Design and build match the best
Image Boats is building pontoon boats after 17 years of success with its renowned conventional hull design. Owner Dean Wilkes says while pontoon boats are well established in the New Zealand market, they are a distinct departure from the range of custom-built boats the company has made since 2000.
He recognises there is strong competition in the pontoon boat market, especially in Australia, where he is looking to expand the company’s sales.
Any alloy boat builder must have a strong, recognisable brand to succeed, and being well established in New Zealand first is crucial, Dean says.
“Image Boats has an extremely good name in the plate boat market.” The Image 7.08 Pontoon, launched in July 2016, has consistently won favour in boating magazines. Reviewers have described it as an exceptional boat with one of the softest rides of any of its size, and cited its “staggering” grip on the water and the clean wake it produces.
The boat’s pontoon has been designed with higher flotation at the top, which should keep it upright should it ever be submerged in water.
A recess at the bottom means passengers can stand at the edge of the boat rather than lean over the pontoon. “This also gives very high sides, which are great for sitting on.”
Image Boats’ reputation has been created on the back of its location close to Foveaux Strait, “one of the toughest waters in the world”, Fiordland and the Catlins. Its original chined-hull plate boats were built for paua divers.
“I designed a boat that was very stable, soft-riding, and wouldn’t broach coming down a big wave.”
This is achieved by a key point of difference in the way the hull and bow is designed, which is “not obvious to the untrained eye”, and commercially sensitive.
Image Boats manufactures an extensive range of sizes of chined-hull boats up to 11.3 metres.
Customers are able to design a boat to suit their specific needs, including engine options, whether outboard, stern drive, inboard or jet-powered.
Image Boats’ craft are regularly showcased in boat shows throughout New Zealand, where potential buyers can easily make a direct, side-byside comparison with other brands of the high build quality and specifications.
“We are definitely among the top boat builders in New Zealand when it comes to finishing,” says Dean.
One of the biggest boats built in recent years was sold during an Auckland boat show, ironically to an Invercargill customer who lived about five kilometres from Image Boats’ factory.
A highlight each year for the past 17 years for the six-member Wilkes family has been a monthlong road trip with its 8.25-metre Fishmaster demonstrator during the Christmas-New Year holiday period. The demonstrator is available for viewing and test drives.
“Not only is it a great family holiday, it also shows the versatility of a boat being able to comfortably house a large family for a month.”
The upcoming tour will include the North Island for the first time, starting at Whanganui on December 27 and finishing in Invercargill on January 28 after visiting 16 locations throughout both islands. Dean says the company’s clients are its best word-of-mouth advertisers.
Also crucial to Image Boats’ success is the skill and commitment of staff.
Its boat builders are New Zealand Marine Training Organisation qualified and work to an extremely high standard to ensure every boat meets the company’s uncompromising assurances on quality and customer satisfaction