In a bold double-dare, two yacht owners decided Australia needed a better dealership. The results silenced the critics and have everyone else talking.
Ron Winestock and Graeme Skerritt never set out to be luxury yacht dealers. But when they each bought their own Azimut luxury yachts over five years ago, they saw a definite need for superior after sales service.
Perhaps they weren't absolute experts in $1 million luxury sports cruisers, but as well-established businessmen in their own right, they could see a niche in the market and Atlantic Motor Yachts was born.
Both Ron and Graeme, whose individual business interests are quite removed from motor yachts, nevertheless possess that near-obsession with getting things right. Both understand that building quality, both in a brand and a boat, takes time and an unflinching attention to detail.
"We knew exactly where we wanted to go with Atlantic Motor Yachts. You can't rush these things. We waited, watched and made our move. Now here we are," explains Ron with deliberate economy of words.
Almost immediately they threw down the challenge to Azimut head office in Italy. "If you can do better….," came the reply and the rest is history. Their objective is now " to promote the Italian design, style and performance of Azimut luxury products in Australia." Their commitment to excellence has already recognised in both sales and service as a Platinum Azimut dealer.
And what a brand to start with. The precocious young Azimut took over the prestigious, century-old Benetti family business in 1985, thereby acquiring not only their immense goodwill, but also their considerable technical expertise, development and planning methods. The strategically brilliant merger instantly made the combined Italian factory a formidable operator, able to match terms with the world's best.
Now, in the midst of an enormously competitive market, the relatively new Atlantic Motor Yachts dealership have built on that initial vision, grown to a staff of seven, opened a second office in Queensland and translated it all into sales success. And success breeds success. Exactly twelve months ago, Atlantic Motor Yachts were approached to represent the classic passagemaker brand, Grand Banks.
General manager, Michael Boon, was lured away from the powerful Avante Marine Group to head up the Pyrmont (Sydney) based boutique dealership about the same time. His intimate exposure to brands such as Bayliner, Trophy and Meridian over many years made him an ideal candidate to oversee the burgeoning operation.
"I little bit of grey hair goes a long way in this business," quips Mike. "The (younger) sales guys like Dean (Husband) and Ethan (Twyman) do a fantastic job guiding clients through every step of the ownership process but sometimes, in the end, the client wants to confide in another older chap to make sure it's all square."
And the boys do know how to make a sale. One of their most recent customers has just taken delivery of a brand new, $14 million, Azimut 105, without doubt one of the most elegant and impressive luxury yachts this side of Monaco. The owner is so delighted with his purchase he has consented to allow Atlantic Motor Yachts to exhibit this magnificent vessel at the forthcoming Sydney Boat Show where she will be the largest on display.
"Grand Banks is a brand I am personally excited about," says Mike, "it's not the blockbuster, show-stopper like the Azimut, it's a classic passagemaker vessel built with a great deal of attention to detail and craftsmanship. It appeals to an entirely different type of buyer, so the two brands live happily together here with us without conflict."
As a contrast, the Azimuts range in size from 39 to 116 feet and from $1.0 million to over $20 million, covering a wide range of aspirations and financial ability, whereas the more conservative Grand Banks vessels cover 39 to 72 feet and start at $0.9 million, topping out at $5.0 million.
Azimuts have become a firm favourite with the growing number of boat share syndicates, where multiple owners get together to buy and share the use and upkeep of a premium yacht. This pragmatic and sensible ownership alternative is bringing the exclusivity of Azimut luxury motor yachts to more and more lifestyle lovers.
"Boat share owners really want 'bang for their buck' and Azimut is ideal. It's a brand that immediately gets attention and makes the desired statement. And our operation is perfectly suited to this type of ownership. We service, detail and maintain every aspect of the vessels so owners can just turn up and go!"
On the other hand, Mike clearly identifies with the sort of chaps who look longingly at the robust elegance of Grand Banks. He flicks proudly through a brochure, admiring the restrained yet purposeful lines. These are boats for seasoned types with a knowledge and abiding love of the romantic maritime lifestyle, and a means for them to fulfil a life's ambition to run away to sea. Mike's eyes almost mist over while looking at the eminently seaworthy Aleutian 72.
"Grand Banks buyers tend to be from private enterprise, medical or legal backgrounds who have a high respect for function and reliability," says Mike with conviction, "Azimut buyers are just as passionate, but a little younger and love the idea of having some exuberant fun."
"One of our Grand Banks owners," he announces proudly, "is just back from a circumnavigation of Tasmania!"
As Mike relates the many happy owner stories, it becomes clear that the responsibility of owners' well-being does not stop after the cheque is written. Retaining the loyalty and confidence of people who are spending the sums of money required to obtain the boat of their dreams is no trifling matter. AMY also offers a comprehensive after-sales package that includes servicing and maintenance. Buyers who have taken this strongly encouraged option experience a higher level of satisfaction with their purchase and spend more time enjoying their boat and less time worrying about it. Resale value is also preserved, easily offsetting any perceived expense.
"Some dealers like to use sub-contractors for their after sales support, "explains Mike, "but there are hazards in that policy. Not all sub-contractors will share your service philosophy and that can lead to disenchantment."
There's a lot left unsaid in that last statement. A happy buyer is a repeat buyer, and that simple and often overlooked proverb is the downfall of many businesses from luxury boats to nuts and bolts.
"Another of our real strengths is having Franco Spataro join us full time as technical manager from Azimut in Italy," continues Mike, "his knowledge and understanding of the product and its minute technical details is not just impressive, it's scary."
Gino Espinosa fills the post of service manager. Mike explains that Gino's knowledge across a wide range of brands and boat types, is a major asset to the company and, in tandem with Franco, vital in fulfilling AMY's quality assurance pledge to new buyers.
From what began as almost a 'dare', Atlantic Motor Yachts have put beyond doubt their ability to manage and service two of the most respected and contrasting motor yacht brands in successful harmony.
For further information:
Suite 133 Lower Deck
26-32 Pirrama Road
Pyrmont NSW 2009
Phone: +61 2 8569 0700
Michael Boon: Mobile : 0400 989 460
'our boats are a result of the contemporary design and construction and our success is a result of our unique level of after sales service'