Gibbs aiming for amphibious splash next year

By Errol Kiong

It's been a long journey, but entrepreneur Alan Gibbs hopes the first of his amphibious vehicles will be sold by the end of next year.

Since the high-profile launch of the Aquada - a sports car that can also reach speeds of up to 50km/h on the water - at London's Royal Victoria Docks in September 2003, not one has been sold.

But more vehicles have joined the stable of Gibbs Technologies since, including the Humdinga, a four-wheel-drive that doubles as a boat, and the Quadski, a quad bike fit for land and water.

And in 2004, a prototype Aquada piloted by Sir Richard Branson crossed the English Channel in 1h 40m 6s, smashing the record of six hours.

Gibbs, who hosted the opening of nominations for this year's Sir Peter Blake Leadership Awards in Auckland yesterday, said the Aquada was always intended as a demonstrator of amphibian technology.

"We're developing the technology. They will be for sale - I haven't said when.

"As a sports car, it's got a limited market. I think in the long run, we can make any vehicle amphibious, and I think it will be other vehicles and sports cars that are the most popular."

There's also the partnership with defence company Lockheed Martin to develop high-speed amphibians for military use, with prototypes for testing expected to be ready in 18 months.

Initial design on the Aquada began in Detroit in 1997 with a team of more than 20 engineers. Product development was later transferred to Coventry in Britain, which remains the company's headquarters, housing its research and development facilities, prototype manufacturing plant and styling, engineering and marine-test facilities.

Last year, Gibbs Technology formed three new companies to produce and market their range in the United States. Production was expected to begin late this year, with Gibbs predicting the first sale at the end of 2009.

He viewed the US as very much the main market. "For any product of this sort, America will always be the biggest market - at least initially. They've got the money, the need for it with lots of water and coastline, and they've also got the attitude and appetite to try new things."

The Quadski and Aquada were expected to be among the first to be introduced to the US market.

Much of the technology for both was Kiwi-based, said Gibbs. "I've had New Zealanders working on all sorts of parts of it continuously."

- NZ Herald

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