Coachbuilder Starts Over With Key Personnel and a Redesigned Product

Posted on December 1, 1998 by Jeremy Zitter, LCT editor

Executive Coach Builders in Seymour, MO, has survived a number of peaks and valleys since its 1976 inception. After establishing a reputation as one of the top coachbuilders of the early 1980s, Executive languished through six owners and a weakened product line. However, fresh out of college in 1993, David Bakare bought the company and decided to do whatever it took to recapture Executive’s past success.

Bakare’s first order of business was to rehire Doug Donalson, a 23-year industry veteran, as production manager.

“At the time, they weren’t really building anything different,” says Donalson, who left Executive in 1984. “They hadn’t moved with the times or updated production capabilities.”

So, the two men promptly did the unthinkable — they started over.

“We spent the first three years and all of our money engineering and designing a reliable product,” explains Bakare.

According to Donalson, Executive continues to evolve today. “We’re constantly trying to improve the way we build our cars to limit inconvenience to the end user,” he says.

Donalson’s team has redesigned electrical layouts, load capacities, battery locations, and console configurations. Additionally, the company has worked with PPG, an industrial product supplier, to develop a specific program to paint and finish Executive’s cars. “We’ve also written a service manual, which provides the customer with a clear, picture-oriented system to help him or her quickly find the source of any problem,” says Donalson.

The process has sent new products into the market and has lured new customers into the business.

“Executive used to be almost exclusively corporate,” says Bakare. “But in the past two or three years, with the introduction of our 120-inch stretch, our customer base has changed dramatically. Although we still have our regular corporate customers, which accounts for about 50 percent of our business, the other half is all long-car livery customers.”

Thirty-year industry veteran Al Golub, president of Chicago Limousine Service Inc., in Chicago, IL, just started running Executive’s cars about a year ago.

“Executive is very tuned into the customer’s needs,” says Golub. “We told them we wanted to have all the rear compartment controls in the front of the vehicle, at the hands of the chauffeur, rather than the customer. Executive didn’t hesitate to adapt its vehicles to meet our specific needs.”

“You can either be in business to sell at a low price or build quality vehicles,” says Donalson. “You can’t do both. It takes labor and extra work to manufacture quality vehicles. That’s what we’ve been able to do.”

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