Faulkner Buys Ontario-Based General Coach
General Coach will remain 100% focused on the production of recreational park trailers or park models under the new ownership of Roger Faulkner, who purchased the Hensall, Ontario-based firm from Thor Industries Inc. last Friday (April 30) for an undisclosed price.
Faulkner, who served as president of the Thor subsidiary, told RVBUSINESS.com that the firm has been successful in “building a niche in the Canadian market and chopping away at the Northeast and other border states” and he plans to continue to do so, now that he owns 100% of the company.
The company employs 102 workers at a 100,000-square-foot facility in Hensall, located 100 miles northeast of Detroit. General Coach was formed in 1950 and is Canada’s oldest RV maker. Thor purchased it in 1980. Faulkner, 63, has spent 42 years in the RV industry, the last 11 with Thor.
“We’re a small company and we’ll stay small,” he said, noting that General Coach was the smallest of all the Thor subsidiaries. But he quickly added, “We’ll make it without being the biggest king on the mountain. At 63, I don’t have to be the biggest king on the mountain.”
His son, Chris, is assisting him as vice president.
Thor announced today (May 4) that it sold its Citair Inc. subsidiary, doing business as General Coach Canada, to management but gave no other details.
General Coach at one time also produced travel trailers, fifth-wheels and trucks campers, but Faulkner said he will just produce park models in part due to the competitive nature of the RV industry.
“Canadian RV manufacturing is tough,” Faulkner said. “We’ve seen them (manufacturers) drop like flies over the last five to 10 years. There aren’t a lot of them left. It’s tough for us to compete, even in the best of times.”
Faulkner likened the park model industry in Canada to a “less crowded room” in which he thinks his product is the best-built on the market.
General Coach has established a “preferred vendor” relationship with Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), which has paid dividends for his company, Faulkner said, and he hopes to further enhance that in the coming years.
Faulkner didn’t disclose other details of the acquisition but said it will benefit all concerned.
“It’s good for me, it’s good for the company and it’s good for Thor,” he said.
With this transaction, Thor has ceased building RVs of any nature in Canada, although it will likely retain a substantial presence there. In the recessionary year of 2009, Thor’s export sales from U.S. operations to Canada totaled $237 million, down from $421 million in 2008. The totals include RVs and buses.
Until last October, Thor also operated General Coach West, in Oliver, British Columbia. That plant built travel trailers and high-end fifth-wheels. Without going into details, Faulkner acknowledged that “it was a problem for Thor having two Canadian facilities.”
In its 2009 annual report, Thor stated sales from its Canadian operations in Fiscal 2009 totaled 0.9% of its total sales, down from 1.1% in 2008 and 1.2% in 2007.
Faulkner has been active in the industry, serving multiple terms as president of the Canadian RV Associaiton and helping to co-found Go RVing of Canada.
General Coach historically has not displayed its products at the National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., and Faulkner has no plans to begin doing so, he said.