Industry leader Bill Barry-Cotter flatly rejects on-going rumours that the boating industry is facing nothing but doom and gloom.
'I’m not saying it’s easy out there, but the fall in value of the Australian dollar against the US greenback has certainly given exporters assistance,' he said.
Barry-Cotter, CEO of the award-winning Gold Coast yard Maritimo, returned last week from Italy’s Genoa International Boat Show.
'It was excellent for our company, with both boats on display, a 48 and a 52, sold at the show and we’re confident of another three following them.
'That’s not to say Italy is any easier – it’s been tough there for some time, more so perhaps than here in Australia,' he added.
As an exporter, Barry-Cotter is hoping the Aussie dollar will settle at about 70 cents (or lower) against the US dollar.
At time of writing it was trading a shade under 67 cents.
'Because we still buy raw materials and engines in from offshore, this could mean a price increase locally of some five percent, but in the US our retail boat prices will drop by better than 10 percent,' he explained.
'Dave Northrop, who heads our American operation, Maritimo USA, is very positive and feels ’09 is destined to be a very viable year.
'In fact, looking ahead I envisage the US could account for 60 percent of Maritimo production,' he added.
Barry-Cotter believes the Reserve Bank still needs to lower interest rates.
'Dramatically, none of this fractions of percent,' he declared.
'Don’t forget,' he added, 'the difference between buoyant times and depression is only about 10 percent.
'I do feel importers are going to face tough times – at present I would see local retail prices of imported US boats lifting by up to 20 percent.
'The single aspect all of us in the industry must come to terms with is the importance of price.
'No matter what some may think, it has been Maritimo’s experience that the final retail price is what will get a sale across the line.
'That is why I have curtailed customisation, why we manufacture so much in house, including propellers, it’s all aimed at beating the competition at the price barrier,' he said.
Barry-Cotter said the industry certainly was facing tough times, but the right approach will overcome any set back.
'Look, I’m not suggesting what we’re going through is any false alarm situation, things are indeed tight, but we shall survive,' he said bluntly.
'It was both hurtful and extremely disappointing that we were forced to cut back our staff levels, something we left until it was completely unavoidable.
'Bernie Fraser, formerly of the Reserve Bank, has said it could take 12 to 18 months before a return to complete normality.
'So what we’re doing here at Maritimo is working diligently and looking ahead 12 to 18 months,' he added.