Navistar‘s Monaco Coach Purchase Lifts Spirits

Though it's uncertain when the RV maker’s production will resume and at which plants, the mere promise of jobs was great news in Coburg, Oregon.

COBURG, Ore. (AP) -- Business and community leaders in Coburg were pleased to hear that Navistar International Corp. has completed its purchase of some Monaco Coach Corp. assets for about $47 million.

Monaco, the Coburg-based recreational vehicle maker, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March as the economic downturn and credit crunch decimated demand and financing for the vehicles.

Navistar said it will create a new Coburg-based company -- Monaco RV -- that will operate as a subsidiary. Navistar said production at Monaco will resume at some facilities in the coming months, but would not be more specific.

"When the time is right," Navistar spokesman Roy Wiley said.

Though it's uncertain when production will resume and at which plants, the mere promise of jobs was great news in Coburg. Mayor Judy Volta said the city would welcome Navistar and the new Monaco as valued business partners. "Monaco has been an excellent neighbor," she said. "We look forward to a new day."

Though it's unclear when the RV industry will bounce back, Volta said she's optimistic it eventually will. "We still have a leisure class," she said. "Anyone with an RV knows it's a viable way of life."

Monaco, founded in 1968 in Junction City, ceased production in December after a terrible 2008 in which it was crushed by record-high gas prices, the financial meltdown on Wall Street, tight credit and a lack of consumer confidence. It laid off about 2,000 workers.

Kevin Penn, who spent 17 years working for Monaco, has been working part-time as a landscaper, fixing up a house and taking job-training classes. He was happy to hear Thursday's news.

"I've been somewhat holding out, wanting to go back there if it opens up," he told The Register-Guard newspaper. "I still would like to go back to Monaco if the possibility is there."

Monaco Coach had manufacturing facilities in Oregon and Indiana and its RV offerings ranged from entry-level priced towables to custom-made luxury models under the Monaco, Holiday Rambler, Safari, Beaver, McKenzie and R-Vision brand names.

"Providing the RV market with the right vehicles at the right time will be Monaco RVs first order of business," Jack Allen, president of Navistar's North American truck group, said in a written statement. "Our management teams will spend these first few weeks ramping up the business at a pace commensurate with demand."

Jack Roberts, executive director of Lane Metro Partnership, an economic development group, said he told officials to consider using the Coburg plant to build not just Monaco RVs, but also some of Navistar's other products -- such as trucks and buses.

"It's a great facility and a good location because of its proximity to the large California market," said Roberts, the former state labor commissioner and gubernatorial candidate.

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