Chinese Bus Builder Confirms U.S. Plans
Yutong Bus Co. Ltd., the largest manufacturer of commercial buses in China, expects to be selling Class A diesel pusher motorhomes in the U.S. by next spring, according to RV industry veteran Bill Horvath who is heading up the venture.
The yet-to-be named motorhome will be built in China and initially will be shipped to the West Coast for distribution, Horvath told RVBUSINESS.com today (July 27) from China.
Horvath said Yutong expects to build 150 to 200 motorhomes the first year — mostly using componentry manufactured in the U.S. — and ”hopefully double or triple that in the second year.”
”The Class A market is still a little unstable,” said Horvath, whose domestic industry experience dates back to Mallard Coach and Damon Corp. ”This fall will tell us what that segment of the market will be doing. This is quite a task when you put it in perspective.”
Yutong has invited RV industry suppliers to a breakfast meeting next Tuesday (Aug. 3) at the Ramada Inn in Elkhart to discuss particulars.
”This is a very fluid situation,” Horvath said. ”We want to talk to suppliers and listen to what they have to say.”
Initially, Yutong intended to convert buses it builds in China into motorhomes, Horvath said. ”But there were a couple of issues about weight, cost and certification of selling in the U.S.,” he said. ”We will buy some of the material in Elkhart, ship it here (to China) and then ship the unit back to the U.S.”
Ironically, he noted, many of the components used to build motorhomes in the U.S. already are manufactured in China to U.S. specifications.
Yutong executives have been planning an entry into the U.S. market for two years and attended last year’s Louisville Show to gain a better perspective on the market.
The fiberglass-and-aluminum motorhome will be available on 28- to 30-foot floorplans on 22,000-pound GVWR chassis equipped with 250/280-hp Cummins or Navistar diesel engines. Retail pricing is not yet available.
The first Yutong’s motorhome ”will be mostly traditional as we go through a learning curve and minimize risk,” Horvath said. A second version already in the planning stages that will be available in late 2011 or early 2012 will be a little more experimental, he added.
Horvath said the specific chassis for the new motorhomes has not be selected yet. ”We are still working with chassis manufacturers,” he said. ”We believe the future will be for small motorhomes. You don’t need 45 feet of vehicle and six slideouts to enjoy the beauty and nature of the country.”
The manner in which Yutong’s motorhomes will be distributed also still needs to be determined. ”We may partner with someone in the United States,” Horvath said, adding that the coach initially will be available through West Coast dealerships and later throughout the country. ”It will be easier to penetrate the West Coast first,” he said.
Yutong will have a backlog of 20 to 40 units before they become available to dealers, he said. ”We will have to do some speculation to have some units in inventory, probably on the West Coast so that when dealers want it, it will be ready to go.”
While initial production will take place in China, ”that doesn’t mean that won’t change down the road,” said Horvath who will direct the initiative from offices in the Elkhart area. ”We aren’t going to rule out anything without doing all the homework first.”
The Yutong website (www.yutong.com) describes the firm as one of China’s top 500 companies, specializing in buses but also involved in construction machinery, automotive parts and components and real estate.
The company operates a 3.6 million-square-foot factory complex in China with a daily capacity of over 170 buses.
The website describes Yutong as ”the most technically advanced manufactur(er) of large and medium-sized buses around the world (and is) China’s largest professional bus manufacturer with sales volume ranked second worldwide next to that of Mercedes-Benz.”