Thursday, September 20, 2012
Newmar Corp. has exited the high-end fifth wheel market to concentrate on building its highline motorhomes, company officials confirm.
“Building a high-end fifth wheel on the same (product) line with a Class A motorhome – each one being built one at a time, mass produced one at a time – we just found that interjecting fifth wheels into the mix didn’t allow us to be competitive from a price point,” John Sammut, Newmar’s vice president of sales and marketing, told RV PRO.
“Now, this frees up resources that were dedicated to fifth wheel development and design and it allows us to focus more on the development of our motorhome line,” he added. “So it lets us focus on the next greatest thing for Class A diesel and gas motorhomes.”
Production on Newmar’s 2012 fifth wheel lines concluded in March, according to Sammut, adding that Newmar dealers were informed of the manufacturer’s intentions in advance of production end.
The high-end fifth wheel market has undergone significant changes in terms of market players in recent years, as Hitchiker, Carriage and most recently NuWa have ceased production. Meanwhile, Redwood RV and more recently Lifestyle Luxury RV launched specifically for the purpose of competing within that market segment.
Friday, September 28, 2012
Country Coach Corp. is progressing on its long-sought goal to produce motorhomes. Country Coach motorhomes haven’t been manufactured since Country Coach LLC went out of business in 2010. Principals of the shuttered business secured the intellectual rights for the Country Coach brand when the company was under liquidation. Country Coach Corp. launched last year, initially offering motorhome service and consignment sales.
“That’s been our goal all along – to produce motorhomes again,” said Tonya Buendia, who performs sales support for Country Coach. “We pretty much have the funding we think we’re going to need. It’s just a matter of filling out paperwork and getting attorneys involved to do that and get that all done.”
Country Coach is applying for funding from foreign investors with an EB5 application through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. The program gives investors “conditional permanent resident” status in the U.S. in exchange for capital investments of either $500,000 or $1 million. Companies receiving the funding must create or preserve a set amount of full-time jobs within a two year period. Buendia said it could take up to nine months for Country Coach to complete the application process and receive funding.
“There are so many aspects of the motorhome manufacturing business that have to be explained and laid out in an organized format that meets the expectations of the non-manufacturing investors,” stated Ron Lee, president of Country Coach, in the company’s summer newsletter. “We will be expected to follow our business plan very closely and produce the appropriate number of jobs.
“The good thing about this funding source is when the payback is complete, Country Coach will remain whole and under current ownership,” he added. “Of course nothing is a sure thing, but I feel this funding source has an 80 percent or better chance of success.”
Country Coach is projecting that it will begin producing motorhomes next year, according to Buendia. The company aims to manufacturer 25 units in its first year.
“The new coaches will have the ‘family resemblance,’ as Ron Lee says, to the original Country Coach line,” she said. “We’ll steadily increase the amount produced each year. It’s not like we’ll go from 25 to 2,000. It’ll probably be like 25 the first year to 50 the next year.”
Since launching in 2011, Country Coach has attempted to reestablish all its manufacturing capabilities, according to Lee. That includes building parts for motorhomes previously produced by the former Country Coach company.
“Next is the task of reengineering the 2014 Country Coach,” Lee stated in the newsletter. “We have to replace all those pieces and parts that are no longer available, find replacements, or alter design to accept new components.”
Beyond assisting RV dealership service centers with motorhome parts, Country Coach also has been servicing motorhome customers’ units in its own 200,000-square-foot service facility in Junction City, Ore., as well as selling consignment coaches. The company’s growth in the last year has led it to recently create two new full-time positions, according to Country Coach.
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 is recalling certain model year 2012-2013 Winnebago and Itasca motor homes. A cutting machine may have scored the copper propane tubing resulting in unknown long-term reliability. If the copper tubing fails, propane can escape leading to a fire or explosion which can result in property damage, personal injury, or death. Winnebago will notify owners, and dealers will replace the copper tubing, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin during September 2012. Owners may contact Winnebago Industries Owner Relations at 1-641-585- 6939. This is Winnebago recall no. 126.
Jayco is recalling certain model year 2012-2013 Jay Flight Swift SLX Travel trailers manufactured from October 24, 2011, through July 3, 2012. These trailers may have oversized bearings installed in the axle. This may cause excessive movement in the wheel hub, causing the bearings to become overheated and worn. Overheated and worn bearings may lead to axle failure while driving, increasing the risk of a crash. Jayco will notify owners, and dealers will replace the axle bearings with proper size bearings, free of charge. The recall began on September 5, 2012. Owners may contact Jayco at 1-800-283-8267.
Roadtrek is recalling certain model year 2011 and 2012 Roadtrek 21PC Popular and 21VC Versatile model class "B" motorhomes built from October 1, 2010, through November 12, 2011. On some motorhomes, the rivets may fail that secure the awning brackets to the motorhome side wall, allowing the bracket and Thule awning to come off the motor home while operating the awning. If the awning separates from the motor home, the user or people nearby may be injured. Roadtrek will notify owners, and dealers will install an additional stainless steel rivet on each of the awning brackets, free of charge. The safety recall will begin during September 2012. Owners may contact Roadtrek Service Department at 1-888-ROADTREK (762-3873) or 1-519-745-1169.
Fleetwood RV is recalling certain model year 2013 Excursion motor homes manufactured from March 27, 2012, through July 24, 2012. A threaded fastener installed on the turn shaft of the slide-out mechanism may come into contact with a portion of the diesel fuel fill hose while the turn shaft is rotating. If the fastener makes contact with the fuel fill hose, there is a possibility that it will abrade the fuel fill hose and cause a leak. Leaking fuel, in the presence of an ignition source, increases the risk of a fire. Fleetwood RV will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and, as necessary, shorten the threaded fastener to achieve clearance of the fuel line free of charge. The safety recall is expected to begin during September 2012. Owners may contact Fleetwood RV owner relations at 1-800-509-3418. Fleetwood RV's safety recall number is 120813FRV.
Heartland RV (Heartland) is recalling certain model year 2011-2012 Elkridge and model year 2012-2013 Bighorn Silverado fifth wheel vehicles. Certain vehicles manufactured with liquid propane (LP) generators may have the LP supply line connected incorrectly to the generator. If the LP supply line is connected incorrectly, the generator may vent liquid propane into the generator compartment. In the presence of an ignition source, the vented propane can result in an explosion. Heartland will notify owners and dealers will inspect and correct the LP supply line fitting as necessary, free of charge. Heartland has not provided a notification schedule. Owners may contact Heartland at 1-888-262-5992. Heartland RV's safety recall number is 99-01-09.
ShowHauler Trucks, Inc. (ShowHauler) is recalling certain model year 2009-2011 Motorhomes, Toterhomes and Garage Units equipped with Sure Power battery separator devices, due to overheating. Overheating of the battery separator can result in smoke and possible fire. ShowHauler will notify owners, and Sure Power will replace the battery separators free of charge. ShowHauler has not provided a notification schedule. Owners may contact ShowHauler Trucks, Inc. at 1-574-825-6764.
Ford is recalling certain model year 2013 F-53 motorhome stripped chassis vehicles manufactured from July 10, 2012 through July 13, 2012. Theses vehicles were assembled with incorrect steering gear adapter plate retention fasteners. steering gear adapter plate fasteners could lead to torque loss in the steering gear attachment, potentialy leading to loosening and subsequent separation of the steering gear over time. Separation of the steering gear may lead to a loss of vehicle control, increasing the risk of a crash. Ford will notify owners, and dealers will replace the steering gear adapter plate retention fasteners, free of charge. The safety recall began is expected to begin on September 7, 2012. Owners may contact Ford at 1-866-436-7332. Ford's recall campaign number is 12S38.
Trails West Manufacturing of Idaho, Inc.(Trails West) is recalling certain model year 2010-2012 recreational vehicles equipped with Sure Power battery separator devices, due to overheating. Overheating of the battery separator can result in smoke and possible fire. Trails West will notify owners, and Sure Power will replace the battery separators free of charge. Trails West has not provided a notification schedule. Owners may contact Trails West Manufacturing of Idaho, Inc. at 1-208-852-2200.
A federal judge gave his final approval Thursday (Sept. 27) to a $42.6 million class-action settlement between companies that made and installed government-issued trailers after hurricanes in 2005 and Gulf Coast storm victims who claim they were exposed to hazardous fumes while living in the shelters.
The Associated Press reported that U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt ruled from the bench after hearing from attorneys who brokered a deal resolving nearly all remaining court claims over elevated levels of formaldehyde in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) following hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Roughly 55,000 residents of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas will be eligible for shares of $37.5 million paid by more than two dozen manufacturers. They also can get shares of a separate $5.1 million settlement with FEMA contractors that installed and maintained the units.
Gerald Meunier, a lead plaintiffs’ attorney, said the deal provides residents with “somewhat modest” compensation but allows both sides to avoid the expense and risks of protracted litigation.
“Dollar amounts alone do not determine whether a settlement is fair and reasonable,” he said.
Jim Percy, a lawyer for the trailer makers, said Engelhardt would have had to try cases individually or transfer suits to other jurisdictions if the settlement wasn’t reached.
“It was not going to end quickly, and it was going to be even more monumental for all the parties concerned,” he said.
Formaldehyde, a chemical commonly found in building materials, can cause breathing problems and is classified as a carcinogen. Government tests on hundreds of trailers in Louisiana and Mississippi found formaldehyde levels that were, on average, about five times what people are exposed to in most modern homes.
FEMA isn’t a party to the settlements and had downplayed formaldehyde risks for months before those test results were announced in February 2008. As early as 2006, trailer occupants began reporting headaches, nosebleeds and difficulty breathing.
Only three plaintiffs have opted out of the settlement with the trailer makers. Engelhardt opened the floor to objections during Thursday’s hearing, but nobody spoke up. The judge said he didn’t receive any formal, written objections, either.
Engelhardt presided over three trials for claims against FEMA trailer manufacturers and installers after he was picked in 2007 to oversee hundreds of consolidated lawsuits. The juries in all three trials sided with the companies and didn’t award any damages.
Plaintiffs’ lawyers have accused the trailer makers of using shoddy building materials and methods in a rush to meet FEMA’s unprecedented demand for temporary housing.
Meunier, however, said it was difficult for plaintiffs’ attorneys to prove a link between formaldehyde exposure and residents’ health problems because many trailers couldn’t be tested until months or even years after the fact. Many residents never sought treatment for their symptoms, he added.
“It was both challenging in the legal and factual sense,” he said.
A group of companies that includes Gulf Stream Coach Inc., Forest River Inc., Vanguard LLC and Monaco Coach Corp. will pay $20 million of the $37.5 million settlement with the trailer makers.
Shaw Environmental Inc., Bechtel Corp., Fluor Enterprises Inc. and CH2M Hill Constructors Inc. are among the FEMA contractors that agreed to pay shares of the separate $5.1 million settlement.
Only a handful of formaldehyde-related claims are still pending, including those against FEMA by a group of Texas residents.