BREAKING NEWS-Winnebago Industries Buys Chris-Craft

Well, here we go. In a very Chris – Crafted press release, Chris-Craft is now owned by Winnebago. Yes that Winnebago, who is now an entire industry of campers and outdoor leisure stuff. Hopefully this will open up the Chris Craft brand back to its roots of being an every man boat. Yes, its been great to see the passion of bringing back class to the brand of late. So huge cudos to the past owners Stellican.

Smaller than the real one!

And hopefully Winnebego, won’t go the way of OMC or AMF, and other large brands who take a brand name and just beat the tar out of it. Winnebego is a great brand though and this does seem to fit in an interesting way. We here at Woody Boater do hope they can find a way to have a 35K entry level boat so a younger generation can get into boating. And for gods sake. PLEASE… PLEEEEEEEASE! NO PONTOON BOATS. NO NO NO.. One can see the temptation, but don’t. The brand of Chris Craft is iconic, and powerful. That would be like Porsche making a Mini Van, or Honda Pick up trucks. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

So we have our varnished fingers crossed, and looking forward to a new Chapter in Chris – Craft history!


14 replies
  1. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    Should make for an interesting chapter in a long, long history.

    Could make for some interesting combinations.

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  2. Kevin F
    Kevin F says:

    I was very happy that Chris Craft, under the previous owners, was resurrected to the full glory of the Chris Craft name and quality. I grew up near the plant in MI, and always admired them as the “best”. I know there were better built boats, but they still signified something special, something wonderful, and something coveted.

    But that was lost after CC left the Smith family, slowly, until, in general, the quality went to crap, and other brands became the standard. It became more of a joke, a “has been”, instead of the coveted.

    Our family had CC ‘s, my grandfather owned about a dozen from the ’20’s until the last wood boats.

    When my parents went to buy a fiberglass boat in the ’70’s, we went right to the CC dealer. We were not impressed. We looked at Sea Ray, and boy what a difference back then. We bought a few Sea Rays after that time.

    Finally they were special again with the last owners. Beautiful. Great lines, well built, and great performance. The team that built them cared, and the materials were first rate. And they were expensive.

    I did not care, the brand meant something. I could not afford one new, but used…maybe. I was recently on a 2012 24ft Chapperal, used at $55k. Nice boat, but more fluff than substance. I then rode and checked out a 2004 25ft CC Corsiar. WOW. Amazing. Fast, well built, and turned heads. $55k. Still looked brand new.

    Does Winnabego stand for quality? Do people drop their beers when you pull into the campground? Do you look inside and say WOW. No.

    There is no passion. No striving to be the best. They build to a price. Not bad, but not great.

    Something will be lost I fear.

    • Paul H.
      Paul H. says:

      So, Winnebago is today was what CC used to be? A near mass producer of what was and are essentially a luxury consumer good? CC’s are prominent in our memories because of their comparative ubiquity, rather than any notably inherent superiority of build quality or other defining characteristic that I can cite. They were decently built, reasonably priced and expertly marketed.

      If you wanted the best boats in ’20’s/’30’s or thereabouts, you bought a Gar, a Hacker, a Canadian boat or one of a small number of low volume, built to order builders. That is what CC became under most recent ownership I think (given their very high price tags), but it is not what they started as or what propelled them to a position of mass prominence in their industry.

      I know nothing of this transaction, but I suspect the need for R&D capital and funds for expansion and modernization will be much easier to come by with a large public corporation being the overlord. Winnebago must have an agenda in buying CC and I’d be interested to know what it is. They know the recreational product space, I would think. I suspect that access to capital or the need for a healthy injection of capital by the most recent owners was what motivated this deal – pure speculation on my part, but in the absence of any known facts, why not speculate?

      • tommyholm
        tommyholm says:

        looking at this acquisition from Winnebago’s perspective sheds light. Coming off a tremendous 2017 financial report highlighted by the acquisition of towable trailer Grand Design plus a solid 10+ year growth of income and profits, makes WGO hope to have lighting strike twice. New CFO Hughes ability to add millions with Goodwill and Other Intangibles will be repeat with CC. Diving into huge long term debt is offset by low interest rates and those balance sheet shenanigans. I’m most interested in WGO expanding dealer network into towable products. That’s was CC historical key to success: dealer network.

  3. Matt
    Matt says:

    I would assume there is a pre exisitng dealer network, Capitol that can help build a more mass produced boat that leverages the brand equety that has been built, or rebuilt over the past 15 years. It makes sense. I agree Paul, the brand always felt strange as a very high end brand. Like trying to make a luxury VW, the brand equety of Chris Craft is far stronger than the new brand. But they have done an amazing job bringing the brand back to some sort of defined product, vs the onslaught of light blue center console stuff out there. Either way, change is good for the boating industry, which needs to focus younger and more affordable.

  4. Captain Nemo
    Captain Nemo says:

    I am suspicious of the acquisition. I hope the quality doesn’t suffer and the new designs don’t come out looking like large boxes. All I can think of is Yamaha acquiring Century Boats and then proceeding to kill the brand.

    • Tommyholm
      Tommyholm says:

      In my humble opinion, Capt Nemo you are way off base on your Yamaha/Century comment. Yamaha continued the Century brand whereas the alternative was its demise. Yes it made outboards not classic inboards in response to demand. Smart move. FYI , Chris Craft is currently producing center console walk around outboards . That’s what Winnie is purchasing today. Next thing will be wake boats….

  5. Briant
    Briant says:

    Sorry, but it has to be a whole lot less than $35K if you want the younger set to purchase a CC.

    • Paul H.
      Paul H. says:

      Malibu just bought Cobalt last year, lets see what happens there. Maybe that is indicative – Cobalt is in the same sandbox that CC is in, and even with selling over 2000 boats a year to CC’s 350, they couldn’t stay independent. CC bought Thompson – essentially to eliminate competition I imagine, though Winnebago would not share that purchase objective here.

      These are small businesses – even Winnebago, a public company with a market cap of $1b is a small cap stock so these boat builders are just tiny – CC especially. I suspect that Winnebago paid a fair bit less for CC today than National Automotive Fibers did in 1960 – I think that was $45mm or so at the time, or about $380mm in today’s money. Malibu paid $130mm for a company selling 6x as many boats as CC in 2017.

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