Domestic U.S. RV industry suppliers apparently have worked through any concerns they may have had over working with a new Chinese motorhome manufacturer, according to Bill Horvath, project manager for the motorhome division of Yutong Bus Co. Ltd., which plans to enter the U.S. market by next spring with the En Route Class A motorhome.
More than 50 vendors, including three chassis manufacturers, have submitted quotes, reports Horvath, who hosted a breakfast meeting in Elkhart, Ind., six weeks ago to help kick off the venture.
“I am very pleased by the vendor turnout, interest in our project and their support,” Horvath tells RVBUSINESS.com. “Elkhart County has the best suppliers for our industry and their interest and willingness to work with Yutong Bus is terrific.”
Horvath’s business plan calls for mostly U.S.-made components for the En Route, which will be assembled in China and then shipped back to the U.S., entering this country at Portland, Ore. The U.S. distribution site will be near Eugene, Ore.
Nailing down a chassis supplier is a major concern at this point. In his original presentation, Horvath said the fiberglass-and-aluminum En Route would be available in 28- to 30-foot lengths on a 22,000-pound GVWR chassis equipped with 250/280 hp Cummins or Navistar rear diesel engines.
While he received three chassis bids, only two are “close to the platform definition” he was looking for.
“We continue to work with the chassis manufacturers and are very close to having final specifications completed,” he noted. “I need this information in order to move forward. The chassis specifications are not yet confirmed and our chassis wish list may be slightly different based upon available designs and engines.”
Horvath hopes to have the chassis contract signed, with delivery to Yutong’s factory in Zhengzhou by October and, best case scenario, production beginning in November.
Horvath, meanwhile, is now able to provide some price targets for the En Route.
“Our targeted dealer cost for a fully loaded coach — including equipment and features not usually found on this size and price point — delivered to the West Coast is under $140,000,” Horvath informed RVBUSINESS.com in an e-mail. “My estimated bill of material will need to be confirmed after prototyping, and final pricing will be set at that time. It is critical that retail pricing be held to under $200,000 for a fully loaded version.
“At this point our specifications, equipment and features, and standards and option list have remained intact, except for possible chassis details,” he continued. “Until final chassis information is completed later this month, I will safely say we are 80% there with our wish list.”
Horvath is attending the Caravan Salon RV show, which runs through Sept. 5 in Dusseldorf, Germany.
“The Europeans are the best at creating and using every square inch (or centimeter if you will) of space,” wrote Horvath. “Their motorhomes are considerably smaller, but they have everything one needs to travel and camp in comfort. I believe their style of product is in the future for the U.S.A.”
Horvath, by the same token, said he envisions the “En Route” as a less boxy line with simplified feature selections and exterior paint jobs and fewer slideouts. Interiors will be soft on the eye and feature plenty of radius touches.
One part of a 4.5 million-square-foot complex Yutong Bus is to begin building this fall will dedicated to En Route manufacturing.
“We will move into our new facilities sometime in 2012,” added Horvath. “Initial production will start in what we refer to as the ‘old complex’ where specialty products are currently being built.”
Distinct Discovery Homes Inc., Greenville, Mich., is marketing small, custom-built ”Country Cottages” to high-end resorts and individual motorhome owners.
These structures are bigger than park models and generally come with up to 1,000 square feet of space in one- or two-story floorplans.
“They are designed to become an adjunct to an RV lifestyle, much like a cabana or a casita might be,” said Michael Sokol, Distinct Discovery president. “Whenever the kids come to the resort, they have to get a hotel. We are trying to capture that trend.”
These wood-built cottages — in 12- and 16-foot widths and 20- to 36-foot lengths — are designed with cathedral ceilings, Ponderosa pine interiors, stone fireplaces, entertainment centers with flat-screen TVs, lap cedar siding and wraparound porches.
Notably, since they are homes built to meet local codes, they likely will appreciate in value, Sokol said. “These are built the same way a high-end home would be built,” he said. “There is appeal to both campgrounds and individuals.”
To reach this new market, Distinct Discovery displayed its Country Cottage at the 2009 Florida RV SuperShow in Tampa, Fla., and at last summer’s Family Motor Home Association’s (FMCA) international convention in Bowling Green, Ohio.
The cottages — that also have been built on owners’ property in Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee — come in kits and are built on-site by Distinct Discovery crews. They retail in the $119,000 range, which includes assembly.
The first park to install a Distinct Discovery Country Cottage was Valley River RV Resort, a 270-site Class A-only motorhome resort scheduled to open next summer in Murphy, N.C., where they are intended to be sold along with lots.
“The little homes are amenities,” said Dale Witting, president of Appalachian Land Co., developer of Valley River. “We probably will have a dozen of them up for owners before the summer is out.”
This summer, both the Republican and Democratic candidates in the hotly contested race for governor of Virginia embarked on RV tours of the state, employing motorhomes to reach as many towns — and voters — as possible before the election in November, according to RVIA Today Express.
Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds kicked off his month-long “Deeds Country” tour of Virginia’s rural regions in early August, saying “I need to get as many votes as I can from the rural parts of the state.” Deeds and his staff are traveling to Virginia’s rural communities in a Class A motorhome affixed with “Deeds Country” campaign signs.
Shortly after Deeds’ RV tour began, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell embarked on his own month-long tour of the state, traveling in a Class A motorhome customized with McDonnell’s “New Jobs, New Opportunities” campaign materials. The McDonnell campaign has also adopted the song “Me and My RV” by professor Marty Music (www.meandmyrv.com) as the theme song for their RV tour.
The RV tours are garnering significant media attention for the candidates, who both noted that the RVs attract the interest of families who spot them on the road.
Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) President Richard Coon said, “It’s great to see that, increasingly, political candidates of all persuasions are learning what America’s 30 million RVers have known all along: that traveling in an RV is the best way to see America.”
Bus manufacturer Motor Coach Industries (MCI) is stable and “well prepared” with sufficient cash following its recent emergence from bankruptcy which saw the company reorganized with a new majority stockholder, according to President and CEO Tom Sorrells.
National Bus Trader magazine reported that the No. 1 manufacturer of buses in the U.S. emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April.
“The completion of our financial restructuring is a major milestone in the 76-year- history of MCI,” Sorrells said. “I am particularly pleased that, given a very challenging economic backdrop and tight credit markets, we were able to complete the process in just seven months.”.
MCI, with headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill, is a leading manufacturer of intercity coaches. MCI bus shells also are converted into high-end Class A motorhomes.
An investment fund managed by Franklin Mutual Advisers LLC has become the company’s majority shareholder through the conversion of third-lien secured debt into common stock and the issuance of $200 million in preferred stock, according to the magazine.
The company was at one time owned by Greyhound Corp., and most of MCI’s $420 million in debt that was wiped out in the pre-negotiated bankruptcy was accumulated in a spinoff from Dial Corp., which acquired MCI from Greyhound in the mid-1990s. Because bus sales were on the increase, debt payments were taken from operating revenue until MCI’s bankruptcy.
MCI emerged from bankruptcy with $230 million in financing through $75 million in revolving credit arranged by GE Capital and $155 million in a second-lien loan through a group of lenders.
”We have secured a strong new financing package … to enhance the company’s post-emergence capital structure,” Sorrells said. ”With a strengthened financial base, we are well positioned to take greater advantage of the market opportunity and further grow our business.”
Even as overall bus sales declined while MCI Was in bankruptcy, a few days after emerging from bankruptcy, MCI was reported to have increased its market share to 60.2% of the bus market, according to National Bus Trader.
The former site of a mobile home park in Margate, Fla., may be transformed into a $30 million community for 646 luxury RVs, according to the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.
A group of 10 French-Canadian investors, calling themselves Aztec RV Resort Inc., hopes to buy the 106-acre plot south of Southgate Boulevard and east of State Road 7 for $15 million.
Another $15 million would go into making improvements to the site, such as a new clubhouse and landscaping, the group’s attorney, Louis St. Laurent. told the Margate City Commission Wednesday (May 6).
The investment group needs to secure adequate zoning that requires several changes, St. Laurent said.
The commission directed city staffers to put the plans on the agenda for the next Development Review Committee meeting in July.
The luxury RVs (Class A motorhomes) cost between $200,000 and $1 million, said Jack Tobin, who spoke on behalf of the investors at Wednesday’s meeting.
So far, Tobin said, the developer has been contacted by about 40 people who are interested in buying the lots based on word-of-mouth alone. He said most residents would be part-time residents from other states and Canada.
Commissioner Pam Donovon expressed skepticism.
“I don’t believe these are going to be selling like hotcakes like they say they will,” Donovan said.
“I don’t like that this is all transients. I don’t like that there are 646 lots and only about 40 of them are sold. I have a real problem with this.”
Other commissioners, however, said it did not matter that the RV residents would be in the area for only a few months a year.
“Many who buy condos only stay for four months,” said Commissioner Joe Varsallone. “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”