The Chinese Invasion or The Red Menace, You Decide

The internet is filled with a dizzying amount of inflatable boats marketed as a Zodiac™,  but what is it really you’re getting for your hard earned dollar?

In this post we examine the Chinese Zodiac™ (not the sign you were born under), it’s copy cats and it’s limitations.

  • The first question we need to ask is did Zodiac™ ever make any of their inflatable boats in China?

The short answer is yes.

Zodiac manufactures parts and tubes in many different countries for the different market segments. Take for example the Avon™ manufacturing plant in the U.K., Zodiac™ has switched this capacity to military and professional only with just one model still wearing the Avon™ badge for the recreational market. As of this writing, and to this author’s best knowledge the new heads of Zodiac™ will be moving all of the Chinese Zodiac™ models back the French plant in mid 2017. Zodiac manufactured the “Zoom™”, Typhoon™”, and most recently the “Cadet™” model range in China to compete with the low end internet specials that were destroying the brand name.

With a clever marketing program online featuring metadata and keyword stuffing via shopping sites these no name “Zodiacs” won favor on cost alone.

  • If Zodiac™ made some models in China why are they better than the rest?

Zodiac™ inflatable boat models that were made in China were made in a Q.A. Certified factory by Zodiac™ trained technicians out of materials that also were Q.A. compliant.(Q.A. stands for quality assurance) Most if not all other Chinese inflatable boats utilize much different materials of a lesser quality or lighter grade, valves that look similar but share none of the same dimensions or parts making repairs difficult to perform when they become necessary. One thing to remember here is that China is the counterfeiting capital of the world, from microchips to cds, to inflatable boats they cover it all. Think about that little fact the next time you see that designer bag or watch for 1/10th the cost of the original. You will always get what you pay for!

  • Everything comes from China these days why not buy their inflatable boats too?

 Getting a similar boat you saw online for $1000.00 because it was less $$$ than the Zodiac™ and came with free shipping? Wow! How can you pass it up! Those guys at IBC or any other Zodiac dealer in America want way more money, screw them! I’m taking the deal! To answer this rather emotional question correctly lets look at the typical logistical model for Chinese inflatable boats. What this means is you are getting a much cheaper boat than you think. The shipping companies still get paid by someone to drop it off to your door, there are no shipping elves working tirelessly while you sleep. The entity that sold the inflatable boat to you is getting paid 30% to 50% even after he imported it and paid the shipping elves to drop it at your door. Doing the math on a $1000.00 imitation Zodiac™ reveals that even at a 30% mark on that same boat means it now costs only $700.00. Now lets take out $200.00 for shipping because to be fair it’s much lighter than a real Zodiac that leaves a boat cost of $500.00.Because your seller bought a container full of these boats he got the shipping costs and import duties down to $250.00 per unit. This picture gets even clearer with a boat that now only costs $250.00, are you still following? Hopefully the buyer’s remorse and tears from knowing you got screwed aren’t preventing you from reading any further.

  • Why is it expensive to repair Chinese inflatable boats?

This answer hurts the most to the bargain shopper and results in angry calls to dealers and repair centers, not to mention this customer tends to leave Yelp reviews anytime they feel slighted. Let’s not forget that the person they are screaming at doesn’t even sell their type or model of boat. They are simply calling them to rain fire and brimstone on someone and since it said Zodiac on their shingle it might as well be them. Unfortunately the no name bad man who sold you your environmental disaster labeled as a boat doesn’t actually exist, he’s a figment of intelligent marketing to ignorant buyers. Now go read the part above again, understand the Zodiac brand and the knock off are cut from different cloth. At around $30.00 a sq ft Zodiac Strongan seems pretty expensive, and it is when you compare it to Qingdao special #1 PVC that the other boat is made from. Forget about comparing glues, most Zodiac boats are thermo-bonded in France the same way as was originally developed for the space program. What? Space program? You read it right Zodiac started out as and has always maintained an advanced materials and aerospace division ever since it’s beginning in 1886. Yes, some of the three Zodiac models produced in China use glue in their construction but it’s money thing remember? That money thing is no joke as the purpose built machines behind Zodiac’s patented process are stupid expensive, stupid complicated and super secret. What the tech savvy buyer needs to understand is there is no support, no parts, and not very much love for brand “X” from the People’s Republic anywhere in the world. Most everyone else in the world doesn’t buy inflatable boats made in China with free shipping, they tend to be a lot smarter with their money than us fat Americans. At least with a Zodiac you get accountability in the form of a warranty and a world wide dealer network where you can get parts and repairs done no matter how salty you are. Most of us will even fix your brand “X” but don’t act surprised when we tell you the cost of the repairs, we use the real stuff here.

Above I mentioned that Zodiac™ is moving all it’s boat manufacturing back to France,(except for the Oceana market), the smart guys over there figured out they could make the best possible boat in France out of real Strongan and ship it to the USA while still making money. Because we have such a big dealer network here in America we put all of our buying power together and save on shipping from Zodiac France to Zodiac USA. It makes fiduciary sense and it makes environmental sense!

To sum all of this non-sense up if it doesn’t say Zodiac™, Bombard™, Avon™, or MILPRO™ you are likely not getting the boat you thought you were. If you have to go off reservation at least get a boat from a reputable dealer who carries the real stuff as well as an inexpensive brand that fits into your budget. This way you have some sort of support, parts, and a person to call if things get weird. Try to get a brand that has been around for more than 1 year or internet buying cycle as it has come to be known. Questions? Call us (503) 235-2628 we are Inflatable Boat Center, this is what we do.