Marine Italia leads Azimut in Asia
Marine Italia represents Azimut in several regions and is among the builder’s top dealers due to big sales of large models in Hong Kong.
Not even Covid can slow down Azimut’s popularity in Hong Kong. A Grande 35 Metri is scheduled to arrive in December, marking the first unit in Asia of Azimut’s flagship model, at least until the brand unveils its 38m Trideck. And earlier this year, Hong Kong welcomed its second Grande 32 Metri, currently the brand’s second-biggest model.
Like several local dealers, Azimut Yachts Hong Kong has had a bumper 2020 as travel restrictions forced the city’s residents to spend less time overseas and more time at home yachting, exploring the city’s islands, bays and beaches.
From April through September, the dealer sold 11 new Azimut yachts from a Magellano 43 to the 115ft Grande 35 Metri. Parent company Marine Italia secured a similar number of sales of pre-owned boats through its brokerage division.
“It has been a phenomenal six-month period for the Hong Kong team in an individual market,” says Paul Grange, Director and co-owner of Marine Italia Ltd with Thomas Woo. “Overall, across Asia, Azimut sold about 30 new boats in that six-month period.”
Headquartered in Shau Kei Wan on top of the Marinetec shipyard also co-owned by Woo and Grange, Marine Italia covers far more than Hong Kong.
The company is also the exclusive Azimut distributor for neighbouring Macau, southern China, Taiwan and, since 2018, Singapore. It manages Macau and Singapore with its own staff and works with dealer partners in Shenzhen and Taiwan.
However, Hong Kong’s appetite for Azimut – especially large models – has been the main driver of business since the company was founded in 2015.
“Hong Kong is by far the largest, most mature market in Asia and one of the most important markets globally for Azimut. Sales have been good from day one and we have built a fantastic team,” says Grange, who admits Covid has had a negative impact on the company’s other markets.
“In China, Taiwan and Singapore, new boat sales dropped this year, although we feel this is more due to logistics and delivery restrictions than client demand. I think certain travel and shipping restrictions caused uncertainty over the likely timetable to deliver the boats in these areas, which has a big impact on sales.
“Hong Kong, however, is the opposite, with no delivery restrictions and clients turning to yachting for their leisure time, unable to readily travel for holidays. We had several new clients buying their first yachts and existing clients upgrading, with quick delivery being a key driving factor for sales.”
Grande and Flybridge models typically make up over 90 per cent of the company’s business, so it’s not just the number of sales that impress but the size of yachts being ordered.
SALVAGNI TRANFORMS INTERIORS
The Hong Kong buyer of the Grande 35 Metri has owned multiple yachts including “a very large superyacht”, as described by Grange, who believes the 115ft Azimut is a market leader.
“The Grande 35 Metri is a true superyacht, with features such as a wide-body bow, owner’s-suite balcony, side-access two-tender garage, large aft beach club, wave-piercing bow and tri-deck design,” says Grange, who started his career in yacht sales in the UK in 1992.
“It’s hard to imagine any 115ft yacht offering more in terms of design features, internal area and deck space.”
Grange says the company’s sales of Grande models – which range from 25-35m (87ft-115ft) – are now well into double figures. The 27 Metri leads the way with four units delivered to Hong Kong.
The Brit believes the interiors by renowned Italian furniture designer Achille Salvagni in the new Grande models also plays a big part in keeping the company as a market leader.
“The popularity of Grande models comes from a combination of their features, design, unique styling, use of space and the assured quality and performance from Azimut-Benetti, the world’s most successful luxury motor yacht manufacturer,” he says, referencing the Group topping the Global Order Book for 24m-plus builds for the last 19 years.
“One of the standout features of the Grande range is the Achille Salvagni interior design. Salvagni specialises in the combination of materials, shapes and textures to create unique, luxury and welcoming environments onboard.
“I think this has been a positive influence on yacht owners here in Asia as modern yacht interiors are much more like luxury homes now than they used to be 10 years ago. Salvagni’s creativity keeps Azimut at the forefront of the industry in this crucial element of yacht design.”
SPORTY AND SPECTACULAR
However, the recent arrival in Hong Kong of two new S8s shows that there’s also an increasing demand for Azimut’s sporty S Collection. Exterior designer Alberto Mancini has stamped his mark, shaping the S line’s new look just as Salvagni transformed Grande interiors.
After long-time Azimut partner Stefano Righini oversaw the S Collection’s new generation with the S7 in 2017 and S6 a year later, Mancini was responsible for the styling on both the larger S8 (81ft) and Grande S10 (94ft) that premiered at the 2019 Cannes Yachting Festival, each featuring interiors by Francesco Guida.
The Hong Kong owners of the S8s are both existing Azimut clients. Grange says Mancini’s exterior styling and the triple IPS propulsion were among many appealing features of a stunning model that’s longer than the Flybridge range’s new flagship, the 78, which also debuted at Cannes and features Mancini and Salvagni working together.
“Traditionally, sports models haven’t been as popular as flybridge models in Asia. This is largely due to them typically offering more exterior entertaining space than interior space, whereas more air-conditioned indoor space is often preferred locally due to the climate. Also, the additional performance offered is not always a key element for local clients,” he says.
“However, new designs such as the S8 blur the lines between the two styles. The S8 has a comfortable flybridge, a vast foredeck lounge, a saloon with opening sunroof and a cockpit twice the size of an equivalent flybridge model. It also has a huge aft garage that accommodates a jet RIB and a full-size jet bike, and provides a beach-club swim platform.
“Inside, it still provides four luxury guest cabins plus a lovely saloon with separate formal dining area. Add to this the exceptional handling and the performance and efficiency of the triple IPS engines, and the S8 is serious competition to any flybridge yacht. Plus, the S8 just looks amazing. Ultimately, ‘kerb appeal’ is still a big factor in the decision-making process and Azimut never loses sight of that.”
Grange met Woo after moving to Hong Kong to head Azimut sales for Simpson Marine in 2012, the pair becoming partners three years later. Both have a strong belief in the brand, with Grange pinpointing founder Paolo Vitelli as the driving force behind what makes the brand unique and the Azimut-Benetti Group a world leader.
“He founded Azimut Yachts in 1969 and still leads and guides the company with the same dedication and vision today. None of Azimut’s competition are still owned and operated by their founders and, for me, it’s the continuous ownership, drive and the brand’s true Italian heritage that makes it unique.”
From Hong Kong, Woo is a long-time yacht owner, having bought his first boat at the age of 25 while studying computer science in the US. Although he spent much of his career in technology, he made his move into yacht sales by setting up a brokerage in 2006, initially as a side business.
“When I first started selling yachts, Azimut were always in demand, the quality was excellent, and clients liked the Italian styling and great use of space,” Woo says. “After selling several Azimuts and having the opportunity of really enjoying them out on the water, I understood why they’re the leading brand in Hong Kong and I’ve been a fan ever since.”
Although both Directors sell yachts, Woo spends more time working directly with the clients and on the technical side of the business. Grange is more office-based, managing the Azimut relationship and other areas of the business.
The pair work with all their clients personally and consequently don’t employ any sales staff in their six-strong office, which overlooks their shipyard.
“We’re both very hands on, but we prefer it that way,” Grange says. “Given the level of investment a luxury yacht represents, we think our clients prefer to deal with the business owners. It streamlines the whole process, keeps us very connected with the clients and their needs, builds very strong relationships and provides clients with extra confidence.”
Grange and Woo share the responsibility for guiding the company. They agree that one of their best strategic decisions was establishing the Marinetec shipyard, where a team of 12 dedicated technicians handles all the company’s service, after-sales and warranty work.
Situated on the northeast side of Hong Kong Island, Marinetec is an approved Azimut Sales and Service Centre, featuring two slipways, working pontoons, and a 110ft shed with facilities for GRP, painting and carpentry.
Grange says the private shipyard, which they took over in 2016, is a significant investment in service, so was delighted when the Hong Kong dealership was named Best After Sales Dealer worldwide (excluding USA) at the Azimut Dealer Meeting in 2019.
“We’re fortunate Azimut recognises our genuine commitment to after-sales. Having this level of in-house service support is fantastic for our clients and enables us to provide the highest levels of service. I think the feedback from our clients and our results speak for themselves,” he says.
“When new clients come to our office and see our own team busily working on the boats in the shipyard below, I think it makes a big statement about our focus on service and our approach to the business.”
While Hong Kong remains one of Azimut’s biggest markets for its Grande models and other large yachts, Grange and Woo are similarly keen to keep growing their other markets in Greater China as well as in Singapore, where they marked their appointment with a popular party at the 2019 Singapore Yacht Show.
The number of new Azimuts sold in Hong Kong typically doubles the company’s other markets combined, yet the difference in turnover is far greater due to the number of Grande and other large models among those orders.
While Hong Kong continues to be the backbone of the business, Grange and Woo are committed to increasing Azimut’s presence in the other regions including Hainan, one of China’s yachting hot spots.
“Our commitment to growing our business in Singapore, Taiwan and China is very real. We have excellent dealer partners in Taiwan and Shenzhen who have good activity and have already sold new Azimuts for 2021 delivery. We are also planning significant investment in Hainan in line with the government’s tax-free market announcements for the island,” says Grange.
“As to the future, I expect some uncertainty as the world continues to learn to live with Covid, but we recently signed new orders for Taiwan, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. We also have increased enquiries from Singapore now, so it seems confidence is growing among our clients here in Asia and that 2021 could be another very busy year for us.”
The original article appears in Yacht Style Issue 56 and on www.YachtStyle.co