Family-owned Coach House Inc., a Florida manufacturer of Class B motorhomes, entered the Class C market in June with the Platinum 232, which had been under development for 15 months.
"It is a natural transition," said Coach House Vice President Steve Gerzeny. "The Class B segment of the market has been relatively flat for the last three years. About a year and a half ago, we hired Ron Frank, who was among the original owners of Xplorer Motorhomes. We wanted him to pioneer a Class C motorhome for us. The Platinum is the result."
Coach House was founded in Venice, Fla., in 1985 by Gerzeny, his brother David, who is company president, and his father Ruben. The brothers bought out Ruben in 1991 and the company moved to a new 40,000 square-foot factory/showroom in 1995 in nearby Nokomis.
To accommodate the 23-foot Platinum, Coach House has cut back production of its Class B motorhome by 50 percent, Gerzeny said. "We will stay in the Class B business," he said. "It's a niche product. There are millions of people who don't want to drive, handle, maintain and have the huge expense of a large motorhome."
Production in August was divided about 50 percent between Coach House's Class B and the Platinum. Gerzeny said the company expects to manufacturer 250 Platinum motorhomes for the 2001 model year.
Initially built on the Ford E-350 cutaway chassis, the 2001 Platinum, which was to be available starting in October, will be built on a Ford E-450 chassis with a 14,050 gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr).
The change will add more than 2,500 pounds to the Platinum's gvwr. The Platinum, designed to sleep four, is marketed with two floor plans — one with a side dinette, the other with automatic dual twin-bed sofas that can be joined together to form a king-size bed. Both feature a private toilet and full-size shower.
"Pretty much everything is standard," Gerzeny said, including a generator, 13,500-BTU ducted air conditioner with a heat strip, a 30,000-BTU furnace and a 6-cubic- foot three-way refrigerator.
The Platinum's one-piece molded body has several advantages, Gerzeny said. "There is hardly any road noise and without a frame, you don't get the squeaks and the creaks from the construction while driving down the road. And water leaks are virtually nonexistent," Gerzeny said.
Gerzeny said plans already are in the works to develop 26-foot and 28-foot versions of the Platinum within the next two years. "Possibly, we will expand into the Class A segment," he said.
While developing the Platinum, Coach House also has redesigned its Class B offering. The announcement that Daimler/Chrysler will discontinue its Dodge B series van means that after the 2002 model year Coach House will have a find a new Class B platform.
For the 2001 model year, Coach House redesigned the Class B motorhome's roof line to increase headroom, particularly in the widebody model. The 2001 Coach House Class B also will feature a one-piece fiberglass wetbath toilet/shower combination and reconfigured floor plans in both the standard and widebody models to create more aisle width.