Ferretti Group, whose Riva unit made boats for Brigitte Bardot and Sean Connery, intends to open an assembly plant in China as its new Chinese parent seeks to drive up sales in the world's most-populous country.
The Ferretti 881 RPH looks a picture in her natural surroundings (or even just tied up to a dock).
The Italian yacht maker is considering plans for the facility in Qingdao, Shandong province, Tan Xuguang, chairman of the company and of its majority-owner Shandong Heavy Industry Group-Weichai Group, told reporters in Beijing yesterday. The plant will customise vessels for the local market, he added.
Ferretti plans to boost sales in emerging markets led by China, Brazil and Russia, Mr Tan said, as the eurozone debt crisis saps demand in Europe. Shandong Heavy, China's biggest maker of bulldozers, agreed to buy 75 per cent of the yacht maker from creditors in January for 178 million euros (S$280 million).
S-W Asia Editor's note
The Ferretti Group, in case you missed it, is a great deal more than Riva. The Group involves eight brands:
Ferretti - deluxe motoryachts, 15-27m
Pershing - high performance, high luxe, 15-35m
Itama - motoryachts 13-24m
Bertram - sport fisherman boats, 11-24m
Riva - open launches and flybridge cruisers, 8-35m
Mochi Craft - 'lobster boats' (its a styling thing), 12-23m
CRN - fully custom built aluminium megayachts, 44-90m
Custom Line - grp maxiyachts, 26-38m
A couple of years ago Ferretti got into a lot of hot financial water when the private equity company that owned a chunk of the business decided that it was worth nothing. Norberto Ferretti, founder of the original brand and of the Group, had to do a lot of monetary gymnastics to regain control and stop the whole thing being shut down.
Since then, business has not improved in Europe and North America, the traditional markets of the European luxury boat builders. Like everyone else, Asia (and in particular China) is being seen as The Big Market to get into. Many manufacturers have found out already that the Asian perception of boating is not quite the same as it is 'back home'. 'It's a market, Jim, but not as we know it'.
European boat owners and charterers treasure their floating hotels for the peace and privacy they permit - the 'exclusive getaway' sort of programme. In Asia there is little point in having a big expensive boat if you don't show it off - preferably tied up to the dock where everyone can see it - and there is no need to venture out onto that nasty, rolly, bumpy stuff, the sea.
It will be interesting to see what Ferretti China comes up with by way of 'customising for the local market'. We know a boat builder who was quite flabbergasted when asked to build an 80' luxury motor yacht - with one saloon/bar space (no dining facilities or galley required), a giant karaoke lounge complete with mirrored ceilings and disco-ball decor, and just one large stateroom (wonder what that was going to be used for?). And most importantly, a generator BUT NO ENGINES.
We will be watching Ferretti's China output with great interest.