Blue Bird Divisions Consolidate; Company Rolls Out New 450 LXi Luxury Coach
Blue Bird Corporation recently announced that it has consolidated its coach, luxury motorhome, and commercial bus divisions to form Blue Bird Coachworks.
The new division will be led by vice president and general manager Wayne Joseph, who joined Blue Bird in 2003 after working for 25 years in the transit bus industry. Richard Maddox was named vice president of sales and marketing for Blue Bird Coachworks, with Bryan Hays (RV) and Buddy Cox (coach and commercial bus) as directors of sales and marketing.
In one of its first major acts as a consolidated division, Blue Bird Coachworks introduced the all-new 2005 Wanderlodge 450 LXi luxury motorhome. The coach was unveiled to the industry during the National RV Trade Show last December in Louisville, Kentucky.
The 45-foot Wanderlodge 450 LXi is powered by the 525-horsepower Caterpillar C13 engine and comes standard with an independent front suspension that has a 54-degree turning angle. It incorporates a fully integrated chassis and stainless-steel body, automatic traction control, and two 3.6-kilowatt Vanner inverters. The coach is available in two floor plans with a triple-slideout option. The 450 LXi has six interior options; is available in six paint schemes; and comes standard with two LCD TVs, a VCR/DVD combo, in-motion satellite and GPS, and a Panasonic surround-sound stereo.
Another feature of the Wanderlodge 450 LXi is its Intellitec full multiplexed house electrical system, which provides user-friendly switch locations (100 switches versus 30) throughout the coach.
The company began full production of the Wanderlodge 450 LXi at its Fort Valley, Georgia, manufacturing facility in March. The first completed unit was expected to roll off the line in June.
Marathon Coach Featured On Television Show
Marathon Coach, C2654, a luxury custom bus converter based in Coburg, Oregon, has taken on a starring role in ABC’s new hit TV series “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” by providing a luxury Prevost bus conversion. The coach is used by the program’s high-profile interior designers as their base of operations while they remodel a chosen family’s home.
“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” features a design team and approximately 100 workers who have only seven days to complete a four-month home renovation project. Every room, plus the exterior and landscaping, is totally renovated.
The show premiered on December 3, 2003, with more than 12 million viewers tuning in. The Marathon Coach bus conversion plays a prominent role at the beginning of each program as the designers travel to the work site, discussing their plans and providing information about the family whose home will be renovated.
Country Coach Founder Resumes Chairman Emeritus Position
Country Coach Inc., C2132, announced in March that founder and CEO Bob Lee has resumed his role as chairman emeritus and has been retained as a special consultant to company president Jay Howard.
In 2002, at the request of the National RV Holding Inc. board, Mr. Lee returned from retirement to Country Coach, taking an active role in its management and succession planning. Now, 18 months later, again as chairman emeritus, he will focus on product evaluation, sustained growth and customer relations.
Mr. Lee founded Country Coach in 1973 and has been an active member in the RV industry. He has served on FMCA’s Commercial Council since 1984 and has been the council’s president since 1999. Mr. Lee also has served 14 years on the board of directors of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). In 2000 he was inducted into the RV/MH Heritage Foundation Hall of Fame.
Hopkins Manufacturing Acquires Master Concepts
Hopkins Manufacturing Corporation recently acquired the assets of Master Concepts Inc., the company that developed and manufactures the BrakeBuddy supplemental braking system.
Master Concepts, based in Sedalia, Colorado, was founded in 1996 by Dan Decker Sr. and his son, Dan Decker Jr. Mr. Decker Jr., president, said he believes the association with Hopkins will enhance the BrakeBuddy’s status in the industry. “We foresee more growth as safety concerns surrounding braking performance continue to increase among RV owners who are towing vehicles,” he said. “By aligning with Hopkins, we can accelerate this growth and the introduction of additional new products to our customers.”
Hopkins Manufacturing, based in Emporia, Kansas, designs, manufactures, and markets consumer products for the RV and automotive aftermarket, as well as service products for automobile dealers, repair shops, and safety inspection facilities.
Featherlite Opens Mid America Sales Center
Featherlite Inc., C6803, announced the opening of Mid America Sales, a national consignment and repossession center for bus conversions and type A motorhomes, in Pryor, Oklahoma. Mid America Sales will be aligned with the company’s coach division, Featherlite Luxury Coaches, C5238, and will include a fully integrated service center.
Featherlite Luxury Coaches maintains sales and service locations in Florida, Iowa, and North Carolina, and a sales office in Oregon. The company also has 16 authorized service centers throughout the United States. Service is offered to owners of all brands of motorhomes.
RV/MH Heritage Foundation Holds Benefit Raffle
The RV/MH Heritage Foundation is staging a benefit raffle to support the national RV/MH Hall of Fame, Museum, and Library, located in Elkhart, Indiana.
The RV/MH Heritage Foundation, founded in 1972, maintains the national RV/MH Hall of Fame, which has honored more than 250 industry leaders; a public museum displaying historical artifacts dating back to 1913; and a library of industry books, magazines, documents, and photos.
A maximum of 1,000 tickets will be sold at $100 apiece from June 1 to July 4. A total of 100 prizes will be awarded. The first prize is $25,000; the second prize is $5,000; and the third prize is $1,000. Ninety-seven other ticket holders will win between $125 and $500. The drawing will take place on July 5, 2004, at noon.
In the event that fewer than 1,000 tickets are sold, all prizes will be prorated evenly between the winners and the RV/MH Heritage Foundation. The raffle is licensed with the Indiana Department of Revenue.
Those interested in purchasing tickets or receiving more information can call (800) 378-8694 or visit www.rv-mh-hall-of-fame.org.
“See America’s National Parks” Campaign Kicks Off
The National Park Service and the National Park Foundation have partnered with the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) to launch a new promotional campaign titled “See America’s National Parks.”
The campaign, which began this spring, focuses on raising awareness of the diversity of the national park system, encouraging travelers to visit some of the lesser-known parks, and increasing the sale of park passes.
Major elements of the campaign include a Web site (www.seeamerica.org), a national sweepstakes, travel packages, a nationally distributed promotional poster, a video e-mail provided by the Travel Channel, and domestic and international advertising.
Visitors to the “See America” Web site will find information about each of the 388 national parks by clicking on the “See America’s National Parks” icon. From that point they can search by park name, activity, state, or zip code to find their ideal destination, as well as maps, suggested travel itineraries, vacation packages, and special deals. The site also provides a link for those interested in buying a National Parks Pass.
Sirius Partners With NFL
Sirius Satellite Radio, C9757, has announced a seven-year agreement with the National Football League to broadcast all NFL games live nationwide. In 2004 Sirius will carry the entire NFL regular season, as well as wild card and divisional playoff games. In 2005 and through the remainder of the agreement, Sirius will add the conference championship games and the Super Bowl to its lineup.
As part of the agreement, Sirius also will create “The NFL Radio Network,” with exclusive, around-the-clock NFL programming for Sirius subscribers. The channel will provide news, features, and a wide range of other programming that highlights the NFL and each of its teams. The NFL Radio Network also will include programs from The NFL Network television channel, which was launched last November.
A complete schedule of games will be available at www.sirius.com and at www.nfl.com. The new programming will come at no additional charge to Sirius subscribers, who pay $12.95 a month for coast-to-coast satellite radio service. Sirius also broadcasts live play-by-play action for NBA and NHL games.
Motorhomes equipped with Sirius-ready satellite radios are available from a growing list of coach manufacturers, including Fleetwood, Gulf Stream, Jayco, Monaco Coach Corporation, Newmar, and Winnebago Industries.
New Titles Added To Backcountry Byways Series
Wilderness Press has added two more books to its Backcountry Byways series for those who enjoy exploring in towed vehicles capable of off-road excursions.
Oregon Byways ($16.95) and Washington Byways ($18.95) each provide a variety of scenic routes along little-known and seldom-traveled roads throughout the Pacific Northwest. The books are intended to introduce backcountry touring to people who drive high-clearance vehicles and sport utility vehicles (SUVs), and to serve as a guidebook for off-road experiences.
Oregon Byways includes 75 routes that lead to places such as the desert canyon of Leslie Gulch; Steens Mountain Road, the highest road in Oregon; and to the state’s most wild and scenic river, the Lower Deschutes. Washington Byways features 56 drives that follow the winding roads through the Cascade foothills, past old towns and historic mining areas, and throughout Olympic and North Cascades national parks.
Each drive includes a map, directions, difficulty ratings, information sources, historic information, campgrounds, and activities along the route.
Other editions in the series cover Colorado, the California coast, the California desert, the Sierra Nevada, Utah, and Idaho byways.
The books are available from bookstores, through online booksellers, or by calling Wilderness Press at (800) 443-7227. For more information, visit www.wildernesspress.com.
Featherlite Sponsors The Golf Channel’s Youth Golf Program
Featherlite Inc., C6803, recently announced that its Featherlite Luxury Coaches division, C5238, has become an official partner and major sponsor of the Mutual of Omaha Drive, Chip & Putt Junior Challenge presented by The Golf Channel. The Featherlite Vantare also was named the “Official Coach” of The Golf Channel.
As part of the agreement, a Featherlite Vantare Prevost coach conversion will be used by the cable network’s junior golf team as it tours North America. Each year the coach will log 50,000 miles while visiting 100 communities in 40 states and Canada. Equipped with Internet hookups, phone lines, a fax machine, a TV, and DVD equipment, as well as a lounge area, beds, a shower, and a kitchen, the Featherlite coach will serve as a high-technology communications center, mobile hotel, and traveling billboard.
The Mutual of Omaha Drive, Chip & Putt Junior Challenge presented by The Golf Channel is targeted at children who have an interest in golf, regardless of their skill level or previous exposure to the game. This year’s events began February 7 and will continue through October 23. The series will air on The Golf Channel from August through November.
Featherlite Luxury Coaches is headquartered in Sanford, Florida, and builds custom coaches for individuals as well as executive coaches for companies and corporations. Among the professional golfers who own Featherlite coaches are John Daly and Davis Love III.
Everglades Radio Network On The Air
Motorists traveling on Interstate 75 in southern Florida now can tune in to an educational radio program about the Everglades while driving the hour-long route through Alligator Alley.
The Everglades Radio Network offers around-the-clock environmental news, nature reports, and emergency bulletins concerning the Everglades. Broadcast from Florida Gulf Coast University on WFLP-FM (98.7) or WFLU-FM (107.9), the network features facts about the Everglades’ ecosystem; its wildlife and habitat; and a historical account of the natural and man-made forces affecting its future. To assist motorists along the route that links the east and west coasts of southern Florida, the network also provides emergency weather bulletins, travel advisories, and Amber Alerts.
Currently the broadcast can be heard primarily in the western section of Alligator Alley, the stretch of I-75 that connects Plantation in the east to East Naples in the west. For more information, visit www.evergladesradionetwork.org.
Clearinghouse Connects Volunteers With U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers
Motorhomers or anyone else interested in volunteering at one or more of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ 460 lakes nationwide can do so through the Corps’ Volunteer Clearinghouse information center.
The clearinghouse links volunteer workers with Corps lakes and projects throughout the United States. Volunteers may staff visitor centers; conduct programs; maintain trails and facilities; serve as campground hosts; and more. Volunteers are not paid, but a free campsite is often provided.
A packet that contains information about volunteer opportunities, points of contact, a brochure, and an application is available from the clearinghouse by calling (800) VOL-TEER (865-8337) or by visiting www.orn.usace.army.mil/volunteer.
Intellitec Produces 1 Millionth Battery Disconnect Relay
Intellitec, C3589, based in Lombard, Illinois, recently celebrated the manufacture of its 1 millionth battery disconnect relay. Relay inventor Bill Huber came out of retirement for the day to join general manager Bill Slavik Sr. and manufacturing manager Frank Ellow in building the historic unit. Afterward, Mr. Huber was presented with a plaque containing the relay.
Intellitec has built the relays since 1986 and currently manufactures 100- and 200-amp versions of the product. The relays are used by manufacturers of RVs, trucks, boats, and conversion vans.
Marathon Coach Plans Increased Production
Marathon Coach, C2654, a bus conversion company based in Coburg, Oregon, plans to boost production levels by 20 percent during the next two years.
Marathon was scheduled to produce 55 new conversions in 2003. The company plans to convert 60 to 62 coaches in 2004 and approximately 70 coaches in 2005.
“We’re excited to be in a position to increase production levels,” said Steve Schoellhorn, executive vice president of sales for Marathon Coach. “Our coaches are being very well received. Although the market is clearly strengthening, Marathon has also recently gained significant market share in the industry. We are very optimistic about the next several years.” The company recently announced that it had attained record sales in 2003.
Marathon Coach produces luxury bus conversions and specialty vehicles equipped with high-quality residential furnishings and appliances. In addition to producing new conversions, which sell for up to $1.5 million, the company distributes preowned coaches that start at approximately $150,000.
Besides its Coburg, Oregon, corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility, Marathon Coach has sales offices in the Tampa, Florida, and Dallas, Texas, metropolitan areas.
Country Coach Partners With Coach Care Centers
Country Coach Inc., C2132, announced an expanded partnership with Onan, C87, and its Coach Care Service Center Network. With Coach Care centers located throughout the United States near some of the most popular RV destinations, Country Coach motorhome owners will be able to obtain bumper-to-bumper authorized RV service and repair for the engine, generator, chassis, and appliances.
In addition, the Quick Serve system at Coach Care Centers guarantees Country Coach owners an interview, a diagnostics check, and feedback by a certified technician within 60 minutes of their arrival at the site. Warranty authorization is expedited through a dedicated Country Coach hotline and in-field approvals, and a rapid-shipping parts program is in place.
Each Coach Care location offers 24-hour emergency service seven days a week, a dedicated RV customer lounge, dump stations, LP gas, and complimentary hookups. Many include Internet access and a host of other amenities to make the visit comfortable.
Visit www.countrycoach.com/company/service or www.funroads.com/service for a complete list of Country Coach and Coach Care service facilities. Or, call Country Coach at (800) 452-8015.