Nov 20, 2018

Innovation KeyMETSTRADE 2018 opened November 13th with an inspiring keynote presentation from Hervé Gastinel, Group CEO of the €1.28bn turnover international boatbuilder, Groupe Beneteau. He took the opportunity to emphasize the critical importance of innovation in product development, customer service and manufacturing transformation.

Gastinel explained how he had introduced a ‘Transform to Perform’ program focusing the 10 boatbuilders in Groupe Beneteau’s portfolio on innovation across these key areas. The group has spent € 60 m - € 80 m annually on new product development in the past decade and 88 models out of a total fleet of 200 have been launched in the past three years.

Regeneration is important due to rapidly shifting expectations. Group Beneteau’s production of ten thousand boats annually is just 0.1% of the units produced by the automotive industry. A challenge when boat buyers expect the same comfort and clean propulsion technologies experienced in modern cars.

Groupe Beneteau’s innovation road map includes improved connectivity, with all systems accessible through a common user interface and easier boating using autonomous technologies like collision avoidance, self-docking and predicted maintenance. The company’s approach to the environment will include parallel-hybrid solutions with a longer-term focus on fuel cells.

Far from fearing digital transformation, Gastinel says the whole marine industry should embrace it as a way of reaching young and newer boat buyers and users. Groupe Beneteau is also working on a range of solutions to improve customer experience and make boating accessible, from leasing, club and fractional ownership models, to its new Band of Boats full service portal.

In response to the damage inflicted by the current round of trade wars, Groupe Beneteau is looking to organize its brands globally but to produce a greater number of boats closer to their markets. It anticipates around 50 per cent of production will be based in Europe, with 30 per cent in North America and 20 per cent in the Asia Pacific region. Gastinel confirms he is also impressed by the automotive industry’s ability to leverage many models from a small number of common platforms, a technique he says boatbuilders must adopt.

Concluding his address, Gastinel addressed the marine equipment businesses at the Breakfast Briefing and invited them to participate in the Groupe Beneteau’s Technical Days where they can pitch their innovations. “We are delighted to share our innovations and grow our businesses together.”

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TALKING TO MORGAN HUNTLEY OF VANQUISH BOATS

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“In 2018 Vanquish Boats transitioned into a semi-custom builder, helping to expand our positioning as the premium brand in class,” Huntley explained. “This move also allowed us to be more creative with our clients with regard to fulfilling their wants and needs for special features.”

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