Kiwi Boat Builders Back at Work

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As Level 3 restrictions come into place tonight at 11:59pm we will see the return of boat manufacturing, which is a huge bonus for the marine industry. 

When Level 4 lockdown came in over 5 weeks ago, Kiwi boat manufacturers, along with the rest of the country had to close their doors. Not regarded as an essential business, the entire marine industry ground to an instant halt.

The New Zealand trailer boat industry had, until lockdown being extremely active, with some companies recording record sales and 2020 was heading towards being a bumper year for new trailer boat sales. So now, after more than a month of inactivity, the laminators, boat riggers and finishing teams can get back to work.

Geoff Robinson, director of CSB Huntsman Boats predicts a positive outcome.

“Yes, it will be a tough run for a month or two, but I feel that once the ‘new norm’ kicks in we will see dealers placing orders for the summer”, says Robinson.

He adds that coming back to work on Tuesday feels much like returning after the Xmas break and while they have some orders to complete, they also experienced a number of cancellations from dealers who were not prepared to commit with such an unknown future.

“However, we now have a better picture of where the country is heading and we will all have to adjust to that and hopefully, if what some of the business leaders predict, we will see a boom time for our industry, especially as overseas travel is likely to be drastically reduced”, says Robinson.

CSB Huntsman are continuing with their new model programme and have a new Centurion Hardtop to be released soon.

Steve McLay, MD of McLay Boats is not so convinced that we are heading for a boom, and feels that it is not going to be an easy year for sales. While he returns with a full team to finished existing orders, he says that once they are completed, he will be building up his stock boat inventory.

“We are as yet unable to water test so that is an issue, and we are not allowed to transport our boats, so we can’t send boats to the North Island or in fact out of our area.

“However, we are able to export and we have two containers with four boats ready to be shipped to Australia next week”, says McLay.

He added that it’s tough on the cashflow as nothing like Covid-19 was budgeted for, so for those boat manufacturers that are not reasonably well funded, may struggle to survive in the future.

Tristram Marine’s, Tristram Fink says while their showroom will remain closed during alert level 3, their manufacturing and service centre will be open.

“This allows customers to have their boat packages serviced to ensure engine, boat & trailer warranty conditions are met”, says Tristram. Obviously, they will be practicing strict social distancing guidelines for any client that arrives at their Hamilton facility. This also applies to

the production team who will be back to work under the guidance of strict Safe Practice Protocols.

“We have more orders now than we have ever had in the company’s 33-year history, and since lockdown, not a single boat order has been cancelled”, says Fink.

He adds that all that has changed for them, is that production has been delayed for 4 ½ weeks and when they start back tomorrow it will be business as usual.

Tristram says that the enquiry level has been very strong during the lockdown and he is confident that a number of those will result in sales. “The future in my opinion is positive and in fact I see it becoming even busier”.

One of the fallouts of the lockdown was that Tristram Boats were unable to launch their new model, which for now is called Tristram X. Due to be released in April it is now scheduled to be unveiled sometime soon.

“It is absolutely phenomenal and is a true game-changer in the trailerable offshore sportfishing market. Unquestionably it is one of the best models we have ever done and with the extent of pre-release sales, it seems our customers agree”, says Fink.

CEO of Rayglass Boats, David Larsen says that they came into 2020 with very solid order book for both the Legend Series and Protector RIBS and when lock down came they were still busy working on orders.

“We are now busy getting the wheels back in motion, especially in the production of our Protector RIBs and the Legend 3500, which will take us through until next year”, says Larsen.

With the showroom closed, the Rayglass sales team have also out together a virtual boat show so customers can still look over the boats, but with no physical contact.

He says he feels the future for the industry is still strong, and that they are still getting positive enquiry for most models, especially the Legend 3500.

Gerry Gerrand, MD of Buccaneer Boats reckons it is too early to make any predictions. He says they will be back at work this week and have a number of orders to finish, plus work will continue on a couple of new models.

“It’s going to be a very different market and until we get out of lockdown, I am not really sure which way it is going to go”, says Gerrand.

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