The first Coachmen Industries Inc. RVs bound for the emerging market in China under a recent agreement will likely be motorized units.
The Middlebury, Ind.-based builder announced Monday (Oct. 28) in its third-quarter earnings report that it had entered into an agreement with a major automaker in China to act as Coachmen’s importer, distributor and sales partner in the foreign market.
Following an investor conference call today, Coachmen officials told RVBusiness that the agreement is with Jinbei Automotive Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Brilliance Automotive China Ltd.
Coachmen will begin shipping already-produced 2009 motorhomes after some modifications are made to meet Chinese specifications, according to Rick Lavers, president and CEO. Teams from both companies have been formed to identify what these modifications might be.
Among their decisions are whether to ship Class A or Class C motorhomes as current road-width restrictions prohibit many Class A’s. However, Coachmen said it already sells a modified Class A in Australia, which has similar road limits to China.
At a later date, according to the agreement, Jinbei may begin to produce motorized units under the Coachmen label. Separate discussions will be conducted concerning the production and marketing of towable products in China, Lavers said.
Lavers was deliberately vague for competitive reasons and because the arrangement continues to evolve. He said the agreement was included in its earnings statement to keep Coachmen shareholders informed of the development.
Coachmen would become the first U.S. manufacturer to sell its products in China, according to Coachmen.
Brilliance Auto’s products include passenger cars, sedans, and Jinbei Haise minibuses. It also sells BMW 3 series and 5 series sedans in China. Last year the automaker sold 300,369 vehicles, up 42% from the previous year.
A delegation led by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) toured China last May to investigate the emerging market for RVs. Coachmen was part of that tour.
However, the agreement with Jinbei evolved from Coachmen’s participation in the Shanghai Sports & Recreation Show in 2007, according to Tom Gehl, corporate secretary and vice president of international affairs.
The motorized and towable units shown last year in Shanghai were sold to an importer who is acting as Coachmen’s first dealer in that country, according to Gehl.