Groupe Beneteau at Cannes: Many new boats, but no big strategy reveals

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For years, Groupe Beneteau has taken advantage of the Cannes Yachting Festival to announce new models, while explaining its financial results and strategy for the coming months. Most of the marine journalists at the press event were looking forward to the conference, especially after the departure of former CEO Hervé Gastinel, who was replaced by Jerome de Metz.

De Metz declined to speak about the financial figures at the event, saying they were not ready yet, and also did not accept any questions regarding the Group’s forward strategy, which is still being developed.

The new CEO did confirm the creation of an executive committee that will be responsible for developing the group's strategy, with "the objective of keeping the personality of each brand but coordinating it with the spirit of the group.”

Speaking with Trade Only Today’s Michael Verdon in August, De Metz did provide a detailed overview of the new strategy. The Groupe has formed two new departments—Operational Excellence and Product Strategy—that signal a sea change in how the Groupe will operate internally.

“I’ve helped develop more than 100 companies in the last 16 years,” de Metz said. “In terms of Groupe Beneteau, I’m focusing more on strategic assessment and managing the teams around demanding strategic objectives.”

De Metz said the company’s “large portfolio” of 12 brands means that it is manufacturing about 200 boat models each year, from 17-ft. center console boats up to the 150-ft. Montecarlo superyacht across 20 production facilities in five countries.

“Each brand is in its own different segment and geographic territory,” said de Metz. “What we need to do is more global brand management. That doesn’t involve changing the world, but it does mean a much better cohesion of our team. We need to be more of a group rather than a federation of brands.”

CEO Jerome de Metz

CEO Jerome de Metz

The appointments of Christophe Caudrelier, deputy CEO for European activities, as head of the Operational Excellence department and Gianguido Girotti, previously general manager of the Beneteau brand, as head of Boat Division’s Product Strategy department, means that there will be leaders overseeing the many brands.

“We used to have this type of organization until six years ago,” said de Metz. “With the strong managers in place, we’ll now have a new strong direction where everyone is working together.”

As head of operational excellence, Caudrelier will oversee production techniques, supply-chain issues and the types of boats that are built in each production facility. “We would like to use the plants that are most appropriate for each product range,” says de Metz. “We can make a lot of improvements in this area.”

Girotti said the boat brands need to become a “symphony,” where each brand and model “makes sense for its portfolio.” He added that the ultimate goal is to see “gains in market share, not to the detriment of one of the brands” across the entire product portfolio.

“We are looking at each of the brands and how it fits into the size of its market,” said Girotti. “In the $1 billion flybridge market, there is space for a lot of different players. We want to make sure each brand knows where to play.”

This will be an “incredible challenge,” according to Girotti. Groupe Beneteau has kept its Jeanneau and Beneteau divisions completely separate, with different leadership teams and separate go-to-market strategies. Coming from the Beneteau side, Girotti said he never really knew Jeanneau’s strategy, even though many of the brands compete with each other directly in the European and North American markets.

The goal, said de Metz, will not be to eliminate models for the sake of eliminating models, but for each brand to retain its “identity and credibility” in the marketplace. “We’ve been very emotional about the brands in the past,” he says. “Now we need to be more rational.”

Ultimately, the company wants to decrease the time it takes to bring new models to market while increasing profit margins.

Girotti said Groupe Beneteau has been getting more involved in the boat-club model, so it will begin designing specific products for that segment. He said that Jeanneau and Beneteau models now being built for the European market will be built at the company’s facility in Cadillac, Michigan, where it builds the Four Winns, Glastron, Wellcraft and Scarab lines. “We want to make sure to have the best product portfolio aligned with distribution,” said Girotti.

“We’re not trying to put Groupe Beneteau in place of the brands, which is our real strength,” said Girotti, regarding the new organization. “We don’t want to affect the individuality of any brand. In fact, we want to respect each one. But we want every model to be an ambassador of its brand, so it makes sense in the marketplace.”

At Cannes, Groupe Beneteau had its usual formidable presence. It had 58 boats at the show, with the announcement of 34 new models for the 2020 season. Twelve new models were previewed at the show.

On the sailing side, the company launched its new Excess catamaran brand. "We took a monohull and cut it in half to make a catamaran out of it while keeping the performance,” said a statement. Five models will be launched over the next three years. The first will be the XCS 12 and XCS 15, which were designed by sailor Marc Guillemot.

Lagoon, the group's other catamaran brand, is continuing its development towards the top of the range with its new Sixty 7. Its Sixty 5 should be unveiled next April.

For monohulls, Beneteau will soon launch the First Yacht 53, a boat that combines the performance and luxurious features of a 53 ft sailing yacht.

This year, Jeanneau is launching the Sunfast 3300, a model designed for competition and ocean racing. The shipyard also unveiled the first sketches of the Sunloft 47, a boat dedicated for charter with 14 people on board.

On the powerboats side, Beneteau has just launched the Swift Trawler 41. Monte Carlo said it would unveil the MC 52.

Prestige presented the new 420, a completely redesigned interior model. The model will be followed by a S version while the 590 will be unveiled in Dusseldorf. Prestige also plans to present the new XLine range, which will include its new 70.

For Monte Carlo Yacht, the second-generation 66, 70 and 76 models were unveiled. They feature a closed flybridge, which is a new style for the brand. Also arriving is the Gran Turismo 32, a semi-walkaround express cruiser equipped with a hardtop.

Jeanneau revealed two a new Leader 12.5 WA, a 38-foot walkaround that is intended for the U.S. market. The largest model of the Leader brand, it will feature a folding side terrace and open bow. The boat will be officially launched in Paris in December.

Finally, the French manufacturer presented a new version of the Merry Fisher 10.95 with a flybridge. According to the company, it is the world’s first outboard boat with a flybridge.

While some new boats were presented in Cannes, others will be unveiled in Paris, Dusseldorf or Miami.

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