By S.B. Jackson
According to Coach Care business development manager Bill Gibson, more than 1.4 million motorized recreation vehicles are on the road today, and with all the troubleshooting and maintenance that statistic implies, the service industry is taxed. To help dealerships handle the growing demand for repair technicians and service bays, as well as to give RV owners a way to stay connected while they are out on the road, Coach Care’s national network of one-stop service repair centers was born.
“Let me define the term ‘one-stop,'” Mr. Gibson said. “This means our Coach Care centers are qualified to work on the engine, generator, chassis, and major appliances “” ninety-seven percent of what goes wrong in an RV.” He went on to explain that if the Coach Care center does not provide a particular repair on-site, say, for instance, tires or windshields, the shop will make every attempt to sublet the work out for the customer. “Our philosophy is to not say no.”
The concept of a nationwide RV repair facility began when a group of industry experts gathered to outline what would comprise the perfect RV service center. That “wish list” included trained technicians, national networking, good dealership relations, and hookups for overnight stays. Six years later, 31 of these shops have been established around the United States, with a goal in 2006 to add eight more.
“We’re the only RV service network in the country that is electronically linked,” Mr. Gibson said.
Not just anyone can hang a “Coach Care” shingle over the front door. Before the project even gets a green light, the shop must be a Cummins and Onan branch distributor situated near a major interstate highway. Once a Coach Care center is up and running, the business is given a two-year grace period to add a specific number of amenities and to complete a three-step audit process of training and certification. After making the grade, the facility is then re-evaluated on a regular basis to assure that every aspect is staying up to code.
I live near a Coach Care center and recently drove out to have a look around, and to speak with Tim Kelly, the Cummins Northwest vice president of RV business, who is based at this particular location.
“Everything you see here “” the waiting room, retail area, clean service bays, and fresh coffee “” are all part of the criteria set by Coach Care,” he explained. “The list is a mile long.”
According to Mr. Kelly, the entire concept of Coach Care is service, and this means for every RVer “” gas, diesel, any chassis, and all engines. If they can’t fix the problem on-site, Coach Care will find someone who can. “And in many instances, we will transport the RV to the sublet and back, because having a CDL driver on staff is another Coach Care criteria,” he said.
Being far from home and having such a qualified shop to limp into for service is reassuring in its own right, but Mr. Kelly pointed out that Coach Care offers more than just 24/7 on-call service. It also includes “maintenance items, winterization, tow hitches, parts, camping supplies, and even walk-around inspections for anyone who may have some questions about how to operate their RV.” However, he pointed out that service recommendations differ with makes and models of RVs, so it’s always a good idea to first call ahead and ask. “And come as prepared as you can,” he added, referring to the importance of bringing along a detailed list of problems as well as any lube charts, wiring schematics, or repair manuals that pertain to the motorhome.
Coach Care also offers what the company calls “reciprocal warranty support.” This means that each facility stands behind the work performed at all Coach Care locations. Plus, you won’t have to spend time explaining what was done at the previous Coach Care location, because they’ll have access to all the records on the company’s system-wide computer network.
With all this service and convenience, I had to wonder whether Coach Care was out to grab some of the market from RV dealerships.
“Coach Care isn’t a competitor of the dealer,” Mr. Kelly responded. “It’s a dealer support.” He went on to say that Coach Care facilities are designed to be a place dealers can trust to send their overflow, and with Bill Gibson’s statistic of 1.4 million coaches motoring around the country, that probably more closely resembles a flood.
Mr. Kelly encouraged everyone to visit the Coach Care Web site, on www.funroads.com, to identify shop locations on their route of travel, or to call (888) POWER RV (769-3778). Hookups, another criteria item, are available for customer convenience, but in the busy season may require a reservation based on service appointments.
I asked Mr. Kelly whether there was anything he wanted to say to folks who might be unsure whether Coach Care was the place to take their motorhome for service and repair. “We have carefully selected key distributor locations to provide a higher standard of service for the RV market,” he said. “The criteria for Coach Care was not met overnight; in fact, we delayed a press release announcing our existence until last August, as our goal was to reach a high level of core competency, which this market demands, prior to launch.”
“Don’t be afraid to try something new,” he added. “Stop in and see what we have to offer.”