Several van-conversion companies, including some of the largest, left the industry when the domestic auto companies required them to provide three-year, 36,000-mile warranties on their work, according to an executive at Behlmann Pontiac & GMC, the St. Louis, Mo.-area dealership.
The warranty requirement made conversion-vehicle manufacturers “stand behind their product,” but, apparently, that led many owners to abandon the industry because of the added financial risk, said Jim Mager, assistant van and used car manager at the Behlmann dealership, in Hazelwood, Mo. His firm might be the largest conversion-vehicle retailer in the country
Among the major producers no longer in the van-conversion business are Mark III, Glaval and Tiara. Other firms sold out to competitors. For example, Starcraft Corp. sold its van-conversion business to Centurion Vehicles Inc., while LA West acquired Choo Choo Customs and D’Elegant.
Explorer Van Co., Warsaw, Ind., is the only one of the major producers to remain in the van-conversion business, said Mager, who has been involved in van-conversion sales since 1989.
Mager does not know if Explorer now is the van-conversion segment’s largest producer, although he said Explorer models “sell the fastest.”
Behlmann’s other van-conversion suppliers include Archer Coach Corp. and Midwest Vans Inc., both of Elkhart, Ind. The dealership recently selected Rocky Ridge of Franklin Springs, Ga., as its supplier of converted pickups and sport utility vehicles, Mager said.
The Chevrolet Division of General Motors Corp. lists 26 authorized conversion firms on its website, while the GMC Truck Division lists 24.
Ford Motor Co. lists 14 authorized conversion firms on its website, although it lists D’Elegant and LA West separately.
The Dodge Division of DaimlerChrysler left the van-conversion business in the summer when it stopped producing the Ram full-size van after permanently closing its Windsor, Ontario, plant.