The two brothers who run this type C motorhome manufacturing company satisfy the industry’s need for quality in a small package.
By Lazelle D. Jones
First impressions do matter when it comes to motorhomes. The Coach House Platinum type C, for example, exudes elegance and luxury, and has great eye appeal. But that’s only part of the Coach House equation. Visit the company’s headquarters and manufacturing plant in Nokomis, Florida, and you will be immediately impressed, because the facility itself looks as well-manicured and maintained as the products it turns out.
During my visit there, I learned that the first-class appearance underscores the attitude that goes into each and every motorhome Coach House builds “” and 180 of them are built each year.
I went there to meet with company owners Steve and Dave Gerzeny, whose father, Ruben, started the company in the mid-1980s. Ruben knew that the local talent pool consisted of skilled craftsmen from the boat-building industry, who work day in and day out with fiberglass. He hired the best of them to design and build a single-piece fiberglass shell for a motorhome. It would be tall enough to permit people to walk around comfortably inside, yet low enough on the outside to form a low-profile vehicle. The first fiberglass shell was used on a Dodge van chassis as a type B motorhome.
Coach House continued designing and building type Bs until the late 1990s, when it began to focus on type Cs. In 2000 the first type C Platinum model “” the 23-foot 232 “” was released into the motorhome market. With the debut of the Platinum, the molded one-piece fiberglass shell that had become a Coach House trademark has continued. Over the past couple of years the company has added the Platinum 270, a 27-foot coach, as well as two models with living room slideouts “” the 27-foot 270XL and the 23-foot 232XL.
Another philosophy carried over to the type C Platinum is that the company still strives to borrow creative designs, materials, and technology from the marine industry. Steve and Dave attend the major marine and boat shows held in Florida every year and have approached marine product vendors who never have considered the possibility that their product could be used in a motorhome. It’s a win-win situation for Coach House and the vendors. As a result, Dave said, RV industry folks who see Coach House motorhomes on display at the annual National RV Trade Show, sponsored by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), ask, “Where did you get that?” Many times the object of their interest is something Coach House has sought out and borrowed from the marine industry.
Even the company’s location on the Gulf Coast of Florida has allowed it to remain somewhat isolated from the rest of the RV industry and closer to the marine industry. When it comes to parts such as fasteners, plumbing fixtures, electrical components, and holding tanks, Coach House relies heavily upon its “home” marine environment.
As a downsized motorhome, the Coach House Platinum caters directly to seasoned RVers who have grown accustomed to the luxury available in type A motorhomes but wish to drive a less lengthy vehicle. However, they do not want to forfeit the comfort and quality associated with luxury motorhoming.
When asked to look into their crystal ball and predict what the future holds for new motorized RVs in their market niche, the Gerzenys offered an interesting response. They said they believe that the future is already here. Coach House has already experienced an increase in the number of maturing baby boomers who want to downsize but won’t compromise quality or luxury. These people seek a high-end product that’s simple to navigate, and they want a more multipurpose product “” and that’s what Coach House offers. Dave said that over the years some of their repeat clients have purchased as many as six coaches from them.
Today’s Coach House models are, by design, intended for two occupants. However, the two brothers noted that a new product from Coach House that will be introduced at the RVIA trade show this December could very well accommodate a young and growing family, in addition to retirees. That was all the information they would divulge.
Steve and Dave also said they want to continue developing new and innovative products in the future, but they stressed that they have no desire to conquer the RV market. They are satisfied to compete in their niche and are happy with their success so far. “We will continue to cultivate our dealer network,” Dave said, “for we recognize it takes a special kind of dealer to market and sell our luxury products. We want to work with dealers that are well financed and well managed. Ninety percent of our dealers are already there. We remain focused on that last 10 percent. We will help and work with them so they can ultimately meet our standards, or eventually we will replace them with dealers that do reflect the image we strive to achieve.”
Coach House sells its Platinum motorhomes only through its 26-dealer network. If you were to look at their locations on a map of the United States, you’d notice that most are situated in the shape of a giant “U,” as they line the Eastern Seaboard from New England to Florida, then sweep across the Sun Belt in the South, and then over to the Southwest and up the West Coast. One dealer is in Denver. The Gerzenys noted that the majority of their dealers are in the warmer parts of the country, where the typical Coach House buyer, a retired couple, likes to spend time during the winter months.
Coach House flies dealer personnel to its Nokomis headquarters from across the country so they can participate in sales and technical training seminars. Dave and Steve want the people who represent their products in the field to have the opportunity to actually see a Coach House Platinum motorhome as it is being built; to talk with the plant workers; and to get a hands-on, up-close view.
All of the cabinetry for Coach House motorhomes is built at the Nokomis plant, as is the rest of the interior. The facility also includes a paint booth, for coaches that receive the optional deluxe paint package. The company has 60 full-time employees.
Coach House relocated after outgrowing its original facility; today it sits on 5 acres in a very upscale industrial park. Dave and Steve said they wanted to put their headquarters in a location that would project a fine image for years to come.
The Coach House plant and corporate offices include 5,000 square feet of office space, four customer service bays, a comfortable customer lounge, 29,000 square feet of production floor space, and three electrical hookup sites for customers who bring their coaches in for service. In addition, the company’s two-story showroom can display up to three motorhomes.
Dave and Steve have mandated that each new Coach House Platinum be covered by a three-year, 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. Steve said that Coach House goes to great lengths to guarantee that their customers remain satisfied long after the purchase has been made. “We have flown technicians into the field and we have flown coach owners home. We’re able to do this because the high level of quality that goes into every Coach House has kept our warranty costs very, very low.”
When clients come in for service on the conversion part of the motorhome, it’s immaterial to Coach House whether the unit is still within the warranty. “We simply fix it,” Steve said. “We like to tell people that as long as they stay with us, we will give them a lifetime warranty on their coach.”
Plant tours are an important part of Steve and Dave’s business philosophy. They understand that the folks who are spending the kind of money a Platinum costs want to see for themselves how it is built. A plant tour can take as much time as a guest likes, but on the average, a good look-see requires about two hours.
RVers who would like to take a tour may do so between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. To learn more about Coach House, contact the company at (800) 235-0984 or (941) 485-0984; e-mail [email protected]; or visit www.coachhouserv.com.