Hervé Gastinel recalls how Groupe Beneteau was “full of passionate, dedicated people” just waiting for a clear message when he joined the company in 2015.

Hervé Gastinel CEO of Beneteau Group

Post-GFC, the uniquely diverse boating group – today consisting of 12 boat brands and more than 200 recreational boat models – was stagnant and, Hervé tells The CEO Magazine, “It was time to get ready for a new adventure.”

Instilling in his team a sense of trust and confidence in the future, Hervé implemented two clear directions for the company, which he stands by today: internationalisation and innovation. “Innovation is key in this industry,” he asserts. “Our customers have a lot of choice in their activities – from skiing and cycling to yachting – so we have to give them a reason to embark on our products.

“There is a wide choice of boats in the market. If we don’t bring the customer novelties – new features and experiences – they will do something else, so it’s critical that we create that ‘wow’ effect. That’s innovation.”

Whether customers are after an avant-garde Beneteau itself or one of the other 11 boat brands offered by the group – Jeanneau, Lagoon, Prestige, CNB, Monte Carlo Yachts, Excess, Delphia, Four Winns, Glastron, Wellcraft or Scarab – the variety means that everything, from sailboats to monohulls to catamarans, ranging from 4.6 to 32 metres in size, is on offer.

With proud French roots, the family business of Beneteau started in 1884 as a small shipyard. Today, the group has close to 7,400 employees and an international reach.

“Internationalisation is very important to us,” explains Hervé, adding that France accounts for 15% of the group’s sales, with the weight of the international market growing each day, particularly in North America. “Internationalisation also brings fresh ideas, new approaches, new cultures and a stimulating mindset across the teams.

Hervé Gastinel CEO of Beneteau Group

“I have a transformational plan, which is to ‘transform to perform’,” Hervé adds, “but these two – innovation and internationalisation – are my main direction.”

As with the car industry, technology, connectivity and autonomous driving are hot topics. These are the areas, particularly given the size of Groupe Beneteau and its ability to invest in and explore innovations like these, that set the company apart, says Hervé.

Connectivity, from a safety perspective, is very important, he continues, while the autonomous function would come in handy for anyone trying to manoeuvre one of Beneteau’s beautiful (and expensive) vessels to a dock, for example.

“With smaller yachts – up to 18 metres – it’s usually family and friends who do the manoeuvring, so we considered how we could make the boats easier to use,” he says. “We brought in several interesting features and just announced self-docking, a useful innovation to make manoeuvring easier and safer.”

With more innovations on the way, including an energy-conscious, first-of-its-kind foil boat, and 2020 objectives to grow twice as fast as the market and increase profits by 50%, it’s a highly ambitious plan for the renowned luxury boating group.

“When you’re a sailor and you like being at sea, you can only be enthusiastic about a company such as Groupe Beneteau. It has an incredible family story with the fourth generation now in place,” says Hervé, himself a fan and owner of a Beneteau boat before joining the company. “When you can unite your passion with a job – it’s like a dream come true.”