Luxury Market Trends & Research

5 Upscale Motoring Brands Turning their Expertise to Yachting

Top car marques are heading for the water—and yacht-loving consumers are only too happy to take the plunge

Whether cruising behind the wheel of the latest supercar or at the helm of a superyacht, freedom, speed, innovation, and style are all par for the course. Is it any wonder, then, that the nautical and automobile worlds occasionally join forces, and to spectacular effect? Recent collaborations between car and yachting brands prove that there is growing demand for such creations, while a quick glance through the pages of the marine history books shows that such partnerships have been around for decades.

A yellow Riva Ferrari 32 on the water
Built in 1990, and one of only 40 to be made, the Riva Ferrari 32 is the aquatic equivalent of the Ferrari Testarossa and remains the ultimate status symbol.

Back in the 1990s, two lauded Italian design powerhouses—Riva and Ferrari—teamed up to create a limited-edition fleet of speedboats. Only 40 were built, with elite teams from both sides working together to ensure a flawless yachting product that perfectly reflected both brands. 

The result was a masterpiece, both in terms of form and function. With an F1 Ferrari carbon fiber spoiler overhead, classic Riva hull lines and a top speed of 54 knots (62 mph), it was guaranteed to turn heads. One of the original 40, the Riva Ferrari 32, named for its length in feet, recently sold at auction for $69,000; it seems these power couples don’t go out of fashion.

Our clients are fascinated by the world of luxury yachts because, just like cars, they are a fusion of style and technology—Mitja Borkert

Fast-forward to today and there are new collaborations galore. Take The Italian Sea Group and car brand Lamborghini. Together, they have created the eye-catching Tecnomar for Lamborghini 63, a limited-edition motoryacht that takes inspiration from the Lamborghini Sián FKP 37 hypercar. With its ultramodern lines, cutting-edge technology, and dynamic engineering, it’s easy to see how the yacht has been both influenced and inspired by the sports car. As Lamborghini’s CEO Stefano Domenicali says, “If I had to imagine a Lamborghini on the water, this would be my vision.”

The Aston Martin AM 37 powerboat cuts through the water
A boat fit for James Bond: The timeless style of the Aston Martin car marque has been reinvented for the AM37 yacht, which made its debut at the 2016 Monaco Yacht Show and is the result of two years of development.

Of course, these sorts of collaborations also make perfect commercial sense. “Our customer profiles are similar,” explains Lamborghini’s head of design, Mitja Borkert. “They are all enthusiasts of classic Italian design and high performance. They are fascinated by the world of luxury yachts because, just like cars, they are a fusion of style and technology.”

For the yachting industry, there is equal appeal; most consumers are often far more familiar with car marques, and so aligning with trusted brands is an attractive idea.

Stewart Campbell, editor-in-chief of yachting bible Boat International, agrees. “We all know who the big carmakers are, but the average person in the street would probably struggle to name the world’s yachting brands, apart from maybe Riva. So, as a way to lure people into the yacht market, I can certainly understand why some marketers think it’s a good idea to stick a car badge on a boat. Plus, it makes headlines.”

Take the Aston Martin AM37, designed alongside Quintessence Yachts, which turned heads when it made its debut at the Monaco Yacht Show in 2016. The day cruiser features a carbon fiber dashboard and a wraparound windscreen created from a single piece of glass. Even the steering wheel, crafted in the finest leather and polished metal, seemed to have been plucked straight from one of their classic cars. Suddenly, Aston Martin fans who had never contemplated the superyacht lifestyle were looking seaward, wondering whether they should get involved.

The Pininfarina Super Sport 65
Pininfarina used its expertise in car design to create the Super Sport 65, an aluminum superyacht that can host up to 12 guests in its six cabins, along with additional crew quarters.

Design-wise, at least, the transition from automobile to yacht feels reassuringly familiar. “The AM37 is a pure translation of the Aston Martin DNA into an entirely new maritime concept,” Aston Martin’s chief creative officer Marek Reichman explains. “The powerboat reflects our values in terms of power, beauty, and soul. It was important to us when considering this project to make sure that the boat design was as beautiful and timeless as our cars.”

Equally attention-grabbing is the Super Sport 65, from Italian high-performance sports car maker Pininfarina. Built in collaboration with Italian shipyard Rossinavi, the spectacular 215-foot (65.5 m) vessel is finished entirely in aluminum. Lexus has also translated what it knows about cars into yachts with its sleek LY 650, which is 65 feet long (20 m) with a strong, pronounced bow and curved deck. “Viewed from the profile, the rise and fall of the yacht’s distinctly Lexus roofline flows into rising, broad hips of the rear section,” as its makers put it.

Of course, while there are clear synergies between cars and yachts, there are also huge differences, which present big challenges to manufacturers. “As tough as some cars are built, boats have it much harder,” explains Campbell. “They’re required to survive in salt water, which is just an unbelievably harsh and aggressively corrosive environment, and put up with the extreme stresses and strains that come with operating in heavy seas.”

A rear view of the Lexus LY 650
According to Lexus executive vice president Shigeki Tomoyama, the LY 650 was created to “present a dreamlike vision of the luxury lifestyle; one where the Lexus Yacht expands the potential of Lexus mobility to the ocean.”

Campbell suggests that these issues could be the reason that, although successful in their own right, no car brands have yet gone on to seriously challenge market share in the yachting industry. “The key obstacle, I think, is that while it might make sense to a mainstream audience for a carmaker to build a boat, the people actually buying boats are a fairly canny bunch who appreciate things like brand equity, after-sales support, resale value, etc… Why, for instance, would you buy a car-badged boat over, say, a Sunseeker?”

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. Perhaps Etienne Salomé will be one of them. The designer responsible for creating the world’s most expensive car, the Bugatti La Voiture Noire, recently started his own watercraft company, Salomé Yachts.

So far, images of the brand’s first concept have been elusive, but it is reported to be a tender with an aerodynamic aesthetic and a Garmin glass cockpit. At 39 feet (12 m), it is to be powered by twin 440 hp Volvo engines, making it capable of reaching speeds up to 60 knots (69 mph). If ever there was such a thing as a racing car on the water, this is surely it.

The famed and glamorous circuit of yacht shows, from Monaco to Miami, is sure to see yet more collaborations emerging from the water. Time will tell which will capture the attention of both the marine and motoring worlds.

Banner image: The limited-edition Tecnomar motoryacht for Lamborghini 63