“We’ve followed a successful course”. Interview with Marco Valle (CEO Azimut-Benetti)

Marco Valle – CEO Azimut – Benetti

All the signs are there, and they’re all pointing in the same direction. The sea, yachts, and the nautical industry, in general, have become the number one choice, the escape plan, the ideal way to rediscover some degree of peace of mind after the devastating effects of the pandemic and the health crisis it has caused. This historical juncture has led a public that until recently had little to do with yachts to regard this pursuit with greater enthusiasm, recognizing the benefits of a pastime that is safer than most and provides the social distancing that has, unfortunately, now become the norm. This demand for yachts has become even more urgent and by weight of numbers has pushed Azimut-Benetti center stage, as the Avigliana-based group has an order book worth one billion, three hundred million euro and is on course to achieve numbers previously reached only before the 2008 crisis. These results are not based on sheer luck, they are proof of the wisdom of the course Azimut-Benetti has chosen, which has resulted in a uniquely high-quality offer that is above all capable of answering the needs of clients who are new to the yachting world.  Azimut Yachts has played its part in this success, and 2020 turned out to be the year of the Magellano, a performance sealed by the debut of the new 25-meter flagship. The year 2021 opened with the launch of the 53 Fly model, which also consolidated the yard’s position in the market for flybridge yachts below 24 meters. This fits in with a wider, more extensive strategy, as explained by  Azimut-Benetti Group CEO Marco Valle in an interview with Barche a Motore.

Let’s take a look at the Azimut Yachts brand, and take the current situation as our starting point. We are experiencing a historic moment where you believe the nautical industry is playing a central role. What’s in store for the sector in 2021?

“We thought things would go well, but not this well. The performance has exceeded even the most optimistic expectations. Last summer, with the pandemic in full swing, the sector made up the ground lost in early 2020. It was a sign of recovery hedged around with many unknowns. The absence of boat shows, the enforced lack of mobility and the uncertainty surrounding the widespread introduction of vaccines didn’t help us draw up medium/long-term strategies. That’s why there was still some lack of trust that the good results would continue – the reality, though, soon told another story”.

Could you go into that in a little more detail?

“The positive trend stabilized, but in late 2020 and early 2021 it enjoyed an even greater boost”.

How do you interpret this trend, and what is supporting it?  In the light of past events isn’t there a risk of a bubble effect, one that will eventually burst?

“A few weeks ago I passed the 25-year milestone at Azimut. I’ve lived through many changes in the fortunes of the nautical industry, cycles of intense euphoria alternating with crises that hit the sector badly in only a short time. In this case, though, with all due caution, we’re experiencing something completely different. The privations, restrictions and sacrifices have played a fundamental role, nurturing an almost pathological need to find a safe space to live in. The way we perceive time has changed, which has an effect on how judge its quality. All this has led to some reflection. Living isolated indoors has enabled us most of all to rediscover the importance of establishing physical contact with the outside environment, a feeling of freedom that can find almost infinite expression on board a yacht. That’s the crucial point. Yachts have proved to be the best antidote. They have enabled us to regain a sense of liberty alongside our nearest and dearest and enjoy a quality of life that in terms of experience reaches its highest point on a yacht. These factors have proved to be vital because they have given a considerable boost to the purchasing process and helped draw a new clientele into the business”.

Speaking of purchasing, how did you deal with the absence of boat shows and other events, which presented a further obstacle in an already complex situation?

“In our case we took advantage of the window that opened last September to present the new 25-metre Magellano at Portofino. The occasion enabled us to invite a select group of clients to take a look at the Group’s new models. The almost total blackout surrounding yacht events led us to take alternative measures in order to keep communications channels with clients and dealer networks open. Technology came to our aid, starting with digital instruments. The fact remains, though, that buying a yacht is still an emotional experience. That’s why technology can’t fill the gap for existing models – clients want to touch the product. If it’s a new project, though, one that’s still in the design stage, the level of involvement is different. In that case owners experience a different kind of excitement. They feel pleasure and fulfilment in accompanying the yard in an initiative that’s new to both parties”.

How have client requirements changed?

“For the reasons I mentioned before we’ve recently been seeing strong interest in yachts under 60 feet in length.  We’ve had to revamp our production lines to satisfy this exceptional demand, and then we have to bear in mind the  popularity of outboard engines. We were one of the first to exploit this trend, which originated a few years ago in the USA, by introducing first the Verve 40 and then the 47-foot version”. 

And what about innovation?

“A lot’s changed here, too. We’ve provided a new interpretation of the word that covers a range of meanings. First, the production processes, which benefit from the extensive engineering initiatives in the design stage, and then the increasingly advanced technology and construction method. Materials play an important role too – carbon, for example, is being used more and more in the construction of some sections of the models available. That’s only part of the story. The leap in the quality we’ve seen recently has been driven by the technology and innovation that enhances onboard life. It’s no accident we were one of the first to adopt the Assisted Docking system developed by Volvo Penta. But our innovation also lies in researching living solutions that encourage a new onboard lifestyle with ever more flexible spaces in terms of use, and where contact with the sea becomes a vital element of the experience”.

And then there’s design. Have you also made your mark here?

“The introduction of the Azimut 53 Fly emphasizes the yard’s desire to explore new aesthetic and stylistic languages. This led to our decision to take advantage of the talent and vision of Alberto Mancini. We asked for a more current, contemporary reading of experiencing a yacht, one that was not dependent on passing trends. The accolades this model has received have confirmed the wisdom of our choices. At the moment the first model will be available in October 2022. In 2021 we at Azimut will be celebrating another important milestone, the appearance of the new Trideck. With exteriors designed by Alberto Mancini and interiors by Achille Salvagni, at 38 metres in length, it will be the largest yacht the yard has ever built”. 

 

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