A sprawling RV service center in Wildwood, Fla., built in 2003 near the junction of I-75 and the Florida Turnpike by now-bankrupt Monaco Coach Corp., has become a full-service motorized and towable RV dealership.
Alliance Coach Inc. opened in September under new ownership — 10 days after the 62,000-square-foot service center went on the auction block during Monaco Coach Corp’s. Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.
”When Monaco built this, they needed a factory service center on the Eastern Seaboard,” said Cy Whisnant, Alliance Coach general sales manager, who for 15 years was vice president of Tennessee-based Buddy Gregg Motorhomes overseeing that company’s sales operation in Lakeland, Fla., until it closed.
The new owners are Brett Howard and Carolyn Champion, who had operated the facility as Monaco employees, and Holiday Rambler motorhome owner Alan Shapiro, all of whom teamed up to bid on the property.
”With his help, they bought the entire facility and the ground around it and formed an alliance, hence the name,” Whisnant said. ”Over $1 million in parts came with the building.”
The facility sits on 30 acres and has 40 indoor and 26 outdoor service bays along with a 40-site campground.
Alliance Coach initially operated as a service center. But the company in December took on the Monaco McKenzie and R-Vision towable lines from Monaco RV Inc., a new company created when certain Monaco Coach assets were purchased by Chicago-based truck and engine builder Navistar International Inc.
Alliance Coach later obtained the local Holiday Rambler and Monaco motorized franchises, and expects the first shipment of Monaco motorhomes to be delivered by early July. More recently, the dealership added Holiday Rambler towable brands.
Currently, Alliance Coach has $1.8 million in Monaco RV motorized and towable inventory, and in addition to new models, also is selling used RVs, some on consignment.
Alliance’s sales department is open six days a week, while the service center, headed by Michael Hawkins, operates Monday through Friday. Dennis Burke will join the company as F&I manager on Monday.
Currently, Alliance Coach will service any brand of motorhome or towable RV and is certified to provide warranty work on Tiffin motorhomes and Workhorse and Spartan chassis.
As a service center that can do collision repair, Alliance Coach also has its own metal fabrication, woodworking and upholstery shops in addition to two 65-foot paint booths. Alliance Coach employs 35 people, 25 of whom are service technicians.
”It’s incredible what we can do here,” Whisnant said. ”We can do everything here for an RV but build them.”
And good fortune came quickly, he reported.
”Since the day they opened here, it’s just been absolutely packed,” Whisnant said. ”And here it is in the middle of summer, which isn’t the high season in Florida, and the shop is nearly full.”
Since Alliance Coach opened as a Monaco RV dealership in March, business has steadily increased, Whisnant said, with floorplan and retail financing arranged through Bank of America.
”Sales have been picking up and we are seeing people putting more significant amounts of money down to get financing in place and a lot of cash buyers have been coming in who don’t need any financing whatsoever,” Whisnant said. ”Right now, we are exclusively Monaco RV, but we are leaving our options open.”
Alliance Coach plans an open house Friday and Saturday (July 2-3). An updated website — www.alliancecoachonline.com — will be completed by the end of July.
Mike Thompson’s RV Super Stores Tuesday (Nov. 3) opened a fourth location in Cathedral City, Calif., about 130 miles east of its flagship dealership in Santa Fe Springs southeast of Los Angeles.
“It’s kind of exciting that for the first time in a year and a half, we are hiring people instead of laying them off,” said Mark Rosenbaum, Mike Thompson’s sales director.
Mike Thompson’s, which also operates stores in Colton and Fountain Valley, Calif., has hired about 25 people to staff the new dealership featuring an outdoor display area on two acres.
“We’ve moved into the Palm Desert area to capture some of the Snow Bird market — the people from the East Coast, Midwest and Northwest who come to the sunny areas during winter months,” Rosenbaum said. “There was inventory sitting on the ground as of Tuesday. Five customers showed up while we were setting up.”
Rosenbaum said Mike Thompson’s will market heavily to RV owners occupying Palm Desert-area RV campgrounds and resorts with which the dealership already has made contact.
The dealership, Rosenbaum said, will establish temporary displays at several local campgrounds. “The local campgrounds have been absolutely the best you could possibly ask for,” Rosenbaum said. “They’re looking forward to a dealer being involved in the market out here.
”We will be visiting the campgrounds with units and we will have get-togethers for the campers. Word-of-mounth is the most important marketing we can do.”
Having recently added Tiffin motorhomes to its inventory, Mike Thompson’s also retails Itasca, Fleetwood Bounder and Bounder Classic, Forest River Georgetown, Damon, CT Coachworks and Four Winds motorhomes and Keystone towable RVs.
The new store’s split will be about 50/50 between motorhomes and towables, although Rosenbaum said that ”trailers will probably grow more.”
Rosenbaum credited Mike Thompson’s 97% customer satisfaction rating — measured by an independent research company — as generating the business to expand during economically challenging times.
”Our customer service index is pretty strong so we have some very strong customer loyalty,” he said.
Tiffin Motor Homes Inc. has weathered the rocky market conditions well, positioning Tiffin as an even stronger competitor among the remaining top Class A manufacturers.
“Tiffin Motor Homes will not be the same company coming out of the economic downturn as it was a year ago,” said General Manager Tim Tiffin in a press release. “We have taken advantage of the market picture and continued to pay very close attention to our customers. You will see more dynamic product development, even closer working relationships with our dealers and an unrivaled commitment to customer service.”
With adjustments for some former options that are now standard features, Tiffin’s MSRPs remain at 2009 model levels.
Tiffin received one of only four coveted Quality Circle Awards presented by the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) to Class A manufacturers in 2008 for design, reliability, quality, value and competitive price.
Tiffin has earned the Quality Circle Award 10 of the 13 years it has been presented by the RVDA in connection with its Dealer Satisfaction Index. The 2008 survey included 2,547 brand ratings from 468 dealers.
In addition to the consumer-related categories of the survey, Tiffin also was recognized with the Quality Circle Award for exemplary warranty, parts, sales and communications support to dealerships.