A day in Paris:
As the newest member of the team at Matthew Willett Marine it was a great privilege to be offered a spot at the inaugural ‘Jeanneau Acadamy’ : a 2 day training session for new dealers , at the companies head office and production facility in Les Herbiers, in the south of France.
Arriving in Paris after the inevitable grind of the long haul flight you immediately get a sense of your place in the style spectrum as you line up with the other slightly disheveled and grotty non-Euro country passport holders and watch the always stylish and well presented Euro visitors and returning Parisians glide on by.
And so it continued from there as I got to spend a beautiful sparkling autumn day wandering through Paris before heading to the factory. Paris on such a day can only leave you in awe as you soak in the history, the variety of the architecture but above all else the apparently effortless sense of style and glamour that the Parisians exude, even on what was a lazy Sunday for them.
I enjoyed a brief stroll up the Eiffel Tower, a structure that in my mind makes more than just an exclamation point on the Paris skyline: to me it is something of a metaphor for that unique French capacity to be able to rise to a design challenge with a passionate drive to stay true to ground breaking and functional design. Arguably the Eiffel Tower, a truly innovative construction and precursor to modern highrise construction techniques, has been often copied but never bettered.
With a head full of the granduer created by the mercurial talents of Gustave Eiffel I caught the fast train to Nantes in the Loire district in the south of France and made the short car trip to Les Herbieres , home to the Jeanneau and Prestige part of Group Beneteau.
As a marketer I was curious to learn as much as possible about what the Jeanneau and Prestige brands had to offer our Australian buyers: what do the factory team believe about their brands and product and what was reality.
The facts tell a story of massive scale across the Group:
350 dealers in 69 countries worldwide
16 manufacturing plants: 10 in France
The group comprises 10 Brands with 208 Models: 161 Motorboat models and 47 Sailboat models.
The Prestige 500, a popular model in Oz, is now up to hull number 324, less than 3 years after launch.
Group Beneteau produce more boats in a week than all the GRP production boats produced in Australia in a whole year.
With a production line process fine-tuned over the last 60 years , a walk through of the 35 acre factory complex dedicated to Prestige and Jeanneau Power boats provides a brief insight into the benefits of huge volume for the end buyer. A few examples include:
The group is Volvos single largest marine customer: this partnership lead to the ‘jack’ shaft drive IPS set up currently seen on the Prestige range. This set up allows the engines to be located forward for optimal boat balance, combined with the efficiency and quiet operation of IPS
The Group is offered all the new and innovative product as it is developed by external suppliers: this ranges from deck fittings through to resin, glass and glue. All new product is then rigorously tested in the companies dedicated R+D labs before it is accepted into the production cycle, to ensure it will meet the quality standards. While we were there we saw the technicians stress testing a new supply of bonding glue.
Quality is everything: every step of the production process is checked and measured.
So there is massive scale and huge attention to detail and quality, but what about the design DNA ?
While it is true that design is very much a personal choice there is no doubt that the current Prestige and Jeanneau Power ranges are at the leading edge of what is considered ‘modern’ boat design. The business is rightly proud about its current crop of designs but the main theme of our training session in relation to design goals was all about “the surprise is inside” :
Example of efforts to ‘surprise’ appear right through the ranges:
The Merry Fishers have the most flexible internal and external seating arrangements in their sector of the market
The full beam private entrance master cabins in the Prestige range have market leading dimensions
And the latest from Prestige, the 680 , surprises all with the ‘view’ from the unique forward master cabin: its floor level is only slightly lower than the main cabin’s and the space and light , and view from , this cabin needs to be experienced.
It is this effort to continually improve and create a better product (better than the previous model and better and more innovative than the opposition) that drives the designers. It is this desire that I believe ties back to that innate French passion for great design exhibited so wonderfully by Gustav Eiffel and the brave burghers of Paris that not only funded the construction, but made the call to retain, in perpetuity, the Tower that was built only as an exhibition piece.
Your trip to the factory:
Please don’t take my word for it: including a pre-purchase visit to the factory will go a long way to ensuring you that your intuition about these beautiful French boats is well justified: they are about great design and innovative thinking ,but are also produced to world class standards by a dedicated design and build team.
We can arrange your trip including airfares, accommodation near the factory in a Chateau, transfers with car and driver……………..and the best news :these costs will be discounted from the price of your new Prestige or Jeanneau (conditions apply)