Gordie Hakes liked an RV manufacturing company so much he bought it. Now Hakes is banking on 35 years of dealership experience to make his 10-month-old MHC Group Inc. a success.
MHC Group had been Mountain High Coachworks Inc. Hakes sold Mountain High motor homes and fifth-wheel trailers for about 18 months at his Painted Post Car Mart RV dealership in Painted Post, N.Y., before buying the company in May.
Hakes said his decision stemmed from a passion for manufacturing that took root while he was a dealer. Hakes did not disclose the purchase price and said he does not plan to take the company public.
He renamed the company MHC Group and moved operations in July from Ontario, Calif., to a smaller, leased plant in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. The 60,000-square-foot plant, on 6.5 acres, has 98 employees and operates six days a week, 10 hours a day. By May, he expects his company to be producing about 50 units per month.
The acquisition left Hakes with a lease on a plant in Ontario, Calif., leftover inventory and production equipment.
It also gave him the rights to use past brand names, including the Summit, a diesel-powered motor home, and the Pinnacle and Residency, which are gasoline-powered motor homes. These retail for as much as $225,000.
The deal did not leave him with Mountain High's dealer network, though. Hakes has built a network of about 24 dealers.
Together with President Fred Salazar, who oversees MHC's day-to-day operations, Hakes wants to ensure his company does not cause dealers the same problems that have frustrated him as a dealer. The pair is focused on:
Keeping manufacturer-dealer com- munication open.
Reacting quickly to resolve warranty issues, providing the parts they need - even if they have to be pulled off the assembly line.
Listening and reacting to dealers' evaluations of customer likes and dislikes about products through the creation of dealer councils.
Their strategy also includes sending teams of about five employees to introduce MHC Group to dealers and service managers and to help launch new products.
MHC is focused on increasing its product offerings in the mid- to high-end motor home market.
'We do not expect to be the largest in the industry,' Hakes said. 'We want to be able to meet our customer demands and our dealer demands and still be able to relate to each individual one-on-one.'
New products coming
The company will launch the Desert Fox Class A motor home in April at the Family Motor Coaching Association rally in Oklahoma City.
The Desert Fox, which will be MHC Group's highest-priced product, is expected to retail between $275,000 and $325,000. It will be the first motor home in the industry with a new mid-engine chassis built by Spartan Motors Inc. of Charlotte, Mich. The unit will have rear storage space large enough to hold an all-terrain vehicle, eliminating the need for a trailer.
The Skydeck motor home will debut at the end of March. It will feature a rooftop deck, which will have seating for 18 people. MHC planned this unit for people who want to entertain or attend outdoor events. The Skydeck is expected to retail between $265,000 and $300,000.
'If a customer wants a particular floor plan, if they want to bring an interior decorator, we would actually custom-build them,' Hakes said. Keeping his plant lean and flexible, he said, will help MHC accommodate these requests.
In addition to the Desert Fox and Skydeck, MHC plans to develop more motor homes geared to fit specific lifestyles. One unit considered by Hakes, a horse enthusiast, is a motor home that would include an air-conditioned stall for transporting horses or llamas. No timeline has been established for this project.
MHC also is considering building customized RVs for dealerships that could market them with their own brand name. MHC is discussing this with Fort Lauderdale, Fla., dealership chain Recreation USA.