Parliament Coach Corp. announced it has reached a settlement agreement with its largest creditors allowing Parliament Coach to emerge out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization that began on December 30, 2009.
Steve Mitchell, president of the Clearwater, Fla.-based high-end conversion bus builder, stated, “It has been a long year-and-a-half of reorganization. We wish to thank our employees that stayed with us and continued to deliver first rate quality and service to our clients. We also would like to thank all our customers, vendors, and suppliers that stood by us keeping Parliament a viable company. Lastly, we would like to thank our creditors, legal team and the courts for helping us work through and emerge from this difficult time.
Parliament Coach continues to manufacture coaches, remodel clients’ coaches and provide paint and body work through all major insurance providers. The company also expanded its manufacturing operations to include the Mercedes Sprinter while purchasing the intellectual property of Blue Bird Coach Works, giving Parliament all documentation of every Blue Bird Wanderlodge built dating back into the 1960’s.
“Through the efforts of our dedicated employees, Parliament Coach Corp. will continue to progress through this country’s greatest recession by innovation, creativity, diversification and our steadfast commitment to client satisfaction,” said Mitchell.
Stocks are up, executive bonuses are back and Bob Phebus is ready to sell some multimillion-dollar motorhomes.
“The last two years have been terrible for business,” the director of sales and marketing for Marathon Coach Florida told the St. Petersburg Times. “But we just had the best December that I have seen in 17 years. I really think we have turned a corner. I really think the worst is behind us.”
Judging from the turnout at the opening day of the 26th Annual Florida RV SuperShow in Tampa, Phebus may be right.
A steady stream of potential customers from as far away as California and Canada lined up to check out Phebus’ Oregon-built recreational vehicles.
The 45-foot-long 1180 XLV Triple Slide Marathon Coaches retail for anywhere between $2 million and $2.8 million, depending on the optional equipment such as leather seating, hardwood floors or Sub-Zero refrigerators.
But don’t expect any bargains from the San Antonio, Fla., RV dealer. At this year’s SuperShow, inventory is limited, and cash is king.
“We built both of these coaches just for this show,” Phebus said. “But both of them were sold before they even got here.”
In fact, it was a bit of a challenge even getting something to show at this SuperShow. Marathon scaled back production during the recession and concentrated on moving existing inventory.
Before the economic downturn, the company made 55 motorhomes a year. In 2011, Marathon plans to make only 25.
The owners of the two RVs on display at the Florida State Fairgrounds wanted delivery of their vehicles. But Phebus needed the RVs in Tampa.
“This is the largest retail show in the world,” he said. “If you are not here, then you are nobody.”
Phebus hopes to sell several luxury RVs before the show packs up Sunday afternoon.
And the RVs that do sell this weekend won’t be delivered until July or August at the earliest.
“If we have to ramp up production, we will,” Phebus said.
Marathon, one of the top luxury coach builders in the United States, weathered the economic downturn better than most in the industry. Phebus estimated that roughly 50% of RV-related businesses dropped out of the show during the past two years.
“Our industry didn’t get hit as hard as the boating industry,” he said. “We just didn’t have as much inventory. So when the market got bad, we didn’t have as much to move.”
Others, such as Parliament Coach Corp., diversified their operations. The Clearwater-based company specialized in customizing RVs.
“Our most notable project to date was CNN’s coach for the 2008 election,” Parliament Coach president Steve Mitchell said. “All the candidates were on board. We even had Obama playing Wii.”
But when the recession hit, Parliament started repairing, refurbishing and upgrading existing RVs.
“It was tough there for a while,” Mitchell said. “But 2010 was better than 2009, and we expect 2011 to be better than 2010.”
Parliament is back in the custom motorhome business. The company’s latest project is the Mercedes Sprinter, a V-8 diesel van that is turned into a small, luxury motorhome, ideal for weekend getaways. It starts at about $150,000.
“We are optimistic,” Mitchell said. “This could be a good year.”
Dennis Witherow, general manager of Oak Water Village Resort in Ocala, echoed Mitchell’s optimism.
“In our opinion, the high-end market is where you’re going to see the real influx, especially with the Baby Boomer buyer coming in,” Witherow said. “… It’s a home, but it doesn’t come with all of the tariffs or (expenses).”
Dave Kelly, marketing director for the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA), said that if turnout on the opening day of the SuperShow is any indication of things to come, 2011 could be a good year for the industry.
“I think a lot of people are tired of waiting to see what happens with the economy,” he said. “Hopefully, this show might be all some people need to make a move.”
The items included all parts information, wiring schematics, diagrams, blueprints and supplier, vendor and service records.
Coachworks, which shut down production last spring, was not affiliated with school bus manufacturer Blue Bird Corp.
”The importance of retaining this vital information for Blue Bird owners is critical,” said Parliament President Steve Mitchell. ”There are approximately 3,500 Blue Bird Coaches operating through the United States and Canada. I wanted to provide an obvious needed service to these owners and make sure they did not end up as orphans.”
Family-owned Parliament Coach is a manufacturer of high-line coach conversions, specializing in sales, marketing, painting and other services. As a franchised dealer, Mitchell and other family members have been representing Blue Bird since 1978.