On the company’s third-quarter quarter conference call, Winnebago Industries’ CEO, Michael Happe, said the reason it acquired Chris-Craft, the recreational boat builder, was not only for diversity but to tap burgeoning growth opportunities in the marine segment.

“We believe the marine market has significant runway for growth and significant overlap with the RV market in terms of customer demographics, lifestyle and ownership crossover,” said Happe on the call. “The marine industry is growing as well and increasingly attracting new boaters.”

But he also reiterated that diversifying beyond the RV market within the outdoor lifestyle space remains a strategic priority for the company.

“We believe the Chris-Craft and the Marine market are an ideal initial step towards doing so,” said Happe. “The legendary Chris-Craft brand shares many similarities with our own heritage Winnebago flagship brand. It’s strong brand; its high-quality product lines and premium position in the market make it a natural fit for us.”

The business was sold by Stellican Ltd., which had owned Chris-Craft since 2001.Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The existing Chris-Craft employee team will remain.

Said Happe, “We want Chris-Craft dealers and customers and employees to know that we intend to work very hard with the leadership team there to nurture this wonderful brand and grow its presence in the marine market in a disciplined yet exciting manner.”

In answer to an analyst’s question about expansion in the boat area, Happe said the initial focus will be on helping Chris-Craft’s team focus on the its existing growth strategies, with the brand needing to address some short-term capacity constraints. An expansion into other categories for Chris-Craft or acquiring another boat brand may be an option in the future, but Happe called those moves a “secondary priority” as the near-term focus is on integration.

Said Happe, “The Chris-Craft team has a number of growth ideas that are more imminent in the short-term that we can help support. But it’s certainly an opportunity in the future to consider. The great thing about the Chris-Craft brand is, not unlike the Winnebago flagship brand, it has the permission to participate from end customers. And hopefully, many of the dealers in a very disciplined expanded part of the marine market. But again, that’s a strategy for us to talk about at a later time.”

Photo courtesy Chris-Craft