The Beneteau Group’s acquisition of Rec Boat Holdings — parent company of Four Winns, Glastron, Wellcraft and Scarab — will help the 130-year-old company further penetrate the North American powerboat market.
That’s according to Beneteau CFO Patrick Guilloux, who told Trade Only Today that eventually the company’s goal is to manufacture Beneteau and Jeanneau powerboats under 10 or 12 meters (32 to 39 feet) at Rec Boat Holdings’ Cadillac, Mich., facility.
“After the [financial] crisis, we had to reshape the Beneteau Group strategy,” Guilloux told Trade Only Today, speaking by phone from France. “One of the major initiatives was to penetrate the powerboat market in North America.”
That initiative began in 2010 when Beneteau began selling powerboats 10 to 12 meters and above in the United States, although they continued to be built in either France or Italy, Guilloux said.
“For small boats, we were always saying we would need a manufacturing footprint in North America,” Guilloux said. “You cannot be competitive manufacturing [smaller] outboard boats in Europe and selling them in North America because freight costs would be very significant, in comparison to the selling price.”
The four Rec Boat Holdings brands also will leverage the solidly established European and global Beneteau dealer network to penetrate markets overseas, Guilloux said.
Rec Boat Holdings president Roch Lambert will continue to lead the company and will assume business development for Beneteau’s outboard brands in the United States, reporting directly to Beneteau Group CEO Bruno Cathelinais and working closely with Laurent Fabre, president of Annapolis, Md.-based Bénéteau America, Guilloux said.
“For sure, Laurent and Roch will work together closely because there are a lot of synergies to get worked out in the coming weeks and months,” Guilloux said. “As far as the Beneteau outboard business development in North America, Roch will be in charge, as long as we are talking about outboard powerboats. Laurent is marketing inboard and sailboats. They will work together.”
Lambert also will lead the marketing efforts of the Rec Boat Holdings brands in overseas markets.
The 250 dealers representing Four Winns, Glastron, Wellcraft and Scarab will have an opportunity to represent the Bénéteau Group’s outboard products, Lambert told Trade Only this morning, also by phone from France, where he is attending Bénéteau Group dealer meetings.
“When we have our own dealer meeting in August we’ll have 20 or 30 boats on display [total] for dealers to look at, try out and see what suits their markets,” Lambert said. “When volumes [of Beneteau and Jeanneau sales] are large enough, the intent is we would build some of those boats in Cadillac.”
Beneteau powerboats and Jeanneau currently have four dealers in North America. “For them, it was more of a test last year than anything else,” Lambert said. “We’re coming in this year to help them develop that network and grow volumes.”
In the meantime, Rec Boat Holdings will take advantage of new opportunities abroad.
“We evaluated what synergies we believe we will generate,” Lambert said. “We have a strong presence in North America and Canada, and now we have a phenomenal expansion opportunity with the rest of the world, and predominantly in Europe.”
Beneteau has a global manufacturing presence in Italy, France, Poland, Brazil and now the United States, Lambert said. “So we’re adding to a pretty impressive roster, depending on what market we want to penetrate.”