Q How has the year been for Azimut?
A In our fiscal year ended August 31, sales were up 18%. We had a nice Cannes boat show and the same with Monaco for our Azimut Grande series. In terms of geographic sales, we did very well in Europe and saw most of our increase there. The Russians are back. Everyone is saying that. Italy is also back. We’re seeing higher growth in GDP and consumer confidence
is growing there. We also saw some growth in the Middle East and Asia. We were stable last year in the US. We also increased sales in South America. Brazil is coming back a little bit. We kept our yard alive there and are now the only non-Brazilian builder with a production facility there. We’re the only one in the country with the big boats.
Sales-wise, each week was consistent on a global basis. The phone didn’t ring off the hook, but each week has been consistent. Most of the builders seem worried about the US market for our size boats, but we sold US$20m worth of product during FLIBS. The economy and the stock exchange are both doing quite well. We also have a lot of the Mexican market there in South Florida. It’s an important market for us. We’re seeing an increase in demand for bigger boats. The Azimut Grande range is sold out through 2019.
Q There was a sense that Azimut was slow in terms of new product launches compared to competitors?
A Right now, we have an aggressive new product development schedule for the next 24 months. We launched four boats this year – the Azimut Grande 35 Metri, Azimut Grande 27 Metri, the Azimut S7 and Azimut 60 Fly. At the Dusseldorf show, we will launch the next generation of Atlantis Yachts, the new 51. It has the biggest exterior on any Atlantis, with a huge salon and dining area with 3 comfortable cabins. Best in class in its category. We will also launch the Azimut 55 fly by Stefano Righini with an interior by Salvagni Achille. In Cannes, we’ll also be launching another two big boats – so eight models within 12 months.
Q How are the new models evolving?
A When the market is growing, people ask for new product. We have to be innovative. We need to differentiate ourselves not only with the exterior design but also the interior and provide the content that our clients want.
With the latest models we wanted to do something new, we wanted to challenge concepts on interiors, so it needed lots of research which takes time – we didn’t just want another boat, it needed to stand out from the rest. We also plan to use carbonfibre on 80% of our new boats.
Q All builders talk about ‘innovation’ but explain just how Azimut’s new boats standout
A You can’t keep fighting against price, you have to let the product sell. Generally speaking, on both the 60 and S7 there are more curves and greater attention to detail throughout the whole boat. With the S7 we’ve moved the galley up to create more space below – it really feels more like a flybridge down there with a large main cabin and walk-in closet. But it has the sportsboat vibe on deck, and it boasts a larger than usual tender garage with room for two toys. As for the 60, we’ve created a central seating area and used brass inlays with curved headlinings – not enough builders take care over the ceilings of a boat! Because of the use of carbonfibre we’ve been able to fit a much larger flybridge above the main deck. For the interio Salvagni Achille is responsible for the 60 and Francesco Guida for the S7, while the exterior is designed by Stefano Righini
A few years ago we were selling older models on price. Now people want new product at higher prices – the clearest sign yet that things have recovered.
Q What about the order book?
A We’re building 13-14 units of the S7 a year and they were sold out by Cannes. We’re building 26-plus of the 60 Fly and they are sold out. The 27m is sold, with the next available slot in 2019; and the 35m is sold with the next slot available in May 2019.
Q Tell us about your activities in Brazil
Up to 2010 we had an agreement with a local entrepreneur who was building Azimut yachts under licence. Seven years ago we set up Azimut do Brasil (a company 100% owned by Azimut Benetti) and we are now producing 40-plus units from 40ft through 30 meter both for the local market and export.
Q That includes the Verve 40? – Azimut’s first outboard powered weekender that you launched at the end of 2016
A We knew from our US dealers that there was demand for an outboard powered Azimut, but we didn’t have the capacity in Europe to build another 40-footer. So it made sense for our Brazil yard to build the boats. We presold the full production of 15 boats, to our US dealer. This year we built more since most of them are pre-sold. We’ll start to import them into Europe by the end of the year.
Q Are there green shoots in the Brazilian market?
A The market is not growing much there yet, but what business is there is shared among the few players that kept investing into the country over the past few years, most others closed their yards - so we are in a leading position.
Q What first attracted you to Azimut?
A To be honest, it was the nautical business rather than the company itself. But after a while I realised the potential and the positive energy the small company was able to generate, not only in Italy but around the world. I was lucky that I joined the sales department when I did. I worked as an assistant first, then a manager in non-European markets. My first years were focused on the US, which gave me good insight into a mature market, then extended to all sales outside Europe and later (2008), just before the crisis hit, I was in charge of worldwide sales and after sales. Up to that point Azimut had been growing year on year. In the tough times that followed I felt it was a duty to put all my efforts and energies into the company, and the same was true of most of my colleagues and the shareholder. We were a family, pulling together.
Q With the tough years now behind the builder, is Azimut back to its pre-2008 production levels?
A I’d say we’re building a similar number to 2006, but the mix of boats is much bigger. We’re at full production capacity at Avigliana, Fano and Viareggio, which can only be a good sign.