American Boatbuilder's World Competitiveness
..interesting editorial by the editor of European Boatbuilder
"I would suggest that Europe’s boatbuilders could be in real trouble just now if the Americans were on the money with their product design."
It has to be said that we in Europe owe a huge debt to the Americans. And no, I’m not talking about their contributions to the winning sides in two world wars or inventing rock n roll, to name but a few of the real biggies. No, we, and I am sure I speak on behalf of most of this continent’s boatbuilders — owe them a big ‘thank you’ just now for being so incredibly off the pace when it comes to developing international markets for their boats; or rather, I should say, not developing international boats for their markets.
Even the most successful US boatbuilders will be doing well if they export 10-15 per cent of their production and they are likely to be top export performers if they get international sales figures up much above the 25 per cent mark. Most, of course, don’t export at all. And, before anyone writes in, I apologies in advance to the exceptions; I know I’m generalizing.
No, even the very best US builders can’t compare with the best Europeans, which typically would export upwards of 75 per cent and have distribution networks that take in pretty much the whole planet.
Of course, the reason I’m chipping these broad-brush opinions in now is all down to the scary health of the US dollar. Indeed, I would suggest that Europe’s boatbuilders could be in real trouble just now if the Americans were on the money with their product design. But American boatbuilders almost without exception stick to the same tack. They try to sell abroad what sells at home; and it just doesn’t work as far as boats go. And we all know it doesn’t really work when it comes to cars either come to think of it.
With the US dollar in the doldrums — and a disturbing number of money-market analysts are suggesting it will get weaker before it gets stronger, and very possibly a lot weaker — it is fair to say that Europe’s boatbuilders can today, and very probably tomorrow too, thank their lucky stars (and stripes!) that the US boatbuilding industry has always been notoriously insular, not to say crazily neglectful, when it comes to markets beyond its own substantial boundaries. And there’s no evidence to suggest any real change.
They just don’t seem to have learned the lessons of the past.
When things are good, American builders seem to have more than enough on their plates gearing up and delivering to the home crowd. And every time there is a major slowdown in the US and/or when the US dollar is weak, we see the same cyclical response — a case of too little, too late. They tend to turn/return attentions to export territories — and obviously Europe is always a prime focus, because it has, outside North America, by far the largest boating communities — only when they have spare capacity, not as part of a global strategy.
Phil Draper, editor