Oklahoma-based Newell Coach Corp. is ”freshening” the look of it’s 2011 ultra high-end custom-made motorcoach for the first time since the 2006 model year with upgrades to the Newell’s front caps, rear-body trim, taillights and interior decor.
”It’s a refinement, an update,” said President Karl Blade. ”We wanted to bring a fresh product to the marketplace for those people who follow big coaches. The changes are distinctive, but not radical.”
The 2011 modifications include bright-white ”string-of-pearl” LED running lights that outline the outer edges of the headlights and redesigned side moldings. Interiors feature wood windowsill trim bordered with seamed-leather, carbon-fiber instrument panels and automated air conditioning and heating.
The first 2011 Newell came off the production line in mid-January and debuts Feb. 12-13 during the grand opening of Signature Resorts’ new Naples (Fla.) Motorcoach Resort.
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 currently employs 150 people at a 150,00-square-foot factory that includes 40,000 square feet of service area manned by 20 technicians.
Newell motorcoaches usually retail upward of $1.4 million factory-direct sales from the company’s headquarters in Miami, Okla.
Along with the rest of the American economy, the e niche Newell occupies appears to be exiting the economic maelstrom that has enveloped the RV industry for the last two years.
”The market definitely is coming back,” Blade said. 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.”
Among the casualties of the recession were Coachworks Holdings Inc., converter of the high-end Blue Bird motorcoach, and Country Coach Holdings Inc., Junction City, Ore.
”There have been big changes in the conversion industry,” Blade said.
Newell entered the recession with little inventory, and all of its 2009 and 2010 coaches have been sold. ”That is allowing us to put fresh 2011 product out there that no other (consumer) has,” Blade said.
Typically, Newell will take a two- or three-year-old Newell in trade and refurbish it for 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.”
While Newell builds motorcoches in 38- to 45-foot lengths on its own custom-built 63,300-pound GVWR diesel-pusher chassis powered by a 650-hp Cummins ISX engine, most customers order 45-footers. All coaches are custom-designed and can take up to nine months to build.
”Ninety percent of our product is 45-footers,” he said. ”The price savings aren’t significant if you build a smaller coach. And people won’t buy small stuff unless they can save a lot of money.”
Selling expensive motorcoachs requires a personal approach to marketing and that’s among the reasons Blade is spending 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 might not have considered buying a coach factory-direct.
”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 expanding the market dramatically for us. We are almost out of pre-owned.”
Randall Henderson, president of Nashville, Tenn.-based Signature Resorts, says the Feb. 12-13 grand opening of Signature’s second upscale resort, in Naples, Fla., sends a message to the industry and the American Class A motorhome enthusiast that good things are still happening in the high-end resort market.
“We think it’s time to start looking positive again,” Henderson told RVBUSINESS.com. “I mean, we’ve all had the same experience of shrinkage. But at some point, recovery has to start and someone has to recognize it. And we’re glad to recognize it. We think it’s here, and we’d just as soon lead off by adding some new facilities to the marketplace.”
Henderson, the founder and former president of upscale Outdoor Resorts, has been working diligently of late to reestablish Signature Resorts, previously a unit of Monaco Coach Corp., as a stand-alone brand under the 50/50 ownership of Morgan RV Resorts, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and Sunland RV Resorts, La Jolla, Calif., respectively. Signature’s new owners purchased the company’s assets after Monaco’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Signature currently has two resorts, 125-site Signature Resorts at Bay Harbor, Bay Harbor, Mich., and the new 184-site Naples Motorcoach Resort, which opened its doors on Jan. 4 to both purchasing and renting customers. Twenty-six of those sites are canal frontage, and 32 boat storage sites are available.
“This is one of the first motorcoach resort openings in a long while,” says Henderson. “You know, it’s on the water, which is unique down here – to be on a navigable waterway out to the Gulf of Mexico. We’ve got three swimming pools with hot tubs; that’s a lot of amenities for 184 sites, a smaller property. We’ve got a great clubhouse with card and billiard rooms and a home theater and a full-size health club. If I do say so, it’s the nicest facility that’s been built east of the Rocky Mountains in this country. I mean, it’s the Ritz-Carlton of RV resorts when you take into account the physical plant and the location. The amenities are simply nicer than anything that’s been built.”
Henderson says a good representation of industry people, from manufacturers to association execs and area dealers, are expected to attend the grand opening, which is to include a motorhome display, including a $2.2 million Liberty custom coach and the formal rollout of the redesigned high-end Newell coach.
Henderson says the resort will always retain a certain percentage of short-haul rental sites for overnight travelers in addition to the sites that are sold to long-term buyers because it’s a great way to market and remarket the facility’s sites, giving potential customers a first-hand look at the Florida resort.
So, renters will always be welcome. “That’s a norm,” he added. “We don’t really ever expect someone to just drive in and buy something. We expect them to utilize it and determine whether or not they like the area, whether or not they want to stay for extended periods, whether or not they like our services. You know, it isn’t just a matter of a good location or quality amenities any longer. It’s a matter of good services, which the hotel business has had to deal with for a long time now.”
The Signature resorts are in Naples, Fla., and Bar Harbor, Maine.
Morgan RV Resorts is the country’s largest privately owned RV park corporation. Morgan’s 41 RV resorts in 14 states offer RV owners camping and recreation facilities with over 17,000 lots in diverse locations such as the Adirondacks, the Chesapeake Bay, Cape Cod and the Florida Keys.
Sunland RV Resorts currently owns and operates seven RV resorts in Southern California which includes Golden Village Palms RV Resort, California’s largest and RV Resort Five of Sunland RV Resorts are strategically located in San Diego.
In announcing the Signature Resorts acquisition, Morgan RV Resorts co-owner Bob Moser and Sunland RV Resorts President Reza Paydar said they are excited to add this top of the line group of RV resorts to their portfolio.
“Signature Resorts is and has been the unmatched leader in RV living in America. Their properties have no equal in beauty, recreation and luxury living for Class A coach owners. They are the five-star choice in the field,” the new owners stated in a press release.
E. Randall Henderson Jr. will continue as president of the new Signature Resorts, a position he has held since 2004.
“With the Sunland and Morgan partnership, we are now expanding the Signature Resorts brand with the experience, resources and the team to set a new standard for luxury. Signature Resorts will serve those owners who demand the very finest in luxury RV living,” said Henderson, who pioneered luxury RV condominium ownership and has developed 23 RV resorts in 12 states and Mexico over the past 25 years.