CHICAGO—Finnish firm Terhi Oy, which makes one of the industry's only vacuum formed thermoplastic sport boats, has launched its initial move into the North American boat building market.
The 25-year-old company, which has sold about 140,000 sport boats in Europe, recently signed with five U.S. dealers and a Bermuda-based distributor to sell the unusually made boats, said co-owner Tor Zweygbergk.
Within the next several years, the family-owned firm hopes to have two to three dealers in every state, and sales approaching its European operations, he said.
If so, Terhi would crack a market that traditionally uses wood or fiberglass to build utility sport boats. The Terhi boats are made from an inner and outer layer of ABS that is filled with polyurethane foam and heated in a sandwich construction. A coating that guards against ultraviolet rays is coextruded with the ABS resin.
The company had refined the capital-intensive technique at its 30,000-square-foot facility in Rymattyla, Finland, Zweygbergk said in an interview Sept. 26 at the International Marine Trades Exhibit and Conference in Chicago. The company, which started producing ABS-based boats in 1980, can make as many as 10 boats an hour on two vacuum forming lines, he said.
``We've patented the process,'' he said. ``No other company makes boats in the same manner. In Europe, it's been well-accepted for years. In the United States, we're still a start-up company with a new concept.''
Terhi's line includes multipurpose rowboats, speedboats and fishing boats. The only wooden pieces on the boats are the seats and storage covers.
The firm has sold about a dozen boats in the United States, said U.S. representative Annika Rodgers of R.B. Rodgers Yacht Sales in Noank, Conn. She said Terhi is looking for distributors in California, Alaska, South Carolina and North Dakota.
Currently, Terhi is selling boats on this continent from offices in Boston; Madison, Conn.; Knox, Ind.; and Venice and Sarasota, Fla.
The company mainly is marketing the boats by word of mouth and a small advertising budget, Rodgers said. At the same time, few consumers in the United States are accustomed to thermoplastic sport boats, she said.
``Our only obstacle is to get the word out,'' she said. ``It won't happen overnight.''
Terhi is pricing its boats, which run from 8 feet to 151/2 feet in length, at $900-$6,400. Comparable sport boats made from wood or fiberglass can cost as much as double that price, Rodgers said.
Terhi employs about 30.