SARASOTA, FLA. — More than 300 dealers from North America and worldwide gathered here at Groupe Beneteau’s dealer meeting, further rolling out plans regarding the company’s 2014 acquisition of the American boat brands Glastron, Four Winns, Scarab and Wellcraft.
“My particular mission here is to firmly convey the message that the ownership is very committed to the American market — that the full resources and power of the group are available to the American brands and will be exerted here in North America,” George Armendariz, who was appointed Groupe Beneteau Americas CEO (a new position) last month, told Trade Only Today.
“We want the ownership to be visible. We want the dealer body to feel confident that there is a committed ownership here.”
Thirty Group Beneteau powerboats — representing six boat brands — from 16 to 60 feet were available to dealers for testing and inspection at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Sarasota. In addition to the U.S. brands, Beneteau had boats from Beneteau Power and Jeanneau Power at the event, which began Sunday.
“It’s good to be owned by a boat company rather than a bank — an owner that cares about marine,” said Steve St. Onge, owner of St. Onge Recreation in Ontario, a Scarab dealer for 13 years.
Groupe Beneteau announced in June 2014 its purchase of Rec Boat Holdings, a group of U.S. brands owned by Platinum Equity Group, including Michigan-based Four Winns, Glastron, Wellcraft and Scarab.
Journalists from about 15 news organizations — both print and web — were also invited to Sarasota, where executives held a press conference on Monday, with Armendariz giving a PowerPoint presentation.
Groupe Beneteau wants to leverage its distribution channels, which include more than 1,000 points of sales around the world, and there will be more synergies and collaboration among the sales networks, Armendariz said.
Armendariz told Trade Only on Monday that he has a clear mandate: “To coalesce our activities in the Americas and integrate the brands and use that power of Groupe Beneteau for the benefit of the brands,” he said. “Up until now they have operated pretty much as independent companies. The integration includes manufacturing footprint, marketing initiatives, product planning and development.”
Armendariz will manage Groupe Beneteau as a unified business, with each brand maintaining its identity, he said. “We are not going to mess with the brands’ DNA,” he said. “ We are fortunate that all of the brands have strong brand equity in the marketplace.”
The numbers illustrate the important of the American market to Groupe Beneteau.
The United States accounts for one-third of the group’s total revenue of about $1.2 billion, putting the United States between $350 million and $400 million in revenue, said Armendariz.
“It’s a significant business, and we need to run it as a significant business,” said Armendariz, 62, who joins Beneteau from Nordic Tugs, a builder of recreational trawlers in Burlington, Wash., where he was president.
Prior to that, he spent 21 years in positions at Brunswick Corp., the most recent of which was vice president and general manager of Brunswick Marine Europe, based in Belgium.
Groupe Beneteau has a capital expenditure plan of $100 million globally across all 10 Beneteau brands in the next 12 months, he said. “About half of that is for product development — that’s big,” he said.
The large North American recreational boating market provides ample opportunity for growth, added Mirna Cieniewicz, Groupe Beneteau director of corporation communication and public affairs.
“Our brands have plenty of space to grow on the U.S. market,” she said. “This is why North America is so important to the group’s strategy.” She also said American brands have a great future beyond American borders.
Beneteau will issue its revenue report in October, and at the end of January the group in its financial communication will explain its strategy for the coming year, said Cieniewicz.
“We are fairly confident the group will be back to the pre-recession levels,” she said. “We are looking at the future with confidence.”
Groupe Beneteau has 10 brands. In addition to the six represented at the dealer meeting, they include Prestige Yachts, CNB Yacht Builders, Lagoon Motor Yachts and Monte Carlo Yachts.
Other executives on hand were Laurent Fabre, president of Scarab, Beneteau powerboats and Four Winns; Andy Lindsay, vice president of sales for Groupe Beneteau of the Americas; and Nicolas Harvey, president of Jeanneau.
Read more from Groupe Beneteau dealers in Wednesday’s Trade Only Today and in November’s Soundings Trade Only.