Two former Thor California executives have formed a towable manufacturing company in Southern California and plan to be rolling product out by fall, according to a report in the Press Enterprise, Riverside.
“It’s not high-tech. It’s not like going to the moon,” said Tom Powell, chairman and chief executive officer at Pacific Coachworks in Riverside, noting experience has been key in getting the company off the ground.
Powell, a 30-year RV industry veteran who partnered with Dane Found to form Pacific Coachworks, feels comfortable starting a brand new operation at a time when other RV companies are having problems.
Both are former senior executives at Thor California, the Moreno Valley-based subsidiary of Ohio’s Thor Industries Inc., the nation’s largest RV maker. Powell, who helped start Thor California in 1996, left last April to create Pacific Coachworks.
Powell didn’t want to say how much money it took to get the company off the ground, but acknowledged that he and Found have other investors.
Located in a newly built, 66,000-square-foot factory, Pacific Coachworks plans to have its assembly line running by Oct. 2, Powell said. It will start by making six units a day with 80 employees, and build from there.
Powell and Found will use previous connections to line up about 20 dealers to sell the RVs in 11 states in the Western U.S. and in parts of Western Canada.
Until manufacturing begins, however, employees are working on the design of the prototype for Tango, the name of the company’s first product line.
“Our typical buyer is going to be entry-level or just above, someone who is on their first or second new RV,” said Powell. The company’s line of 20- to 30-foot travel trailers and fifth-wheels will range in price from $13,000 to $27,000, he added.
Although total RV shipments nationwide were up 19% during the first six months of 2006, some major manufacturers themselves have suffered.
Many, like Riverside-based Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., have blamed rising interest rates, high gas prices and low consumer confidence for declining sales and earnings.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad time to get into the business, said Bill Gibson, an RV industry analyst for Nollenberger Capital Partners in San Francisco.
“Starting when times are tough can be the best time because you can get good people and good facilities at the right price,” Gibson said. Trailers and fifth wheels are also easier and less expensive to make, he added.
“We know the big, publicly traded companies, but there are about 80 private ones,” he said. “A lot of them don’t make it, but a few succeed spectacularly.”
The Inland area is home to a variety of RV makers employing more than 3,500 people. The larger ones include: Fleetwood; Thor; National RV Holdings and Weekend Warrior, both with headquarters in Perris; and Forest River in Rialto.