A perfect-storm convergence happened recently that made me wonder why all boatbuilders don’t refit and sell their older yachts. I was visiting a friend whose marina is near a huge graveyard of older boats. Arriving early, I wandered through this weedy burial ground of decrepit vessels and was stunned to find several models I’d once craved beyond reason. Now, three and even four decades old, they were fiberglass classics abandoned by their owners. Once-glossy hulls were dulled, woodwork was blackened and decks were blotched with mold. The sight left me saddened because these sturdy fiberglass classics were salvageable.
Then my neighbor showed off his “new” automobile. More than a decade old, it was a “certified pre-owned” car he bought from a dealership that had refreshed the ride from top to bottom before adding a reassuring two-year warranty.
If dealers for Mercedes and BMW (and most other makes) can take a used car, do a “172-point inspection,” fix anything needed, detail the car so that it shines like new and slap a certified pre-owned sticker on it along with a bumper-to-bumper warranty, couldn’t builders of larger yachts do the same?
When the economy tanked, these boatbuilders laid off many of their skilled workers. Adding a program like this would seem like the ideal way to keep those skilled workers employed through downtimes, to provide dealers with brand-name boats at lower prices and to offer buyers valuable peace-of-mind warranties.
Luxury brands like Lexus and Mercedes started doing this as a way to sell off-lease cars in the late 1980s. In the late 1990s, Nissan went on a buying spree for early 1970s Datsun 240Zs, which received ground-up restorations (even refinishing the wood steering wheel). Dealers were delighted, and the concept kept buyers in Nissans. Land Rover is using employees in its Heritage Restoration program, acquiring some of the 2 million Defenders and Land Rover models built since 1948, restoring them and offering them as upgraded classics.
Yes, I know that many boat dealers offer certified pre-owned programs, but these are mostly on bowriders and smaller boats. I also saw the recent news that Chamberlain Yachts International, a Florida-based brokerage firm for larger yachts, has a certified pre-owned program. But wouldn’t it make sense for a builder of larger boats to create a certified pre-owned yacht program of its own?
Owners bring older Tiaras to the Tiara Manufacturer’s Restoration & Renovation Program for everything from engines to woodwork to upholstery. Intrepid Powerboats offers an Instant Gratification program that turns older Intrepids into certified pre-owned Intrepids. Both are smart moves. Some boats have even created mini industries, with companies buying and refurbishing classic Bertram 31s and vintage Boston Whalers.
If builders of larger yachts want to keep their skilled workers and smooth out the zigs of the market, why not pick up a few classics from the boat graveyards and put them back in the hands of new owners?