Marathon Coach Corp. is the smallest of the RV manufacturers in Oregon’s Lane County, building high-end conversions for the luxury motorhome market, according to a report in the Register-Guard.
But, unlike its two larger rivals – Monaco Coach Corp. and Country Coach LLC – Marathon is still producing coaches, although it’s “just a handful” right now, said Steve Schoellhorn, president and COO of the privately held company.
“We’ve been on a real limited production schedule – really limited right now,” he said Thursday. “We’ll run that way at least through the end of March and evaluate from there.”
About 120 employees are working at Marathon right now, he said, down from about 350 last year.
While Marathon has seen a slight uptick in demand, the market for RVs, even for buyers who are used to spending $2 million on a coach, is “really challenging,” Schoellhorn said.
“Obviously, the RV industry is probably at its lowest point ever,” he said. “Marathon has done well historically, even in challenging times, but this is way deeper than anyone has ever seen.”
The Register-Guard reported that Marathon has carved out a small but lucrative niche in the RV world. It buys bus shells from Prevost Car of Canada and converts them into high-end luxury motorcoaches that range in price from about $1.7 million to $2.2 million. Customers include NASCAR drivers such as Jeff Gordon, Kurt and Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, as well as entertainers and retired business owners.
But even the very wealthy are feeling the effects of the recession gripping the nation.
Many prospective Marathon customers fall into two general categories, Schoellhorn said: People who have lost so much money in the stock or housing markets that they can’t or won’t spend money for a new coach, and people who still are “super wealthy” but who are scared to spend money because of the state of the economy.
Marathon has been able to survive so far because it builds far fewer coaches than the larger companies, Schoellhorn said. “We may not boom as much when times are good, but when times are tough, we don’t need to sell that many coaches to stay viable.”
Asked if Marathon has enough cash to weather the recession, Schoellhorn said, “We believe we do,” but they still need customers to buy their product. “No business can survive forever without selling coaches,” he said.
Marathon slowed production and furloughed some of its employees last October, then began bringing some workers back in January.