FORT LAUDERDALE — Beneteau plans to build its Antares outboard models at its facilities in Cadillac, Mich. The French boatbuilder told Trade Only Today at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show that molds for the 21-, 23- and 27-foot Antares boats will be shipped to the United States. The company will begin building the outboard pocket cruisers in Michigan within the next year.
“We’ve studied the American market and found there was no other brand like this,” said Gianguido Girotti, general manager for Beneteau. “We saw an opportunity to grab a small slice of a very big market.”
Groupe Beneteau currently manufactures two Jeanneau powerboat models at the Cadillac facility as part of its long-term plan to build some of its brands in the United States, Poland and France.
The company has signed an exclusive supply agreement with Mercury Marine to provide outboards for the Antares boats. It is now importing the three Antares models into the United States, but Girotti believes potential market demand will make it more economically feasible to produce a higher volume at the Michigan facility.
“Our outboard-powered boats are our strongest growth category, so we are pushing ahead with this initiative,” he said. “We plan to ‘Americanize’ these boats with features like air conditioning. We formed a planning committee, and they recommended the best ways to make the boat ready for the U.S. market.”
Aurore Bordage, director of marketing for Beneteau USA, said the company has a new marketing campaign featuring the boats being used in U.S. waters, rather than relying on European settings and models.
“We’re shooting video and making other content that features Americans on this boat,” Bordage said. “We want to present it as a truly American product.”
Girotti said the partnership with Mercury is more than just a supply agreement. “It’s a real partnership,” he said. “They take the boats to Lake X to test everything. They do tank testing and spent a few hundred hours testing each boat to make them run as efficiently as possible. We both want to create the best owner experience.”