Service and reliability should trickle down — and ripple back up

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One idea I wanted to explore at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show last week was the extent to which technology found on very large yachts trickles down to their smaller brethren, say those in the 40- to 60-foot range. Even smaller.

I strolled through the new SYBAss pavilion early one evening and spoke to a superyacht builder. I posed the question, and he took about a nanosecond to say simply “No.” I rephrased the question: “There must be some trickle down …”
Again, I got a definite “No.”

Next.

Even if there is little transfer of technology between superyachts and their smaller cousins (and I’m not yet ready to concede there isn’t more than meets the eye) it turns out that the two segments have more in common than some might think.

Just where is there common ground? For one, it’s in the importance of being able to properly service the boats you build, whether they’re 30 feet or 230 feet. That was one of the themes that Azimut Benetti Group chairman Paolo Vitelli put forth during a press conference before the start of the show on developing strategies for industry growth.

“We must be able to service these boats around the world, wherever they go,” the Italian entrepreneur and luxury yacht builder told the audience. If you can’t service them properly in a particular country or region, it’s better not to sell them there, he advised.

And Vitelli spoke of both the challenge and obligation that large-yacht builders face in designing boats that are 10 percent more efficient than the previous generation. Lighter with better, more efficient engines and propulsion systems.

And given the relatively short amount of time owners have to spend on their yachts, he declared, “The boat must not break.” Sound familiar?

About an hour later I was standing on a floating dock as Sea Ray introduced its new 190 Sport and 410 Sundancer, two boats we will write about later in more detail in our consumer magazine, Soundings.

As he described the features of the boats, Mike Burke, Sea Ray’s vice president of sales and marketing, also outlined the product service MarineMax provides in the Sebastian Inlet-to-Tampa region alone — 17 locations, 50 mobile vans, nearly 400 service techs and probably $2 million to $3 million in parts inventory.

“We want service where the customer lives, where the customer boats,” Burke told me after the press conference. “We know that, especially on the bigger boats, service is critical to the happiness and enjoyment of the owner. That’s why people keep coming back to us. Equally proportionate to the product, in my mind, is the service we can offer after the sale.”

Service and reliability transcend boat size, feet vs. meters, country of origin and the portfolio of the owners. It is our common language, our common currency. The coin of the realm. If that commitment doesn’t trickle up and down, we’re all in trouble.

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