Join Date: Jul 2002
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New Hunter & Elan Designs
I think we''re going to see an increasing selection of Eastern European-built boats in the balance of this decade. The EU''s inclusion of countries like Slovenia (where the Elans are built) has multiple effects, including funding subsidies & grants, suddenly expanded markets absent tariff barriers and, perhaps most importantly, it suddenly invites "old" EU countries to subcontract their work to "new" EU countries where labor rates are far, far lower, factory costing rates also very low, and yet where the skills resident in the countries are relatively good.
Here''s an interesting example: A broker in Ramsgate, Kent in Britain was the first importer (within the UK) of Sportina,a Polish builder of fiberglass sailboats. The factory is little more than a Hazmat zone, just getting to it via rental car from the nearest airport is worthy of a Survival episode on TV, and there is virtually no understanding of warranty support at the factory level. (That''s in the dealer''s hands, exclusively, as the factory sees it. Did we use aged resin and build a boat that''s totally compromised? Errr...stonewall the dealer & owner! What the builder has yet to understand is that the EU''s product quality standards will hold him accountable). Still, for the most part they produce acceptable products at a very competitive price point, they''r eager to expand their business, and the British dealer is delivering boats all over Britain because of perceived value. This is going to happen more and more in Europe, and to the extent that European trends grow beyond Europe, we''re going to see it here.
One interesting side note: Where did the Ramsgate dealer learn of Sportina? It turns out that one of the Beneteau models (a 9-10 meter model) has been built by Sportina for several years now and only ''branded'' with some finishing work at the Beneteau factory after being trucked in from Poland. How''d you like to buy THAT Beneteau, thinking you were enjoying all that production efficiency and ''brand name'' quality...