In 1993 when Beaver Motor Coaches declared bankruptcy, SMC, in a battle with Country Coach, acquired Beaver. By late May 1994, Perlot triumphed and brought the Beaver line of high-line class A's under SMC's banner. It wasn't long after this that I began to see indications that the Perlots were becoming distracted from their initial success by biting off more than they could chew with the Beaver purchase.
Another can of worms was opened in 1996 with the purchase of Honorbuilt (El Dorado class C, which failed) and again in 1997 when SMC diversified with a class C line under Harney Coach Works. In hindsight I'm sure that the Perlots would agree that this was the wrong product at the wrong time. This move complicated their already apparently out-of-control management problems. Beginning in 1996 their stocks began to plunge from a high of about $12 a share to $3.68 a share when SMC was bought out by Monaco Corp. in 2001.
With the history behind us, let's now consider what happened from the consumer's perspective. The sad story went something like this: The Beaver brands Contessa, Marquis, Monterey, and Patriot at first looked good in the hands of Safari; but management shakeups, poor quality control at the factory, poor customer service, and a series of lawsuits followed by bad publicity and tales of dissatisfied customers — which allegedly included verbal abuse and eviction from company premises by Mat Perlot personally — left SMC's RV industry status on shaky ground.
Satisfaction polls received by RVCG, many of which contained extensive comments concerning rude treatment by SMC's management, indicate that most of the problems encountered by consumers in the late '90's involved Beaver brands — notably the Marquis and Patriot. In approximately 200 satisfaction polls gathered by RV Consumer Group, reliability ratings for Beaver motor homes dropped from an average of 77 (quite good) prior to 1995 to an average of 63 (well below average) after the Safari takeover. Safari brands such as Trek and Cheetah, which hovered around 75 (average to good) pre-Beaver, dropped to a mere 70 in the years following the acquisition. One consumer comment we have on record puts it very well: "...a nice floor plan, pretty paint, and pretty wood don't make for a reliable, safe, or good motor home."
What can RV consumers learn from this saga of rise and fall of SMC? For one thing, its plunge from the pinnacle of success shows that talent and creativity are not enough to succeed in business. Diplomacy, fairness, generosity, and above all, the responsibility to stand behind one's product are essential. Although Mat Perlot started out strong with good ideas and good products, he apparently lost control because of too-rapid expansion and an unwillingness to bend with the wind.
Will Monaco turn things around for the Beaver and Safari brands? Will Beaver and Safari be safe buys in the near future? I don't have the answer.
On March 5, 2009 the company Monaco filed for Chapter 11
On April 24, 2009 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, an attorney for Monaco said the company had signed an asset purchase agreement with Workhorse International Holding Co., a Navistar International
subsidiary. Monaco's CEO was Kay Toolson.
On June 23, 2009, Judge Kevin Carey agreed to the company’s request to convert its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing to a Chapter 7
case so it could liquidate its remaining assets, seven pieces of real estate in Oregon, Indiana and Florida. The order converting the case to Chapter 7
was effective June 30. Monaco Coach Corporation sold its factories, inventory, brands and intellectual property to Navistar International
Corp. earlier in June for $47 million. The RV resort properties in California, Nevada, Florida and Michigan were sold to various other buyers. Once the remaining assets are liquidated under Chapter 7
, “the entity ceases to exist,” and effectively spells the end of Monaco Coach Corporation, said Andrea Coles-Bjerre, an assistant law professor at the University of Oregon and a former bankruptcy lawyer in New York.
Monaco RV LLC is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Navistar International Corp.
Just my .02