MARION, S.C. — The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the closure of a longtime boat manufacturing facility in Marion.

Groupe Beneteau announced the site, which produces Beneteau and Jeanneau sailboats, will close by the end of the year. The move impacts more than 170 employees.

Beneteau opened its doors in 1986 producing cruising sailboats for the North American market from 34 to 46 feet.

Groupe Beneteau Americas Chief Operating Officer Yannick Madiot said the market has been challenging the past 10 years and in decline.

“The pandemic that we are going through right now has really affected in a very sizeable way our customers,” Madiot said. “As a result of that, we have to hibernate the plant for an unknown period of time.”

Madiot said the Marion plant operation will gradually shut down activity from Sept.16 through Nov. 30.

“At that point in time, just the spares part service department will remain and Groupe Beneteau will retain ownership of the plant and facility for future use.”

Madiot said officials will evaluate the economic conditions in the aftermath of the pandemic to make a decision to reopen the plant, but they can’t make a commitment.

Marion was the company’s lone American production facility, nearly doubling in size to about 250,000 square feet and has built more than 8,700 boats.

“It is a grueling decision that was not made lightly,” he said. “Although difficult, this is a necessary step in transforming Groupe Beneteau for success in the post COVID-19 era.”

The plant stopped production for several weeks because of the coronavirus but reopened on May 4. The midterm outlook does not call for a sharp turnaround in customer demand in the U.S. market, Madiot said.

“This leaves Groupe Beneteau with excess capacity for this line of product and the necessity to adapt its production capacity,” he said.

LINKY