French sailboat and catamaran builder, the Fountaine-Pajot group, hosted an online press conference yesterday to launch two new Dufour models; the company’s new investment strategy was also revealed including plans to introduce a carbon-neutral boat by 2030 and €33 million in spending.
In Fountaine-Pajot’s opening remarks at yesterday’s press conference staged for a live international audience, Deputy Managing Director Romain Motteau provided a brief business review on the builder’s financial status, following a tough year which then turned very positive.
Covid restrictions resulted in production shutdown in the spring which resulted in an overall -17% drop in revenues to €172 million for the year. But the Group was still able to invest and release new boats for both the Fountaine Pajot and Dufour brands. “I would like to highlight that all brands and subsidiaries made a positive net profit”.
“In the market, we are really enthusiastic to see a lot of newcomers to the boating experience,” he remarked. “We started to see the surge in demand in May and it looks like the Covid effect is strengthening the willingness of millennials to jump into boating. In particular, “this is leveraging sales of Dufour Yachts”, he added.
Motteau credited the marketing and commercial teams for being creative in promoting the brands and reinventing the customer’s purchasing journey. “We launched two new boats for the first time without any boat shows – the Samana 59 and Isla 40 – generating orders from customers without ever seeing the boats and “demonstrating a great deal of trust in us and our dealers”.
As a result the Group ended 2020 with a strong order book standing at €177.3 million as of December 2020, up 5% compared to the previous year. Motteau added that sales to private individuals had taken the lead in the company’s buiness over the charter business during the period.
Looking forward, Motteau highlighted key points in the Group’s new strategic plan called Odyssea 2024 which will see the launch of a series of new models covering the period from 2020 to 2024 “to further animate our network” as well as:
- recruitment and training of new employees along with the improvement of working conditions;
- innovative production processes aimed at the development of more environmentally friendly boats;
- economic performance to increase investment capacity and sharing of results among the company’s teams.
The new strategy includes an industrial investment plan of €33 million including the development of more than 13 new boats over the period. In addition, the Group is working on strengthening the customer experience “from the shopping route to the navigation route, based in particular, on digitalization of the relationship”.
The plan also builds on the previous strategic plan, “Sail and Power 2020” which saw:
- An extension of production sites from 2 to 5
- An increase in the number of employees from 350 to 1300
- The deployment of Lean processes allowing the annual production of 650 boats up from 150
- Revenue multiplied 2.5 times over the period 2016-2020
For the long-term, Motteau stated it was the Group’s global ambition to become the leader of a sustainability vision in the industry. “We believe that in 2030, we will be able to produce a boat with NO carbon impact. Proposed innovations include hybrid solutions, organic and recycled materials, solar charging solutions – solutions that will be introduced on our production boats by 2024”.
The business review was followed by introduction of Dufour’s latest two models which were both recently launched in La Rochelle, where Motteau and members of the Dufour design team walked through the boats, highlighting new features.
New Dufour flagship 61
Dufour’s new 61 flagship was introduced dockside in La Rochelle ready for installation of its sails and the first of a long test sailing program where it will also be introduced to distributors throughout the network. “With a no compromise” design plan, the boat is boat comfortable and fast, while being easy to sail with all the refinements of a flagship,” the team noted included an easy access swim platform, dinghy garage, under deck roller furler and anchor system, ample storage, and extension of the cabin roof up to the mast to allow for more natural light and space below.
Also showcased on the water during the press conference – as well as under sail on a video clip – the new Dufour 470 was introduced as “the most modern boat in the range, designed as the best balance between comfort and performance.” Offering spacious living area and volume, big windows, new wood finishings, with a wide bowsprit to keep anchor and spinnaker handling out of the way and simple to manage, a well as flexible use of space and furniture in the main cabin and cockpit area for entertaining, including space for cold drinks refrigeration in the cockpit.
During the press conference, Director of Communications Helene de Fountainieu fielded questions from media participants in America and across Europe, which revealed the pricing of the new models and plans for the sail testing and touring program, as well as production rates.
The base price of the Dufour 61 will be €850,000, with the team indicating a current capacity to build 5-10 units of the new boat a year, to be expanded based on market response.
The 470’s base price will range from €250,000-300,000 depending on the final specs. The sail testing / demo program will see the boat going to Puerto Rico, Istanbul, and Sydney for its first boat show premiere.
In follow up to one of IBI’s questions, De Fountainieu outlined the Group’s efforts taken instead of participation at shows like Paris and Dusseldorf. “We organised digital Nautic Days for Dufour and Fountaine-Pajot, held two private boat shows in La Rochelle, and also locally with dealers. Looking ahead, she said the next private shows will be in Palma at the end of March, Bandol in April (along with the multihull boat show), Italy in May, followed by Spain, Portugal, England, the US and Asia.
The management team was also quizzed further about its desire to be a leader in sustainability, responding that it plans to work in all areas – bio materials, organics materials, recyclables, hybrid engines, and hydrogen cells, with possible integration of its solar panel solution to existing models. “Our vision is to be more efficient in terms of the climate. We want to become an innovation platform federating an ecosystem of independent solution companies to build a common vision, but it is too early to give more information”.