Junction City, Ore.-based Guaranty Discount Chevrolet and RV announced it has launched a new user-friendly shopping website focusing on RV and automotive parts and accessories.
Designed by Lunar Logic, the site will give people access to basic and hard-to-find parts across North America and internationally, according to a press release. Guaranty is known for finding obscure parts and products, original equipment parts, items for all makes and models of vehicles and RVs, no matter the age.
“There isn’t another resource quite like this out there,” said Becky Smith, marketing manager for Guaranty. “We already ensure our customers get what they need, but we’re excited to be able to offer this service to folks who may be out there looking for an easier way to find obscure parts. Whether looking for original equipment manufacturer parts for an older car or RV, we can get what they need we can get what they need. We can also install it or ship it.”
“We’re excited about connecting with RV and car enthusiasts from around North America or even the world. Our online store is a direct reflection of our dedication to a truly customer-centric shopping experience,” added Shannon Nill, Guaranty owner.
America Now News, a nationally syndicated show co-hosted by Leeza Gibbons and Bill Rancic airing in 48 markets, recently interviewed Shannon Nill, general manager of Junction City, Ore.-based Guaranty RV Super Centers.
According to a press release, Nill sat down with automotive expert Steve Strope for three RV-related segments including “The Advantages of RVing for Vacation,” “How to Choose the Best RV for Your Lifestyle” and “RV Rentals.”
“Visiting with Steve was a lot of fun,” said Nill. “His passion for vehicles and life hits home. While we were together, we talked cars and RVs non-stop. It was great, even life affirming.”
Strope, who is known for his car expertise and co-founding Pure Vision, a renown street machine fabrication shop, conducted the interviews with Nill at the Malibu Beach RV Park.
“We had a great time,” said Becky Smith, marketing director of Guaranty RV. “We could see the Pacific Ocean from the windshield of our Newmar Canyon Star. Outside the coach, the view was picturesque as we were right across the street from the beach.”
Junction City, Ore.-based Guaranty Chevrolet and RV Super Centers had its most profitable month in three years during July, according to a press release.
CFO Ed Morgan reported that both the Chevy Store and the RV Division showed a profit, which he feels this is a “good indicator that consumers are becoming more confident and showing a renewed interest in RVing.”
“Even as Navistar, the parent company of Monaco, announced its plans to consolidate manufacturing, our dealership is making strides in regaining a part of the momentum we experienced in the ’90s,” commented Shannon Nill, general manager, referring to Navistar International Corp.’s Aug. 2 announcement that it would be consolidating motorhome operations to Wakarusa, Ind.
“As the first and longest standing retail dealership for Monaco products, Guaranty will continue to offer the full line of Monaco products,” Nill continued. “While we are disappointed that jobs are leaving Lane County we understand that Monaco needed to make a strategic move to shift part of their motorhome production to their headquarters in Wakarusa.”
Nill emphasized that Monaco will continue to build towables in Coburg, Ore., adding, “According to current consumer trends, towables are the largest category within RVs. We will continue to have Monaco towables in our inventory as they remain a great value for the American’s travel options.”
Junction City, Ore.-based Guaranty Chevrolet and RV Super Centers received the Tri-County Chamber of Commerce Large Business of the Year award at the annual awards banquet held July 14.
Shannon Nill, general manager, was presented with a plaque “in recognition of their proven interest in the welfare of the community through financial contributions, personal service and civic leadership.”
“I am so pleased to receive this award on behalf of Guaranty,” said Nill. “Guaranty is proud to be a vital part of this community and we look forward to a continuing relationship with the Tri-County Chamber and the communities it represents.”
The communities of Junction City, Harrisburg, Monroe and Coburg are represented by the Tri-County Chamber of Commerce.
Reports of the demise of the RV industry in Oregon’s Lane County are greatly exaggerated, industry veteran Bradley Waring says, borrowing a line from Mark Twain.
There’s no denying that the industry has taken a beating in the economic downturn. Two of the area’s major coach companies, Country Coach Inc. and Monaco Coach Corp., were purchased out of bankruptcy and now operate on a much smaller scale, The Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore., reported.
Monaco is a tiny division of multinational Navistar International, and Ron Lee, younger brother of Country Coach cofounder Bob Lee, recently resurrected Country Coach as a sales and service center, with hopes of eventually resuming production. Marathon Coach in Coburg still converts buses into million dollar coaches, but far fewer than in its heyday.
Lane County’s transportation equipment manufacturing sector, which has been dominated by the three RV manufacturers, employed 800 people in November, according to the state Employment Department. As recently as 2005, it had employed 4,500 people.
Even without a major manufacturing presence, Lane County still has a deep well of experience and expertise in RV sales, service and support, people in the industry say. They wanted to get the word out to RV owners across the country, so they formed the Oregon RV Alliance, a nonprofit marketing group. On Tuesday, the alliance’s founder, Bradley Waring, and several other members boarded a coach headed to the RV resorts near Palm Desert, Calif., where the snowbirds flock.
More than 2,000 snowbirds were expected at the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) rally in Indio, Jan. 13 through Jan. 15.
The Lane County delegation in Indio included Waring, former Lane County Commissioner Jerry Rust; Susan Graham, sales manager at Premier RV in Junction City; Meg Trendler, Travel Lane County’s tourism sales manager; and Tom Schneider, a retired Guaranty salesman.
Travel Lane County provided 1,200 Lane County Visitor Guides to hand out at the rally, and the Southern Willamette Valley Wineries Association supplied local wines for the delegation to serve as samples.
“We’re telling coach owners we’re still here,” Waring said. “The same people who sold you your coach, the people who serviced your coaches, the manufacturers who have built your coaches are still here.”
And while coach owners are having their vehicles serviced, they also can check out all the sights and attractions of Lane County, he said.
“We’re going to give them our message of renewal, and we’re going to … encourage them to bring their (coaches) back into this community over the spring and summer,” Waring said.
This is just the first of many of the alliance’s outreach efforts, he said.
Alliance has 30 members
Kurt and Betty Simon already visit Lane County often. The Eugene area is a convenient rest stop between their home in Auburn, Calif., and their children and grandchildren in Seattle and Portland, Kurt Simon said.
The retirees routinely have their 45-foot Monaco Executive serviced at Guaranty RV in Junction City where they bought it several years ago.
Simon said he’s not sure whether more RV owners will put Lane County on their itinerary after talking with Oregon RV Alliance members.
“I suspect that people are still staying closer to home,” he said.
But the Oregon draw is there, he said. “Motorhomes tend to be mobile anyway, and Oregon is a good place to go. It’s a beautiful state.”
The alliance already has 30 members, including RV manufacturers, dealerships, service centers, suppliers, local chambers of commerce, community festival organizers and others. Waring predicts it will have at least 200 members by the end of the year.
“I started this movement over Thanksgiving, and, frankly, it’s such a sensible idea that I’m having trouble getting around to meet with all the people who want to participate,” he said.
Through the ’90s and up until 2007, when the local manufacturers were going strong, there was a steady stream of out-of-town coach owners, who dropped by the factories to have their coaches serviced or remodeled, or to take part in motor home rallies.
Many stopped to shop at Guaranty RV in Junction City, formerly the largest RV dealership in the nation — and now the largest one that has managed to stay out of bankruptcy, general manager Shannon Nill said.
He said RV manufacturing has been Junction City’s strong suit for years.
“Even though it’s down a notch; it’s not gone,” Nill said.
So he said he was all ears when Waring contacted him about the alliance.
“I thought it was really tremendous that he would take it upon himself to gather up all the quality elements and put a shine on it and find ways to further network and make sure people know we are open for business in Junction City for motor home sales, service and accessories,” Nill said.
Some out-of-area coach owners still stop in Lane County, “but with the motor home manufacturing on the downside, there’s less and less of a need for them to come to this area,” said Rob Dickman, owner of the Les Schwab tire store in Junction City, a longtime supplier to the RV industry.
“By promoting the area, the recreation, the other people who work on motor homes here, and just the beauty of our area, we hope to give them a good excuse to keep coming back here,” he said. “They bring a lot of money when they come.”
Just filling up a coach’s 100-gallon tank, for example, is a nearly $400 expenditure, Waring said.
“If we band together and pitch to those people to come back to our area, it’s going to help everybody,” Dickman said.
“Attracting RV travelers to the region for service as well as sightseeing is mutually beneficial for the tourism and RV industries,” said Lisa Lawton, community relations manager for Travel Lane County. “We’re looking forward to connecting with industry leaders and RV travelers one-on-one to tap into this market and ultimately bring more visitors to this region,” she said.
More disposable income
Many coach owners have maintained ties with the people who sold and serviced their RVs. But alliance members said they want to cast an even wider net.
Most of the coaches serviced at Oregon Motorcoach Center are from out of the area, operations manager Ed Read said.
The 2-year-old business is owned by Bob Lee, founder of Country Coach, his wife, Terry Lee, and their son-in-law, Patrick Mason.
Oregon Motorcoach was eager to participate in the Oregon RV Alliance’s marketing efforts to RV travelers. “We want them to know that there’s a reason to be here again,” Read said.
Waring founded the alliance after losing his RV-related businesses, his mobile office — a Country Coach — and even his home in the downturn. He said he took “an involuntary sabbatical” from his 15-year career as a nomadic salesman, selling heated flooring and other supplies to major coach makers, and moved to Eugene in March 2009.
“I had all my eggs in the RV basket and I’m starting again,” he said. “My wife has been feeding me and giving me gas money.”
Recently, Waring has renewed relationships with old friends and associates in the RV industry.
“I’m so passionate about this,” he said. “(I want) to bring my friends back to work.”
He said he thought for years that the Lane County RV industry should partner more closely with the local tourism agencies to market the area to RV owners.
“This is a group of people who are mobile, they’re more affluent than most, they have disposable income that most of us don’t have,” Waring said.
The idea came into clearer focus over the summer when he volunteered at the front desk of Travel Lane County’s new adventure center in Springfield’s Gateway area.
Waring said he reached out to former Lane County Commissioner Jerry Rust after reading his campaign paper outlining his economic development ideas.
Rust signed on as the alliance’s co-director.
“I think it’s an interesting assignment,” he said. “I’m happy to go do it — be a cheerleader for Lane County.”
Before Rust and his wife, Zhang Yu Cai, boarded the coach Tuesday, he said he had ridden in Georgia-Pacific’s helicopter and even in the Goodyear blimp, but he had never ridden in a large RV.
“I’ve been in little camper outfits, but I don’t think I’ve really ever set foot in one of these monsters,” Rust said. “I’m looking forward to it, and I understand how excited the people in Junction City and Coburg must be to see some new life breathing into this industry that a lot of people thought was dead, dead and never would return.”
An all-volunteer project
The nonprofit alliance is an all-volunteer project, Waring said. Its sole source of funding is annual membership dues: $500 for charter members and $200 for associate members.
He said he’s heartened to see a core group of RV entrepreneurs have survived the downturn and are working to renew the industry.
“It’s pretty hard to put an entrepreneur down,” he said.
“I just want to inspire people to dust themselves off and pick themselves up and put this behind us,” Waring said. “We have everything in the world to offer here.”
The RV industry in central Oregon was one of the hardest hit by the recession. Now, RV makers and dealers are rebounding, KEZI-TV, Eugene, reported.
Guaranty RV in Junction City and Monaco RV Inc. — now operated by Navistar International Corp.– in Coburg, both say they’ve seen a big uptick in sales.
Guaranty RV credits that to consumers’ new buying habits.
Guaranty RV General Manager Shannon Nill says they’ve had a 35% increase in sales so far this year compared to 2009, and they sold six RVs in Brookings this weekend alone.
Nill says higher-end diesel motorcoaches are selling the least.
Buyers are going instead after pre-owned and even some of the new models up to $100,000.
“People right now are looking for a bargain, and they’re setting their sites a little lower on the cost of the motorhome or trailer. Pre-owned has been very popular this year because of that reason,” said Nill.
Guaranty RV does business with Monaco, which was forced into bankruptcy and is now owned by Navistar.
Marketing Director Ryan Lee says motorhomes have seen the biggest increase in sales, because they were hit the hardest with the down economy.
Overall, Monaco’s sales are up 70% compared to this time last year.
Nill says their increased sales have also allowed Monaco to hire more workers.
Alex and Jan Alexander were in the 17th week of a tour of the West Coast in their 2006 Country Coach when they pulled into the gates of the Deschutes County Fair and Expo Center in Redmond, Ore., for the Family Motor Coach Association’s (FMCA) 84th International Convention Aug. 11-14. One of more than 2,000 motorhome families to attend the mid-week event in central Oregon, the young couple from St. James City, Fla., intended to spend the four days soaking up information.
“We’re here for several reasons,” Alex noted after exiting the Tiffin Motor Homes manufacturer’s display. “We wanted to see what’s going on in the industry — but, most importantly from an educational standpoint, to visit the displays and see the latest in engines and electronics … it (Redmond) has a little bit of everything.” And, while the first-time visitors to the convention hadn’t considered upgrading their luxury coach prior to the event, Alex did note that “we may change our minds. Right now, we’re looking at an Allegro bus.”
According to Jerry Yeatts, FMCA event director, the Alexanders’ upbeat attitude personified the 84th convention, which also was highlighted by the public debut of the new Vesta motorhome from Monaco RV LLC and the West Coast introduction of the Insignia from Jayco’s Entegra Coach division.
“We had a little over 2,000 families there, and about 200 coaches on display,” he said. “Compared to the last time we were here, it was probably comparable, numbers-wise — but as far as attitude and enthusiasm, it was amazing. The members were probably in their best mood we’ve seen in quite a while. Seems like sales were up, spirits were up, and overall it was a great convention.”
It also apparently was quite successful for a number of exhibitors. “One OEM said that the higher-end coaches they brought were sold,” Yeatts said. “Another dealer who brought in 11 coaches sold six.”
Shannon Nill, general manager of Guaranty RV, Junction City, Ore., echoed Yeatts’ assessment on the overall atmosphere of the program. “We sold 18 RVs at the Redmond rally, about evenly distributed between new and used,” Nill noted, out of about 75 units the dealership supplied to several displays including Monaco, Newmar Corp. and Roadtrek Motorhomes Inc. “Beyond the sales, however, one huge point was that the mood of the customer was really strong compared to last year’s rally. People were eager to RV. The gatherings of this kind after a slowdown are even more important than normal.”
This year marked the fourth time FMCA has held a convention at the Redmond fairgrounds, but was the first time the association kicked off the event with a Wednesday “preview” day. Gates opened at 5 p.m. on “hump day” for touring outdoor manufacturer displays, followed by access only to indoor exhibits Thursday morning. All displays became accessible at noon and thereafter.
“We really didn’t receive any comments concerning shifting the pattern,” Yeatts said. “The gate on Wednesday was greater than normal, but we don’t know if that’s attributable to starting later in the week, or later in the day.”
The Vesta, introduced to dealers two weeks prior to the Redmond convention, immediately attracted quite a bit of attention from rally attendees due to its unique aerodynamic styling.
“We’ve had a lot of customers come up to us that hadn’t really considered a Class A before just because of the size,” said Ryan Lee, marketing director for the Coburg, Ore., manufacturer. “They take a look at this, with the sleek design, and see that it’s really easy from an ergonomic standpoint to sit up there in the driver’s seat and drive that coach.”
Built on a proprietary 26,000-pound GVWR Monaco Roadmaster chassis and designed in conjunction with wind-tunnel testing, the single-slide 32-foot Vesta (a 35-foot floorplan also is planned) features a sloping front fascia, low center of gravity and tapered rear section. MSRP for the 32-foot coach is $195,000-$200,000.
“It’s pretty striking,” Lee said of the styling. “One of the things that we’re trying to do at Monaco is that, when a coach rolls down the road we want people to know it’s a Monaco; we want people to know it’s a Holiday Rambler (Monaco’s sister division). And this type of styling is going to get us there.”
Along with the Vesta, Monaco also brought several models with fresh 2011 floorplans to Redmond. “We’re showing our first 2011 Dynasty and Camalot here at the show,” noted Mike Snell, senior vice president of sales and product development for Monaco. “The Dynasty has a 500hp engine, and we’ve changed the paint scheme and have really upgraded the interiors. On the Camelot, we did the same: changed the front facia, the backsplash, put in a ceiling insert in the living room — we really dressed up the inside. We also have our slide-in-a-slide Diplomat here. We had the slide-in-a-slide in the Dynasty, and we added it to the Diplomat, which is a 43-footer.”
The Entegra Insignia, which debuted almost simultaneously at Affinity Group’s The Rally, July 22-25, at Louisville’s Kentucky Exposition Center and Redmond, is the Jayco division’s “entry-level” coach for the high-end Entegra line. Built on a 32,400-pound GVWR Freightliner XCR chassis powered by a 360-hp Cummins ISB diesel engine, the $265,000 MSRP Insignia features heated-and-enclosed holding tanks, frameless flush-mounted slideout rooms, gel goat fiberglass sidewalls and a steel-reinforced front cap and windshield frame plus interiors sporting glazed maple hardwood cabinets and leather hide-a-bed sofas.
Yet another new unit drawing a crowd was the 2011 model from Newell Coach Corp. Upgrades to the 2011 welded-steel-and-aluminum Newell motorcoaches — the first since the 2006 model year — include upgraded front caps with bright-white “string-of-pearl” LED running lights that outline the outer edges of the headlights, plus rear-body trim and redesigned side moldings. Interiors feature wood windowsill trim bordered with seamed leather, carbon-fiber instrument panels and automated air conditioning and heating.
The upbeat atmosphere at Redmond was, in the view of many dealers staffing the manufacturer exhibits, a reflection of a more optimistic viewpoint already noted at their respective dealerships.
Brian Kehoe, a sales consultant for Sandy, Ore.-based Johnson RV Sales who was manning the Entegra display, noted that the dealership “has experienced four months consecutive of record sales for the company. It’s been fantastic. All the way through, from the B class, C class, Class A gas and diesel units.” The dealership, site of the former Fred’s RV, opened under the Johnson RV Sales umbrella last year and features 12 service bays and three buildings — including an indoor showroom — on seven acres.
At the Tiffin exhibit, Rick Neat, a salesman from RV Corral, Eugene, Ore., one of three dealerships providing coaches for the display, called August “the best month in two years.
“There’s more business out there,” following the shuttering of dealers and OEMs alike during the recession, he said, adding that consumer credit is likewise on an uptick. “On the big money, it’s starting to ease up a bit. A lot of people are going to credit unions now, which are getting a lot more flexible than they were in the past.”
Mike Alverez, with All Seasons RV, Bend, Ore., concurred. “Our banks have loosened up,” he said at the Winnebago Industries Inc. exhibit. “They’ve changed on how they are financing. They are looking at people in a better light, where before it was tough to get financing accomplished. The other thing, too, is that GE, our flooring company, has backed off; they are letting us get product in here, and we’re making the turns we need to make to keep it going.”
Along with new coach designs and features, Redmond also was one of the first consumer shows to feature motorhomes fitted with new 2010 EPA emissions-compliant engines, and several exhibitors — including Gaffney, S.C.-based Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. and Spartan Chassis, Charlotte, Mich. — fielded questions from consumers and dealership personnel somewhat confused about the technical merits of the two competing drive systems developed to meet the EPA criteria. Cummins Inc. utilizes an aftermarket treatment system, while Navistar’s new MaxxForce engines employ Advanced EGR technology.
Monaco RV announced its partnership with one of the nation’s largest and most respected RV dealerships, Guaranty RV, located in Junction City, Ore.
Guaranty RV and owner Herb Nill, the 2009 recipient of the Dave Altman Award for lifetime achievement, will carry Monaco brand motorhomes, as well R-Vision brand towables, according to a news release.
“We’re extremely proud for the Monaco and R-Vision brands to partner once again with such a tremendous organization as Guaranty RV,” said Kay Toolson, president, Monaco RV.
“They are a nationally respected RV dealer with highly regarded values and integrity, first-class sales and service facilities, and a loyal customer base that has come to expect unequalled customer service from its friendly and knowledgeable staff. We simply couldn’t be happier to join forces with Guaranty RV to bring our mutual customers the very best recreational vehicles on the market along with the industry’s highest level of service after the sale.”
“Guaranty has been selling Monaco motorhomes since they’ve been building them,” said Nill, president, Guaranty RV. “We value the quality people, products and experience associated with the Monaco organization. As this year’s Dave Altman Award recipient as the nation’s top dealer, it’s only logical that Guaranty RV represent one of the top RV manufacturers in the industry. It’s an ideal marriage.”
Editor’s Note: This report by KMTR-TV, Springfield, Ore., describes the demise of what used to be the epicenter of the Northwest’s motorhome business, the retail front, more or less, for area manufacturers Monaco Coach Corp., now Monaco RV LLC, and Country Coach Inc., which is still in business as a factory-direct operation.
Watch the video in today’s Featured Video section.
The end of an era has come for a stretch along Interestate 5 in Coburg, Ore.
For years it was home to hundreds of RVs for sale, now it’s empty land. It was as familiar a landmark as any in Lane County during its heyday with hundreds of RVs on sale from several retailers like Ingram RV, Paradise RV, RV Corrall and La Mesa.
One by one they all moved on, bit by the economy. The last one standing was Guaranty RV and now it too has moved leaving the RV mecca along the freeway into a group of vacant lots.
Guaranty is still selling RVs but now it’s doing it from it’s lot in Junction City. Shannon Nill the General Manager for Guaranty RV says it’s about consolidating and becoming more efficient.
Regarding the RV industry in Lane County, Nill says, “It’s still here, Country Coach is still open, Monaco is still open, however we’ve all had to adjust, that’s the main thing the adjustment.”
Nill says people are still interested in buying RVs but it’s harder to get financing for the high-end models. He’s optimistic as the economy improves and expects 2010 to be a better year for sales.
During the consolidation from Coburg to Junction City Nill says he was able to keep all of his employees.
Concerning the economic effect on Coburg, the city says that even though the retailers are gone, it still expects to collect property taxes from the lots, lessening any financial problems for the city.
After nine years of selling motorhomes in Coburg, Ore., Guaranty RV has closed its dealership along Interstate 5, according to The Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore.
“We’re moving the Coburg operation to Junction City and putting all our eggs in one basket,” Shannon Nill, general manager of Guaranty RV, said Wednesday (Nov. 11). “We’re doing that because of the market challenges that are quite evident if you’ve left your home in the past year.”
Nill called the decision to consolidate the Coburg store with its main dealership in Junction City “an efficiency move.”
“The more efficient a business can be, the more likely it will be around for the long run,” he said.
The Coburg store specialized in selling high-end, diesel-powered motorhomes that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, the segment of the industry most hurt by the economic downturn.
“From a price point, folks are setting their sights a little lower,” Nill said. “They’re still loving RVs, but the high-end category has been affected the most.”
The vehicles and the personnel at Coburg have been transferred to Guaranty’s Junction City’s operations, Nill said.
Guaranty was leasing the 10-acre property at 90855 Roberts Road, which is owned by MBM Group LLC of Veneta, according to Lane County property records. Founded in 1966, Guaranty is one of the nation’s largest RV dealers.
At one time, Coburg, with its proximity to Interstate 5, was an epicenter for RV dealers, including La Mesa, Destinations RV, Ingraham R, and RV Corral. Just as Burger King wants to be on the same block as McDonald’s, RV dealers like to be near one another, Nill said.
“Out of all the players out there, we were the last ones standing,” he said.
Nill said he’s feeling optimistic about the direction the economy, and the RV industry, is taking.
“Last month was the best month at our family motorcoach lot in four years,” he said, as his sales staff sold about 75 units.
“That tells me there’s a lot of pent-up demand,” he said. “We’re feeling good about 2010.”