There’s no doubt that when you look at a Profile Boat, you can see the quality finish. Brian Firman, MD of Profile Boats says that they pride themselves on the attention to detail in every boat they build, regardless of it being a small open dinghy or a serious offshore hardtop. He reckons that they put a lot more build hours into each boat than most of their competitors and it shows. AB went to Napier to check out the factory and talked to Firman about Profile Boats.
When did the brand start?
Profile Boats had a very soft start when around 2003 a local Napier guy started producing a few small pontoon boats for friends. In 2008 when the GFC hit hard, I was approached by the builder of Profile, to see if I was interested in taking over the brand and selling them through my marine dealership, Firmans Marine. As we were looking for a replacement pontoon alloy boat at that time, after parting company with a previous brand, the timing was perfect. Despite the crashing economy, I could see there was a future for Profile Boats and the fact we had sole distributorship was certainly attractive. When we took over, I changed the name to Profile Boats 2008 Ltd and we have continued to grow the brand ever since.
Did you do much to the model range?
When we took over the brand in 2008, the company were building about 20 boats a year, although only a couple were hardtops. That’s one of the first changes I made and we added more hardtops as well as some bigger boats. We put our our spin on the designs with the styling, seating and overall look of the boats and have been working on it ever since. It’s an on-going development and as we release new models, we bring in a lot of new ideas, that we spread into other models, so there is a continual tweaking and changing going on. One thing about our boats is that we have a lot of clients who beach launch, so it is important to maintain that link in everything we do when it comes to design change. Our splash guard transom, for example, is specially designed to cater for owners who are beach launching into a swell or surf and don’t want to fill the cockpit with water before they leave the beach. It works exceptionally well and while it’s something we initially only had on a few models, we now have it on virtually all our boats.
Are you chasing the bigger trailer boat market?
While we have built about six boats around 9m, the 940 being our biggest, it’s not a market we are actively chasing. We are more than happy to build boats of this size, but it is a small segment of the market, with a lot more interest in boats 5.5m-7m, both either open cuddy, cabin or hardtop. There is a lot of competition for the smaller mid-range boats, so we have to make sure we build the best boat possible and concentrate on doing it better than any of our competitors.
What is your current production?
We are building about 70 boats a year, from dinghies to hardtops, in 14 models from 4.3m to 9.4m. While the dinghy market accounts for around 50% of the production, there are a growing number of larger hardtops being built. The 545 and 635 are our most popular models. If you ordered a 635 today, delivery would be 4-5 months. However, our goal within a few years is to produce over 200 boats annually and with our new systems in place, I can see that being a very realistic goal. 18 months ago we changed our dinghy division, from one of mostly custom builds to production and that has had a significant impact on numbers. Mark Hunter the GM for Profile Boats came on board about the same time and has streamlined our production schedules, in particular with the way we build our dinghies, such as the very popular 410, which was released in 2014.
Do you do all your assembly?
All the boats are designed on CAD, and almost everything is precut. Assembly is all done in our factory, by our staff of 14, but our space is now proving too small as orders increase and we need more staff and a bigger factory. All boats are rigged and tested at Firmans Marine.
What about the export market?
We have always had a small export market, but as we now have the factory production at a point where we can supply more boats, we are concentrating a lot harder on exports. To date, we have been sending boats to New Caledonia and Australia and see that increasing especially to other Pacific Island countries. We are now a member of CPC and that goes a long way to getting various marine approvals in some countries.
What about a dealer network?
Until last year our retail outlet, Firmans Marine has remained the sole outlet for Profile Boats, but that’s now changed. I have always been aware of a big untapped market for our boats in the South Island, so late last year we appointed PowerBoat Centre, Christchurch, as our sole South Island and first dealer in New Zealand. I get continually asked by dealers throughout the country if they could sell Profile Boats and while we have not appointed any others, this may change in the future. It gets down to just how many boats we can produce, as it’s no point having a dealer if you can’t supply them boats. Having fewer dealers also maintains the retail value of the boats, be they brand new or second hand. I don’t want to see a dealer price war on our boats, as I feel it just devalues the product and drives the price down.
Also, all our boats go out fully rigged. In the case of PowerBoat Centre they send us the engine, we fit it, sea test the boat and sent the boat fully rigged to them. This way we can be assured of total consistency in the way the boat is set up and the customer gets the whole package as it should be. Perfect!
Where do you see the future?
We will always be continually improving not only the range but also the quality and of course increasing the volume. I feel the brand is now so well established in the market that we need to concentrate on producing more. It’s the only thing that is holding us back. I am always surprised as to the huge number of alloy boat manufacturers in New Zealand and while the majority of the boats are probably built by fewer than 25% of the builders, it is an increasingly competitive market, so we have to make sure what we offer is of the highest quality and simply the best.