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Marathon Expansion Part of Oregon’s Comeback

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November 11, 2013 by   Leave a Comment

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Coburg, Ore.-based Marathon Coach Inc., a luxury motorcoach maker, plans to add more than 25 employees to its 125-­person work force in the next six months, an about-face from the layoffs and plant closures the area’s recreational vehicle industry has suffered in recent years.

“The RV business, like a lot of other industries, has been struggling,” said Steve Schoellhorn, president and owner of the 30-year-old privately held company. “But we’re turning a corner and increasing production.”

The Register-Guard reported that Schoellhorn said he decided it was the right time to add workers because the low inventory of finished new luxury coaches on the market has created pent-up demand, and customers appear to be more optimistic about the economy.

He said he doesn’t anticipate returning to Marathon’s 2006 peak production of 70 new coaches a year. But, since the recession, the company has become leaner and more efficient so “we can be more successful at a lower level of production,” Schoellhorn said.

Marathon buys bus shells from Prevost Car Co. of Canada and converts them into high-end motorcoaches with price tags of more than $2 million.

The coaches, which Schoellhorn calls the “Ferrari of RVs,” appeal to well-heeled individuals, including celebrities and retired business owners.

Marathon projects $10 million in additional new bus conversions next year, and annual sales of more than $45 million in 2014.

The 25 hires, mostly production and support positions, won’t move Marathon’s employment much closer to its 2008 peak of 400 employees. Nor will they budge the needle much for employment in Lane County’s transportation equipment manufacturing sector.

But after the recession that decimated Oregon’s RV manufacturing industry, it’s noteworthy that Marathon is hiring again, said Brian Rooney, labor economist with the state Employment Department.

Before the recession, Lane County was a center for high-end motorhome manufacturing, with Marathon Coach, Monaco Coach and Country Coach all churning out luxury coaches.

Monaco and Country Coach both filed for bankruptcy and emerged on a much smaller scale — Country Coach as a sales and service center and Monaco as a tiny division of Navistar International. In May, Allied Specialty Vehicles Inc., Fleetwood RV’s parent, bought much of Navistar’s RV business.

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