National Bus Trader magazine’s “Annual Coach Trends Survey” of North America’s bus industry indicates that bus production – including new shells for motorhome conversions or for executive and entertainer coaches – has slipped for the fourth year in a row.
Total 2010 sales amounted to 1,276 coaches, down 378 — or 22.9% — from 2009, which is still 144 coaches higher than the bus arena’s lowest recorded annual number of 1,132 in 1991.
This is attributable to lower converted bus shell sales – down to 71 in 2010 — as well as reduced public and private sector sales.
The survey, covering MCI Prevost Car, Van Hool, Setra and Trident coaches – and the defunct Eagle, Neoplan and LAG brands – identifies “a new era of fuel conservation and energy awareness” among some manufacturers. It also speaks to an era in which refurbishing older units has taken a higher priority as bus builders push vehicles into the multi-million-mile range.
“Decades ago our industry was more involved with pre-owned coaches,” says National Bus Trader. “New companies usually started with pre-owned coaches and many established companies kept older coaches in their fleet so they could offer economical charter rates when called for.
“Much of this changed in the 1990s when our industry began moving toward the new 45-foot coaches length,” the survey report continued. “Since there were no pre-owned 45-foot coaches on the market, any operator who wished to move up to the new length was forced to purchase new coaches. This is a major reason why the industry hit a record high with new coach sales in 1998.
“Today, this trend is reversing and some bus operators are moving away from purchasing new coaches and toward pre-owned and refurbishing. There are several reasons for this including the economy, integral coach construction and a move to new technology.
“With the tight economy, many operators are looking for ways to save money on equipment. Being pre-owned or having coaches refurbished keeps equipment costs down while still being able to maintain or increase fleet size.”
The report also points to the following conclusions:
- Almost all of the coaches in this survey (96.6%) were 102 inches wide.
- While a coach length of 45 feet continues to be the preferred size with a market share of 96.6%, the number of 35- and 40-foot coaches increased in both sales and market share from 2009 to 2010.
- Imported coaches grew in market share to 26.1% in 2010.
- The number of automatic stick-shift coaches declined to 10.6% of the market.
- Although up in recent months, sales into Canada declined back to a more traditional level of 9.6% of the market in 2010.
An entire city of motorcoaches has popped up in the parking lot of the Doyt Perry Football Stadium at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, this week for the biggest exhibition of its kind in the country.
Some 2,600 RVs from across the United States and even Canada are parked there attracting 10,000 people, according to WTOL-TV, Toledo.
They’re here for the 82nd Annual Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) Convention.
What’s the attraction of hitting the road in one of these gas guzzlers — some of which come with a price tag of $2 million?
The freedom of it. The camaraderie, say the RV owners.
Given the bad economic times and high diesel prices one would think this would be the worst of times for the RV industry.
But a University of Michigan survey shows one in 12 households owns one.
Still, owners have had to curtail travel plans because of the ongoing recession.
“We feel that people are still going out. They are still traveling,” says FMCA’s Robbin Gould. “They take a few less trips a year out there. Still enjoy their motorhome.”
Jim Evans has owned eight RVs in the last 30 years.
“We have a washer/drier. I have an in-motion satellite TV. We can watch 150 stations while driving down the road. My wife watches it,” says Evans. “Believe it or not, I’m getting about 12 miles to the gallon on a good day. Get an honest 10 all the time.”
But Evans believes an RV is a good deal no matter what’s happening with the economy or gas prices.
He says you can go anywhere on the cheap because you never eat out and don’t pay for airline tickets and hotel rooms.
“I worked all my life, very hard,” says Evans. “We enjoy doing things now that we’re retired.”
And those retirement years now involve spending five months a year in an RV — no matter what the price.
Foretravel Motorhomes Inc., which recently entered the high-end horse trailer conversion industry, has added world champion barrel racer Charmayne James to its growing list of western celebrity endorsements.
James is the 11-time Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) Barrel-Racing World Champion, holds the title of All Time Leading Money Earner in the WPRA and has competed at the most consecutive National Finals Rodeos than any other barrel-racer.
She developed her skills as a young horse trainer by training her future champion “Scamper” to barrel-race and went on to turn pro at the age of 14. James and Scamper continued to amaze the rodeo world with a string of wins and championships no cowgirl has yet to surpass. She and Scamper even won their 1985 NFR event bridle-less (by accident.) Later they both were inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and National Cowgirl Hall of Fame respectively.
She joins a list of celebrities affiliated with the Nacogdoches, Texas-based manufacturer that includes six-time All Around Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) World Champion Cowboy Trevor Brazile, PRCA World Champion Team Roper Patrick Smith and PRCA rodeo announcer Mike Mathis.
Foretravel sees this addition as a major achievement toward its future success in the conversion industry to help achieve its goals in this highly competitive and expanding marketplace.
“When it comes to craftsmanship, service and expertise, Foretravel conversions will reshape the horse trailer industry,” said James. “The quality and attention to detail that goes into each motorcoach and living quarters trailer conversion will provide a new level that the trailer industry has not seen. After getting to know the folks at Foretravel and their operation, I’m happy to be involved with their products.”
According to Greg Amys, Foretravel president, “We recognize Charmayne’s accomplishments and influence with women across the spectrum of the horse world. She brings with her the love and respect from a lifetime of success and honesty toward her fans and her horses. She actually cares more for her horse’s well-being than for her own and many women share that quality with her.”
Foretravel Motorhomes Inc., Nacogdoches, Texas, announced it has entered into a partnership with National Ropers Supply (NRS) to offer Foretravel conversions to its expanding customer base.
NRS was launched in 1994 selling ropes, saddles, tack, clothing and home accessories to the western market. It recently entered the horse trailer business through a merger with Mike and Shary Henderson of Bonded Trailers Sales from Denton, Texas. The resulting partnership is called NRS Trailers.
NRS is the official catalog for the United States Team Roping Championship, World Barrel Racing Productions, World Team Roping Productions and Texas High School Rodeo Association.
According to Greg Amys, Foretravel president and CEO, “NRS offers a unique opportunity to expand our 40-plus years of quality craftsmanship and fit & finish to the broad customer base of NRS. This new relationship creates a synergy that enables us to offer one of the newest and most exciting products to come along in the living quarters conversion market. With the help of NRS, we’re confident this will be a very successful business relationship.”
According to NRS founder and CEO, David Isham, “Foretravel is going to be the next big thing in the horse trailer industry. We see their success in the motorcoach industry and are excited to offer this quality to our customers.”