During a recent meeting with Ocean Alexander President John Chueh, we learned more about the company’s affiliation with Tiara and Christensen and their plans for the future. Ocean Alexander’s new 120, now in the final stages of construction at the Christensen yard in northwest Washington State, will debut at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. The Ocean Alexander 120 will be the yard’s new flagship and marks a major step for the company.
Chueh, who grew up in Australia and studied finance, has been at Ocean Alexander’s helm for 13 years. Building upon the foundation his father, Alex Chueh, laid in 1978, John Chueh grew the Ocean Alexander brand while navigating some treacherous waters. He speaks with conviction and candor about everything, including successes and missteps. The short-lived Altus brand, an attempt for Ocean Alexander to offer its clients a smaller, less expensive product was his idea, he says, and it did not work. Today, instead of trying to build all things for all people, Chueh prefers strategic partnerships.
In 2009, the company signed an agreement with Christensen Yachts that allows Christensen to build Alexander’s largest yacht yet, the OA 120 (soon to makes its world debut) as well as the OA 135 and OA 155 (both fully designed). At the 2011 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, Ocean Alexander also announced a sales and marketing partnership with Tiara Yachts. Unlike Christensen, Tiara is not building Ocean Alexander yachts, but Ocean Alexander has become a Tiara dealer on the US West Coast and the companies have started joint marketing efforts.
Chueh says, “We are not solely a manufacturer. In larger sizes, we have others produce to our design, our tooling and our manufacturing methods, like with Christensen. And where we do not have a manufacturer relationship, like with Tiara, our partnership allows us to supplement our own sales. Our smallest model right now is a 62 but our average size is already 80, so there is not a lot of product overlap. But certainly in terms of Tiara’s customer base and their offerings, I think they match our customers very well. It is a feeder up but also a feeder down.” He hopes to announce another such agreement with another company on the East Coast of the United States soon.
He is more than willing to think outside of the box, as his father did. The company early on set itself apart from many Taiwanese builders building boats for other brands (so-called OEM business model). Unlike them, Ocean Alexander built Ocean Alexanders. Still, boat manufacturing is far from being the company’s sole focus, a point Chueh stresses often.
He says the company’s most valuable asset is the brand, not its ability to build excellent boats. “Manufacturing is only about one third today of the company’s revenue today,” he says. “We want to have a component in the company for anything and everything associated with water.”
The company owns marinas (including two currently on Lake Union in Seattle), and has its own dealerships in primary markets, including Seattle and Fort Lauderdale. As of 2010, the company has directed its attention to China, where Chueh sees a limited market but one with growth potential. Ocean Alexander now has four dealerships in China (three of which the company owns) and sold a 102-foot yacht there last year.
Since day one, the United States was an important market for the brand and continues to be so today. When we visited Ocean Alexander in June, all three yachts in final stages of construction were destined for the American market. “Seventy percent of Ocean Alexander is still going to the United States,” says Chueh who has noticed a recent pick up in US boat sales.
Chueh says the yachts that Ocean Alexander builds are particularly well suited for US consumers, with large galleys, stabilizers and comfortable staterooms. The current offering includes motor yachts in the 62- to 102-foot range, but beginning with the debut of the Ocean Alexander 120 in Fort Lauderdale this year, the company hopes to be recognized for larger builds as well. They also recently announced a new 112 is under construction with naval architecture by Gregory C. Marshall and interior by UK-based designer Evan K. Marshall.
While brand is Ocean Alexander’s primary focus, it does not shy away from marketing a boat built by another shipyard. In the end, Chueh says, it really should not matter where a brand is built. “No one asks where a Vuitton bag is made,” he points out. But Ocean Alexander is not looking to conceal that Christensen is building its flagship. “There is a lot of cache and brand equity in Christensen. We are not afraid of letting people know that a yard as reputable as Christensen is building our yacht. There is going to be premium expected because the yacht is built by a very famous yard,” he says.
The alliance has gone well and the two companies have found good synergy. “There has been a lot of feedback and forth,” Chueh says. From Christensen, Ocean Alexander has seen a better way to deal with exhaust systems and Christensen has seen Ocean Alexander’s weight-saving technology. “I think it has been a fruitful relationship on both fronts,” Chueh says. Christensen is finishing Hull No. One with Jeffery Ferguson, a former Christensen executive and experienced boatbuilder, in charge of the project. The OA 120 boasts an interior by Evan K. Marshall with interesting design features that increase the sense of space. Thoroughly engineered, it is being built to class (Christensen, in fact, took care of the ABS Classification certification).
So far the 135 and 155 have not found buyers. “We still have the drawings and we are talking with a few people but there is nothing imminent,” Chueh says. “It is an easier progression to a 120 and 112 from what we currently offer.” The newly announced OA 112 currently is in the tooling stage at one of Ocean Alexander’s three yards in Kaohsiung.
However, it is likely that the debut of the OA 120, which is a very interesting and well built yacht, will spur interest in the two larger yachts.
For more information, visit oceanalexander.com