FLIBS 2018: Activity around European imports remains strong

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Activity around imported yachts at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show was strong, according to European manufacturers. Trade Only Today visited a half-dozen semicustom builders to gauge show-goer sentiment.

Federico Ferrante, CEO of Azimut of the Americas, said the Italian builder sold several boats on opening day through its dealer, MarineMax, and potential sales activity increased during the show. The U.S. market for Azimut continues to grow, according to Ferrante, with the number of boats sold into the United States rising from about 49 units in the five years after the downturn to about 100 units now.

“My goal is to have the Azimut brand be the largest retail seller in the 40- to 80-foot category,” Ferrante said. “That would also include outboards, with our Verve 40.”

The shutdown of Sea Ray’s yacht and sport yacht divisions has helped Azimut’s sales this year, Ferrante said. “We’ve seen the most growth from the economy recovering and the added value in distribution through MarineMax because of the Sea Ray shutdown,” he said.

The company introduced the S6, 25 Metri and Atlantis 51 yachts to the U.S. market at FLIBS. Ferrante said the United States and the rest of North America, combined with Central America and South America, comprises 39 percent of the company’s global sales.

Anthony Sheriff, CEO of U.K.-based Princess Yachts, said that the U.S. market accounts for about 20 percent of its total sales.

“We’re growing consistently in volume and market share,” Sheriff said. “We’ve seen that number rise over the last five years to the point now where our biggest challenge is having enough production.”

Sheriff said the Americas account for about 30 to 40 percent of general luxury goods, so Princess could increase its exports to reflect those numbers. “But we’re interested in organic growth and not flooding the market with boats,” he added.

Princess Yachts of the Americas is the company’s second-largest global distributor of its brand.

Princess introduced the R35 sportboat at FLIBS. The red, all-carbon 35-footer, with its active foil system, was designed by America’s Cup designers and Formula One racing teams. “The active-foil control is like nothing else in the industry,” Sheriff said. “The fuel efficiency is improved by 35 percent, and the boat is also more stable, easier to pilot at speed and more comfortable in a chop than any other boat its size. We’re planning to introduce this technology going forward on our larger yachts.”

In a more niche category, the Zeelander 55 was conceived for an owner in Texas who liked the Down East-inspired style and build quality of the Dutch boats.

“The U.S. market is paramount to us,” said Leonardo van den Berg, commercial director at Zeelander. “Back when we founded the yard in 2002, these boats were just a concept. We ended up building the boats in Turkey, and nine out of 10 were sold into the U.S. We’ve found Americans like what they like and don’t go for the me-too designs like other people around the world.”

Following Turkey, Zeelander moved production to the United States, sub-contracting manufacturing to Tiara Yachts in Holland, Mich. Tiara built Zeelanders for several years, until the Dutch company shifted production back to the Netherlands because it could increase customization. “We have good facilities and a skilled labor force,” van den Berg said. “Since we only build to order, with heavy customization, it made more sense to build them there.”

Zeelander builds six boats a year. The Z72 concept introduced at FLIBS will carry a base price of about $3.2 million. The company said it would reveal more details about the build progress of the 72-footer early next year.

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