Barry Thompson talks to the heads of Australia’s two major luxury motor yacht manufacturers, Rodney Longhurst owner of Riviera and Tom Barry-Cotter Chief Designer for Maritimo, about what they are doing to survive the Covid 19 crisis and their future plans.
When Covid 19 hit in early 2019 what was your expectations for the market?
TBC: The initial shock of Covid 19 caused great uncertainty within the global market. Both enquiry and sales were quite heavily affected. Expectations for the market at that point were grim, and could be negative for some time with many initial medical and economic sources stating their beliefs on how long the world could be negatively effected by Covid-19. Also having an effect was the interruption to manufacturing from risk of the virus itself.
Maritimo were the first in the local industry to act, and implement workplace social distancing measures, with the entire work force adopting split shifts, sub-teams, isolated working areas + amenities, and regular cleaning routine.
RL: During the early days of the pandemic there was massive uncertainty for everyone, with government-imposed conditions and restrictions changing constantly. So, in this environment we knew there was a need to be agile to adapt. Historically, we have seen viruses create an impact for a period, but this time we were facing what appeared to be a super virus, so the duration was unknown. However, throughout all this we always believed the market would return. It was just a matter of when.
When did you realise that the predictions for doom where totally unfounded?
TBC: Enquiry picked up towards in the third quarter of 2020, with sales following in the final quarter, which has been extremely strong since. As the initial shock passed, and the world began to accept the new norm, it seemed with strengthening economic confidence, the world also saw boating as one of the ideal activities to enjoy time with family, in a somewhat safe and isolated environment.
What greater way to get away, and enjoy time with friends and family, than on a long-range luxury motor yacht.
RL: It was early June 2020 when new orders started to come through. It certainly gave us renewed optimism that the tide was turning. From June onwards, strong demand for our motor yachts returned, and that continues to be the case today.
What were your plans to stem the predicted downturn?
TBC: Heavy investment into design and new model development. We invested heavily into working with our owner’s and implementing a design and development strategy around our motor yachts of the future.
RL: We already had many forward orders prior to the commencement of the pandemic, so we needed to continue operations as normal. To address the perceived downturn, we looked at plans to slow down production, perhaps implement shorter weeks, encourage leave among our team and to stop hiring. These plans were considered, but never needed to be implemented.
In the end were 2020 sales better or worse than anticipated?
TBC: Sales secured in 2020/21 have far exceeded what we had anticipated. A perfect combination of the current economic climate, a range of new models that separate our brand from anything else in the market, and category defining future models in development, it has been a momentous year, which lays exciting foundations for the future.
RL: There was a definite slowdown in March, April and May last year. However, orders returned in June, by the end of the financial year we were steady with the previous year. We then experienced strong demand for our motor yachts from June onwards and this has continued through 2021. Our team has been expanding and working around full capacity since then to meet global demand.
Which models proved the most popular through 2020 and now 2021?
TBC: The Global Launch of the new Maritimo M55 Flybridge Motor Yacht has been the ‘star of the show’ in every sense. The M55 redefines the long range cruising flybridge category, a category that was really defined by Maritimo back in 2004. The Maritimo M55 set a record amount of pre-orders for Maritimo, with excited owners already investing in slots for late 2023.
RL: Our most popular models in 2020 were those in our Sports Motor Yacht, Sport Yacht and SUV collections. This trend has continued into the current year adding our new 78 Motor Yacht to this model mix.
Has 2021 seen a continual upswing or is there some levelling off?
TBC: The demand for Maritimo is the strongest it has ever been, with the strongest forward order book in the company’s history. We are investing heavily in staff and facilities to keep up with demand.
RL: There was a clear growth in demand in June, when lockdowns globally began to ease. We have seen consistency since then, and demand remains stronger than normal. Riviera is on track to build more motor yachts this year than last to meet that global demand.
Where are your most important markets?
TBC: Australia, New Zealand, and North America have always been and remain Maritimo’s key markets.
RL: Australia remains our single biggest market. Exports account for more than half of Riviera production, with New Zealand and the Americas the most popular destination for our motor yachts outside of Australia followed by Asia and Europe. Overall, we have experienced almost 30% growth over the previous year.
What are your plans for new models and markets in the future?
TBC: Further investment up, down and across the range, with a major focus on our three key markets.
RL: We work on a five-year plan for new model development driven by many factors including advances in marine design and technology. The insight and feedback from our experienced motor yacht owners who boat all over the world is another key factor in the design and development of our new world-class motor yachts. Riviera has been on a path of continued refinement over the past 9 years across our now 23-model range, and we are always looking at ways to enhance the enjoyment of boating for our owners. Last month, we announced a new flagship for the Riviera fleet in the 78 Motor Yacht. This sophisticated 78 MY design heralds a distinguished new era for Riviera delivering the perfect combination of family cruising, entertaining and blue-water passage-making capability.
How many staff, factory area and are there plans to expand.
TBC: Around 300 Staff, increasing monthly as production increases to cater for demand.
Maritimo is based out of 4.664 Hectare state of the art boat building facilities with further site renovations and upgrades slated for the end of 2021.
RL: The respect for Riviera motor yachts around the world has seen our team on site grow to more than 800 this year. We take great pride in the fact that Riviera, are truly world-class Australian-made motor yachts that are so highly regarded globally. Our operation supports thousands of people and their families directly and indirectly thought our team, contractors and suppliers. We are creating opportunities for not only young people to build an exciting career in the marine industry, but mature trainees as well, all of whom are guided by our master craftspeople. The investment in our people is as important as our investment in plant and equipment. To build world-class motor yachts, we need a world class team and through our award-winning training program we are doing just that. Currently we are training almost 100 apprentices to be the next generation master boatbuilders.
The growth we have experienced this past year has driven our current $10 million expansion program which is designed to improve workflows and efficiencies across our 16.8-hectare site – and to accommodate new and larger models. We are entering the next stage of that expansion as we work towards meeting strong global demand for Rivera luxury motor yachts.