BRISTOL — The ongoing move of Utilimaster from Wakarusa to Bristol dragged down earnings of parent company Spartan Motors for the first quarter of 2013, but the company expects the move to pay off in the long run and is expanding Utilimaster’s product offerings.
“We completed the move of Utilimaster’s walk-in van business from Wakarusa, Ind., to Bristol, Ind.,” during the quarter, wrote John Sztykiel, president and chief executive of Spartan. “Our high-volume line is now running at expected rates. Now we are adding the lower-volume, mixed-model line, which should ramp up to expected rates during the second quarter. We are excited to see more than 12 months of hard work come to fruition in the form of a high-quality product coming off the line, 100 percent complete,” he wrote in the company’s quarterly results announcement Wednesday, May 8.
Company revenues were down 19.1 percent from the same quarter last year and the company posted a net loss of 13 cents per share, much of that attributed to the Utilimaster move.
John Forbes, Utilimaster president, said production in Bristol started in mid-February, moving from a “sprawling, 16-building campus with a 2.5-mile-long production line and outdoor inventory storage to one, efficient, self-contained facility.”
The company has figured out better ways to produce vehicles, an effort it expects to save $4 million a year when all is said and done. “The Bristol project represents a shift in culture as well as production methods and location,” Forbes said in the company announcement.
Sztykiel said of the move, “we are sometimes asked questions about our strategy and why we are undertaking projects such as the Utilimaster relocation. In effect, the question is, ‘Why the pain?’ The answer is that we have some outstanding businesses and we are investing in their long-term future. We know we cannot stand still and prosper long term. We must continue to grow, and to grow we must change and invest in our future,” he said in the written announcement.
“We have invested heavily in Utilimaster to take a business with good financial performance to the next level — outstanding financial performance. Utilimaster has already been a great acquisition for Spartan. Since 2010, its revenues have grown by 84 percent through 2012,” Sztykiel wrote.
In the midst of the move, Utilimaster is also introducing a new mobile food truck. It is partnering with Mobi Munch, a services provider for mobile dining.
“We believe that the mobile food market holds a tremendous amount of potential for us, but we recognize that it can also be an extremely challenging and competitive environment for the customers of these vehicles,” noted John Marshall, senior vice president of sales and marketing. “We understand that having the right vehicle is an initial key element in creating a formula for success, which is why we are excited about our partnership with Mobi Munch to offer our customers the additional support they need to ensure success.”