One-On-One With Sunseeker CEO Phil Popham During Miami Yacht Show 2018

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Manhattan 66, which was showcased at Miami Yacht Show 2018

Photo Credit: Sunseeker International

During the highly-anticipated 2018 Miami Yacht Show located along the prestigious Collins Avenue dock, Haute Living got to catch up with Sunseeker CEO Phil Popham. The highly-esteemed brand debuted a stunning selection of their finest and most popular yachts including the Manhattan 66 throughout the week. The CEO discussed how his brand is utilizing its large investment to transform their models, trends of the yachting industry, how Sunseeker stays ahead of the curve and its new exciting partnership with Red Bull Advanced Technologies. Here’s the scoop:

HL: Last time we spoke [last year], you mentioned the 50 million pounds investment that Sunseeker was making in the next three to four years, expanding the model range and facilities so that you could build more boats and build them more efficiently. How is that coming along?

PP: We launched four new models last year and we’ve already launched two this year, which is the fruits of that investment. We’ve also invested in facilities to go with that as well. Our plan is still to add more people to our team in addition to all of this. Now, over the last three years, we’ve increased our revenue 50-percent, increased our volume by one-third, and increased our workforce by 25-percent, which is great. We’re starting to see the benefits of our increased market and investment, and there’s still more to come. We launched two new products—the Predator 50 and Predator 74—in January and we also announced a collaboration with Red Bull Advanced Technologies (the technology arm of the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Formula One team). We’re working with them on designing and engineering a range of small, fast boats—which is where Sunseeker originated as a brand—so we’re going to go back into that heritage and market.

Christian Horner of Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Team and Phil Popham
Christian Horner, Team Principal of Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Team and Phil Popham

Photo Credit: Sunseeker International

HL: What are the most important trends today in yachts?

PP: Fortunately, we’re seeing the market generally picking up—especially in the United States. The U.S. is strong and two years ago we got a little less than a quarter of our business from the Americas, last year it was 35-percent—so it’s a very important market for us. In terms of competition, there is a lot of product development, which means we have to work a bit harder to stay ahead of the curve. Clients are becoming more discerning—they expect more from the boats, and more features quickly, so we have to keep investing in new products to do that. We need to increasingly talk to our customers and find out what they like or don’t like and that has an impact on the design. One of those trends that we’re seeing has to do with the external entertainment space. People like huge entertaining areas, especially out on the deck spaces. As we get more focused on the needs and different reasons, we see that American vs. Europeans vs. Asian markets want different things. A good example of that is food preparation and kitchen location. Preparing food is a social thing in the U.S., so you want the galley to be open into the entertainment area, so people can still be interacting with guests while they’re preparing food or drinks. In Asia, that’s a big no—the galley needs to be hidden from view, so you’ve got to put the galley downstairs—they don’t want food preparation anywhere near the social areas. So we have to find ways to make things easily customizable for people so they can choose the format that suits them best.

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Predator 50 (2018 release)

Photo Credit: Sunseeker International

HL: Sunseeker has always been an innovative brand. Can you tell us something about recent innovations that set you apart from the rest?

PP: The biggest challenge is trying to design while trying to maximize space. Usable area is important. Before you even build the boat, you have to look at every single square foot of the boat to make sure that space is usable. We’ve made a lot of progress in the last three-four years utilizing this factor.  Take the transom, for example—this is a totally under-utilized space on smaller models so we developed the “beach club” concept to create a social space to enjoy while enjoying being in or around the water. This has been a hugely successful and award-winning feature and has now been introduced across the range.

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Predator 74 (2018 release)

Photo Credit: Sunseeker International

HL: The ability to customize plays an increasingly large role in other industries. How important is this in yachts, and how does Sunseeker play into this desire from clients?

PP: It’s about choice and it’s about packaging a feature of options based on your clients’ needs. You have to understand what they want and package things together that make sense—they can’t have thousands of options. It’s about choice—the thought process to build packages should be logical—the boat should be an extension of the customers’ personalities. It’s a tough balance to juggle the choice of what they want and keeping the costs down when you’re building the boat, but we’ve developed a very efficient system to help our clients get what they want.

Christian Horner of Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Team and Phil Popham
Christian Horner, Team Principal of Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Team and Phil Popham

Photo Credit: Sunseeker International

HL: What can clients expect in the next few years from Sunseeker?

PP: We’re going back to smaller, faster boats as we work with Red Bull Advanced Technologies. We’ll continue to replace the exceptional current range to ensure we always have the very best offering. We’ve already launched two incredible boats this year, and we will continue to expand the range of boats we have.

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