Growth rate doubles at French builder

It’s been a very good year for the Beneteau Group, according to CEO Hervé Gastinel, who addressed a packed audience this morning at the French builder’s traditional press conference that unofficially opens the Cannes Yachting Festival. “Our growth rate has doubled, illustrating our capacity to take marketshare despite some obstacles,” he maintained, referencing the euro/dollar exchange rate and escalating trade tariffs.

“Better organised and focused on its business model, the Beneteau Group has sound financial foundations in place and an effective action plan to continue developing,” he maintained. “As a market leader, we aim to continue moving forward, raising standards and imagining what has never been done before. I want the group to become the global benchmark serving all boating experiences.”

Targeting the next generation

Declining to give actual figures (the publicly-listed company will present year-end financials in October), Gastinel highlighted the fact that this was year two of the group’s ‘Platform to Transform’ programme that it unveiled at Cannes last year, remarking that the builder was now looking to speed up its “digital approach” whilst increasing the “internationalistion” of its business.

The CEO commented on the deep changes in society with individuals less brand-loyal, consuming leisure experiences in a different way to previous generations. “We feel the world of yachting has been struggling to grasp these changes – digital developments are at the heart of this,” he explained, revealing three new innovations for 2018 that Beneteau envisages will broaden boating’s appeal to the next generation.

Leasyboat, developed with Beneteau partners SGB Finance, is a fully insured leased boat service designed for first-time buyers. Mirroring developments in the automotive sector, Leasyboat members, for example, will be able to lease a 6m outboard for a monthly payment of around €400, which includes all maintenance and insurance costs.

As part of a drive to get more people on the water, Gastinel also unveiled a tie-up between its Jeanneau brand and the Freedom Boat Club in the US, that will see the boat club concept extended through France and Europe. For an initial €4200 membership, Beneteau Boat Club members will have access to a fleet of boats, maintained by the supplier, for a monthly charge of €400-€600.

Band of Boats – an online platform that is both boat community hub, marketplace for new and used boats from dealers and private sellers, and a portal for boat rental from professional sellers – was also unveiled after its launch in the spring.

New models, new cat

It wouldn’t be Cannes without a raft of new model launches from the French group, which has 69 models on display in the marina, 13 of which are having their world premiere. 32 new models will be brought to market over the coming months. Gastinel highlighted the fact that within three years the builder has renewed 44% of its fleet (88 boats out of 200).

Most significantly was the announcement of a new catamaran sailing brand to join Lagoon. EXCESS was billed as a ‘young, spirited’ brand embodying a “different vision of sailing”. Details are thin on the ground for now – they’ll be trickled through to the media and industry over the coming months – with the expected launch of the first EXCESS model at Cannes 2019. In a nutshell the brand will be more performance-orientated, leaning toward a younger audience that still wants to enjoy comfort and style while being more closely connected with the water.

An EXCESS event scheduled for Düsseldorf in January will provide more details as well as providing the launch venue for a new Lagoon 46.

Other launches included a new Swift Trawler 47, the announcement of a new Gran Turismo 36 that will be ready for Miami, as well as a new Flyer 8 outboard powered model (followed by a Flyer 10 at Düsseldorf) and a Barracuda 9 that combines sportsfisher capability with commuter styling.

As for Beneteau Group’s US brands, three new Four Winns models were announced as well as two new Glastron GTD deck boats. A preview of the new Wellcraft 352 is also taking place in Cannes. Eight new smaller Jeanneau models were announced across its Merry Fisher, Cap Camarat, Leader and NC ranges.

At the bigger end of its portfolio a new Prestige 590 Fly, 460S and 520S were announced, while Monte Carlo Yachts (MCY), celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, said it would be speeding up new model launches going forward. Chairman Carla Demaria said that in its first decade the builder had produced one new model a year – going forward that rate of development would be trebled with three new models on the drawing board for 2019 – two MCY launches are planned for Düsseldorf in January with another around June. Again, exact details are being kept under wraps for now.

On the sailboat side, as well as the new cats, there’s a new Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 410 and a new Hard Top Jeanneau 64. For Beneteau, the new Oceanis 46.1 replaces the Oceanis 45 and 48, simplifying the product offering.

Production investments

Hervé Gastinel said the group’s plants have further strengthened their production capacity, flexibility and multipurpose capabilities. A number of investments have been rolled out in France, Poland and the US. Production transfers have been organised, enabling the group to benefit from an international industrial platform that is focused on producing more boats as close as possible to areas of consumption.

In Europe, the acquisition of Delphia Yachts promises to strengthen Groupe Beneteau’s product development and production capacity by adding a second production site in Poland, in addition to the Ostroda facility, which has just been extended thid year and is now the country’s largest site. This operation has also ramped up the group’s product development capacity, enabling it to benefit from its new R&D and prototyping centre.

In the US the group reopened the Sport plant, Rec Boat Holdings’ second production site, in Cadillac, Michigan, that had been shut for 10 years. This year, the group has also launched a new financing offer – Groupe Beneteau Financial Services – aimed at its brands’ American customers and dealers.

In July the group also announced the new organisation for its Asia-Pacific office, bringing together all the region’s staff in a single office in Hong Kong. This reorganisation aims to enable the group to further strengthen and expand its operations in this particularly strategic region.