Shock as OMC go bust

One of the biggest names in the marine trade has filed for bankruptcy

OMC (Outboard Marine Corporation), the US manufacturers of Johnson and Evinrude outboard engines, and Chris-Craft and Four Winns powerboats, filed for bankruptcy three days before Christmas, causing turmoil in the marine industry.

On December 22, OMC filed for protection from their creditors under Chapter 11 of the US bankruptcy code in order to give themselves time to sell off their boatbuilding and engine manufacturing divisions and repay some of their $800 million (approx ‘538 million) debts. Industry analysts blame a global “softening” of the marine industry and the problems encountered with OMC’s Ficht engine technology for the mounting debts.

At the moment the situation with regard to some of the most famous names in motorboating was still unclear. OMC have invited sealed bids for their boat and engine divisions, and news is expected some time in February as to the fate of them. Industry analysts expect Chris-Craft and Four Winns to be sold quickly, and the production lines could be up and running again almost immediately. The fate of the outboard engine companies is less certain, with numerous warranty claims outstanding and customer confidence at a low ebb.

It is thought that Toyota Marine could be interested in gaining a significant toe-hold in the US by snapping up Chris-Craft or Four Winns, while engine manufacturers Suzuki, Bombardier, Polaris and Kawasaki are all thought to be in the running for the engines businesses if the price is right. OMC had 35% of the US outboard market in 2000, equating to around 100,000 engines. That’s a big slice of the market, and one that is potentially attractive.

UK importers are confident that it will remain business as usual for them, mainly because they are holding sufficient stock to see them through the next few uncertain months. Whoever buys the businesses will be aiming to keep production and sales running smoothly, so changes in product lines and distribution are unli