Robertson and Caine poised for growth with new MD

Ex-BMW stalwart Peter Giliam to lead SA’s biggest catamaran producer

There’s a mood of quiet confidence over in Woodstock, where the country’s leading boat builder is has a new man at the helm amidst talk of ‘big opportunities’ in the global marketplace.

Peter Giliam, who took over from Alet du Plessis in July, brings more than 30 years experience in the automobile industry into his new role. The former R&C production manager is highly regarded by the company’s senior executives, among them Peter Robertson who spoke to SABBEX at the Woodstock head office during a brief visit to Cape Town in September. Robertson said Giliam’s extensive manufacturing experience would help the company exploit growth opportunities by focusing on what they do best – build award-winning boats.  “We feel we are right at the bubble of a big opportunity,” Robertson said. “We find ourselves well positioned in the international market; we have good people; we have a good relationship with our distributor; and we are formulating plans.”

Is a new flagship model on the cards?  There’s always something on the cards, said Robertson with reference to R&C’s in-house design team. The company is currently working with Alex Simonis on a new design project that could see some new luxury features, in line with international trends. Said Robertson: “The market is becoming more demanding. Not just us but other manufacturers too are continually having to up their game, with more luxury features.”

However there would be no reinventing of the wheel; R&C’s robust sailing and power catamarans still rule the waves throughout much of the world, Robertson said.  “We are the market leaders in North America, including Caribbean, by a long way,” he said. “Europe is more competitive for us because it is the back yard of our two big French competitors (Lagoon and Fontaine Pajot).

In an interview last month Giliam told IBI he hoped to consolidate the R&C yard by “getting more balance in production and quality”.  Said Giliam: “From there we will move it forward. There is a big opportunity in the market and it is in our interest to move forward. With my background I would rather we take it a touch slower and make sure we are robust.”

“There is now an opportunity to put more of a manufacturing focus onto the business, with some exciting new products coming in the next years.”

Giliam also confirmed the recent expansion of the company’s Leopard 45 facility: “It is done and running – a significant add-on. We’ve added a completely separate factory, a whole moulding shop for the Leopard 45.”

The company now has seven facilities including the harbour, and produces around three boats a week. Worldwide R&C employs over 1600 staff.

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