Monaco RV LLC, Carriage Inc., Travel Lite Inc., Fleetwood RV Inc. and Newmar Corp. are joining forces to display new products Sept. 19-22 on a 17-acre parcel of land on the northeast corner of U.S. 20 and C.R. 17 during Elkhart County’s 4th Annual RV Open House Week.
In what amounts to a classic case of how the emerging Open House casts industry competitors in unusually cooperative roles, the five adjacent exhibits will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily – and later when necessary — with a joint catered luncheon available 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. all four days, according to Ed Kinney, vice president of sales and marketing for Carriage, who played a pivotal role in organizing the display area.
The five-company exhibit, on the southeast side of Elkhart and a few minutes from the larger Forest River Inc. and Thor Industries Inc. displays, offers easy access, ample parking and close proximity to other manufacturer displays in the area, according to a Thursday (Sept. 1) Monaco release.
“We’re all splitting the costs, which are really low,” says Kinney, adding that there will be well over 100 units on display at the joint exhibit. “Everybody’s in this together.”
Kinney says this corporate cluster results from the experiences of some companies that felt their locations during last year’s Open House were too remote from the daily dealer traffic. Carriage’s management last year hosted dealers at the company’s home plant in Millersburg, a good 20-minute drive south and east of Elkhart.
Monaco’s main plant is in Wakarusa, Ind., while Newmar is in Nappanee, Ind., Travel Lite is based in New Paris, Ind., and Fleetwood is located about an hour’s drive southeast in Decatur, Ind.
There will be a tent set up amid the displays, said Kinney, adding that access to the paved parking area is off of C.R. 17.
“We look forward to bringing our products closer to dealers who will be in the Elkhart area,” noted Monaco’s Mike Snell, senior vice president of sales and product development. “We want it to be effortless for dealers to see our products, to learn about our advantages and connect with our employees and company. The manufacturer-dealer relationship is all about fostering good relationships based on open communication. At the same time, we want to provide the best, most state-of-the-art RVs on the market.”
“We’ll have lunches every day for dealers and visitors,” Kinney added. “We’re just real excited. It’s going to be a great turnout. It’s a nice layout. It’s a perfect piece of property – easy in, easy out, lots of easy parking. So, we’re just thinking of convenience for the dealers. And, you know, we’re three minutes from the Hall of Fame (where Thor will be set up). It doesn’t get better than that.”
Much of Monaco RV’s 1 million-square-foot Coburg, Ore., facility will be idle by early next year when the company transfers its motorhome production to Wakarusa, Ind.
As reported by the Register Guard, Eugene, local economic development officials are working with Monaco’s parent, Chicago-based Navistar International Corp., to see if the transportation equipment giant could use the Coburg property for one of its other divisions.
Navistar makes International brand commercial trucks, school buses, military trucks, concrete mixers and other products.
“It’s still too early in the process to be able to speculate on that,” Navistar spokesman Steve Schrier said.
Jack Roberts, executive director of the Lane Metro Partnership, a business recruitment and retention agency, said he recently phoned Navistar officials offering to work with them to find another use for the Coburg site.
“They’re going to try to look for other potential uses in their divisions,” he said. “They said at the time they didn’t know of any, but they’re going to explore that.”
Roberts said he’s not pinning his hopes on that scenario because the same factors that drove Navistar’s decision to consolidate motorhome manufacturing in the Midwest also would apply to its other products.
“It seems odd to think they would move something out here after consolidating motor home manufacturing in Indiana,” he said.
“That didn’t seem likely, but we didn’t want to foreclose any opportunities.”
If Navistar can’t use the Coburg property itself, it would be attractive to other manufacturers, Roberts said.
“It’s a lot less limited in its use than the Hynix building (in west Eugene), for example, because it’s a large open space and it has a great location right there by I-5,” he said. “It’s a terrific space for a large manufacturer. We just have to find one.”
Inquiries about manufacturing space have picked up a bit this year, but usually in the range of 200,000 square feet, he said.
Roberts said he talked with Navistar a couple of years ago about possibly making some of its other products in Coburg.
“The reaction I got even then is their supply chain is all back there, and it’s a significant expense to try to bring it out here.”
Good news travels fast in this small Indiana community in western Elkhart County.
The Goshen News reported that the morning after Navistar International Corp. announced it would move 400 manufacturing jobs from Oregon to Wakarusa, the town was buzzing with optimism.
As retiree Don Foster walked his Chihuahua down Elkhart Street near the post office Wednesday morning he was excited about the good news.
“I think it is good for the community,” he said. “It is going to put a lot of people back to work. That’s what we need.”
Foster and other town residents are well aware of the long-term economic woes that hit the town when Monaco Coach closed and terminated more than 1,000 people at its Wakarusa plant. Now, this new iteration of Monaco will be adding to the 250 employees producing Class A and Class C motorhomes at the massive complex that dominates the industrial park along Nelson Parkway.
Foster said he has friends who have worked in the recreational vehicle industry.
“Some of them,” he said, “have had a hard time finding work.”
‘That kind of excitement’
Down the street at the Chamber of Commerce, President Deb Shively had already met with her board of directors.
“It’s great news,” she said. “We are excited about that growth. And Utilimaster will be up to 1,000 employees by Labor Day and we feel Wakarusa is going to get back to where it used to be. There is that kind of excitement.”
Utilimaster converts box trucks for parcel delivery companies and a variety of other applications. The company has a joint venture with Isuzu Motors of Japan to build a line of new, light-weight vans and is adding jobs to fill orders.
Wakarusa developed in the 20th century as a hub of manufacturing activity. The small town — with its wide, tree-lined streets and early 20th century homes with large front porches — is bordered by industrial plants to its east. The industrial complexes reach out to Ind. 19 and line that highway to the north and south of C.R. 40.
Besides building RVs, Navistar builds its eStar electric truck in town. Visitors gawk at the site of the quiet electric trucks being test-driven around the town, something the locals have become used to.
“It’s like you are in the space age,” Shively said. “It is two extremes — it’s where small town USA and high-tech meet. It is very cool.”
Monaco and Navistar not only provide jobs to the town’s residents, Shively said, but the companies provide vital financial support for town activities. The companies returned as sponsors of the annual Maple Syrup Festival last year, Shively said.
“It was nice to see that support come back,” she said.
But it is the paychecks and the turn of those dollars from Monaco workers that will boost the local economy the most.
“Hopefully we will get people moving in and they will plug into the community, shopping locally and attending events,” Shively said.
Shane Weldy knows all about the hard hurt the economic downturn has visited upon Wakarusa families. He had been selling insurance for home warranties to local real estate agencies when the recession killed his career. Since then he and his wife, Charlotte, opened The New To You resale shop on Elkhart Street and also work part-time jobs as well to get by.
“Four hundred jobs is a lot,” Weldy said. “If we can get people to move to town it would be great for the community.”
He said people visit his store all the time who say they would like to live in Wakarusa. Now, with jobs being created in town, Weldy believes that will help sell homes.
“It’s definitely going to help the market,” he said.
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Monaco RV LLC will quit making big luxury coaches in Oregon, and that means 450 Lane County workers will be out of a job by early next year.
The Register Guard, Eugene, reported that parent company Navistar International Corp. assembled its Coburg RV plant workers at 1 p.m. Tuesday (Aug. 2) and delivered the long-expected news: To reduce excess manufacturing capacity, Navistar will consolidate its Monaco coach manufacturing at its Indiana plant. That will leave only 150 employees in Coburg.
“One guy was actually clapping,” probably out of frustration, said Barry Phillips, a 30-year-old floor installer at the plant.
The announcement caps years of wildly swinging ups and downs for the local Monaco work force, which already had been winnowed down in recent years from 2,200 to 600.
The employees went from record-breaking production in the mid-2000s to increased furloughs as the recession took hold to a massive layoff in late 2008 to a takeover by Navistar and rehiring with pay cuts — and now to a shutdown of motor coach manufacturing, which means curtains for the welders, cutters, assemblers and painters who worked on the RVs.
Many already have faced foreclosure or bankruptcy.
Lydia Short, 23, has worked at the plant for about a year after moving to Eugene from Indiana. She said she won’t go back to Indiana because her husband is a student at the University of Oregon.
“I’ll look for a job,” she said, “and that’s hard to do in Eugene.”
The layoffs will happen sometime in the next six to nine months, Monaco spokesman Steve Schrier said.
“They will continue making motorhomes here throughout the transition. It will not be a light switch event,” he said. “But at the end of the day, diesel motorhomes will be made at Wakarusa, Ind.”
After Navistar ends RV production here, about 150 workers will remain in Coburg to continue producing towable travel trailers, operate the Monaco RV service center and maintain other finance and information system functions for the company.
Navistar, which also makes trucks and truck engines, is having a good year financially. In the second quarter, its profits soared 86% compared to a year ago, to $80 million on sales of $3.3 billion, company financial statements show.
The departure from Lane County of 450 RV manufacturing jobs will leave only about 450 transportation equipment manufacturing jobs in the county, regional economist Brian Rooney said.
That’s 10% of the jobs the sector had in its 2005 heyday, when about 4,500 workers in Lane County were churning out motorhomes.
Monaco notified Oregon officials a month ago that it would consolidate RV manufacturing either at Coburg or Wakarusa, said Jack Roberts, executive director of Lane Metro Partnership, which recruits businesses.
Lane Metro Partnership, along with the Oregon Economic Development Department and the governor’s office, put together a pitch to persuade Navistar to keep the plant here, Roberts said.
“I’ve heard unofficially that the package we put forward was as good or better than theirs, but the fundamental advantage of being in the Midwest where a lot of their suppliers are — and where their connections are — made the difference,” Roberts said.
Coburg’s loss is Wakarusa’s gain. Economic development officials there were “elated” when the company said it would create 400 new jobs at its consolidated plant by next year.
The loss of the Monaco jobs is another blow for Lane County, where the unemployment rate was 9.4% in July.
The RV manufacturing jobs are part of a dwindling class of employment that pays well and has good benefits but doesn’t require a college degree, Rooney said. The broader community also will miss the Monaco paychecks, he said.
“You take that income out of the economy, it has a multiplier effect but in a negative way,” Rooney said. “Those jobs help support retail and services — and that can affect other services.”
The laid-off Monaco employees will have a struggle to find comparable work.
“The manufacturing that is here has been pretty flat,” Rooney said. “Some (former employees) may have to move out of the area.”
Roberts said he’s not giving up on the RV industry as a job creator in Lane County yet.
The demographics are favorable, Rooney said. Retired baby boomers buy the luxury coaches. The stock market has recovered, some, from its historic lows. And gas prices have receded a bit.
“We would love to be a part of this,” Roberts said. “But if that doesn’t happen, we’ll just have to find something else.”
Indiana’s Elkhart County got the kind of news Tuesday (Aug. 2) that communities dream about, according to a report in the South Bend Tribune.
Navistar International Corp. announced plans to relocate all motor coach manufacturing for Monaco RV LLC from Coburg, Ore., to Wakarusa, creating up to 400 new jobs here by next year.
“We are elated,” said Dorinda Heiden-Guss, president of the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County.
“It’s terrific for the whole region,” said Phil Penn, president and chief executive of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce.
The jobs are mostly assembly-line production with employees earning $15 an hour or more, Heiden-Guss said.
Heiden-Guss said there were several reasons why Wakarusa was selected.
“I think Gov. Daniels and Secretary of Commerce Mitch Roob have worked very hard for the last couple years on consolidation projects to take place in Indiana because companies clearly, because of the market, are shrinking their product footprint. So when consolidations occur, normally our state is a contender for those projects.”
The logistics of Wakarusa and Elkhart County being so close to the Toll Road was another factor, she said.
“And thirdly, the supplier base and what already exists in Elkhart County as well as within the Michiana region,” she said. “From a cost of doing business, Indiana looks great.”
The fact that the company already employed 251 workers in Wakarusa did not hurt it, either, Heiden-Guss said. “They have a number of structures in Wakarusa that are not currently being used in full capacity,” she said.
Another factor was incentives given by the state of Indiana, which included offering Monaco up to $2.8 million in performance-based tax credits and up to $125,000 in training grants based on the company’s job creation plans, according to figures in a release by the Indiana Economic Development Corp.
“It’s a given in today’s society,” Heiden-Guss said. “Anytime you can offset the initial burden of cost for a company, you do what you can.”
Wakarusa’s big break was in stark contrast to places like Coburg where 450 workers will be impacted by the move. Navistar also announced that it would be shutting down Workhorse Custom Chassis LLC operations in Union City, Ind., affecting 225 employees, along with a Chatham, Ontario, truck manufacturing facility that has been idled since June 2009.
“We are trying to make the best use of our capacity and assets,” said Karen Denning, a company spokeswoman.
Tuesday’s announcement comes a little more than three years after Monaco Coach, which eventually went bankrupt with its assets being purchased by Navistar, announced in July 2008 that it was cutting 1,400 from its work force besides the 500 it had cut earlier that year.
Monaco RV, owned by Navistar since 2009, manufactures RVs under brand names Holiday Rambler, Monaco Coach, Beaver, Safari, McKenzie and R-Vision, and utilizes some of the same facilities that Monaco Coach used for years in Wakarusa.
Monaco RV will invest more than $1 million to bring the additional production to Wakarusa.
“These folks live all over the place, they shop all over the place,” Penn said. “We’re a mobile society. It’s good for the whole region.”
Kay Toolson, who will officially step down July 1 as president of Monaco RV LLC, delivered a parting speech to the company’s dealer body during the June 20-22 Dealer Congress 2011 at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine, Texas.
Toolson first assured attendees, representing 68 of the Coburg, Ore.-based company’s dealers, that he was leaving operations in capable hands. Bill Osborne, a 30-plus year veteran of the auto industry, will take over for Toolson in July, assuming the role of vice president of custom products for Navistar Inc.’s Monaco and Workhorse Custom Chassis LLC subsidiaries.
“Bill will be an asset in working with the rest of the management team to ensure Monaco RV continues to flourish and grow well into the future,” Toolson said. “We will redouble our efforts to ensure that Monaco RV is the best partner to all of you – both with motorized and towable products, as well as service and parts.”
Although, he will be transitioning into retirement – “there are lots of golf courses I haven’t played and so many fish left to catch” – Toolson indicated that he would still be involved with Monaco in a part-time capacity.
“I’m not going to say goodbye,” he said. “I’m still going to be around, doing a few things where I can be of help to the Monaco and Navistar teams. I will look forward to running into you down the road.”
Looking back, the Smithville, Utah, native recapped the highlights of a career in the RV industry that began in 1972 and culminated with a 25-year run as the head of Monaco Coach Corp. The company fell victim to the economy in March 2009 and was purchased out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy later that year by Navistar.
“When I started out, I was in Dallas and I heard about this company, Redman Industries, that was looking to get into the RV industry,” he said. “They offered me a job as product manager. My wife and I moved to Southern California and I started Redman in the motorhome business.”
Toolson spent a couple of years at Redman, “enduring the 1973 gas crisis,” before joining Michigan General, which owned King’s Highway Mobile Industries in Los Angeles.
“I spent eight years there, mainly because I liked working with high-line products,” Toolson said. “Then came a chance to buy into (Anaheim, Calif.-based) Executive Industries as a minority owner. I was there for four years, when I got the opportunity to go to Oregon with some backers and buy Monaco. That was in 1986.
“Monaco had 67 employees, it did $13 million in business and it was losing money. Over the next decade or so, we built the company to $1.4 billion in annual revenue, and of course, saw a lot of success.”
Toolson emphasized that over the years, the company’s dealers played a large role in attaining that success.
“We grew and flourished together, and I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed building relationships with so many of you in this room,” he said. “Over the years we’ve become friends, and I thank you for that friendship and support.”
Monaco RV LLC, a manufacturer of motorized and towable recreational vehicles, celebrated with American RV at an Open House held June 3.
The event, held at the dealer’s Grand Rapids, Mich., location, included a look at new Monaco products, prize drawings and a presentation by Mike Snell, senior vice president of sales and product development for Monaco. In attendance were six executives from Monaco, a representative from the Navistar Engine Group, and American RV staff, who greeted and answered questions from over 75 customers.
“American RV is a family-run, outstanding organization that puts customer service first,” said Snell. “Our 10-month partnership with American RV has been one of mutual respect, built on a commitment to bring the best recreational vehicles to customers.
“American RV has demonstrated in a short time, the qualities that make it an outstanding dealership; a knowledgeable, well-organized sales and management team, unequalled customer service and highly trained certified technicians and parts staff with belief that the customer comes first. Monaco RV is honored to have American RV as a dealer partner.”
John Monterusso, American RV motorhome sales manager, noted, “From its innovative Monaco Vesta to being the only RV manufacturer building diesel motorhomes that do not require DEF/Urea additives, I find Monaco RV is setting an industry standard with its Monaco Class A motorhome lineup that is very hard to beat. At American RV, we want all our customers to get behind the wheel and take a drive before they make the purchase. This is different from the average dealership standard. Driving a Monaco with the out-mounted air system defiantly sets it apart from the competition.”
He added, “The support and cooperation from the entire Monaco executive team has been a great experience. I am looking forward to continued success and growth. With Navistar being a company that has experience in building engines, trucks, military vehicles as well as many other venues, the quality control implemented into the Monaco RV line will set it head and shoulders above the competition.”
American RV is a premier dealer of new, used and rental RV’s, offering an expansive inventory selection and showroom. With a 17-bay modern service facility staffed by factory-trained, RVDA/RVIA/ASA master certified and state-licensed technicians, the dealership also boasts a state-of-the-art research and special order parts department, overnight on-site parking and sanitation facilities.
Coburg, Ore.-based Monaco RV LLC, manufacturer of motorized and towable recreational vehicles, announces the hiring of Michael Moran as regional sales representative for the Holiday Rambler motorized division.
Moran has an extensive career in the RV industry, with 30 years training dealers in the aftermarket segment with A & E Systems and OEM representation in both towables and motorhome. The past three years were spent at two of the largest RV retailers in the U.S., Las Mesa RV and McMahon’s RV.
“Michael adds even more passion to our sales team with his product knowledge and training skills. We were glad to get him on board prior to our upcoming Dealer Congress and new product showing,” stated Scott Jacobson, national sales manager for Holiday Rambler.
“It is an honor to become part of a dynamic organization, that being Navistar,” said Moran. “It is a testament to our industry when multi-billion dollar company makes a massive, long term commitment to the RV customer. Imagine one company providing the chassis, engine and complete body for the motor home. This will truly be a highly prized product line for dealers.”
Moran will be managing sales for Holiday Rambler motorized products for California, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico.
Seated on a couch in a Holiday Rambler Trip Class A motorhome at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds in Goshen, Ind., William L. “Bill” Osborne, the incoming head of Monaco RV LLC, seemed at ease – considering all that was going on around him during the Holiday Rambler Recreational Vehicle Club Chapter 419 annual rally and the fact that he’d only been named to the job three days prior.
The rally, which took place April 30-May 5, drew 280 member coaches. Just as important for Osborne, who on July 1 officially succeeds Monaco President Kay L. Toolson in overseeing the Coburg, Ore.-based RV builder as vice president of custom products for Navistar Inc.’s Truck Group in Warrenville, Ill., is that he got a chance to mix with scores of Monaco and Holiday Rambler coach owners in a relaxed atmosphere.
And that’s a real plus for Osborne, who’s based at Navistar’s Chicago-area corporate facilities and whose new responsibilities also include Workhorse Custom Chassis, because he’s convinced that product innovation is the key to winning favor among North America’s towable and motorized dealers and consumers. And he knows that cutting-edge innovation depends heavily on input from consumers, who aren’t generally timid about telling RV builders how they feel about floorplans and design.
Fact is, Osborne, whose company had purchased Monaco out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy two years ago, seemed ready to roll up his sleeves and get down to the work of designing, building and selling RVs in a commercial sector that’s not all that different in certain ways from the auto and truck industry he came from.
A mechanical engineering graduate of Kettering University with an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago, Osborne, 51, spent more than 30 years at Chrysler, General Motors and Ford Motor Co., most of it in product development and manufacturing. After serving as president and CEO of Ford of Canada and president and CEO of Ford of Australia, he worked as president and CEO of Federal Signal and, later, as a Navistar director – a seat he gave up in order to accept his new position.
Osborne, for his part, seems acutely aware of the fact that he’s replacing a virtual industry legend in July shortly after Monaco’s June 20-22 Dealer Congress in Grapevine, Texas. Indeed, the retiring Toolson is a respected industry executive who made a name for himself at Kings Highway Mobile Industries, Executive Industries and Oregon’s Monaco Coach Corp. before assuming the presidency of Monaco RV LLC after its buyout by Navistar.
Osborne says Toolson, who built Monaco Coach from a $17 million specialty RV builder into a $1.4-billion-a-year public company before it hit tough times in the recession, will be doing some special projects for Navistar and will remain a viable factor for Navistar’s management team. “He’ll be on my speed dial,” says Osborne, whose remarks are as follows:
RVB: Glancing at your resume, Bill, you appear to be a product-oriented guy, which could be a good thing for Navistar’s Monaco unit.
Osborne: “Yeah, I’ve developed products. I launched the 2004 F150 (Ford pickup). That was probably the biggest product program that I had, and I spent a lot of time in the truck business at Ford. So, I know a little bit about commercial trucks and a little bit about the RV industry because I had Ford’s strip chassis for motorhomes under my responsibility while I was there.
RVB: You’re stepping into a position that essentially succeeds Kay Toolson, a veteran industry figure, even though the title and responsibilities are a little different.
Osborne: Yes, Kay was specifically focused on Monaco RV, and I obviously have the Workhorse brand under my responsibility. But clearly, the bigger of the two units is the RV business, and that’s where I’ll be spending a lot of my time.
RVB: What’s your perception of this industry in general and the Monaco brand in particular now under the Navistar umbrella, a couple of years after the Great Recession took the predecessor company down?
Osborne: “Well, the industry is a pretty strong industry, and I’m talking in terms of brand loyalty, in terms of passionate customers. I mean I’ve never seen an industry where the customers are so passionate about their brands, you know? And part of the ownership experience is not just the product itself, but the affiliation of owners. That is a huge, huge difference between most consumer product-based companies.
So, it’s an industry where you’ve got to be very, very responsive to customers. You know, for one thing, it’s a big purchase for most people. And you can’t put a product out there and sort of leave people with it. I mean, you’ve got to be with them throughout the entire ownership and service experience, and you’ve got to listen to them because they’re very passionate about the products.
I mean, sitting here at this rally, I got great product feedback from owners about every little feature of the coach. This kind of passion is what you rely on as a manufacturer to make your product better.
RVB: We hear that you sat in on some owner seminars?
Osborne: Yeah, we had an ownership group meeting. We had a men-only meeting and a women-only meeting, and they were both very eye opening. And, again, the passion for the brand is something that is huge, and that is something that we want to capitalize on. And the best way to do that is to get closer to customers. We talked a lot about how we can bring customers into our design process so they can help us make the product a lot better.
The thing I liked was that the feedback we got was probably feedback we should have had while we were designing the coach. And that’s what we plan to do is bring the customers into our process and get their voice a lot earlier so that we could really make a coach that meets their needs.
RVB: We assume that your automotive background will play into your hands in the RV business?
Osborne: What’s clear to me is that, if you look at the history of the RV industry, a lot of the companies were very entrepreneurial. You know, they’re operations run by individual founders, and they grew and developed over time. And so a lot of these small companies didn’t have the process and structure that you need to build good quality (products) time after time.
At the same time, the RV industry doesn’t have captive dealer networks. So, you can’t control the service and ownership experience like you can in the auto industry.
So, one of the things I think I can bring to this company from 31 years in the auto industry is a knowledge of quality systems, how to design for service and how to engineer systems so that it all works well together. I want to bring some of those disciplines, lean manufacturing, quality control, into our business and raise the standards and raise the customer’s expectation of quality and what they should expect from a coach.
And I think with Navistar’s resources, we can do that. Navistar’s a great company. It’s a $15 billion company with experts in design and lean manufacturing. We can use all that expertise to distinguish ourselves in the industry. And that’s something that I think bodes well for our future. I think that we’ll raise the standards of quality in the industry.”
RVB: Are you prepared to address product directions at this point and where would you like to see things go in the future in terms of product design?
Osborne: Well, I don’t want to reveal anything that would be useful to competitors, but I can tell you that I think one of the most important things to be successful in this industry is innovation – that what drives new sales and ownership is for people to see new features and functions that they haven’t seen before.
And so I believe that it’s going to be important for both the Holiday Rambler and Monaco brand to be known for a constant stream of innovation – to create new features and new products that excite people and make them want to trade up for a new coach.
RVB: Is this downsize Vesta Class A emblematic of the kinds of products we’re going to see from Monaco in the future?
Osborne: Well, we heard that today when we talked with a number of our customers. You know, we asked them specifically if they were planning to trade down in terms of length. And a huge number of them said “yes,” that they’re using their motorhomes differently now, that they’re getting a little bit older and don’t need as much space. Fuel economy is obviously becoming a lot more important to them.
Over the long haul, our plan is to be there where our customers are going. I always rely on that Wayne Gretzy quote: You know, “don’t skate to where the puck is. Skate to where the puck’s going to be.” There’s a lot we can draw from these conversations.
RVB: So, while total industry motorhome shipments as a percent of the whole have slipped some in recent years, you clearly see Monaco as one of the long-term players in the motorized category, right?
Osborne: We have to be. You know, I came here to help grow the motorcoach business, and we have very strong brands in Holiday Rambler and Monaco, and we plan to invest in both of those brands. Both brands will have a full product lineup. Both brands will have marketing support from the company, and both brands will build at excellent quality levels. And we think that’s kind of the recipe for success in the industry. Developing a strong service network and getting close to customers are also going to be, you know, how we distinguish ourselves.
RVB: This, it seems, is the kind of approach that dealers, traditionally, would approve of.
Osborne: Well, when you don’t have captive dealers, what’s important is to have killer product because that’s what pulls sales through the dealers, right? So, that’s why we talk about a constant stream of innovation. Nothing pulls sales through the dealer channel like a killer product that people just can’t resist. If people come in and ask for a Holiday Rambler or a Monaco, that’s what’s going to drive dealers to stock up. In an industry where you don’t have captive dealers, it’s all about killer product.
RVB: And you’ll be managing Monaco, a company with key plants in Oregon and Indiana, from the west Chicago suburbs?
Osborne: Yes. Working out the corporate headquarters will enable me to be a strong voice for Monaco within the corporation. You know, the big competitive advantage that we have is we have the resources and expertise of a Fortune 500 company that we can draw on, and my goal is to make sure that we bring all those resources to bear to make our company successful. That being said, I’m going to be out talking to customers. I’m going to be out in the operations. I’m not going to be doing the job from Chicago. But my goal is to make sure that I bring forth all of the resources that Navistar has.
Navistar Inc. announced today (May 3) that William H. Osborne has been named vice president of custom products. In this role, Osborne will have accountability for Navistar’s Monaco RV and Workhorse business units, according to a news release.
Osborne was appointed to Navistar’s board of directors in September 2009 and was a member of the board’s finance committee. He resigned his board position to assume his new role.
Osborne was previously president and CEO of Federal Signal Corp. and a veteran automotive industry executive.
“We are fortunate to have Bill join our team and apply his knowledge of the industry to our business,” said Daniel C. Ustian, Navistar chairman, president and CEO. “As a former member of Navistar’s board of directors, Bill has unique insights into our company. His manufacturing and automotive experience and expertise will be of great value to Navistar as we continue to diversify and expand globally into new marketplaces.”
Osborne, 51, spent more than 30 years in the automotive industry. Prior to joining Federal Signal in September 2008, Osborne served in a number of senior-level positions with Ford Motor Co., most recently as president and CEO of Ford of Australia. Previously, he served as president and CEO of Ford of Canada. Osborne’s earlier assignments included a variety of roles in product design, development and engineering. Before his career at Ford, Osborne held positions at Chrysler and General Motors.
Osborne holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Kettering University, a master’s degree in engineering from Wayne State University and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago.