Prout Catamarans Went Bankrupt
Without having a look at the books and a couple of pointed interviews, I can speculate a lot... But I think Mr. Underwood, the former managing director summed it up best with his quote to Yachting Monthly:"I can''t make any comment or I''ll be shot."
Here are a couple of possibilities:
1) The Innovator doesn''t always prevail:
Prout is the innovator but someone else hatched the egg. While Prout has built over 4,200 boats, they did not manage to keep the leadership position as soon as the market for multihulls really took off. In Sailing Today, another possibility mentioned was the recent recession and the strength of the pound. Hmmm.
If our experience is any indication for the average Prout ownership experience, the huge and lucrative charter market would have turned its back on Prout a long time ago. People like standardized, KISS auxiliary systems that are available/repairable all over the globe. Systems ought to be bullet-proof, reliable.
For example, Prout installed non-stainless stay pin substitutes into our mast head in a rush to get the boat presentable for the Miami boat show. These pins are rusting... an inquiry to Prout was a no-show. Gail Monk accused Z-Spar of delivering the defective pins (impossible IMHO) and told me it''s my problem, not theirs.
Ditto for their installation of a cockpit drain that drained into a sealed engine compartment. The drain was not attached to anything! The hydraulic pumps, the starter, and the alternator were for us to fix (after all, such a brain-dead mistake only cost us $5,000 or so, plus labor). We then discovered the source of the leak and installed a new drain so that cockpit water drains overboard, not onto the back of our engine.
How about the poor family in Florida that discovered the hard way that Prout had installed a copper gas line in the bilge of their boat? Besides obliterating the boat, several occupants got burned severely (one child over most of its body). Prout tried to blame the owner (as if *he* installed a corrible copper pipe line in an area that reasonable people would expect to get wet). The courts ruled against Prout... but then the plaintiffs discoverd that Prout carried only 2M liability insurance...not nearly enough to carry the 10.5M health insurance costs.
3) Customer Service:
The above examples are perhaps reason enough for Moody to stop Prout building private label Moody catamarans. Moody cited the current management/owners Quest as the principal reason for not renewing the contract. Since the new Prout UK is a still a subsidiary of Quest, this problem is unlikely to go away.
The design while very functional for owners, is less ideal for charters. Prout doesn''t cram quite as many people into the boat but has functional areas (for example, the navigation areas for some cats I saw at the Düsseldorf boat show were laughable). Charter fleets don''t care so much about large chart tables, etc. as their boats keep cruising the same happy cruising grounds over and over. Besides, who asked the cook on these boats for opinions?
They got on the financial escalator and started spiralling down. If in fact they were not able to finish boats on plan, then the money to pay the labor to finish them had to come from somewhere:
Yes, suppliers! Some of these poor folks were allegedly not paid for years - I have no way of verifying this claim. But I can imagine how the operation of the company would become increasingly erratic as cash shortfalls cause management to react in ways non-consistent with normal business operations.
But where do we go from here? As reported in the Dec 2001 issue of Sailing Today, the "new" Prout will only build the 38'', 43'' and 46'' sailboats. The powercats and the new 70'' cats will be built by Quest subsidiary Concordia in Thailand. Looks like a shift to the luxury market. So much for a recession!
Consider however, that the more expensive the boat, the more "features" it will have. These "features" increase manufacturing complexity by an exponential factor. Now ask yourself: So far, do you get the impression that quality is a core competence of Prout?
Thus, does this shift make sense?
Time will tell.
PS: Have a look at <a href=http://www.vonwentzel.net/Prout/index.html>some more war stories on my web-site</a> by clicking on the link to the left or pointing manually to www.vonwentzel.net/Prout/