Along with the rest of the American economy, the niche occupied by Newell Coach Corp.’s high-end motorhomes is emerging from the economic maelstrom that has enveloped the RV industry the last two years.
And it’s emerging as an even narrower slice of the U.S. economy than it was prior to the Great Recession.
“The high-end market definitely is coming back,” said Newell President Karl Blade. “We have a relatively healthy order bank coming out of the debacle that has been this economy.
“Interestingly, from what we’ve seen, the biggest change in recent months has been our late-model pre-owned (coach buyers) filling the void left by others (manufacturers) that have exited the market,” said Blade.
A legendary brand in the motorhome business, Newell was founded in 1967 by L.K. Newell who purchased the motorhome division of California-based Streamline Trailer Co. and moved it to Oklahoma. Blade purchased the company in 1979.
“Mr. Newell’s innovation at the time was radical,” Blade said. “We take it for granted now, but he built the first rear-engine motorhome in 1969 and the first diesel-powered motorhome in 1970. He also designed the first basement storage. It took years for the rest of the industry to adopt those things.”
Newell coaches, whicht sell for more than $1.4 million, are retailed factory-direct from the company’s headquarters in Miami, Okla., where Newell also has an extensive service facility.
Although the company offers floorplans in 38- to 45-foot lengths, the vast majority of customers want 45-footers. “The price savings aren’t significant if you build a smaller coach,” Blade said. “And people won’t buy small stuff unless they can save a lot of money.”
Selling expensive motorcoaches requires a personal approach to marketing and that’s among the reasons Blade spends the winter at Motorcoach Country Club in Indio, Calif.
“I spend three months every winter in Indio to show the product and cultivate relationships with our existing customer base,” Blade said.
With dealer inventories of other high-end motorhomes limited by the current economic situation, Newell is seeing new customers who previously might not have considered buying a coach factory-direct.
ABOUT THE COMPANY
- Company: Newell Coach Corp.
- Location: Miami, Okla.
- Founded: 1967
- Products: Luxury Class A motorhomes
- Key personnel: Karl Blade, president; Boyd Vanover, vice president of engineering; Scott Lawson, vice president of manufacturing; John Clark, vice president of service
- Facilities: 150,00-square-foot factory in Miami, including a 40,000-square-foot service department manned by 20 technicians.
- Employees: 150
“Too often, prospects would go to their nearest local dealer and look at a new high-end Class A and that’s what they’d buy,” Blade said. “We never saw them. Today you don’t see many new or used high-end Class A’s on dealers’ lots in California. It’s (the economy) expanding the market dramatically for us.”
Newell, in turn, has become popular among motorsports participants. “The motorsports people understand the premium nature of the components in Newell coaches and appreciate it,” Blade said. “The first Newell motorhome that we sold into the motorsports area was to (Indy 500 driver) Al Unser Sr. Al Unser Jr. came along a few years later and, in 1984, Roger Penske bought one. That started a trend in IndyCar and NASCAR.”
Sales of pre-owned coaches are an important part of Newell’s business, according to Blade.
Typically, Newell will take a two- or three-year-old coach in trade and refurbish it before resale. “It’s very similar to the way we sell a new coach,” Blade said. “It’s not custom, but we’ll make modifications, depending on financial factors. We might add closets or entertainment centers or pull a desk out and change it to a sofa. It’s limited by the fact that if you get very deep into it, it gets expensive.”
Blade said that in-house service that Newell provides at its headquarters “is key to this business.”
“We pioneered having a 24/7 service telephone number,” Blade said. “We can handle most emergencies on the phone, and if we can’t fix it, we can usually design a work-around. Our average response time from when the tech gets paged and gets back to the customer is 20 minutes. In a product of this price range and this complexity, a direct relationship with the customer makes for a much better experience.”
Custom-built Newell motorcoaches retail for upward of $1.4 million in 38- to 45-foot floorplans built on the company’s own 63,300-pound GVWR “bridge-truss” diesel pusher chassis powered by 650-hp Cummins ISX engines.
Modifications to the 2011 welded-steel-and-aluminum Newell motorcoaches are the first since the 2006 model year. They 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.
Interiors sport high-pressure laminate cabinet finishes, European-style concealed hinges, deluxe drawer glides, positive drawer latches with flush drawer fronts, pull-out pantries in most floorplans, rectangular integrated kitchen sinks, California king side-island beds and Villa convertible sofas and reclining chairs.