Luxury motor yachts: China’s Heysea starts global sales network in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and more
We take at look at how HeySea— China’s largest motor yacht manufacturer— is breaking into the international scene
China’s number one large motor yacht builder, Heysea, is starting a sales assault in Europe, the States, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Talks are in progress with dealers to create a truly global network.
So far, Florida-based Doug Hoogs has been appointed in the States, Yachting Partners International in Europe, and Tony Ross and Jason Chipp of Ensign Brokers in Australia and New Zealand. Nearby Hong Kong sales are handled directly, and Singapore and Middle East dealers are in the pipeline.
Heysea Chairman Allen Leng feels that having delivered more than 100 vessels over 55 feet since the yard was launched in 2007, the timing is right to move into the international market. Brands at first ranged from the Heysea 60, 70, 78 and 82 series to the Asteria 95 and 108. A sixth Asteria 108 was presented to her Hong Kong owner in early January. Over 15 Heysea 78s have been sold, and more than 20 Heysea 82s.
Now, the thoroughly modern Zoom 58 to 76 series is also proving popular, with seven orders so far. In Heysea’s emerging superyacht sector, a 42m cat is being built for the 100 entry plus China Cup International Regatta, held annually in Daya Bay near Hong Kong, and the Sealink 45m and Vista 50m are on the drawing boards, as is a 35m for the Americas.
The yard is ranked in the world’s Top 30 Builders in Boat International’s most recent 2016 Global Order Book, for the third straight year, and it is the only Chinese mainland yard to appear. Taiwan’s Ocean Alexander and Horizon are higher up in the same list, but Allen Leng makes the point that most Chinese-based yards are Taiwan or foreign-owned, building OEMs for well-known American and European brands, so they have little sales and individual brand marketing experience, whereas Heysea is genuinely Chinese in
Making its debut as the Global Financial Crisis broke in 2008 was not exactly ideal, but Heysea hunkered down and through hard work combined with creative flair and technical expertise, soon began to achieve steady Chinese sales. By the 2016 Shenzhen International Boat Show, it had picked up 20 awards including Best China Yacht Builder, Best Brand Presence in China, and Personality of the Year in the China Yachting Industry.
George Mei, previously with Kingship and Nisi Yachts, has taken over as Head of Production at Heysea. Like Allen Leng and fellow Heysea Vice Presidents Ma Xiaodong and Guan Liangzhi, Mei is a graduate of the prestigious Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) in Wuhan, Hubei, which could be likened to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
All four majored in Naval Architecture, and combined with CEO Ms Fang Yuan, who has an Engineering Masters Degree from Vrije Universiteit in Belgium, a country where she worked in sales and management for a decade, this is the “think tank” from which Heysea’s unique philosophy has emerged. Heysea literally means Hello Sea.
The 66,700 sqm facility is located in Jiangmen City, on the border between Jiangmen and Zhuhai, which is adjacent to Macau and across the Pearl River estuary from Hong Kong. It has a deep draft frontage suitable for superyachts, and is about half an hour from the boat building zone where other Chinese and foreign ventures have been established in the past decade.
“We are determined to change the stereotype image of Chinese boat building yards,” says Chairman Leng. “For us, quality comes first, and the finished product is our future calling card.” As he and his cohorts tour shows in Cannes, Monaco, Ft Lauderdale, Sydney and elsewhere, they are clearly setting themselves high standards.
There are other close connections. Doug Hoogs in Ft. Lauderdale has previously represented Kingship and IAG, introducing Chinese- built superyachts to American clients. George Mei is ex-Kingship, Nisi Yachts and IAG, overseeing the 43m King Baby, which was a finalist in the World Superyacht Awards and Showboats Design Awards in 2015. The inimitable Ms. Trouble Huang, now Overseas Sales Chief at Heysea, is also ex-IAG. When the yards used by IAG and Nisi were taken over recently by another Chinese builder, Sunbird, it seems this group decided their stars were better aligned with Heysea.
Tony Ross of Ensign Brokers in Australia had earlier sold an IAG 104 to a client based in Langkawi, but he too has migrated to Heysea, convinced that Allen Leng’s vision will soon become reality.
Leng lists four principal reasons why Heysea has a competitive advantage. The first is that every Heysea yacht has different interior designs and cabin layouts. This high degree of customisation is well regarded by Chinese buyers, some of whom have non-Western tastes, but equally the yard’s comprehensive one-stop services can be applied to any potential clients, the more so as orders progress into superyacht sizes.
Strong Research and Development abilities come next. A new model is introduced every year, and the yard claims its naval architecture pedigree results in Heysea yachts cruising 1 to 2 kts faster than other comparable regionally built brands. Design and styling is largely in-house, except for the Asteria 95 by Sydney-based naval architect David Bentley.
Quality control is the third pillar. “Heysea believes in encouraging the very spirit of craftsmanship,” says Chairman Leng. “We pay painstaking attention to every detail of the production process. Each foreman and supervisor has more than 20 years experience in their particular field.” And finally, price. “Why would you pay double the price for a European yacht that uses the same equipment and materials as Heysea?” he asks. “Heysea ensures owners do not pay a brand premium, or for unreasonably high labour costs.”
These assertions will doubtlessly be disputed by other brands, but they are clearly how Heysea positions itself in the market, and the yard has certainly come a long way since the founders met in a small Zhuhai coffee shop back in 2007.
“There is an old Chinese proverb that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” says Chairman Leng. “Heysea’s goal is to take every step firmly, and to create world-class yachts of which every Heysea owner will be proud. We believe that one day, our overall vision will come true.”
For more information, visit HeySea