Thor Motorized Services (TMS), the service arm of Damon Motor Coach and Four Winds International, this week announced its new “Concierge Connection…Your Personal Service Advocate.”
Concierge Connection offers new retail owners of any Damon or Four Winds motorhome a personal service advocate who is responsible to expedite any service needs, according to a news release. The concierge will contact the retail owner within days of being notified of a retail registration and welcome them to the TMS family.
In addition, the concierge will explain the warranty and answer any questions such as how to obtain service and give answers to general FAQ’s about their motorhome operation. The concierge will emphasize the need for the owner to take their motorhome to the selling dealer for service whenever possible and that the dealer is the main point of contact for service. If there is a need for more technical assistance, the owners will be assigned a Customer Service Specialist who will be qualified to handle all of their concerns and help them increase their comfort level with their motorhome.
The Concierge will contact the retail owner again during the third month of ownership to bolster confidence in the service commitment provided by TMS. The follow up will assure the owner that TMS will assist in connecting the owner to a Customer Service Specialist, acting as a liaison between the owner and dealer.
“This is simply one of many unique steps Thor Motorized Services is taking to lay the foundation for an owner friendly relationship between Damon or Four Winds, the retail owner and the dealer,” said Janae Kurtz, TMS director of customer service. “We strive to exceed expectations in customer service, and by building relationships, we are confident we will build loyalty for our products and services. Our goals at TMS include acting on feedback received from all owners, thinking ‘outside’ the box to solve concerns, and striving for continuous improvement.
“We are excited about the opportunity that the ‘Concierge Connection’ program brings to the customer service experience. This program is going to provide a customer focused service relationship between the retail owner, dealer and manufacturer on a level unparalleled in the RV industry.”
Damon Motor Coach and Four Winds International are subsidiaries of Thor Industries Inc., Jackson Center, Ohio.
Motorized manufacturer Damon Motor Coach, Elkhart, Ind., is offering 21 1/2- and 28 1/2-foot floorplans in the 2010 Avanti Class A motorhome, now being built on the 18,500-pound GVWR Freightliner MCL front-engine diesel chassis. Mated to a 200-hp Cummins ISB engine, the Avanti is estimated to get 13-15 mpg and retails starting at $135,000. ”Unlike a traditional motorhome, the chassis is still five inches lower to the ground to provide a lower center of gravity,” said Matt Thompson, Damon vice president and general manager. Also, Damon has designed new fiberglass front caps on the gas-powered Challenger and diesel-pusher Tuscany motorhomes in addition to offering a 42-foot tag-axle floorplan on the Tuscany diesel pusher for the first time. Damon’s gas or diesel Outlaw SURV also has been redesigned with a passenger side door for easier entry into the garage.
Thor Motorized Services launched a new customer service portal that will transform the way dealers can interact with Damon Motor Coach and Four Winds International Corp. After months of preparation and testing, dealers can start logging into the new “Thor Advantage” portal for a brand new customer service experience, according to a news release.
“The goal was to streamline the parts and warranty process and incorporate a feedback system to communicate with our dealers. We want to offer our dealers the easiest, fastest, most convenient way to interact with Damon and Four Winds, and we believe we have accomplished just that,” said Janae Kurtz.
The new “Thor Advantage” is a web-based customer service system, allowing dealers to conduct all aspects of customer service, warranty and parts transactions with both Damon and Four Winds.
Just a few of the functions that can be performed include:
- On-Line warranty registration and authorizations.
- “Real-time” status on warranty claims and parts orders.
- Immediate feedback on claim and parts inquiries.
- VIN specific parts locator with photos and descriptions for easy ordering and fulfillment.
- Single contact point aimed at reducing phone calls and e-mails.
“We are thrilled to have the new system in place. We will continue to lead the market with new technologies like this. Our people and our processes set the Thor motorized divisions apart from the rest of the industry. Four Winds and Damon will utilize the same processes to help ease the complexity of multiple warranty and parts systems that dealers now have to use. We want to be easy to do business with,” said Bill Fenech, president of Damon and Four Winds.
The “Thor Advantage” became fully operational on Monday (Aug. 3). Any Damon or Four Winds dealer needing more information to get started can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or Janaé Kurtz at email@example.com.
Motorhome manufacturers Damon Motor Coach and Four Winds International Corp. will operate as separate Thor Industries Inc. subsidiaries even though they will share some support functions and Damon President Bill Fenech will lead the new unofficial Thor Motorhomes division.
”We still need to keep separate products in the marketplace,” said Fenech who will serve as president of both companies. ”Technically, there is no such thing as Thor Motorhomes. There is Damon and there is Four Winds. Both are still very independent companies. All we are (at Thor Motorhomes) is support for those two companies.”
With Fenech, 41, at the helm, Damon will be led by Matt Thompson, who has been appointed vice president and general manager, while Four Winds will be overseen by Dana Simon, who carries the same titles. Previously president of Damon, Fenech added the title of Four Winds president with the recent resignation of Jeff Kime.
”I believe in ‘flat” organizations,” Fenech told RVBusiness. ”I know how to keep stuff separate. I won’t let one company copy off the other just because.”
To avoid duplication within the ”motorhome division,” the two companies will share some corporate functions including general counsel, finance, information technologies, human resources and parts and service, Fenech said.
”Does the (retail) customer care about how we pay our bills or handle our personnel or who our attorney is?’ Fenech said. ‘I don’t think so.”
Sales, product development, engineering, design, purchase and quality assurance will remain separate functions. The Mandalay Luxury Division will continue to operate as Four Winds’ diesel pusher division, according to Fenech, but ”will have to live and die on its own. That doesn’t change a bit.”
”They have similar products and similar markets, but one company sees it one way and one company sees it another way,” Fenech said. ”At the end of the day, there are different cultural circumstances in each company.”
Four Winds, he noted, will continue to manufacture Class C motorhomes, where it has a strong presence in the RV rental market where Damon does not have a presence, after abandoning development last year of the Del Ray minimotorhome.
”If Damon says they need to be in the Class C business and they can be profitable, they will be able to do it,” Fenech said. ”I have to keep the two companies unique becuase at the end of the day, we need a strong Thor.”
Damon Motor Coach, a Thor Industries Inc. subsidiary, has felt the economic crunch over the past year, but is bouncing back.
“We actually increased market share during the past 12 months,” Matt Thompson, vice president of sales, stated in a news release. “In recent weeks there is some very positive news for us and hopefully the industry.”
Damon Motor Coach designs and manufactures a full line of Class A motorhomes. Brands include the Astoria, Tuscany and Essence diesel pushers; the Avanti front diesel puller; and the gas-powered DayBreak, Challenger and Outlaw models.
Damon has announced it is back to five full days of production and now has a backlog of orders.
“This is a rarity in the hard-hit RV Industry, especially Elkhart County,” said Bill Fenech, Damon president.
“Although encouraging, it’s too early to call this a recovery,” Fenech said. The company is cautiously optimistic about the recent improvement in business. He went on to say that he and his staff will be watching production closely, and matching that with demand.
He also announced that Damon has hired back a group of previously laid off workers and intends to hire more. “Exact numbers will be dependent on sustaining current sales trends, however, Damon dealers are becoming more optimistic about future business,” Fenech concluded.
Jim Colton of Colton RV in western New York, one of Damon’s newest dealers, said Damon product is moving fast. “We received our first Daybreak model recently and it sold in two days,” Colton said. Lazy Days SuperCenter in Seffner, Fla., one of the nations largest RV dealers, has also noticed increased Damon sales. “Things are looking up,” the dealership said.
Damon’s all-new Avanti high-mileage Class A diesel has been a star performer. “We had seven retail customers purchase these units in the past two weeks… this is outstanding,” says Ken Jacobson, Sales Manager for Lazy Days.
An Elkhart-based RV dealer is also encouraged by the recent trend. Hank Schrock, owner of Total Value RV, said Damon product is helping his business.
“We’ve sold five Damon Class A motorhomes in the past few weeks… this is a great sign,” said Schrock. In March, Damon shipped nearly 10% of the entire Class A market, according to Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) wholesale shipment reports. On the retail side, Damon’s Astoria model gained 25% market share and the Challenger model came in at just over a 19% gain.
Damon has invested in a new production facility during the downturn. The new production plant has been modernized and streamlined to help make the entire process, from design to finish, more flexible and efficient. The company, because of the full production week, is back to its regular schedule for customer factory tours.
Navistar’s International Corp.’s emergence as the suitor seeking an asset buyout of Monaco Coach Corp.’s RV interests represents an extension of the engine builder’s growing stake in the industry – bolstered during the past several years through acquisition and strategic partnership.
Following an initial report of a pending buyout by a “major public company,” Coburg, Ore.-based Monaco revealed Thursday (March 26) that Navistar had issued a non-binding letter of intent to purchase its RV-related assets and assume certain liabilities for $50 million. Monaco, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy March 5 after a nearly two-year run of “right-sizing” to match faltering demand, reported that the companies are looking to finalize the acquisition in mid-April.
“If we are able to reach agreement, the purchase of certain Monaco assets would fit our strategy of leveraging our assets to expand our diesel business, serve the end customer and would also complement our Workhorse Custom Chassis business,” stated Jack Allen, president of Navistar’s North American Truck Group, a U.S. market leader in large trucks that ranks second in the production of heavy Class A trucks with 13 North American plants.
The tentative deal expands Warrenville, Ill.-based Navistar’s presence in the RV industry while also adding another layer to a diversified, global portfolio that includes production of medium- and heavy-duty trucks, military vehicles, diesel engines and related components for a variety of industries.
Navistar reported net income of $234 million on revenue of $2.97 billion for its fiscal first quarter, ended Jan. 31, including $955 million in military sales – notably a contract with the U.S. government to supply MRAP armored vehicles,
In fact, Navistar currently is a player in the RV sector, perhaps more so than most people realize, looking back over the past few years:
- In mid-2005, GVW Holdings Corp., Highland Park, Ill., sold its Workhorse Custom Chassis LLC and Uptime Parts LLC subsidiaries to International Truck and Engine Corp., an operating unit of Navistar. Workhorse, Union City, Ind., is a major manufacturer of chassis for Class A motorhomes, buses and walk-in trucks. Uptime Parts, located in West Chicago, Ill., and Reno, Nev., supplies replacement and aftermarket parts for the RV, truck and bus markets that Workhorse serves.
- Monaco in January of 2007 formed a joint venture with International to manufacture rear-engine diesel chassis. Monaco and International own 49% and 51%, respectively, of the newly formed company — Custom Chassis Products LLC. Production continues at Monaco’s 210,00-square-foot Roadmaster chassis plant in Elkhart, Ind., which Monaco said was not impacted by its bankruptcy announcement.
- Navistar chairman, president and CEO Daniel C. Ustian has been a Monaco board member since 2003 and has aggressively pursued complementary markets and businesses for Navistar’s truck and engine lines, according to The Wall Street Journal.
- Navistar engines to date have been used in a number of motorhomes, including Damon Motor Coach’s fuel-efficient 31 ½-foot Avanti Class A.