Boss / Benjamin Champenois interview, Hypenautic Car & Boat Club: “This style is timeless”

Boss / Benjamin Champenois interview, Hypenautic Car & Boat Club: “This style is timeless”

Every two weeks, we give a chance to the industry boss. This week, Benjamin Champenois, Hypenautic manager and founder of Car & Boat Club in Vannes, talks to us about his market and his prospects.

What is your background?

I started a very small boat. I was going to dive into the Zodiac Mark II with my father in Houat. We were traveling by ship with a Michelin map! I have always been near water, I grew up in southern Brittany. Then I went on a boat, motor but also ship, especially thanks to the Sea Scouts, for which I manage internships. The sea has always been a passion. As the car later became.

I started an IT career in 2005, and for more than 10 years I was in the development of mobile software. Very interesting environment, since in the field of application, only those who meet the need work on time.

Since then I have set this balance between what people are looking for and what we are giving them.

In 2018 I wanted to change. I told myself that I was not the only one who liked boats and cars. I asked the people around me, realizing that we were indeed many. But launching a boat sales activity from scratch, when you are alone in your corner, unless you have great financial potential, let’s just say it is hard.

Being the youngest among the seniors, and without many options, I told myself that I had to be different. Then I got the idea to create a boat club, and more cars. Car & Boat Club was born. Once with the Premium space. The first car I floated in was Porsche, and the first boat was Invictus. This is a site I had discovered in Grand Pavois. She had a different style, a real face.

So I started selling boats with Invictus, taking a distributor card. This allowed me to own stock immediately, with immediate profits from the lease.

How did you choose the brands you distribute and include in your group?

This option is always dictated by the client’s expectations. All the big brands had already been picked up, so we had to stay in a niche, and mine was “sport-chic”. I took the XO Boats card. I immediately bought a show boat from the Cannes show that was in stock.

Then there was RibWest, which is my brother’s yard. Jérémie was previously a Yamaha dealer, and now oversees all the technical aspects of my boat’s operations: engine integration, electronics, maintenance, winter, etc. He is in charge of the entire club fleet through his company Dépan’Nautic. And I sell his boats.

Then I went on and left with some “Nordic” brands: Saxdor, then Rand, each time with a unique visual signature, these boats really have their own style.

That’s great because my clients are people who want different boats at the port. Not necessarily large boats, but atypical ones. Even color is important: The black XO that I entered at the very beginning is what made my company famous.

What prompted the start of your boat club?

Many of my clients are boatmen who are tired of managing their own boats. Even cleaning it quickly becomes a daunting task, as they discover that Morbihan Gulf flights are more frequent on their boats than on their own! So they become members because they want care, hospitality, without having to sweat on every walk or at the end of the season.

Here, they get to the panton, pick up the boat, pick up the keys and return to me. End of story!

There is also the influence of pontoon: my clients talk a lot with each other, they compare their views of each model, it is normal because they are all passionate.

I often tell them: “Bring future members of the club themselves, and it will still be fun”. And, of course, it is the word of mouth that makes the club grow. Our members are our best natural ambassadors.

And finally there is a balance between club activities and boat sales: some customers arrive on a daily rental, then go through the club as members for the first year, and for others, they end up buying. Either way, they are talking about us. Well, of course.

How do you upgrade your ship?

I have a lot of rental management applications and customer boats, but I often refuse. In fact, if the ship is growing, I want to make it with my brands. For payment, you must ensure consistent quality. For example, I would not take on my ship a second-hand boat that I did not know, whose history I do not know. I prefer the departure of new boats, which I keep private.

On the other hand, in the economic model of a boat club, there is the sale of our boats. After 1, 2 or 3 seasons, if properly maintained, I can easily sell it. So, I can guarantee a re-purchase. To buy my boats, I use LOA, through an investor program. And so I can guarantee recovery.

At the time of signing, I order a stock boat, but I already know that second-hand sales will be stable. It is very important. And it is also in this perspective that the original quality of the boats is important. Our boats, well-designed and well-maintained, are aging better than others. Even after 2 years of rental operation, they are perfect.

Not to mention the current delays of boats from large ships. Additionally, I have taken customers who were disappointed by the delays of “white boats”. The brands I distribute show the most satisfying deadlines, at the highest levels. This allows me to satisfy customers who have fallen in love faster.

How do you make a difference in this type of activity?

First of all, we are open all year round. In our region, where there are few second homes, but also clients who live all year round, that makes a big difference. All equipment is in the exhibition room, so you can enter the water whenever you want. In winter, warm cabin boats are left in the water, ready to go.

Then, you have to deal with customer needs at all times, and remain flexible. Surprisingly, although it is my old job, we do not use the mobile app to place space, we focus on real people: the client sends us an SMS and, presto, is saved. Or he calls us: “I’d like to go out on Saturday, what do you have? “If necessary, another member is offered to replace the boats.

We are changing in real time. What the app could not do. There is a direct link with our members, all the time. It should be simple, fast and easy. Because that’s what they’re looking for as well.

I have a client who lives in Paris, and who owns a house in Quiberon. He calls me on the weekends, picks me up at Maserati at Vannes station, jumps on his boat and heads straight to Quiberon. If the weather is not good, he sets up Maserati for the weekend. In terms of comfort and flexibility, it is hard to do better!

I often do business with other boat clubs. Even those with different ranks meet the same need somewhere. Service is everything.

What do you think the 3 year market perspective is?

I think we will continue to see the development of consumer spending. I become a member, this year I do 10 outings because the weather is good, and then next year I stop registering because I am going on vacation abroad. Then I start again the following year with other types of boats because at the same time I have children or grandchildren. This flexibility encourages this mode of use. And financially, everyone gets their way, when you look at the annual cost of owning a boat …

As for the maritime transport market in general, I think the industry will strive to produce twice as much today. And it may also not want to do that, without being able to predict market realities in three years. What will happen if the market turns around? Are we closing factories?

The second-hand market will also be strengthened, because new building materials are not available, especially for engines. It cannot continue indefinitely.

From a business perspective, I think it is better to focus on the many uses of the same product.

As a boss, what is your biggest challenge every day?

Funding. We grew very fast. We broke up even after two years, according to my business plan, and the financial partners who followed me. But today I am looking for with club members to accelerate the joint funding of my fleet, and investor programs. I created a program with a tax-exempt criterion, and specialized lawyers.

Last number?

24: 8 cars and 16 boats. We are a human-sized company, which offers a wide range of fun. That is our secret.

By laying the same foundations, I want to develop other foundations in France, and local players have already been established. We look at St Malo, La Baule, La Rochelle. This style is up-to-date, I’m sure.

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