Taiwan-born, Australian educated, Johnny Chueh heads up Ocean Alexander, the company his father Alexander founded in 1978. With a background in finance, he took over the company in 1999.
Today, Ocean Alexander is the world’s seventh-largest motor yacht builder.
Here, Chueh shares the brand’s plans for expansion in Australia.
How did your family enter the yachting industry?
It was really fate or chance. My father Alex, Ocean Alexander’s founder, in the mid-1970s lent money to a friend who wanted to be in the boat business. But the friend could not make it work and even before any boats were completed, gave up and handed the keys to Alex. Alex went to the half-completed boat factory trying to salvage his investment. But along the way, he became fascinated by the product, industry and people. He decided to shift careers in his late 30s. He rolled up his sleeves and went to work, learning all he could about the marine industry. His first model, the Ocean Alexander 50 Mark I, was an instant success, laying the groundwork for Ocean Alexander’s next 40 years.
As second generation at the helm, what appeals to you about boats and boating?
It’s really the people. Meeting people who have had successful lives and overcome all their trials, tribulations to arrive here. Hearing their stories and seeing the satisfaction on their faces as they and their family and friends enjoy Ocean Alexander and the boating lifestyle.
What do you identify as the hallmarks of the Ocean Alexander brand?
Our obsession with engineering. To create a yacht that is not only safe and easy to use, but intuitive and personalised for the individual owner.
What are your personal and professional ties to Australia?
My family emigrated to Australia when I was 10. So my high school education was in Sydney. It’s great to be back and opening our own office here.
Ocean Alexander is coming back in force in the Australian market. Why the several-year hiatus?
The focus until recently has been on the American market where we have been growing, and now occupy number one or two position in each size category. That done, we are now focused on the Australian and New Zealand markets.
Why is a stronger presence in Australia significant to you?
Boating is not just about the product, it is also about the relationships and after-sales support that must go along with that. We have a saying at Ocean Alexander: “The relationship only starts when you sell a boat.” A strong presence with sales support on the Gold Coast, Sydney, Perth and Auckland, allow us to service our customers better and meet their needs.
What are the trends in yachting that you’re embracing?
The trends are “bringing the outside in”, meaning more glazing, more beautiful outside views enjoyed from a controlled inside environment, like our industry leading saloon and master windows. More boat for a given length, so beamier, more clever and multifunctional usage of space. For example, our side staterooms where the single beds slide to form a queen when the occasion calls for it. And, creating storage behind walls and within hull side crevices.
What’s unique about the new 90?
It has equivalent space to a 100-foot boat. This is achieved by unique hull design in bow and beam.
When will it debut?
The 90R will have a global debut at the Fort Lauderdale 2018 boat show in November. We hope to bring her to Australia in 2019/2020.
What are some of your aims for the next 5 and 10 years – are there any new markets and models in your sights?
Yes, we have an aggressive new product strategy with multiple models being announced in the immediate future. We intend to bring them to the Australian market as Australia and New Zealand will be our focus in the near future.