Zodiac expanding RIB production


Zodiac of North America plans to expand production of its recreational RIBs following the recent separation of its military and recreational boat divisions.

“There’s still growth going on in the RIB market,” Zodiac marketing director Dan Dougherty told Soundings Trade Only. “In 2007, and even in 2008, it was one of the fastest growing categories [of recreational boats].”

Zodiac is moving its entire recreational RIB operation to South Carolina, where the company has been building boats for the last two years. Dougherty said annual production of its Yachtline Deluxe, ProOpen and PROs models will increase to 900 boats by next year from a combined 600.

Zodiac began manufacturing in South Carolina about two years ago after the company decided to increase U.S. production to meet growing demand. Also, Dougherty said, changes in the exchange rate during the last several years have made U.S. manufacturing more favorable.

The company partnered with Scout Boats of Summerville, S.C., in a joint manufacturing agreement.

“We were looking for a quality manufacturer that had extra capacity,” said Dougherty.

Plus, he noted, Charleston, S.C., has a “wonderful boatbuilding heritage,” as well as a solid manufacturing base, skilled labor and lower labor costs.

About a year ago, Zodiac decided to do its own manufacturing in South Carolina. The RIB manufacturer took over part of the Scout facility and absorbed some Scout employees to continue building Zodiacs.

As Zodiac moves the rest of its recreational operation to South Carolina, that factory will double in size to 80,000 square feet. The expansion should be completed by this summer.

Dougherty said it made sense, from a business standpoint, to separate the recreational and military divisions.

“They’ve operated under the same group, but there’s no commonality between the two businesses,” he said. “Their target markets are totally different. They were located in the same house, but there was no collaboration.”

“It’s cleaner from an operational perspective to have them separated,” he added.

The recreational division will be headed by Howard French, who will serve as its president. He most recently was vice president of Zodiac of North America.

— Melanie Winters