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Planning Continues for New Chinese Coach

September 2, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Bill Horvath

Bill Horvath

Domestic U.S. RV industry suppliers apparently have worked through any concerns they may have had over working with a new Chinese motorhome manufacturer, according to Bill Horvath, project manager for the motorhome division of Yutong Bus Co. Ltd., which plans to enter the U.S. market by next spring with the En Route Class A motorhome.

More than 50 vendors, including three chassis manufacturers, have submitted quotes, reports Horvath, who hosted a breakfast meeting in Elkhart, Ind., six weeks ago to help kick off the venture.

“I am very pleased by the vendor turnout, interest in our project and their support,” Horvath tells RVBUSINESS.com. “Elkhart County has the best suppliers for our industry and their interest and willingness to work with Yutong Bus is terrific.”

Horvath’s business plan calls for mostly U.S.-made components for the En Route, which will be assembled in China and then shipped back to the U.S., entering this country at Portland, Ore. The U.S. distribution site will be near Eugene, Ore.

Nailing down a chassis supplier is a major concern at this point. In his original presentation, Horvath said the fiberglass-and-aluminum En Route would be available in 28- to 30-foot lengths on a 22,000-pound GVWR chassis equipped with 250/280 hp Cummins or Navistar rear diesel engines.

While he received three chassis bids, only two are “close to the platform definition” he was looking for.

“We continue to work with the chassis manufacturers and are very close to having final specifications completed,” he noted. “I need this information in order to move forward. The chassis specifications are not yet confirmed and our chassis wish list may be slightly different based upon available designs and engines.”

Horvath hopes to have the chassis contract signed, with delivery to Yutong’s factory in Zhengzhou by October and, best case scenario, production beginning in November.

Horvath, meanwhile, is now able to provide some price targets for the En Route.

“Our targeted dealer cost for a fully loaded coach — including equipment and features not usually found on this size and price point — delivered to the West Coast is under $140,000,” Horvath informed RVBUSINESS.com in an e-mail. “My estimated bill of material will need to be confirmed after prototyping, and final pricing will be set at that time. It is critical that retail pricing be held to under $200,000 for a fully loaded version.

“At this point our specifications, equipment and features, and standards and option list have remained intact, except for possible chassis details,” he continued. “Until final chassis information is completed later this month, I will safely say we are 80% there with our wish list.”

Horvath is attending the Caravan Salon RV show, which runs through Sept. 5 in Dusseldorf, Germany.

“The Europeans are the best at creating and using every square inch (or centimeter if you will) of space,” wrote Horvath. “Their motorhomes are considerably smaller, but they have everything one needs to travel and camp in comfort. I believe their style of product is in the future for the U.S.A.”

Horvath, by the same token, said he envisions the “En Route” as a less boxy line with simplified feature selections and exterior paint jobs and fewer slideouts. Interiors will be soft on the eye and feature plenty of radius touches.

One part of a 4.5 million-square-foot complex Yutong Bus is to begin building this fall will dedicated to En Route manufacturing.

“We will move into our new facilities sometime in 2012,” added Horvath. “Initial production will start in what we refer to as the ‘old complex’ where specialty products are currently being built.”

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Chinese RV Firm Meets with U.S. Vendors

August 3, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Bill Horvath, Yutong Bus Co. Ltd., China

Bill Horvath, Yutong Bus Co. Ltd., China

Veteran U.S. RV manufacturing executive Bill Horvath presented his case today (Aug. 3) for why recreational vehicle industry suppliers should begin providing components to a Chinese RV builder he represents that’s planning to introduce a new line of motorhomes into the American marketplace.

Speaking to a crowd of nearly 70 in Elkhart, Ind., Horvath, a 38-year industry veteran, outlined the goals of the Yutong Bus Co. Ltd., a major Chinese bus maker that proposes to start building “En Route” Class A motorhomes this fall and begin marketing a 2012 model in the States next spring.

A cross section of vendors from LaSalle-Bristol to Atwood Mobile Products, Flexsteel and Spartan Chassis Inc. attended the 2-hour presentation and listened politely, but somewhat skeptically in some cases, as Horvath explained how his company plans to compete in the U.S. against proven existing competition.

Horvath said more than once that introducing a new lineup of competitively priced motorized RVs will be “a learning experience” for Yutong Bus Co. and that many details have yet to be ironed out.

Shipping costs, delivery times and quality assurance were the major concerns expressed by the vendors during and after today’s meeting.

As reported in an RVBUSINESS.com story last week, Horvath is lining up U.S. vendors to provide many of the components, which will be packaged in Elkhart and shipped to Zhengzhou, China, where they will be installed in Yutong’s massive 12 million-square-foot factory.

Bill Horvath (background) speaks to an audience today in Elkhart, Ind.

Bill Horvath (background) speaks to an audience today in Elkhart, Ind.

The finished units will be shipped back to the U.S., entering the country in Portland, Ore., where Horvath is setting up a facility as a service center for final inspection and dealer prep.

He hopes to have 30 to 40 motorhomes on the premises at all times to ship to dealers and will look to set up a Midwest service center at a later date if the business plan is successful.

The fiberglass-and-aluminum motorhome will be available in 28- to 30-foot lengths on 22,000-pound GVWR chassis equipped with 250/280 hp Cummins or Navistar rear diesel engines.

Horvath has already received quotes from chassis builders Spartan Chassis Inc. and Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., and Detroit Chassis LLC CEO Michael Guthrie told RVBUSINESS.com that he hopes to be in the running as well.

Horvath wants to lock in on vendors’ quotes by the end of August and to start receiving components in October and begin final assembly in November.

Yutong Bus Co., the world’s second largest bus manufacturer, began to explore the feasibility of building a Class A motorhome (China’s first) and competing in the U.S. market three years ago, said Horvath, who’s previously worked with the Mallard, Damon and Columbia Northwest/Aliner brands in the States.

A Class A, rather than a towable RV, was preferable because the publicly held company had proven technology to build motorized vehicles. “It was most natural for us,” he said, adding that the En Route will be a smaller, more European-styled coach built on a U.S.-made chassis comprised primarily of U.S.-made components.

Bill Horvath outlines his business plan.

Bill Horvath outlines his business plan.

Compared to U.S. products, Haworth envisions the “En Route” as a less boxy line with simplified feature selections and exterior paint jobs and fewer slideouts. Interiors will be soft on the eye and feature plenty of radius touches.

He said Americans in the future will be opting for smaller Class A motorhomes and the En Route will be the size they’re seeking. “We will have to do everything the U.S. manufacturers do and go well beyond that,” he said, from quality manufacturing to after-sale follow-up.

The initial plan is to build the En Route in China, where labor rates for production workers average $300 a month.

Horvath, who is projecting sales of between 150 and 200 units in 2011 and 400 to 500 in 2012 won’t rule out the possibility of building the En Route in the U.S. some day. On the other hand, he said, there is a ”certain Chinese pride; they would rather do it their way.”

Horvath said he “thought there would be a lot more questions” from today’s meeting and doesn’t know how vigorous the vendors will be in submitting quotes. He said the initial relatively low production estimates may discourage some vendors from quoting, and he declined to mention a price range for the new coach because there are still too many unknowns.

After spending the week in Indiana, Horvath next heads to the Caravan Salon in Dusseldorf, Germany, then back to China by Sept. 5.

Meanwhile, Horvath is beginning to assemble a U.S. staff and has contracted with consultant Jim Kreider to assist in the planning. Horvath can be reached domestically at (574) 210-4886.

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Chinese Bus Builder Confirms U.S. Plans

July 27, 2010 by · 5 Comments 

Yutong Bus Co. buses await transport to their destination in Ghana.

Yutong Bus Co. buses await transport to their destination in Ghana.

Yutong Bus Co. Ltd., the largest manufacturer of commercial buses in China, expects to be selling Class A diesel pusher motorhomes in the U.S. by next spring, according to RV industry veteran Bill Horvath who is heading up the venture.

The yet-to-be named motorhome will be built in China and initially will be shipped to the West Coast for distribution, Horvath told RVBUSINESS.com today (July 27) from China.

Horvath said Yutong expects to build 150 to 200 motorhomes the first year — mostly using componentry manufactured in the U.S. — and ”hopefully double or triple that in the second year.”

”The Class A market is still a little unstable,” said Horvath, whose domestic industry experience dates back to Mallard Coach and Damon Corp. ”This fall will tell us what that segment of the market will be doing. This is quite a task when you put it in perspective.”

Yutong has invited RV industry suppliers to a breakfast meeting next Tuesday (Aug. 3) at the Ramada Inn in Elkhart to discuss particulars.

”This is a very fluid situation,” Horvath said. ”We want to talk to suppliers and listen to what they have to say.”

Initially, Yutong intended to convert buses it builds in China into motorhomes, Horvath said. ”But there were a couple of issues about weight, cost and certification of selling in the U.S.,” he said. ”We will buy some of the material in Elkhart, ship it here (to China) and then ship the unit back to the U.S.”

Ironically, he noted, many of the components used to build motorhomes in the U.S. already are manufactured in China to U.S. specifications.

Chinese delegation at 2009 National RV Show in Louisville, Ky.

Chinese delegation at 2009 National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.

Yutong executives have been planning an entry into the U.S. market for two years and attended last year’s Louisville Show to gain a better perspective on the market.

The fiberglass-and-aluminum motorhome will be available on 28- to 30-foot floorplans on 22,000-pound GVWR chassis equipped with 250/280-hp Cummins or Navistar diesel engines. Retail pricing is not yet available.

The first Yutong’s motorhome ”will be mostly traditional as we go through a learning curve and minimize risk,” Horvath said. A second version already in the planning stages that will be available in late 2011 or early 2012 will be a little more experimental, he added.

Horvath said the specific chassis for the new motorhomes has not be selected yet. ”We are still working with chassis manufacturers,” he said. ”We believe the future will be for small motorhomes. You don’t need 45 feet of vehicle and six slideouts to enjoy the beauty and nature of the country.”

The manner in which Yutong’s motorhomes will be distributed also still needs to be determined. ”We may partner with someone in the United States,” Horvath said, adding that the coach initially will be available through West Coast dealerships and later throughout the country. ”It will be easier to penetrate the West Coast first,” he said.

Yutong will have a backlog of 20 to 40 units before they become available to dealers, he said. ”We will have to do some speculation to have some units in inventory, probably on the West Coast so that when dealers want it, it will be ready to go.”

While initial production will take place in China, ”that doesn’t mean that won’t change down the road,” said Horvath who will direct the initiative from offices in the Elkhart area. ”We aren’t going to rule out anything without doing all the homework first.”

The Yutong website (www.yutong.com) describes the firm as one of China’s top 500 companies, specializing in buses but also involved in construction machinery, automotive parts and components and real estate.

The company operates a 3.6 million-square-foot factory complex in China with a daily capacity of over 170 buses.

The website describes Yutong as ”the most technically advanced manufactur(er) of large and medium-sized buses around the world (and is) China’s largest professional bus manufacturer with sales volume ranked second worldwide next to that of Mercedes-Benz.”

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