AMP Holding Inc., through a newly formed subsidiary, Amp Trucks Inc., has completed the acquisition of the Workhorse brand, logo, IP, patents and assembly plant from Workhorse Custom Chassis LLC, a wholly owned affiliate of Navistar International Corp. and has today (March 14) taken possession of the assembly plant.
The Union City, Ind., assembly plant has the capacity to produce up to 30,000 chassis per year. AMP plans to produce step-ans and other vehicle types for the North American medium-duty, commercial truck market at the facility.
AMP will manufacture its all-electric Workhorse chassis along with gasoline-powered, and alternative-fuel powered models and will be sold and supported through the existing Workhorse network of 440 dealers. This acquisition positions AMP as the first truck OEM in the United States to offer medium-duty commercial-grade electric, gasoline, propane, hybrid and CNG vehicles.
AMP Chairman Jim Taylor said, “We look forward to owning Workhorse, a highly respected brand, and having the opportunity to install our electric power train in a well-proven chassis and, at the same time, continuing to satisfy the needs of long-standing Workhorse customers.”
Workhorse Custom Chassis is going out of business and is due to shut down in October, though Navistar International Corp., its owner since 2005, is saying little about it.
According to a report on Truckinginfo.com, spokesman Steve Schrier confirmed the news and responded to questions by referring to statements in the company’s recent 10Q disclosures to the federal Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC).
Workhorse stopped making its W42 and W62 van chassis early this year, one competitor said, and final production is apparently imminent of motorhome chassis. Production should wrap up this month, a worker at the plant in Union City, Ind., said before directing further questions to Navistar headquarters in Lisle, Ill.
However, Navistar’s eStar electric van, though managerially connected to Workhorse, remains an active product, Schrier said. Introduced in 2009 with the help of a federal grant, eStar captured early sales from several customers for use in California, which encourages use of zero-emissions vehicles with its own grants.
Nonetheless, “the commercial viability of electric vehicles is what drives sales in this market,” Schrier said. With no engine or conventional drivetrain and the comparative simplicity of electric components, maintenance and operating costs are very low, even if purchase prices are high.
And although A123 Systems, which supplies batteries for the eStar and other electric vans, is in bankruptcy, “individual suppliers are not impacting our eStar business,” Schrier said. About 100 were built at the Navistar-Monaco plant in Wakarusa, Ind., last year.
Workhorse was started in 1998 by investors who took over production and sales of General Motors’ popular P-series Stepvan chassis when GM dropped it. GM gasoline and diesel engines powered vehicles which, like competitors’ chassis, got bodies from outside suppliers. Large delivery fleets like FedEx, UPS and Frito-Lay were among its customers.
Navistar acquired Workhorse seven years ago and it seemed a good fit, as Navistar diesels would find another outlet, even if emphasis was still on gasoline.
It also seemed that the new subsidiary might be strengthened through its association with a big corporation whose history from the 1930s into the ’60s included the popular Metro van. For a short time Workhorse offered an integrated chassis-body product called MetroStar.
The Great Recession a few years later hurt both parties, and Navistar executives’ losing bet on their non-SCR “in-cylinder solution” to diesel emissions limits contributed to heavy financial losses. These prompted serious cost-cutting.
Two financial reviews showed that Workhorse could not recover investments in it, the 10Q statement said. So earlier this year Navistar ordered Workhorse to stop accepting orders for W-series chassis and to begin to “idle” the business. It has taken a $10 million charge as part of shutdown expenses.
Schrier could provide no information on warranty and parts & service support for existing Workhorse chassis.
Executives at Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., a major competitor, said one result of Workhorse’s closure has been more interest from customers in gasoline power, something that Workhorse specialized in. FCCC last year began offering General Motors’ 6-liter Vortec 6000 gasoline V-8, the same engine that Workhorse used toward the end.
Until late last week, Navistar’s website listed Workhorse as one of its truck brands and offered a link to the Workhorse site. A newly redesigned website now lists only International and Mahindra International as Navistar’s truck brands.
But Workhorse’s site as of this writing is still active and describes the W series commercial and motorhome chassis, and gives no hint of their demise.
Winnebago Industries Inc. is offering front-engine diesel chassis from Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. and Workhorse Custom Chassis LLC as options on all of its 2010 gas-powered motorhomes.
”We really haven’t done much with front-engine diesel until this year,” said President Bob Olson. ”Coming off a year when fuel prices were so volatile, the time is right. Now we can give potential customers an option.”
The Ford F-53 chassis will continue to be standard on most of Winnebago’s gas Class A lineup. Workhorse’s W-D series and Freightliner’s FRED front-engine diesels will be available on the Winnebago Adventurer/Itasca Suncruiser, while the Workhorse chassis will be optional on the Winnebago Sightseer/Itasca Sunova and Vista/Sunstar.
Winnebago introduced its 2010 lineup in July during the Winnebago Itasca Travelers (WIT) Grand National Rally at the company’s Forest City, Iowa, headquarters.
Taking an aggressive stance toward R&D for 2010, Winnebago introduced its first-ever tag axle on a 2010 42-foot floorplan — plus a bath-and-a-half floorplan — in the Winnebago Tour/Itasca Ellipse diesel pusher (base MSRP: $311,630/317,278) built on the company’s 44,320-pound GVWR Freightliner Maxum chassis. Also part of the company’s 2010 lineup is a ”low profile” Winnebago View Profile Class C motorhome, designed without a cabover sleeping compartment, on the high-mileage Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis.
Winnebago also has launched production of the long-awaited 25-foot Winnebago Via/Itasca Reyo (base MSRP: $135,132/$135,568)), the first Class A motorhome built on the 11,030-pound GVWR Sprinter chassis equipped with a 6-cylinder 154-hp Mercedes Benz diesel engine. A prototype of the Via/Reyo was introduced last at December’s Louisville Show and a second floorplan should be available by December.
The company also debuted two 34- and 39-foot floorplans in the all-new `value-priced” Winnebago Journey Express/Itasca Meridian V Class A diesel pusher motorhome (base MSRP: $205,419/$210,837) on the 27,910-pound GVWR Freightliner XCS straight-rail chassis equipped with a Cummins ISB 340-hp diesel engine.
Despite the current recession and trend toward smaller, more fuel-efficient motorhomes, Olson is convinced that a market remains for larger diesel-pusher units.
”Once we see the economy turn around and we get back to normal and our finance partners start lending money again,” he said, ”you’ll still see people who want coaches that they are used to and have the amenities that they have at home. You can do things with the tag axle that you can’t with smaller chassis.” Olson said.
Olson said that despite reducing the number of floorplans to 68 from 77 across its Class A and C lineup, Winnebago remained aggressive in developing its 2010 offerings.
”It would have been very easy to pull in our horns and not come out with anything new,” Olson told RVBUSINESS.COM. ”But we felt this industry is going to be around for a long, long time. Coming out of a downturn that we’ve never seen before, what better way to come out with something that our customers have never seen before?”