreement requires Brunswick and Lund to extend job offers to at least 27 women in the original class as general laborer positions open. Seven class members already have been hired.

The companies also have agreed to maintain and retain required employment records, undertake self-monitoring measures and submit detailed progress reports to OFCCP for the next two years.

During the past two years Brunswick has held federal contracts worth more than $248 million with agencies that include the Navy and the Coast Guard.

Bertram eyes layoffs after plant relocation

Bertram Yacht has warned Florida state officials of 86 possible layoffs as a result of the company’s relocation from Miami to Merritt Island in Brevard County.

The company filed a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Notice with the state on Aug. 21 and it was posted Sept. 4 on the state’s website, according to the South Florida Business Journal.

The 86 layoffs are expected to be completed by Oct. 20, but the state is awaiting details about the positions of the employees who will be laid off.

“Bertram Yacht does not recognize strict seniority rights but may take seniority into consideration as a factor in determining which employees to lay off and the time of each employee’s layoff,” human resources director Susan Brothers wrote in a letter to the state on Aug. 21, according to the paper. “However, seniority will be one factor in these decisions, and other factors such as business necessity, expertise and past performance also will be taken into account.”

In an interview with the Business Journal in May, Bertram president Alton Herndon said the company would offer jobs to its entire staff of 125 full-time employees. At the time, he expected between 30 and 50 people to relocate with Bertram to its new home.

The company has set up an employee transition program for those who will not be relocating. The program includes a completion bonus equal to four weeks of pay for workers who remain with Bertram until the closing of the Miami plant; South Florida Workforce training sessions; a job fair to be conducted with assistance from South Florida Workforce; and Rosetta Stone English training.

Bertram’s relocation to the new plant will create 221 new jobs in Merritt Island.

56_record_1Nautor’s Swan marks production milestone

Freya, the Swan 90S launched Aug. 14 at the Nautor’s Swan facility in Pietarsaari, Finland, was the 2,000th new Swan built since the company was founded.

Nautor’s Swan says it has delivered 95 models of Swan, from the first Swan 36 to the new Swan105, during its 46-year history. The very first Swan, hull No. 1, was the Swan 36-001, Tarantella, designed by Sparkman & Stephens.

The boat was delivered to its owner on July 17, 1967. Nautor’s Swan now owns Tarantella, and the builder says it is based at the yard in Pietarsaari and is in perfect condition and still sailing.

Freya was scheduled to leave the yard in mid-September after a month of commissioning.

“The Swan 90 is an iconic model within the current Swan line, and it is fitting that the 2,000th Swan delivered should cement it in our history books,” says Nautor’s Swan managing director Enrico Chieffi, in a statement.

MarineMax acquires New England outlets

The country’s largest boat and yacht retailer announced Sept. 10 that it acquired a venerable New England Sea Ray dealership.

MarineMax purchased Bassett Marine LLC’s retail sales and operations in Westbrook, Conn., and Warwick, R.I., and added western Massachusetts to its territory for its Sea Ray product line. The acquisition increases Clearwater, Fla.-based MarineMax’s store locations to 55.

The newly acquired geographic markets are contiguous with MarineMax’s New York and Connecticut markets. The retailer says in a press release that it believes additional operating and purchasing benefits can be derived over time by combining the management, marketing and infrastructure of its stores in the region.

“The New England region has long been a target area of expansion for our company,” MarineMax president and CEO William H. McGill said in a statement. “It represents one of the wealthiest areas of the country and has a deep appreciation and affinity for boating. We believe this acquisition, with its great team and loyal customer following, combined with the integration of our other product offerings and operations, will help us expand and improve upon our ability to deliver the MarineMax caliber of service in this great boating area.”

The newly acquired stores will sell the Sea Ray, Boston Whaler, Meridian and Azimut brands, and probably others suited to the market. Other brands that MarineMax sells include Cabo, Hatteras, Grady-White, Bayliner, Nautique and Malibu.

56_record_2Malibu Boats unveils Axis military tribute boat

Axis Wake Research, a Malibu Boats affiliate, has developed a special, limited-time Recon edition boat as a tribute to the U.S. armed forces.

It was inspired by team rider Keith Lyman, who decided to leave professional wakeboarding to serve in the Army last year, according to the company. A portion of the proceeds from each Recon edition boat will directly benefit Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors.

The A20 and A22 boats will be fitted with the Recon package in 2013, which includes camouflage graphics and vinyl accents, a Recon gelcoat scheme, a charcoal tower and a branded steering wheel, swim pad and carpet.

“We were moved by Keith’s decision and wanted to recognize and appreciate all the troops who are defending our freedom on a daily basis,” Malibu Boats vice president of product Adam McCall says in a statement.

Lyman retired from a successful 10-year professional wakeboarding career at age 27 and joined the military.

Proposal seeks to craft model-year guidelines

The Coast Guard is reviewing a proposal by marine associations to enforce manufacturer model-year guidelines.

The Marine Retailers Association of the Americas and the National Marine Manufacturers Association said in August that they came together to submit the consensus proposal.

The Coast Guard’s definition of a boat’s model year begins Aug. 1 and ends July 31. However, for many years, boatbuilders have produced new vessels on their own timeline.

This spring, the industry learned that the Coast Guard began enforcing the Aug. 1 model-year start date, leaving builders with compliance problems that would require the shutdown of boatbuilding facilities for as long as eight weeks during the summer.

After a meeting with the Coast Guard, the NMMA was asked to work with the recreational boating industry to develop a consensus position on the definition and enforcement of the model year. Board members from the MRAA and NMMA met to develop a recommendation and have since submitted it to the Coast Guard. It was the first time on record that the two associations have come together to develop a workable solution.

It would keep the model year target date at Aug. 1, but it includes a 61-day grace period prior to Aug. 1 during which new model year products may be shipped.

The proposed solution includes two exemptions: Builders of boats 30 feet and larger will have the freedom to designate model year without regard to the Aug. 1 target date and grace period, and manufacturers may introduce an entirely new model at mid-year with the next-model-year designation.

NMMA helps establish boat-theft database

The National Marine Manufacturers Association and the National Insurance Crime Bureau have initiated the first national database of vessel information.

Similar to vehicle identification numbers, the new collection of boat manufacturing data can be used to assist in boat identification, helping to deter and prosecute crimes involving recreational boats.

Each month, according to the NICB, more than 500 boats are stolen in the United States, costing boat owners and their insurers millions of dollars annually. In turn, thieves often sell these stolen boats to unsuspecting consumers. This database will enhance the efforts of the Coast Guard, law enforcement personnel and the NICB to prevent, detect and report potential marine thefts and insurance fraud and protect boaters.

The new tool is designed to streamline the access that law enforcement officials and insurers have to the hull identification number, brand, model, year, length and other identifying information.

The database is live and the NMMA is urging boatbuilders to share information that will assist officials in thwarting thefts, reporting them when they do happen and collecting more accurate data in order to identify stolen boats.

Mercury Marine plans to expand in Wisconsin

Mercury Marine, a division of Brunswick Corp., has launched a $20 million expansion at its headquarters and outboard engine factory in Fond du Lac, Wis.

The work is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013 and will result in additional manufacturing jobs and new positions in engineering and product development, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in August.

Mercury employs more than 5,000 worldwide, including about 2,550 in Fond du Lac. Much of the expansion stems from the company closing a 700,000-square-foot plant in Stillwater, Okla., and moving the work to Fond du Lac.

Mercury also dissolved a joint venture with Cummins Diesel, which resulted in diesel engine work being moved from Charleston, S.C., to Fond du Lac.

State officials offered the company $70 million, mostly in the form of refundable tax credits, to protect jobs. Fond du Lac County gave the company a $50 million loan, paid for by a 0.5 percent sales tax, and the city of Fond du Lac offered $3 million in financial aid.

Mercury has added about 950 jobs in the community during the past three years, many of them resulting from the transfer of the Stillwater work to Wisconsin. Much of the hiring in Fond du Lac is tied to engineering and product development work.

This article originally appeared in the October 2012 issue.

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