Late last year, Ron Lee, one of the founders of former RV manufacturer Country Coach, was weighing two offers for the company’s coach designs and other intellectual property, and a big chunk of its plant in Junction City.
What finally tipped Lee’s hand, prompting him to sell these assets to Winnebago Industries was Winnebago’s insistence that it intended to revive production of high-end Country Coach motor homes, Lee said in a report by the Register-Guard.
The other company, which Lee declined to name, “could not guarantee me that,” he said. “They’re not as big (and) as strong an entity as Winnebago.”
Lee said he was so taken with Winnebago’s vision that he agreed to sell to the Forest City, Iowa-based firm, even though the other bidder had offered more money.
Winnebago in December paid Lee $5 million for five buildings on nearly 34 acres along East First Avenue in Junction City. Then in early January, Winnebago paid $3.95 million for asbout 8 acres near East Fourth Avenue from a trust created by Bob Lee, Ron’s brother and a Country Coach founder, and Bob’s wife, Terry.
Winnebago says it will manufacture large diesel-powered Winnebago motor homes in Junction City and hire up to 200 employees in the next 18 months. When that’s accomplished, Winnebago plans to revive the Country Coach brand of luxury motor coaches in the same plant.
Lee said he was guided by three goals: “Save the property, save the brand Country Coach, and make jobs in Junction City.”
“Winnebago brings a lot to Lane County and Junction City,” Lee said. “I’ve known these guys for many years. I like the type of product that Winnebago is capable of building. They build in a lower price range (than Country Coach), but the outlook toward customer service and the future of the industry is the way I look at it.
“Even though their offer was not as good as what I had on the table it did what I wanted it to do, so I chose to go with them,” Lee said.