Coachmen Industries Inc. has broken ground for the construction of a new Class C motorhome assembly plant in Middlebury, Ind., and it revealed details about its plans to expand travel-trailer and fifth-wheel production in Fitzgerald, Ga.
“While many industries have been slashing jobs and operating their factories well below capacity, demand for Coachmen RVs has been increasing,” said Mike Terlep, president of Coachmen RV Co., the largest RV manufacturing subsidiary of Coachmen Industries.
“During 2002, Coachmen RV’s wholesale shipments outpaced the industry in combined Class A and Class C motorhomes by 65%,” Terlep said. “The same is true for our combined travel-trailer and fifth-wheel shipments, as we outpaced the industry by 37.9%.”
In Georgia, Coachmen has acquired a 100,000-square-foot factory building that was completed in 1996. Coachmen plans to begin producing all nine lines of its Coachmen- and Shasta-brand travel trailers and fifth-wheels in Fitzgerald beginning in June.
The building recently acquired by Coachmen is about one mile from the company’s 46,000-square-foot plant in Fitzgerald, which Coachmen has operated since 1971. The company is only able to build four of its travel-trailer and fifth-wheels lines in the older building.
“Coachmen RV is the No. 1-selling brand throughout the seven southeastern states serviced by our Georgia Division,” Terlep said. “It’s only logical to add production capacity to manufacture our entire towable line at our Georgia Division.
“This new plant will enable us to continue our market-share growth in the Southeast,” Terlep continued. “The additional capacity at our Georgia Division will also free up much-needed capacity at our Indiana manufacturing complex.”
Meanwhile, the 127,000-square-foot Class C assembly plant that Coachmen has started to build in Middlebury, in Northern Indiana, will be its largest plant and is expected to become operational in early August.
The new factory in Middlebury will feature two assembly lines, which will allow for more efficient operation by allowing the separation of higher production-hour models from lower production-hour models.
Coachmen will build its six Coachmen- and Shasta-brand Class C models in Middlebury and a seventh Class C production line will be added this summer for model year 2004.
“We have struggled in fulfilling the orders for our popular Class C motorhomes in a timely manner,” Terlep said. “At the same time, strong demand for our recently introduced Chaparral fifth-wheel, Somerset Dream Catch fifth-wheel and Captiva travel trailer has created lead times for our dealers and retail customers that are much longer than desirable.
“Additional production capacity these two plants will provide will enable us to continue building up our market share, while better serving the needs of our customers,” Terlep added.
The new plant in Middlebury will create around 150 new jobs “over the next couple of years” and the new factory in Georgia will create about 50 new jobs when it opens in June, according to the company. As production in Georgia ramps up, more employees may be added.