Sunseeker CEO Andrea Frabetti: Committed to the vision (Pt 2)
The second and concluding part of an interview with Frabetti, who has stuck to his 2019 plan of doubling the number of Sunseeker models despite the challenges of the Covid period. Interview: John Higginson.
Andrea Frabetti has been CEO of Sunseeker since mid-2019
The Manhattan models remain a core of the brand and Hong Kong recently received the first Pacific edition of the 68 through NextWave. What are your thoughts on this layout, which has more seating in the saloon and a ‘grand master’ suite with private lounge?
I really like the changes. This was developed by Douglas Culverwell (Sunseeker’s Director of Distributor Development) with NextWave Yachting, the Hong Kong dealer. They asked us to consider this layout and it was great to hear how it could help our dealers in Asia. We listened carefully and I think they got it right.
In Europe, most people like to have four cabins and can compromise a little on the saloon, but the Pacific layout is great and still offers three wonderful cabins, which is probably more than most owners need. We didn’t call it an Asia version because we’ve also been selling the Pacific version in the US and even in Europe, too.
The Manhattan 68 introduced the ‘toy cupboard’
The Yacht range has been completely overhauled, with the 88 Yacht, 90 Ocean (and Enclosed version) and 100 Yacht launched since 2021. Do you regard the 90 Ocean as the most ‘radical’ Sunseeker design since you’ve been CEO?
When I joined Sunseeker, the plan was for the 90 Ocean to succeed the former 86 Yacht. Instead, we made a brave decision to continue with the Yacht design language on the new 88, while the 90 Ocean is a completely different niche, for a different customer.
Today we’re fully booked for production for both models despite many people saying the dimensions are quite similar; that’s because the experience and customer profile are different. The 88 Yacht is more formal, has a very attractive interior, while the 90 Ocean is larger and more practical. It was a brave decision, but it has proved the right one. We’re also developing smaller and bigger Ocean models.
A double X-TEND™ sunbed on the 90 Ocean (above); a single version is offered on the 88 Yacht
What has been the reaction to the X-TEND™ sunbed offered on all new Yacht models?
t’s an option because at the beginning we didn’t know many customers would want it, but I’d estimate 95 per cent of orders of models with the X-TEND™ option have chosen it. It looks like people want it!
How do you think the market will respond to the master suite on the 100 Yacht, where sliding ‘sunroof’ doors lead to the foredeck?
We patent the X-TEND™ but you can’t patent a style, a door or position of a door, so I’m expecting other yards to use this solution. This is my 32nd year working in the yacht industry, so I’ve seen many solutions become part of the industry quite quickly. It was my idea to put this option in the 100 Yacht, but all the boats ordered so far have chosen it.
The 100 Yacht introduces a master cabin on the main deck with sliding doors to a private bow lounge
However, this design doesn’t work if it’s simply added to an existing boat; it only makes sense if it’s integrated into the overall design. The guest area is designed to be on the starboard side, so on the port side of the foredeck, there’s a crew staircase directly to the galley because service needs to be quick – nobody wants a cold Espresso. On a yacht this size, it’s fundamental to separate guests and crew, but although the foredeck is a private area for the owners, it still needs efficient crew service when required.
Sunseeker has said the Superhawk 55 could become ‘the most desirable boat of 2022’. What’s so special about this new boat from the Performance range and how does it balance the brand’s history of performance boats with today’s demand for flexible, multi-functional designs?
If you look at the open market now, centre-console walkabouts are very popular. On older designs, going to the bow was quite uncomfortable because it was a runabout design, with no practical way of getting to or using the bow area. Today a large part of this market has been taken by the centre console, but some of these open boats are not practical because there’s not enough cover to use the boat if it’s raining or too windy.
The Superhawk 55 will debut this summer
The Superhawk 55 has a protected cockpit and two big side doors accessing the walkaround design, walking on one level to the bow. It has a wonderful design that recalls the aggressive Superhawk models of the past yet with the practicality you get from the centre console. It also has the option of a hardtop and the possibility of a fully enclosed cockpit.
As we say, customers don’t want to compromise so you must have everything on all the boats. We need to deliver the same comfort of a Manhattan 55 on a Superhawk 55, which is why we have an enclosed saloon, galley and two cabins on the lower deck.
How do you view Sunseeker’s position in Asia?
Sunseeker has a terrific footprint in Asia with very knowledgeable distributors on both the sales and service side. NextWave in Hong Kong was the biggest recent addition to the network and their investment in marketing and brand presence, especially with the new office, is really starting to pay dividends.
NextWave Yachting opened a Sunseeker Showcase in Hong Kong in late 2021
That said, we’re always looking to improve where we see opportunity for growth. Presently we see this in parts of Southeast Asia and in China, especially Hainan, as the market continues to develop.
Which models or ranges have the most appeal in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia?
The Manhattan and Yacht ranges are the most popular. Clients in Asia appreciate the large, air-conditioned space on the main deck and the shade under the large hardtops, plus access to the water for swimming and watersports is also very important. The Manhattan 55 and 76 Yacht have proved very popular, as has the Manhattan 68 and now with the Pacific version designed for Asia, we hope to see its sales grow further.
NextWave recently imported a Pacific version of the Manhattan 68
Sunseeker has historically done very well with the larger models, from 80ft to the 131 Yacht. A new 116 Yacht is currently destined for Asia, as is a 100 Yacht that recently began production. We also have leads for the 90 Ocean, which we feel is very well suited to Asia – perhaps the 90 Enclosed even more so.
The first-ever Pacific version of Sunseeker’s Manhattan 68 is available for viewings at Aberdeen Marina Club through NextWave Yachting.
How important has the US market become for Sunseeker since your dealer agreement with OneWater Yacht Group announced in early 2021?
This was another good move as our sales in the US exploded in 2021. Now, about 40-45 per cent of our production is for the US. OneWater is our master dealer for the US and oversees its own network of dealers. It’s listed on the stock exchange and Sunseeker is part of its growth strategy as it seeks to become the No. 1 yacht dealer in the US.
Prior to OneWater’s appointment, we had lost a little market share, especially in Florida. With OneWater, we’re getting back our market share and now looking for more. OneWater invested a lot in new facilities especially at the Roscioli Yachting Center purchased last year. Roscioli will soon have a year-round Sunseeker showcase for our yachts, which will make clients feel like they’re in a good family. This facility is essential for the US market as it’s very important for a US-based customer to have a local service department.
Sunseeker International still maintains Sunseeker USA Sales Co Inc, which is our company that imports our yachts into the US.
OneWater has a Sunseeker showcase at Roscioli Yachting Center
Fast forward to mid-2024 and what do you hope to have achieved in five years as Sunseeker CEO?
A company needs stability and sustainable growth, not vertical growth of 15 per cent or more every year. Vertical growth doesn’t allow your processes to be consolidated, because you’re always looking for more space or shipyards, personnel and so on. It becomes a game that doesn’t benefit the customer, who wants quality, service and value for money. In over three decades in the industry, I’ve seen that any huge, sudden growth can initially feel good but later can be a disaster.
Everything must be constantly consolidated, starting with the dealer network. Even before we started to consolidate production or introduce new models, we had to consolidate the dealer base. We need to ensure we’re looking after the dealer in each region and that they’re looking after the clientele and that they all still love the brand. Every part of the puzzle needs to fit, and you can only keep managing all the aspects if your growth is controlled.
Sunseeker’s new 90 Ocean was reviewed in Yacht Style Issue 63
So, my wish is that Sunseeker would have constant but manageable growth, to feed our production line constantly – so it’s not too much at once, yet you don’t lose slots – and to maintain our workforce, our position in the market and our clientele.
After taking over as CEO of Sunseeker in mid-2019, Andrea Frabetti announced a plan to double its number of models to 22 in three years. Then Covid struck. Despite widespread challenges, Sunseeker stuck to its strategy and the portfolio growth remains on schedule as the Poole builder continues a whirlwind series of new product launches. Interview: John Higginson.