Sunseeker, take cover: Lexus enters the big boat market

The 65footer by Lexus

Today in Yokohama, Toyota’s head-turning Lexus speedboat was awarded the “Boat of the Year” title. That’s probably the last we hear of the boat, because it won’t be built. Instead, Lexus will enter the boat market with a 65foot sports yacht, Toyota Marine boss Shigeki Tomoyama said today.

Boat of the year time (c)Bertel Schmitt

If you have been following yours truly, you have known this for a year. When the prize-winning Lexus speedboat met the press last year in Tokyo, I nagged about its lack of oomph, whereupon Tomoyama let me in on the big boat plan. He left a printout of a rendering on the table, which was quickly photographed. Lexus’s 65footer will look something like above.

Today, last year’s whisper turned into announcement. The big boat will Made in America, courtesy of Marquis Yachts in Pulaski, Wisconsin. The boat also will primarily sold there, which is a wise move as the U.S. is the world’s largest recreational boat market. The boat will be sold in the U.S. “from the latter half of 2019,” Tomayama said. As Toyota’s very own “America first” strategy, the boat shall be exported to Japan in 2020.

Don’t expect rows of Lexus yachts floating out of an assembly line. Annual industry volume for 60+ft pleasure boats is a few hundred. They go for a few million on up. They also are alarmingly cyclical. The Wall Street tycoon who has everything buys boat of that size only once other avenues of spending money have been exhausted. Once the stock market turns, the boats flood Boattrader.com. Boats of that size usually have a crew. Many pleasure boat makers have been bankrupt at some point.

“The main goal is not the number of boats,” said Tomoyama, but the enhancement of the brand. Other carmakers have similar ideas. There is an Aston Martin speedboat, there is a wet Bugatti, and there is a race boat made for Daimler’s performance-offshoot AMG.