Boating: High Class in Fiberglass
When sales representatives for the German boatbuilder KaiserWerft introduce prospective clients to the 102-foot Ocean of Love, a recent entry to the company’s semicustom Baron line of fiberglass megayachts, they note the boat’s twin 2,000 hp MTU engines, 22-foot-wide beam, and teardrop-shaped windows. However, the most appealing characteristic of the sporty vessel, which the company completed in seven months, may be its $7.6 million (6.3 million euros) price. “We do everything in-house—steel, upholstery, wood, electrical, laminating,” says Zed Vohra, the company’s managing director. “By doing so, we achieve quality, keep our costs down, and pass the savings on to the customer.”
When KaiserWerft was launched in 2002, it joined well-established firms Azimut, Benetti, Ferretti, Lazzara, and Sunseeker in the fiberglass market.
KaiserWerft’s competitors can point to their boatbuilding heritages, but the German upstart, according to Vohra, can offer clients comparable boats priced $500,000 to $2 million less than its Italian, American, and British counterparts, despite the high costs of labor and parts in Germany. The Lazzara 106, which clients might also consider as well as the Baron 102, sells for $8.5 million, while Lazzara’s new 110-footer costs $9.2 million.
KaiserWerft clients can enjoy even greater savings if they participate in the company’s preferential price program. When it receives an order for a boat, KaiserWerft offers the buyer a reduced price if he or she grants the company the option to sell the yacht to another party in a three- to five-month window after the boat’s launch. If the boat is not resold, the owner takes delivery at the reduced price. If a sale does take place, the original owner loses the boat but shares a portion of the profit between the price he paid and the new price. Although the new owner pays a premium, he benefits by taking delivery of his yacht in as little as several weeks, because commissioning a custom yacht can take as long as three years.
Three of KaiserWerft’s first five clients have participated in the program; one owner took delivery at a preferential price, another resold his boat, and the third owner is still in the process of either taking delivery or reselling his yacht. “Yachting is becoming like the car industry,” Vohra says. “Clients don’t want to wait three years. They’d rather take the keys in exchange for cash.”
Vohra, a Bombay native, previously operated a shipping company that transported cargo by sea worldwide, but he left that business after growing weary of the inconsistent regulations that govern international commerce—and client payments that went uncollected. In 1997, he ventured into private yachting, managing charters for Applause, a 150-foot Oceanco yacht. Vohra enjoyed the experience enough to begin to form his own yacht-building company. He purchased the shipyard of PR Marine, a dormant megayacht builder in Saal, Germany, and revived the operation two years ago under its new name.
Having launched Ocean of Love in May, KaiserWerft currently is building two 130-foot yachts and expects to construct 200-foot boats in the coming years. The vessels’ interiors will continue to be designed in-house, and the company does not plan to subcontract any construction stages. The wisdom of such decisions may not be apparent immediately, says Vohra, but eventually it will be. “I believe the whole process of evolution will take 10 years,” says Vohra. “It’s not only a question of building them; it’s a question of them being in the water and being used. Five to seven years later, the clients will come to us and say, ‘Boy, it works. It’s a great boat.’ That’s when I’ll say it was successful.”