Today, the company’s sales of high-end boats to customers in foreign markets like the Middle East remain robust. Cigarette’s 38-foot electric boat is on display at the Mercedes museum in Stuggart, Germany, says Skip Braver, the owner and chief executive officer of Cigarette since 2002. While overseas presence is strong, the market back home is stronger, Braver said.
But the company’s high-powered performance inboard models, while still popular, are no longer the best-sellers. “When everybody was scaling back during the recession, we were investing in the Huntress,” Braver said. Priced around $800,000, the 42-foot Huntress is one of Cigarette’s five performance center-console outboard models. Capable of holding five Mercury outboard engines, the boat can slice through rough water at more than 80 miles per hour and can hold more than 20 people, Braver said. The center-console performance models are the hottest sellers.
Another performance center console model in Cigarette’s fleet, the 39-foot GTS, was introduced this year. Like the other models in the fleet, both the Huntress and the GTS feature the double-stepped hull. The market is filling up with more social boaters, which is prompting the popularity of center console models, Braver said.
Though Braver would not comment on unit sales or revenues, he said that there is a significant back-order for the boats. “If you were to order one today, you wouldn’t get it until February,” he said. The boats take 12 to 16 weeks to make and can cost over a million dollars. The company also sees a lot of repeat customers. “Most people that buy a Cigarette boat have owned a Cigarette or another boat before,” Braver said.
But there’s no forgetting the company’s go-fast, performance roots, Braver said. Sales for the 50-foot Marauder SS are still brisk, he said. The Marauder resembles Cigarette’s early models and can reach 125 miles per hour with inboard power. “We still have to understand the past — who our customers were and who they will be,” he said.
While “social’’ boats are selling like hotcakes, those too big for outboard engines — longer than 50 feet — are slower to emerge from the recession.
“A lot of people who owned a 60-foot boat stepped down to buy a 30-foot boat due the expenses of maintenance and having a crew,” said Jeff Johnson of Maritime Finance.
South Florida-based yacht manufacturers like Broward Shipyard and Donzi Yacht by Roscioli International have started relying more on the service sectors of their businesses to stay afloat. Broward Shipyard came under new ownership in 2009, and contracts for new construction have been scant.
Despite declines in new boat building, Dania Beach-based Broward Shipyard still services about 100 yachts per year, said Philippe Brandligt, director of the yard. Service comprises 85 percent of the shipyard’s business. Before the financial crisis, business at Broward was split in half between service and new construction, Brandligt said.
That doesn’t mean that the company has given up on building mega yachts. Last summer, the yard secured contracts with WorldSea Yachting to build two 135-foot vessels. Engineering on those boats has begun, and Brandligt hopes that construction will progress within the next two years. In the meantime, people turn to Broward Shipyard for body work, paint jobs, electrical work and carpentry, he said.