A 2011 Factory Visit to Country Coach Corporation
A recent edition of the NW Country Coach Club newsletter included a detailed account of a recent factory visit at Country Coach Corporation in Junction City.
Country Coach Corporation, A 2011 Factory Visit
For months, we had been wondering about Junction City and what was happening with the “new” Country Coach Corporation. With the advent of the spring season, longer daylight days and warmer temperatures, we decided to cross the mountains on Tuesday, April 26, and head for the birthplace of Country Coach.
We almost didn’t make it! With one last winter storm, Mother Nature dumped snow on the mountains and our journey across the Santiam Pass included a few miles of snow-packed roads. Fortunately, traffic was sparse apart from a few 18-wheelers running with chains. We crept across the peak in four-wheel drive at about 20 mph, downshifting for the long decline to the 20/126 junction. After that, we were on wet pavement and traveling at the limit.
After a brief stop for breakfast at a roadside cafe in Vida and a change of drivers, we arrived in Junction City at noon. We made a stop at Guaranty RV to get reacquainted with Damon Rapozo and then headed to First Avenue and the Country Coach Corporation buildings to see what progress had been made with the rebirth of our favorite coach builder.
At the headquarters building, we met with Ronald Lee, owner & President of the new CCC, and talked with him for quite a time before taking a brief tour. Neither of us had met Ron Lee before, as he had retired from Country Coach in 1995, a few years before either of us became CC motor coach owners.
From the outset, we enjoyed a lively, spirited conversation on a range of subjects, including recent happenings with CCI, the upcoming Friendship rally, and the pre-1995 history of Country Coach.
As our meeting progressed, we began to establish a rapport with our host and became aware of his passion for the new CCC and his plans. Ron informed us that after the closure and subsequent auction of Country Coach assets, he became the sole owner of the original intellectual property of the defunct company. This property includes the company logo. At our meeting, Ron verbally agreed that we could continue to use this logo within NWCC.
We were informed that all buildings on the south side of East First Avenue are now owned/controlled by Ron Lee, with one exception. The exception is the former Magna/Affinity building 10. That building is owned by a former CC investor and currently occupied by another RV-related business. Collectively, the buildings total about a quarter of a million square feet and, as they include the original chassis shop, lamination building, paint booths, Dyno shop, assembly and warehouse space, they could be reactivated for manufacturing in a relatively short time.
Those who toured the facilities in past years will remember that the cabinet shop was located on the north side of First Avenue. Part of the cabinet shop equipment has now been relocated to a building on the south side as part of the new CCC.
Ron Lee took us on a short tour while explaining part of his business strategy. In the building attached to the headquarters building, he has several service bays and his intention is to develop this aspect of the business plus parts and tech support. Adjacent to the service bays, a substantial warehouse space has been dedicated to consignment sales. For owners wishing to offer their motor coach on a consignment basis, Ron and his staff will detail the coach, inspect and fix problems and then display the coach in a covered and safe environment.
During our visit, six units were on display with a seventh in a service bay being prepared for show. The exterior of the displayed units looked immaculate after having been detailed. Seeing them presented for sale in a nice covered space made a good impression. Far nicer than walking around in an open lot in wet weather.
We asked the obvious questions. With the factory ready, when would CCC be in a position to commence manufacturing and what models? To be viable, Ron indicated that he needs to be able to make a production run of twenty-five units and that financing has to be put in place to cover procurement of parts and labor before work can commence. Sometime in 2012 is likely.
As to models, it appears that vehicles in the Magna/Affinity range are the most likely units as there is a gap in motor coach offerings one step below bus conversions. We asked about a possible smaller offering, such as a class C, but Ron quickly pointed out that there is too much competition in that sector to make it worthwhile.
With so much spare manufacturing space on hand, Ron indicated that he is seeking tenants for part of the space as a way of diversifying his investment and, hopefully, providing some jobs within the Junction City community.
In one sense, our visit was rather sad, seeing all the buildings with idle equipment, no sound of diesel engines, smell of fresh paint or a chance to look at a brand new coach fresh off the line. But there is hope. Ron Lee is passionate about preserving the Country Coach brand and is at least putting the building blocks in place for a future return to the marketplace. We wish him and his staff all the best in this endeavor. Their success would be good for all Country Coach owners.
David Roberts, 04/30/2011
As we are not professional investigative reporters we must disclose that the information we received was not independently verified by us, but we believe it to be correct.