In the third of our series of articles looking back over 40 years of evolution for Riviera, we look at the period from 1991 to 1995, a time of great upheaval across the world and a time of challenges for the relatively new business.
The nineties began with optimism for Riviera. Interest rates might have been high, but the company had built 104 boats in 1989 and was looking forward to strong growth. It was not to be.
The new decade opened with the Australian economy in a parlous state, with high interest rates, a growing government deficit and a wave of corporate collapses. In late 1990, the Australian Treasurer set the tone during a press conference stating: “This is the recession that Australia had to have.”
Australia was not alone. Of the 18 major OECD economies, 17 experienced a recession through the early 1990s. This was not good news at any level for an expanding luxury boat builder.
Gazing at the stars
It was not all gloom and doom around the world, however. In 1991 the Hubble space telescope was launched and would go on to help scientists make major discoveries about our universe.
The music of this period could be described as uninspiring. One of the top 25 singles in Australia for 1991 was a remix of Grease with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. International music dominated the period as rap and hip-hop gained popularity. By 1995 we were listening to Gangsta’s Paradise by US rapper Coolio. The biggest hit by an Australian artist was Mouth by Merril Bainbridge.
Riviera launched two new models in 1991, the 39 and the 42 Open Flybridges. In spite of this, the company managed to build only 30 boats in that year.
The 39 saw reasonable success over five years in production but the 42 struggled to generate sales, a mere 21 over six years. It was a low point.
The following year Riviera launched the 36. The design was what people wanted, with two cabins and an enclosed bathroom. The judges at Australia’s Modern Boating magazine agreed, awarding the Riviera 36 Boat of the Year in 1993, the third successive year that Riviera had taken the coveted award.
That year Riviera launched the 48 Open Flybridge. While she may not have won major awards, she was embraced by the luxury boating market after a slow start. Over 12 years in production, the longest in Riviera history, 169 were sold around the world.
The compact 33 Twin Cabin Flybridge was launched in 1994 but failed to gain much traction. And not a single new model rolled out of the Queensland factory in 1995.
It had been a tough five years for the team. Growth had stalled with 303 boats built, barely more than the 289 over the previous five years and more than half coming from just two models, the 3300 and the 36 Open Flybridge.
The world, too, had gone through great high and low points. It was marked at the beginning with the assassination of India Prime Minister Rajiv Ghandi and at the end by the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Wars had broken out as the state of Yugoslavia disintegrated and the Russian province of Chechnya rebelled.
In the same period, Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa; Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation reached an accord; South Korea elected its first non-military President; and the US announced massive nuclear cutbacks.
Better times were ahead.
Not until the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09 would Riviera again sell less than 100 boats in a single year.
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