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VIDEO: Viking Yachts wraps up busy 50th anniversary month

Viking Yachts celebrated its 50th anniversary in April, having spent the last decade of its half-century in operation becoming the No. 1-selling convertible sportfishing yacht builder.

The company has been so busy building and selling yachts that it has had little time to promote the milestone, communications director Pete Frederiksen told Trade Only Today.

“The 62 came out at the VIP boat show preview just prior to the Miami International Yacht and Brokerage Show, and I finally got a boat to shoot because we’ve sold every single one,” he said. “They just went out the door. It’s a good position to be in that we have so much going on. But we haven’t had much time to promote it.”

The company also launched the 62 Enclosed Bridge Convertible. Hull No. 19 will be on display at the 2014 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, Frederiksen said.

Viking is hiring people, as seems typical, and Frederiksen said the company will likely open a fifth production line in the next six to eight months.

“That’s how busy we are,” he said. “Five boats are being delivered [in April] alone.”

The company was delivering an 82 Enclosed Bridge Convertible, a 70 Convertible, a 62 Convertible, a 55 Convertible and a 42, in case anyone was wondering.

Frederiksen said that in addition to the boats, the company is preparing for its annual clambake on May 10. The focus on employees has been a trademark for Viking.

President and CEO Pat Healey says he stands at the time clock to shake hands with each employee at the end of the day when he’s at the New Gretna, N.J., site, just as was a trademark of his father, Bill, who co-founded the company with his Uncle Bob.

Healey spoke in March with Chris Ruisi, host of “Step Up and Play Big,” on his program on the VoiceAmerica Business Channel.

“I travel a lot more than I used to, but every day I’m here I go stand by and say goodnight to everyone as they leave,” Healey said during the interview. “It’s a great opportunity to hear feedback from employees.”

Responding to a question submitted by Trade Only Today, Healey said the company reached the half-century mark after having learned lessons from the 1990s recession that helped Viking thrive through the deeper recession of 2008.

“We didn’t have the debt we had in 1991,” Healey said. “From 1988 to 1991, we bought a company, Gulfstar, a luxury motoryacht builder, and we wanted to provide our dealers with both sportfishing and motor yachts. It was successful, but it took capital.”

Because Viking runs a backlog of a year in a half in an up economy, it was 2009 before the company saw orders drop off. And because Viking wasn’t over-leveraged, as many other builders were, it did not have the struggles that others faced.

Healey also attributes Viking’s success through the recession to the fact that during informal cafeteria lunches, six to eight executives sit and chat about new designs or ideas.

“It’s a wonderful thing because decisions are made and implemented immediately,” Healey said. “We don’t have to go to a board of shareholders to get approval. We have a meeting and we make decisions, and we implement those decisions.”

Viking has three new models on the 2015 model year horizon, Frederiksen told Trade Only. All three — the new 92 Convertible, the 75 Motoryacht and the 52 SC/ST — will be at the upcoming dealer meeting in September and will premiere at the Fort Lauderdale show.

“They’re all 2015 models, and we already have stuff in the works for 2016,” Frederiksen said. “So we have been going great guns here. Our fiscal year closes July 31, and it’s been a good year. We sold a lot of boats between our VIP and Palm Beach Show. Inventory is the lowest it’s been in 10 years.”

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