Taking The Lead: Giovanna Vitelli of Azimut-Benetti
Interview of Giovanna Vitelli, VP of Azimut-Benetti, by the editors of YachtStyle
As Vice President, you work directly with your father Paolo, President of Azimut-Benetti. What have you learned from him and how do you work together?
I’ve learned from my father that in this market, you win with the product. Marketing is nice, but you must win on the market with your boats. Even in the period of the global economic crisis in 2008 and 2009, we didn’t save one penny in product development. That made a difference.
It was an opportunity to gain market share in those years because we were able to keep investing in new products. Our focus is to keep our feet on the ground and concentrate on being winners in what we offer to our customers.
Since working together, we’ve planned and managed an important change from the founders’ time to the next stage. Today, Azimut-Benetti is a billion-dollar turnover company. Over 10 years, we planned the growth of our management, so we have a clear governance, where the family has the vision and we are still the ones to decide on the product development.
A Key Business Culture
The product is then based on a committee that I coordinate but then delegate and leave space to managers, because this is the way you grow.
The company could not exist as a one-man or one-woman show. I believe we’re on the right path, as this is a way to prepare the company in the future for growing bigger, maybe going public or involving more managers. I think this is a path for good, sustainable growth rather than keeping the family 100 per cent hands on and limiting expansion.
Today, my father is involved in the strategic vision, fortunately, but much less involved in the everyday business. Apart from the B.Yond family, which really came from his spirit and vision, he’s not that involved in the rest of the product development anymore. Sometimes, when I have a little doubt, I go to him for advice, but it’s more about my personal concerns. He’s spending more time on his hospitality activities, as the family owns several hotels in the mountains, but he keeps an eye on the company.
What has led to Azimut-Benetti’s “all-time high” record book and the company finishing last year by increasing its lead at the top of the Global Order Book?
I can’t recall when the market has been like this. It has been booming for the past year or so. Our order book was up to €3 billion after the first two boat shows of the season, the Cannes Yachting Festival and the Genoa International Boat Show (in September 2022). It’s a record for us, not only for the value of the order book but especially for the duration, as we have orders for deliveries up to 2026 and 2027.
Such an order book helps us plan production because we can foresee our orders. It’s great in terms of value but also in terms of giving stability for many years. It’s also recognition from the market. Why has this happened? For all the industry, the pandemic was incredible. None of us was expecting this. It led to people rediscovering the pleasure of yachting, being in a place where you’re free, both in terms of where you can move and in terms of choosing the people around you.
This applies from the smaller models to the big yachts. We have been probably luckier or better than others in introducing trends that became even more popular during the pandemic, such as this idea to go back to nature. Our Benetti Oasis has enjoyed record sales. It’s incredible. For the Oasis 40M, we had to double the molds to satisfy the demand. This has never happened before for a 40m yacht.
The idea is to have a beach club which is really a beach area, not a cave where you go inside. Instead, you go back to being close to the sea, to the water, enjoying one connected area between inside and outside, with big windows that open. This lifestyle-focused design has been extremely successful, especially in certain mature markets, with Europe the forerunner.
So, why has Azimut-Benetti led the Global Order Book for superyachts for 23 years?
It’s a reflection of the business going well. It’s a reflection of being winners on the market with our yachts, which is rewarding because it means we’re selected by many owners. However, the growth can’t be fast and big forever, because we want to keep quality under control.
We don’t want to grow our facilities even though the market is booming now. We are at the limit, which is why our deliveries are so far ahead. We don’t want to push production too much today, but to keep the situation under control, especially quality wise.
The Group says it has anticipated the trends and wishes of existing owners while gradually acquiring younger owners, with an average age of 45 for Azimut buyers and 55 for Benetti clients. How have you achieved this?
It’s interesting from a social perspective to see how the profiles of wealthy people are changing, and that’s not just in this industry but across the globe. In the past, it took you a lifetime to become really rich, but in the new economy, digital technologies have changed this.
In Benetti, we still have the classic navettas or the Motopanfilo [37M], but in the last five years we’ve added some extra product ranges more focused on a lifestyle proposition, such as the Oasis. Even in the steel production, the B.Now series, we propose a more traditional stern and the Oasis Deck® version, which is extremely popular.