May 26 07:55 PM

Champion changes hands

Allied Specialty Vehicles to add brand to their roster of 28

Champion Bus President John Resnik (right) welcomes dignitaries to a March 2011 ribbon cutting ceremony at the newly rebuilt and renovated facilities on Graham Road in Imlay Township. The company will have new owners, Allied Specialty Vehicles, as of November.

August 07, 2013
IMLAY TWP. — Later this fall, Champion Bus will have new owners.

Last week, Thor Industries announced it had sold its entire bus business to Allied Specialty Vehicles for $100 million. Among the assets it will take over in November 2013 is the assembly plant on Graham Road in Imlay Township that employs more than 200. Champion Bus is one of five Thor commercial bus companies that will be acquired by the Kansas-based Allied Specialty Vehicles. Within the last year, Thor's bus sales totaled about $450 million.

"We are excited to add the Thor bus business to our diverse line-up of specialty vehicles," said Allied's President Peter Guile.

"We view the opportunity to expand our business into the transit and shuttle bus markets as a key initiative in broadening our markets and providing products that meet the needs of our dealers and end consumers."

According to Allied's website, the privately-owned corporation has a total of 28 vehicle brands ranging from commercial and recreational to fire and emergency and oil and gas. They employ more than 3,000 and claim annual revenues of $1 billion. Currently, the company manufactures and sells 'type a' school buses under its Collins Bus Corporation.

The transaction will allow each corporation to realize goals on the opposite end of the spectrum. While Allied welcomes the chance to expand and even further diversify their business, Thor sees an opportunity to streamline their product offerings.

In a press release announcing the sale, Thor Chairman Peter Orthwein said that the company's decision to divest its bus line will "simplify our overall operations and solidify Thor's position as the leading company in the RV industry..."

According to the Wall Street Journal, Thor's publicly traded stock is up 44 percent so far this year.

There's been no shortage of news in recent years when it comes to Champion Bus. In early 2013, the Imlay Twp. company acquired Federal Coach for $6.8 million and started assembling executive and limousine coaches on site. That was only three years after a devastating fire destroyed a large part of the plant. Company leaders credited government officials and a dedicated staff to helping them rebound so quickly from the blaze. Within a matter of weeks, production was up and running again and in March 2011 Champion held ribbon-cutting ceremonies for their renovated and expanded facilities.

Some of Allied's brands include Fleetwood RV, Monaco, Holiday Rambler and American Coach motorhomes and travel trailers and emergency vehicles bearing the E-One, AEV, Horton, Road Rescue, Leader and Wheeled Coach brands. In the commercial and industrial sector, Allied builds terminal tractors used in shipyards and warehouses under the Capacity brand and manufactures rental and paving sweepers under the Lay-More brand. They also own a fiberglass business that makes vehicle components, among others.

Taking over Thor's bus business is not Allied's only acquisition so far this year. In June, the company announced it had purchased SJC Industries and its ambulance brands. At the same time, they doubled their RV offerings by buying the aforementioned Monaco and Holiday Rambler product lines.

Champion Bus officials couldn't be reached for comment by press time.

Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she and her family reside in the Capac area where she enjoys gardening and reading.
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