Denver, Pa.-based Sunline Coach Co. introduced its 2005 product line, along with new leadership during the company’s 40th anniversary dealer meeting in Lancaster, Pa.
Representatives from about 40 dealerships and 20 suppliers attended the gathering, which began Sunday (June 13) and concluded Wednesday (June 16), at the Eden Resort Inn.
In addition to showcasing the 2005 lineup, the meeting featured a visual timeline, moving from the company’s establishment in 1964 by Lewis Martin and Wayne Weaver to today.
Sunline employs about 200 workers at an expanding manufacturing complex that includes a 55,000-square-foot administrative and production facility, 50,000-square-foot plant and 20,000-square-foot facility for research and development, parts, service and shipping.
The event was highlighted by a salute to Sunline’s heritage and its outgoing ownership/management team: Lewis W. Martin, W. Larry Lawrence Jr. and John Zimmerman, the latter two of whom have been active for years in industry affairs.
“This is the culmination of a lot of hard work,” stated Lawrence, whose father, Larry Lawrence Sr., bought into Sunline with Zimmerman in 1975. Lawrence’s daughter, Media and Web Director Cindi Kimmel, represents the family’s third generation at Sunline. “It’s a real achievement to go as far with a small business where you are able to celebrate a 40th anniversary.”
The highline towable manufacturer was purchased in mid-February by a handpicked investor group that includes principal owner Paul Kozloff, along with Bruce Cobb, John Whitehall, Joe Bucara and Zimmerman’s son, Dale, who, until the purchase, served as president of the company.
“I guess you could say that I’m the bridge from the previous owners to the new ownership,” stated Dale Zimmerman, now vice president of production and product development. “We had been looking at a succession plan for a long time and I think we came up with a very nice match. We didn’t want to be consumed by some big company. We wanted to keep our own identity.
“Paul (Kozloff) understood that our employees are a vital part of what we are. There are 30 people in our management team that have a combined 497 years of experience with Sunline. I think it’s a tribute that they have stayed on board along with the second and third generations of the three families that built this business.”
Added Kozloff, who previously ran a family beer distributorship in Reading, Pa., “Our marketing strategy will be to protect the quality of the product while also looking for ways to increase productivity and penetrate new markets. Right now we’re concentrated in the mid-Altantic, but we’re interested in eventually moving into the Southeast.”
The expansion plans have been well received, according to Dale Zimmerman.
“Everybody is excited about growth at Sunline,” he said. “It really dovetails nicely into where we wanted this company to go. Our goal is to take Sunline to the next level.”
Whitehall, vice president of sales and marketing, pointed to a “new level of professionalism” with regard to training in both sales and service. He also emphasized the need to carry on the company’s reputation as a quality manufacturer.
“One of the things we want to do is get our value message out – what’s behind the walls of a Sunline. Once we get the groundwork in place, we1re going to reach over the dealer sector and start talking directly to the Sunline consumer.”
Tim Martin, director of product development, said Sunline’s niche is building compact towables full of features normally reserved for larger, more expensive units. Sunline currently builds 20- to 34-foot travel trailers under the Solaris, Solaris Lite, Solaris SR and Sole brand names, along with a line of custom-built fifth-wheels.
The company’s 2005 lineup, he added, also reflects Sunline’s commitment to being responsive to current trends in the industry and includes a new Solaris 325SR, a versatile 32-foot travel trailer featuring a Stow & Go rear-access storage compartment, plus sleeping and dining accommodations for nine.
“The Stow & Go feature is large enough for bicycles,” explained Martin. “There are three areas for eating, including a breakfast bar. We are also offering an optional rear living room in place of the Stow & Go area with two chairs and a built-in entertainment center.”