I just read this article from a guy who was discussing his first Weber charcoal barbecue and how the design changed what we would accept in a charcoal cooker. He goes on the go through the other barbecues he has owned and what he thought was great or not about other models.
I have to say this is poorly timed. Until about 5 years ago I would say Weber is the Only barbecue to buy of you are going to spend less than a thousand dollars. Nothing else is worth the money. The old Spirit and Genesis models would cook reliably well past their 10 year warranty. Today when our customers ask us to deliver a new barbecue grill and haul away their old Weber we actually rebuild them and give them away because these old Weber models that were made in America will keep on cooking. Even when they are in really bad shape a couple hundred dollars will replace the grates, flavorizers, burners, ignition assembly and warming racks. Within a couple of hours the model will be as useful as the day it was brand new.
In 2007 Weber’s purchase of Ducane was being brought in from China and started selling in the giant box-stores and they decided to test the Spirit and Genesis models as imports. By 2010 when the Weber-Stephens family sold off managing control of the company most of the manufacturing was being done overseas.
The Spirit and Genesis barbecues today are nowhere near the quality they were in 2006 and earlier. I would not take one for free. My opinion.
Fortunately there are not a lot of ways to cheapen the charcoal kettle grills other than reducing the quality of the fabrication materials and workmanship. I do still like the charcoal kettles and I even like the portable Q grills they make today. I do not like the gas barbecues Weber makes at all. Assembling the barbecues out of the box is as scary as assembling much cheaper barbecues. The shelves often break as they are being assembled, bolts snap while being threaded, thin steel pings and dents from being adjusted or moved.
The unfortunate truth is that Weber is selling the equity of the long term respect built around the brand name. They are no longer proving to be a force of quality among low-end barbecues but are simply one of many inexpensive, short-term appliances; they just cost more because the name used to mean something.