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Yann Masselot interview: Beneteau powers up in Asia

Beneteau brand director Yann Masselot discusses the brand’s plans to reinvigorate its business lines and develop its powerboat segment across Asia-Pacific

author icon By Ryan Swift | 18 November 2021

Yann Masselot

Beneteau brand manager Yann Masselot is a veteran of the French boating giant

Yann Masselot has a lot to say about the way the Beneteau brand is perceived in Asia. He launched the Beneteau Group office in 2006 in China and spent “a lot of time” launching Beneteau Group brands in Asia. He later spent years at the head of Lagoon, the catamaran brand that is a key pillar for Beneteau Group.

As of September 2020, he was back at Beneteau, heading up the namesake yacht brand of Beneteau Group, and he wants you to know that Beneteau is not just about sailing, its motoryachts are also increasingly in demand.

Beneteau is best known in Asia for its sailing yachts, but the company’s boat-building activities began in 1884 with wooden fishing boats for French fishermen working France’s Atlantic coast. In 1906, Beneteau built a motorised fishing boat for the first time, thus beginning the company’s long association with motorboats.

“In France, a Beneteau fishing boat was the Rolls Royce of the fishing fleet,” Masselot says. “Every fisherman wanted the money to buy one.”

The fishing boat business only stopped in 2010, and by then, the market for motoryachts had overtaken it. Masselot says that Beneteau built its first pleasure motorboat in 1964, a composite dayboat for angling. However, sailboat building only began later – in 1978.

“There is a very strong culture of powerboat building in Beneteau,” Masselot says, pointing to the fact that motorised boats now make up 55 per cent of Beneteau boat sales. “In Europe and France, Beneteau is well known for its powerboats.” The US is also a growing market for Beneteau powerboats, and the company is now doing well with its Trawler line in Asia-Pacific.

“We decided that some segments are going down, and it is not worth it to keep investing in these; some are going up, and there we invest a lot” – Yann Masselot

Antares 11 Fly

A flagship Antares 11 Fly underway

Under group chairman and CEO Jérôme de Metz, Beneteau Group has reorganised itself. It is now working on five-year strategic plans that govern investment, production and marketing plans for each of the many brands under the group.

“We decided that some segments are going down, and it is not worth it to keep investing in these; some are going up and there we invest a lot,” Masselot says. He adds that a big part of the reorganisation was rationalising production and marketing between four leading brands – Beneteau, Jeanneau, Lagoon and Prestige – to make sure that they are well defined and don’t compete with each other, as they did in the past.

These four key brands are joined by five “challenger” brands, such as Excess catamarans and Delphia, which is unveiling an all-electric yacht for inland lake and river cruising in January 2022. These brands will also offer the group a chance to experiment with new concepts before taking them to the wider market, according to Masselot.

Beneteau has created a Brand Committee, consisting of the general managers of each brand. They meet every week to make sure that they are working together productively. “This is quite new. In the past, Beneteau Group was doing its work without talking between brands; we were not sharing all the good and bad stuff [we learned]. Big changes have happened since Jérôme de Metz came,” says Masselot.

Beneteau expects its smaller outboard boats to be increasingly in demand for inland boating in mainland China

The first meeting of the Brand Committee took place in September 2020, just as the global yacht market began to explode in the wake of Covid-19 restrictions. Beneteau Group benefited from the rising market, seeing revenues from its boat division rising 4.4 per cent in the first half of 2021, compared to the first half of 2020. Discounting sales to charter operators, new boat sales from Beneteau Group rose 14.2 per cent in the first half of 2021, while new boat sales outside the main markets of the EU and North America rose 101.5 per cent.

“We found it helpful to share experiences about Covid, how the markets were doing, so that we could take decisions much faster,” Masselot says. Sailboat sales remain stable, but the powerboat business keeps increasing, he adds.

In Asia, Masselot says that sales of Beneteau’s Trawler series are picking up, as are sales of the Antares boats, which are designed as a weekender for families. Covid-19 restrictions have boosted sales, particularly in Hong Kong. Masselot agrees that Asian buyers may be moving away from sleek, fast boats in favour of slower, more comfortable boats.

Beneteau’s powerboat business now outperforms its sailing boat sales

Masselot says that the fuel economy of the Trawler series, combined with the relatively spacious flybridge, which allows room for toys and tenders, is finding new appeal in Asia.

“In Asia, we are doing extremely well with Antares. You can do everything: you can go fishing, boating with the family, from the little one [the 5.7-metre Antares 6] to Antares 11, you have a galley, you have cabins [and a] toilet, so you can do everything with them.”

Two years ago in China, Beneteau secured a dealership with Liefeng Yacht Company, which specialised in motorcycles and jet skis. Masselot says that many of Beneteau’s powerboats are being sold for use in China’s inland lakes. “That’s a big market in China and perfect for Beneteau.”

Beneteau plans to grow its powerboat business in Asia over the next couple of years, and Masselot knows that the Beneteau name in Asia is mainly associated with its sailboats. Nevertheless, it’s a challenge the brand is prepared to overcome by focusing on product development.

“In Asia, Masselot says that sales of Beneteau’s Trawler series are picking up, as are sales of the Antares boats, which are designed as a weekender for families”

Grand Trawler 62 Beneteau

Flagship Grand Trawler 62

“Today, we have four powerboat ranges: Flyer [day boating], Antares [weekender], Gran Turismo [express cruisers] and the Trawler. With those ranges, we have a strong investment plan for each, bringing in more innovation each time we launch a product.” Masselot is relatively quiet on what innovations might be included in forthcoming releases but he points to clean tech as a major area for development. “Green stuff; this is what we’ll see more of across the group.”

Masselot says that the new Oceanis 30.1, due to be launched at Boot Dusseldorf in January, will be fully electric. It was designed for the European lake market, where many boaters were facing rules against any combustion engine. Though it is dedicated to inland waters only, Beneteau will be studying how the boat is used, with a view to extending such capability to other yachts in its offshore range. Beneteau Group has made electrification of its yachts a key part of its future strategy. Masselot says that there is a big team and major investment dedicated to this objective.

READ: Grand Trawler 62 Spotlight

Meanwhile, Beneteau has launched its new Grand Trawler 62, the largest powerboat in its line. Masselot says that if market demand is there, Beneteau will build an even bigger Trawler flagship. He reports good sales of the new 62, which emerged from market surveys of existing Swift Trawler owners.

Beneteau’s plans to power up its powerboat segments are just beginning in Asia, which means buyers will have much to look forward to as the current five-year plan progresses.

www.beneteau.com