Doug Donalson has long been heralded as one of the limousine industry’s most innovative builders and designers. For the past 23 years he has been instrumental in the technical development of limousine manufacturing.
When Donalson began building stretch limousines in 1976 for Executive Coach Builders, the 36-inch stretch was a standard conversion. It was 1980 before a 46-inch conversion became in industry norm. In 1986, the 60-inch stretch became a part of most Limousine company fleets.
Donaldson began as a welder, bodyman, and painter for the Seymor, MO-based company. He was promoted to shop foreman in 1978. Donaldson’s first tenure at Executive ended in 1984 when he became plant manager at Corporate Coach.
At Corporate Coach, Donaldson helped create the first wide body limousine. He contributed to the design of the dual dividers, dual batteries, and relay-controlled printed circuits and electrical systems. From 1991 to 1993 Donalson started CoachWorks by Donalson where he built a number of limousines.
In 1993, David Bakare, Executive’s president, rehired him to run the company’s manufacturing facility. Joining Donalson at Executive were eight supervisors who had worked with him for more than 15 years.
“I was not happy with the quality of vehicle we were building,” says Bakare. “Our reputation in the business had suffered over the years.”
Working with his team, Donalson redesigned Executive’s plant and its entire manufacturing process. He also completely redesigned the interior of Executive’s stretch limousines. Bakare says the improvement in quality has been significant.
“From the day that Doug Donalson arrived, Executive Coach Builders has dramatically improved the quality of its limousine,” says Bakare, “Currently, our sales are at an all-time high. More than 70 percent of our buyers are repeat customers. I attribute much of this to the great product that Doug has helped us design and build.”
According to Bakare, Donalson and his team have significantly improved company morale. “Our manufacturing facility is 100 percent air conditioned,” he says. “We spent a fortune to have the best equipment possible. Doug has been a key figure. The attitude of our staff is very good. I think that stems from the quality of the product we are producing.”
As he approaches 25 years in the limousine business, Donalson reflects on how the industry has evolved. “It looks like the industry is here to stay, but we have to be careful about responding to the needs of our customers,” says Donalson. “When you sell a customer an expensive vehicle, you have to support that customer with quick, efficient service. We must also continue to improve vehicle design.”