|A Change of Course|
Part 3: Any boatbuilder will tell you that introducing such a distinctly different boat is fraught with risk.
By Richard Thiel — March 2003
Although the 59 and the 19-meter are close in size, they have little in common. They don't even bear a familial resemblance to each other, much less to any other Carver. While Van doesn't rule out the possibility that each model could find a market outside of the continent where it's being manufactured, he's adamant that for now, the 59 is for U.S. buyers and the 19-meter is for Europeans.
Any boatbuilder will tell you that introducing such a distinctly different boat is fraught with risk. Yet Van appears unconcerned. "We have around 450 53 and 57 Voyager owners to draw from," he explains, "and they've been telling us for years that they want a larger boat to step up to. We feel certain that they'll provide all the market we need."
Which begs the obvious question: What of larger Carvers? Is there a boat--or maybe even a line of boats--above 60 feet on the near horizon? The evidence certainly points in that direction. The company just completed a major expansion of its Wisconsin facility, allowing it to build boats up to 65 feet long and 18 feet wide, and the facility in Fano has, according to Carver, no size limits. When I asked Van if there was a big boat in Carver's future, he was cryptic. "You know," he answered, "if you'd have asked me that a year ago, I would have said `no way.' Today, things are obviously changing for us."
The big question is how Carver's reinvention will go down with its core audience, especially Voyager owners. That's one of the dangers of reinventing a company: You can lose part of your constituency who simply don't care for the new you. Yet history seems to be on Carver's side. When it introduced the first Voyager in 1998, that boat represented every bit as large a break with tradition as does the 59. Moreover, the boating market is considerably more sophisticated and demanding today than it was just three years ago, due in part to the influence of European builders. One could argue that Carver has placed itself squarely in the path of where the market is headed.
Although only time will tell whether Carver's metamorphosis succeeds, there's no doubt the company has reinvented itself, and not just by introducing a line of boats that looks different from anything that preceded it. It has transmogrified from a Midwestern American builder into a true international organization--arguably the first American production boatbuilder to do so. This is definitely not eyewash. This really is a new company.
Carver Yachts Phone: (920) 822-3214. www.carveryachts.com.
This article originally appeared in the March 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.