Thursday 21 December 2023

Press ReleaseDECEMBER 2023


Whittley Marine Group, Australia's largest trailerable fibreglass boat builder, retailer and service Group, celebrates seventy years of operation in 2023 and looks back at the journey of the company as it evolved from a 1950s bond wood boat builder through to today, being the market leader for trailerable fibreglass boats, with a Melbourne-based manufacturing and design development facility and five dealership sales and service sites across the country.

Whittley Marine Group History:

Whittley Boats was first built in the outer Melbourne suburb of Bullen by brothers Jim and Ossie Whittley in 1953. The two brothers produced custom timber boats for themselves, and the word soon spread, and new orders for their hand-built craft grew. Two well-known models followed, a popular 18ft and a larger 22ft family cruiser, were released; many of these vessels are still in operation today. As the recreational boating scene in Australia started to establish itself, the two brothers continued to establish a name for themselves and their thriving boat-building business for quality family cruiser boats.

When asked about his company's success, founder Jim Whittley commented, "There was never any great intention; we simply wanted to build boats that families could enjoy. They became extremely popular with the public. The company just grew, I suppose, like a tree. We were proud of the product we built, so we put our family name on the side of every boat right from the start.''

In the 1960s, the boat building world was introduced to the new wonder material, fibreglass. Jim Whittley was one of the first to pioneer this new material in Australia and introduced a new boating style to the local market. The company produced many legendary models, including the Puma, Voyager, and Fleetmaster, leading the business to grow nationally. Fibreglass boat building enabled advancements in style and practicality and opened boating to more of the Australian public; the change from timber to fibreglass saw a boom period for Whittley.

Throughout the 1970s and 80s, the business continued to evolve, with Jim Whittley releasing the famous Monterey, Impala and Cruisemaster models under the new leadership of Jim's sons, Neville and Steven Whittley. The last boat Jim designed was the legendary Cruisemaster 700, and it led the company through its next phase of growth and expansion; this period saw a volume of new boats exported to New Zealand and the USA. The Cruisemaster 700 remains one of the most highly desired trailer boats today!

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, under the guidance of Neville and Steven Whittley, the company invested heavily in creating its current generation of Cruiser models, including the release of the Sea Legend range of sports fishing boats. The company was the first to completely design and produce new boat models for production in Australia using the latest CAD computer-based technology; this ensured the style and practicality of the Whittley model range continued, with popular models taking out coveted "Boat of the Year" titles and therefore increasing the Whittley brand's popularity, increasing its reputation as a true industry innovator and household name, Whittley cemented its place in the Australian boating public's mind.

Through 2020, the Whittley Marine Group has focused solely on moving from a traditional boat manufacturer to establishing its factory-owned dealership model nationwide, focusing exclusively on improving Australian consumers' new boat buying experience. The move continued to keep the Whittley brand at the forefront of the industry by focusing on its unique new boating experience. The Group remains the only boat builder to build, sell and service its product nationally.

The Whittley Marine Group Today, Celebrating 70 Years:

Today, the Whittley Family still own 100% of the Whittley Marine Group, which has an industry-leading manufacturing facility in Melbourne, producing some of Australia's most popular fibreglass trailerable boats. The model range offers four unique series: the cruiser, a weekend-focused live-aboard "CR" series, the offshore performance fishing hull Sea Legend "SL" series, the affordable value packaged family fishing "FF" range, and a newly announced "XS" series of Bow Rider sports boats.

The Whittley Marine Group is currently managed by Neville and Alan Whittley, seeing the third generation of the family business in capable hands as the company continues to expand. The Whittley Marine Group is currently managed by Neville and Alan Whittley, with seeing the third generation of the family business in capable hands as the company continues to expand.

Jim Whittley's grandson and Director of Sales and Marketing at the Whittley Marine Group, Alan Whittley, had this to say, "We look forward to continuing in the footsteps of our company founder, my grandfather Jim and his vision to build a high-quality, locally designed and manufactured boat for Australian families to share our unique boating lifestyle. 

Evolution and tradition are what drives our business. We remain true to the Group's key traditional values whilst continuing to evolve these as we expand into new market segments of the trailer boat industry. We love what we do across the company and enjoy taking Australia boating; when you buy a Whittley, you buy more than a boat; it is a lifestyle change, and it is a complete ownership experience that extends nationally to our unique Whittley owner's clubs."

Underpinning the success of the Whittley Group today is the highly skilled team of craftsmen that build every boat at the Whittley Factory in Melbourne. The company remains a boat-building business, designing and building boats in Australia for Australian families, and this makes all of our Whittley boats unique.

"Our journey began over 70 years ago; it is the history of a company and a family. It is a history of style; it is very exclusive, and it is very special. There is only one Whittley brand; you see that in every bespoke "hand-built" boat produced. We celebrate an important milestone this year in 70 years of boat building. This journey has been a testament to the enduring heritage of our brand and the legacy left by our company founder, Jim Whittley. Buying an Australian-made and designed Whittley ensures that we can continue to build and design boats here in Australia for the future." Mr. Whittley said.

2023 New SL 27 HT OB Model Release:

2023 saw the release of the new flagship SL 27 HT OB model at the Sanctuary Cove Boat Show in May; the new model is the most significant Sea Legend to be produced at the Whittley Factory. Showcasing the brand's ongoing performance offshore hull credentials whilst offering a maxi trailerable weekend hybrid style boat. Since its launch, the SL 27 HT OB has continued to be a strong seller for the brand, as twelve have been produced and sold since May. The new SL 27 HT OB model brings to the market a new windscreen design, 18% extra useable fishing space over the model it replaces, an electric rear sun awning, larger cabin space, and much more.

Mr. Whittley said this about the new SL 27 HT model. "The 2023 year has seen the introduction of the new SL 27 HT OB model into production, with strong orders continuing to filter through on this model and the larger CR 2600 OB powered boats. However, we have seen a slowing in the family entry-level FF and smaller CR model boats. We look forward to continuing to see strength in the maxi trailer boat market next year whilst also seeing a return to normal buying patterns for our entry-level models. Trends to arise from 2023 are the continued demand for outboard-powered boats and consumers looking for more hybrid-style cross-over boats. Boats need to be able to do more to ensure ongoing use. 2023 also saw the year of in-boat integration with Lithium battery power introduced as a real game changer for off-grid overnight family weekend-style boating. The Whittley factory's order books remain strong as we move into 2024."

Industry First In Dealership Virtual Reality New Model Release:

As Australia's innovator for trailerable fibreglass boats, Whittley continually looks at how the latest automotive advancements can be brought to marine customers. As part of the launch campaign for our new model boat next year, Whittley will be the first marine company in Australia to offer consumers an in-vehicle virtual reality tour of the new model before its physical launch. Once the campaign is launched, interested parties can book private consultations online and in the dealership with our dedicated team of sales professionals across the country. Visit the dealership and move through the boat using Virtual Reality headsets with the salesperson. 

"This is a new way to launch and market our boating range; it allows consumers to move through the boat in real-time from the luxury of a leather chair in a Whittley Factory Owned Dealership before the physical launch, is a real game changer! This new feature enables interested parties to see the boat in real time, select available colours, review specifications and secure a production slot, all prior to the physical launch of the new model. Watch this space as we are all excited to show you this new technology across the Group, "Mr. Whittley said.

What’s Next for the Whittley Company:

Over its seventy-year boating journey, the Whittley Marine Group has grown to be Australia's largest trailerable boat builder and leading sales and service provider nationwide. Although the Group continues to expand and dominate its chosen market, its core remains focused on taking Australian families boating and continuing to be the industry-driving innovator remaining at the forefront of the rest of the competitors.

Mr. Whittley finished by saying, "So what's next from the Whittley Family and the Group in 2024? You're going to have to wait and see! We certainly will not be standing still; we will be continuing with investments in our in-house design studios, making them the largest in our company's history. Building on our Factory-owned Dealerships, it's time to release the next generation of Whittley Boat models to the market, which remains our focus. Across the Group, we remain focused on achieving our aggressive and differing goals for 2024 and strengthening the brand as the country's premiere trailerable fibreglass boat brand. Merry Christmas from the Whittley Family, Factory and Dealership teams across the country, and we look forward to a successful 2024 year together!"

For more information regarding the Australian-made range of Whittley Boats or to locate your closest factory-owned dealership, book a boat service and purchase marine chandlery online; log onto www.whittleyboats.com.au or phone 03 8339 1800.



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