Auto group founders bring luxury Italian boats to U.S. market

Auto group founders bring luxury Italian boats to U.S. market

Image:  The father-and-son founders of Mackey Auto Group — Chris and Christopher Mackey —
are embarking on a new venture, bringing a high-end Italian boat maker to the North
American market.


The Mackeys introduced the Italian heritage boat brand Comitti to the U.S. market for
the first time last weekend during The Great Upstate Boat Show in Queensbury. They'll
be the exclusive distributors for the brand, Comitti North America, based in Lake George.
"The American public has an affinity for European luxury goods. Whether it's a Louis
Vuitton bag or an Hermès bag or a Rolex watch," said Chris Mackey, who spent 30 years
working with luxury automotive brands such as Ferrari, Porsche, BMW and Mercedes.


"We've lived on Lake George since 1994, and there were no European luxury products
being offered in the market," Mackey added. "Christopher and I want to tip the balance of
our auto business and we wanted to reconnect with a boutique luxury brand."
Comitti, which builds custom wooden speed boats, was opened in 1956 in Lake Como by
Mario Comitti. It remains a small family-owned shipyard today, with around 40
employees. Just about every boat they make is sold in Europe. Mackey said the biggest
market for these boats are as tenders on super yachts.


"We met with the folks at Comitti and I said, 'Why don't you sell these in America?'"
Mackey said. "We know of the wealth in Lake George and the wealth in the U.S., and they
don't have an option to experience the European style on the water."
Mackey said there's one other European luxury maker that has a presence in the United
States, Riva in South Florida, but the brand is much more expensive than Comitti. Prices
for the boats Mackey brought to the Lake George show ranged from just under $210,000
up to just under $400,000.


"Having lived on the lake, and being members of the Lake George Club, everybody's got
the same thing," Chris Mackey said. "We set out to find something for ourselves that was
different from what everybody else had."


Almost every inch of the boat can be customized, Mackey said, including color, materials
and specialty items like a Champagne dispenser.


The price is about the same as a tier one U.S. brand, and the Mackeys compared Comitti
North America as an alternative to Chris-Craft Boats, Cobalt Boats or Hacker-Craft.
The difference in branding, Mackey said, is in the exclusivity.
"If you're a dealer [of another brand] and you want to buy 20 of them, they're going to
sell you 20 of them," Mackey said. "We can only get six to 12 of these a year and 12 would
be a push. And that's for the U.S., Canada, and South America."


The main goal for the Mackeys as a North American distributor of Comitti boats is to
have dealers across the country. They're looking to work with dealers in select markets,
such as The Hamptons; Palm Beach or Miami in Florida; Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota;
Newport Beach and Lake Tahoe in California; Texas and somewhere north of Toronto.
Mackey estimated he's invested somewhere between $1 million and $2 million to bring
the brand to the U.S.


"There's not going to be someone with the same thing at the dock next to you," Mackey
said. "Every one is custom specified to the client's expectation."


The latest investment comes after Chris Mackey spent three decades helping New
Country Motor Car grow from $140 million in annual car sales to nearly $4 billion. In
February 2019, he purchased Saratoga Ford and Saratoga Subaru in Wilton from his
former boss. Since then, Mackey Auto Group has assembled a dealership portfolio that
runs from Wilton and Greenwich to Middlebury, Vermont.


In the following years, Mackey and his son, Christopher, have built out their real estate
portfolio alongside their dealerships.

 

Click here for the Comitti Boats North America designed and built by racecarmarine


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