Car companies trying to break into the yacht market is not a new phenomenon, and not always a successful one. Ferrari collaborated with Riva Yacht in 1990 to create the Riva Ferrari 32; both companies had major capital and strong reputations, but only 30 of the boats were ever built.
More recently, Mercedes-Benz partnered with Silver Arrow Marine on a limited-edition sport yacht. Very limited edition. And the Aston Martin AM37, which went viral online a few years ago, seems to have crawled into obscurity.
Akio Toyoda, president of Lexus’ parent company, Toyota Motor Corp., is now trying to achieve what those before him have failed to do. He tapped Wisconsin-based Marquis Yachts for help, following a long courtship between Toyoda and Marquis Yachts CEO Rob Parmentier.
“I worked with Toyoda back when I was at Sea Ray,” Parmentier says. “Since 1999, I was looking into this partnership.”
When Parmentier talks about the Lexus LY 650, he looks like a father whose son just caught the game-winning touchdown. But getting to this point wasn’t easy, he says. Toyoda didn’t simply place an order with Marquis Yachts for a 65-footer; instead, he sent supervisors to live in Wisconsin and oversee every step of the build.
“It wasn’t smooth off the bat,” Parmentier says with a laugh. “Our average employee has been working with us for 23 years. Sometimes it’s hard to train an old dog to learn new tricks. But their team was on the floor with us every day overseeing our manufacturing and quality control. They instituted their own construction process.”
That process, Parmentier says, is similar to the one that produces cars in a fanatically efficient way.
“When we got our first four to five wins together and my guys could see their jobs get easier and safer, then we started to get everyone on board,” he says. “It was a three- to six-month, tough-learning-curve boot camp.”
For input on the 650’s interior design, Toyoda tapped Italian designers Nuvolari Lenard. From the aft galley to the helm, there’s not a single right angle. The Lexus logo is subtly ingrained in the salon’s carpeting, but otherwise, the yacht is set up like a proper yacht. Three staterooms, including an amidships master, are belowdecks, and there’s a nook in the stairway leading to that deck level. Inside the nook are an Isotherm wine fridge and Miele coffee station.
Toyoda’s goal for the 650 was to achieve what the Japanese call omotenashi, which is about anticipating the needs of guests. And to get there, Lexus worked with a strong boatbuilding partner to adapt what it knows from the auto world to the marine sphere, anticipating not just how it wanted yacht owners to feel about the boat, but also how everyone would feel while out cruising aboard the boat.
For that reason, the LY 650 just may succeed where other attempts to move from the roads to the coastlines have failed.
For more information: lexusyachts.com
Photos | Have a closer look at the Lexus LY 650 in the gallery below:
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of Yachts International.