In the fourth of our series of articles looking back over 40 years of evolution for Riviera, we look at the period from 1996 to 2000 and celebrate the 20th anniversary of the marque.
The challenges of 15 years were rewarded as Riviera’s team headed into the second half of the ’90s decade.
In 1996 the team launched the 39 Open Flybridge, the 40 Aft Cabin cruiser and the successful 43 Open Flybridge, the first Riviera model to achieve sales of more than 200 during eight years in production.
In that year, too, Riviera began making plans for a major new 14-hectare waterfront facility in Coomera at the northern end of the Gold Coast in south-east Queensland. Teams spread across three sites would come together in one new purpose-built space.
Across the world, a need for calm seemed to arise following a turbulent decade. In the Balkans, the Bosnian peace accord was agreed, and France announced an end to nuclear weapon testing.
More ominously, Taliban fighters in Afghanistan captured the capital city of Kabul and set up a new national government.
In Australia, the conservative Liberal-National coalition won a landslide victory in the federal election after 13 years of Labor rule. The new Prime Minister, John Howard, was quickly tested following a massacre in Tasmania in which 35 people were shot dead and another 18 injured. Howard announced strict gun control laws and implemented a buy-back that took 700,000 guns out of private hands.
The following year, 1997, was a watershed for Riviera, launching the 4000 Offshore, a model that, according to one reviewer, ‘broke the mould’. It went on to win an Australian Boat of the Year award and sold strongly throughout its 10-year production.
A second model that year, the 34 Open Flybridge, was unashamedly a couple’s boat, also selling well through a production life of six years.
In that year the UK handed Hong Kong back to China and Pathfinder landed on Mars and provided stunning photos of the surface of the red planet.
In 1998, Riviera launched only one new model and again it proved popular. The 36 Single Cabin, another couple’s boat, was promoted as much for her sport fishing capabilities as her cruising credentials, reflecting her true ‘convertible’ status. Work began on the company’s new site at Coomera, including dredging to widen the Coomera River to accommodate a 48-berth marina.
On the other side of the world, the Good Friday accord officially ended violence in Northern Ireland and European nations agree to a single currency, the Euro.
At the same time, the world began to look more closely at the remote nation of Afghanistan. US embassies in three African countries were bombed simultaneously and international terrorist Osama Bin Laden was suspected. The US retaliated with strikes against terrorist sites deep inside Afghanistan. Not far away, Iraq ended cooperation with US arms inspectors. President Clinton ordered air strikes in retaliation.
It was an exciting year for Riviera in 1999 as work on the Coomera site began in earnest. Amid the construction, the company managed to launch two new models, the 3000 Offshore and the 3850 Open Flybridge, both achieving sales over their production life of more than 100 boats. Development also began on a new model that would usher in a completely new look and era for Riviera boats.
In 1999, the world was also undergoing great change.
Nelson Mandela stepped down as South Africa’s President. In the US, the House of Representatives began an impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation intervened in a bloody dispute in Kosovo but could not prevent ‘ethnic cleansing’ of 10,000 ethnic Albanians. East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia triggering a massacre by pro-Indonesian militias.
And the world awaited the consequences of the Y2K computer bug that could theoretically prevent many computers from operating correctly by being unable to read a date beyond 1999.
The year 2000 was a landmark both for Riviera and for Australia. Sydney hosted what has been broadly accepted as one of the most successful Olympic Games in history. And Riviera officially opened the new Coomera facility that included about 7,250 square metres of buildings. It included an administration building, new research and development facilities and space for a fast-expanding group of apprentices. The new facility would allow seamless boat construction in a series of stages, beginning with lamination, through engineering and fit-out, leading to a covered marina.
Internationally, the Presidents of North and South Korea signed a peace accord. A supersonic Concorde airliner cashed soon after take-off near Paris, presaging the end for this revolutionary aircraft. On stock markets, the high tech ‘Dotcom bubble’ began to leak. George W Bush won a close US Presidential election after the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to stop a manual recount in Florida.
For Riviera, it was the start of a period of strong growth.
But the world was just one year away from the beginning of an unfolding catastrophe.
Follow the Riviera History