Coachmen Industries Inc. has left the conversion van business after 20 years, selling its COA Automotive unit to Glaval Corp.
Last year, COA Automotive produced about 3,000 conversion vans, 300 Starflyte Class C motor homes and 250 Class B van campers. Glaval bought the division in January for an undisclosed amount. Both companies are in Elkhart, Ind.
The acquisition allows Glaval, already a leader in conversion vans, to expand its van business and its young motor home unit, Dynamax Corp.
Coachmen bailed out of the conversion van business so it could focus on its core products, motor homes.
Faced with a shrinking conversion van market, Glaval has been diversifying with more motor-home business. In 1997, Glaval bought the assets of USA Motor Corp. of Bremen, Ind., a maker of Class A motor homes, and named it Dynamax.
Dynamax began producing the Isata Touring Sedan, a downsized Class A motor home, and quickly followed with the Isata Sport Sedan, a downsized Class C motor home.
Now Dynamax will expand its motor-home lineup with the Starflyte brand.
'It's a niche market product, but it has done very well for itself,' said DeWayne Creighton, president of Dynamax. The Starflyte is more aerodynamic than the conventional Class C motor home, and it does not have a bunk, he said.
'It's more for a couple, more of a touring vehicle, which is the reason we were interested in it,' Creighton said.
Dynamax will price the Starflyte motor home below its two Isata models. Creighton said the 2000 Starflyte Class C motor home has a suggested retail price of $58,583. The average retail price, including options, is $63,000, he said.
Dynamax also gets three van campers on Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge chassis. All three will be renamed Starflyte and given model designations, Creighton said. He said the price of the conversion, without chassis, is between $26,000 and $29,000.
Glaval and Dynamax have retained all 120 employees that worked for the Coachmen division.
Dynamax will build the Starflyte motor home and van campers in the COA Automotive plant until June, when production will be moved into a new, 135,000-square-foot plant in Elkhart. Dynamax also will move its Isata motor home production into the new plant.
The Starflyte Class C motor home is built on a Ford E-350 chassis. Dynamax is developing a prototype Starflyte using a Chevrolet 3500 Series chassis, Creighton said.
Glaval will add three conversion van brands from COA Automotive to its stable, the Greenbriar, Saratoga and Dearborn. That production and sales office has been moved to Glaval's plant.
Glaval will take over warranty administration and service of all units built in the past by COA Automotive.
Coachmen sold its COA Automotive unit so it can focus on Class A and Class C motor homes, said Jim Baxter, Coachmen vice president of marketing. Although technically a Class C, the Starflyte always has been 'a little different take on the Class C,' he said.
'We need resources where they can do us the most good, and certainly that is what caused us to look at exiting that van conversion business,' Baxter said. 'That business has just been dramatically reduced overall in the last few years. The traditional RV products, if you want to call them that, are just going gangbusters. That's where all of our RV companies need to focus going forward. So this really was in line with that strategy.'
The conversion van business has been a struggle in recent years, he said. In 1999, 104,100 conversion vans were shipped to retailers, down 0.5 percent from the previous year.
Coachmen will use its Starflyte plant as soon as Dynamax vacates in the summer, Baxter said.
'Labor and facilities are both very tight in this kind of economy because the industry is growing,' Baxter said.