Fledgling Monaco RV LLC is raising its public relations flag on a national scale for the first time while launching a marketing program that stresses its ties to U.S. truck giant Navistar Inc., which formed the Coburg, Ore., RV-building company in 2009 on the foundation of its bankrupt predecessor — Monaco Coach Corp.
Monaco’s new print-and-online campaign conveys the slogan ”Where to Next?” with the promise that Monaco RV will be closely linked to Navistar, not only because it will be equipping its diesel coaches from now on with Navistar’s MaxxForce EPA-compliant “Advanced EGR” diesel engines as standard equipment.
”As time went on, we just saw there was so much unawareness (around the industry and among consumers) of us being bought, of us even going through (bankruptcy),” said Mike Snell, senior vice president of sales and product development, during a May 5 interview at the Holiday Rambler RV Club’s 419 Maintenance Rally at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds in Goshen, Ind. ”What we are really trying to do is relaunch ourselves again to not only the dealers, but to consumers — because a lot of people didn’t know through the show season that we were acquired by Navistar.”
”The No. 1 message that we want to get out to our dealer body and our consumers is that Monaco RV is a new company that is backed by Navistar,” Ryan Lee, director of marketing for Monaco RV, told RV Business at the northern Indiana rally, which drew 253 diesel coach owners. “And with the Navistar influence behind us, we are going to be able to do many different things that this industry has never seen before.”
That Navistar influence should be evident in a new front-engine diesel Class A – the first to have withstood the rigorous R&D standards of Monaco’s new parent company — at its Monaco Dealer Congress in late July in Chicago. Navistar is headquartered in the Chicago suburb of Warrenville, Ill.
In this and other product-development programs, Lee said, Monaco RV has incorporated Navistar’s back-office practices along with aerodynamic testing and design criteria.
”We will be working with automotive design groups to look at ergonomics, viewing angles and to better understand and control sound within our products,” Lee said.
This same assertive marketing and R&D approach will also apply to the company’s Holiday Rambler and R-Vision towables which, Snell and Lee emphasized, are still a big part of the picture as Monaco prepares for the debut of a new conventional product built on a newly organized Oregon production line. ”We’ve refined some of the different (towable) product offering in the models,” said Lee, “and we’ve really seen some solid upticks. April was the best month we’ve had in towables (for Monaco RV).”
Lee, likewise, said Monaco will be doing wind-testing of towable front caps to help increase towability. “Just because it doesn’t have a motor in it doesn’t mean that we don’t have a design team that understands how to build a great product,” Lee noted.
Navistar Truck Group Vice President of Marketing Mike Cerilli said Monaco’s new marketing campaign should bring dealers and consumers up to speed on the company’s progress since it was formed.
”This campaign is really critical for us because it lets us tell the story about all the things that are actually happening that very soon will benefit customers,” said Cerilli. “This is just a great way for us to tell the story of the two companies and to start anew.
”I compare it to the (International LoneStar) product we launched in the commercial truck industry a couple of years ago that has revolutionized one of our segments,” he continued. “From an industrial design standpoint, it was unlike anything else you’ve seen on the road. It was also incredibly aerodynamic and delivered on fuel economy.”
In utilizing Navistar’s MaxxForce engines, Cerilli pointed out, Monaco has become a vertically integrated OEM. ”No one else has their own engines,” he said.
Snell noted that the EPA-compliant MaxxForce engine requires no additional effort to operate, unlike some of its EPA-compliant competitors. ”We’ve got a no-hassle, turnkey-type program with this engine,” Snell said. ”This is running in millions of trucks worldwide. Navistar has a great dealer network, a great support system.”
Cerilli, for his part, said the two firms’ cultures have meshed well “in terms of how the two companies approach challenges and opportunities and overall demeanor and cadence of work and the processes.”
“The biggest thing I’ve seen,” he added, “is there has been a really great ‘commonality’ of culture, which has accelerated all of the back-office work we’ve been doing.”
The biggest challenge Monaco RV faced over the past few months, in Snell’s view, was simply getting back into the business of building RVs.
”We weren’t building product for nine months,” he said. ”Our competitors were continuing, but we weren’t. We had to go through this bankruptcy and building up a dealer body and regaining our customers, because we are a new company. In the long run, it’s been great. It’s just been a lot of change for us. When you are trying to restart this business with 800 employees versus 6,000, everyone is doing a lot more.”
Monaco’s second biggest challenge, Snell confided, was rebuilding a dealer network.
”In this downturn, dealers were real conservative, rightfully so,” he observed. ”Now they are seeing their needle move, and they need to grow with the market and now is the best time for them to partner with us.
”When the MaxxForce engine hits the consumer side and they see there is a solution out there that is easier and more user-friendly like we are going to have, they are going to demand it. Those dealers are either going to want to get on board with us or they are going to see someone else capitalize by them not having our products on their lots.”
Lee contended that dealers and consumers are getting past the fact that warranties on Monaco Coach Corp. products were canceled when the company went into bankruptcy.
”That has dissipated as an issue,” Lee said. ”If we didn’t have the opportunity to have Navistar buy us, Monaco Coach Corp. would have been liquidated and all of the customers support and all the parts would have gone away.
”Was (voiding of warranties) a perfect thing?” he asked. “Of course not. but it was better than the alternative. I really believe it was.”