Technological innovation in the yachting sector did not truly exist until we started in 2001. Everyone was building boats in the same way that they were doing in the 1960s—we were in the dark ages of production. In 2001, when I started Numarine, I felt we needed to do things differently, and our differentiator had to be lower prices than our competitors, the main European brands. At this time, vacuum infusion was something extremely high tech that only race sailing yachts were utilizing. The technology is environmentally friendly, as it emits 99% less styrene gas into the environment. I saw that the environment would be a key issue and selling point in the coming years, and the technology produces a light and strong product, so we invested heavily in developing the technology. We were the first shipyard in Europe to produce everything with vacuum infusion; by the time many other companies switched and started doing vacuum infusion, we were leading the pack. Another of our key technologies are lithium ion batteries, which we introduced two years ago. On our yachts, we use lithium ion technology to replace most of the generator. When there is a sufficient amount of charge in the battery pack, the generator does not have to work all-day long, as the battery pack is enough to supply power to most of the equipment on the yacht.
Adonis is our collaboration with Furrion Design, a Hong Kong-based technology company that created Angle AI and also does a great deal of work integrating AI into household appliances. Adonis mixes these two aspects of Furrion with yachting. It is wonderful—as one walks in, a smart camera recognizes them and sets the mood to their preferences, changing the music and learning their preferences. Sailors can ask about the weather in a certain location and request that the yacht navigate there. The yacht will take them there, and en route it will ask if they want to visit a restaurant and can select the best one. The temperature of water in the shower can be adjusted via voice recognition. In the future this will all be standard. However, when it comes to extremely high tech like Adonis, I am slightly cautious, as it is still extremely new and untested. If our boats sail all over the world, we need to ensure they are safe and can be serviced.
10 years ago, speed was a selling point, though this has changed. Now, people want to be able to navigate quietly so that they are comfortable and can sleep during navigation. This is why our lithium ion batteries are popular as the technology is quieter. It is one of the reasons why our XP line has been successful, as the yachts are quieter and roomier. In Turkey, we also see demand focused around larger yachts, and this is where the expertise lies. We are moving ahead with this trend and are designing new 37- and 45-m boats. On average, we produced yachts around 28m meters in 2018. We want to push our average size to be larger rather than smaller.
Our production time is driven by our customer profile and the kind of yachts we produce. Our customers are fairly particular and are generally buying their second, third or fourth boats—someone from this profile is usually willing to wait a year for production. A novice buyer usually buys from the recognized main brands and expects their boat immediately. At the moment, fiberglass shells are produced in eight to nine months, which is a reasonable amount of time, though we have 32-, 37-, and 45-m yachts that are steel and composite combinations and take longer than 18 months to produce. This is a problem, as most buyers are not willing to wait two years. To resolve this issue, we are starting to produce the steel ahead of an order, which can cut delivery time to seven to eight months rather than 18. We are shifting toward produce more semi-custom yachts, where the customer can still choose the interior and furniture without having to wait two years. We want to be able to offer the market a semi-custom 37-m boat in nine or 10 months, as this will be a big advantage.
We used to face many challenges when we were new into the market and were learning; however, it has been 18 years, and we have produced close to 150 boats, so production-wise we do not face many challenges. On the marketing side, producing in Turkey and selling worldwide still has its challenges. Turkey had a fantastic image up until five or six years ago—when I went to the GCC or Europe before, customs were extremely positive and processed us even without a stamp. However, we have lost that prestige over the last five years due to international politics. It is becoming harder to sell such an expensive product to a global customer out of Turkey.
Turkey is a relatively small market, and even though we are the fourth-largest super yacht builder in the world, most of it is exported. Europe and the US account for 80% of our international sales, and the rest is scattered everywhere else. Though the US is still the largest market in the world, we seek to grow new markets. I hope India will become a bigger market for us. It is not a big player yet, though it has a nice coastline, money, and a large population. We tried the Chinese market because we saw companies like BMW and Rolls Royce having great success there. However, the Chinese are definitely car buyers but not yet boat buyers. Domestically, we are fairly well known in Turkey as the largest yacht shipyard by far in the country—we do 35% of the Turkish yacht export. We are market leaders in the country, so we do not need more recognition, as the market is as big as it gets.
We have a new 45-m Explorer, which is our biggest project and one of the most exciting. It will present many challenges for us, though it will also bring many rewards because once it is out there, it will be the only boat of that size with those amenities. I do not know what the global economy or politics will bring in the future; however, we are focused on our growth plans.
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