May 2, 2008
Four months since Australia’s second largest boat builder was purchased from receivers by Standard Bank, Mustang Marine has changed tack and is on course to transform the once industry icon back in to the strong, progressive organisation that saw it become an international marine heavy weight.
After taking control in January this year, Standard Bank appointed a new General Manager with marine industry experience, Chris Heaton, and settled in to its role as silent partner, allowing the business and its management team to operate independently and map its course ahead.
The decision was made early in the piece to continue manufacturing from its Gold Coast facility and the company now employs 100 staff and contractors, a number that continues to grow as more and more former employees return from brief stints with other local boat manufacturers.
“As we (Mustang) continue to grow, opportunities are opening up and we are able to welcome back employees and contractors that were forced to seek employment elsewhere while times were tough” said Operations Director, Russell Weston.
With the production facility reinvigorated and refocused, the job quickly turned to the consolidation of retail operations, the coal face of the brand. Dealerships in the company’s two largest local markets, South East Queensland and Sydney, were in need of assistance if the brand was to regain the confidence of the market. Identifying this, management moved to acquire both operations to ensure the distribution channel remained open and customers were confident their local dealerships were 100% backed by the factory. Existing dealers in other Australian markets have remained in place and are working collectively to achieve a common goal.
International interest has also been encouraging. Mustang Marine general manager, Chris Heaton, has been visiting countries throughout Asia, Europe and the Middle East over the past four weeks to make personal contact with existing and potential dealers and customers.
“Mustang’s international expansion program was starting to show rewards before hitting trouble late last year. Having met with dealers and customers in several regions, I am confident our current export network is strong with several new opportunities also being identified.” Reported Mr Heaton
Potentially the greatest indication that Standard Bank is committed to the future of the Gold Coast manufacturer is the multi-million dollar commitment a dedicated research and development program. The new program is charged with several projects including development of a new Sports Coupé range, further development of the Sports Flybridge range including the addition of 50’ and 56’ models, and rejuvenation of the Sports Cruiser range
Due to be released late 2008, the new 430 Sports Coupé is the first product of the program and is sure to be an exciting new addition to the Mustang fleet.
“The new 430 Sports Coupé is an exciting development for the new Mustang Marine team. We are committed to the continual growth of the Mustang brand and the addition of this new range is the first of many new developments in the pipeline including the release of the much anticipated M56 Sports Flybridge,” said Mustang Marine CEO, Chris Heaton.
While no single marine manufacturer is immune from the current economic conditions, Mustang Marine is positioned well to weather the storm and use the slowdown to continue with its change management strategy.
With a low overhead/low debt structure, and a set of realistic and manageable targets, coupled with a rejuvenated workforce and strong long term commitment, the future of one of Australia’s most recognised boat builders appears in good hands.