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Stretch limousine business hits the skids

Hard times have hit the industry

Federal Coach, formerly headquartered in Fort Smith, and now owned by J.B. Poindexter & Co. Specialty Vehicles Group, is being consolidated with Poindexter’s Eagle Coach Co. of Ohio. 140 workers at the Arkansas plant are being phased out this spring as operations move to Eagle Coach’s facilities in Amelia, Ohio.

An article in the March 21 Southwest Times Record attributed the decline of stretch limousine sales to the appeal of less opulent vehicles following the terrorists attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, coupled with the struggling economy.

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According to the Times Record, in 1990 there were 60 makers of stretch limousines and Federal Coach made between 9,000 and 10,000 specialty vehicles annually. Today, there are 15 stretch limo manufacturers, and Federal Coach’s last estimate of annual production was around 2,000 vehicles.

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The Times Record noted that Fort Smith is considered the birthplace of the stretch limousine. In 1923, Armbruster & Co. Inc. stretched a touring car at the request of the Jordan Bus. Co.

Armbruster was founded in 1887 for the building and repairing of horse-drawn vehicles. The company later moved into auto repair, then limousine conversion.

It subsequently became Armbruster/Stageway, then in the early 1990s, Federal Coach. It was recently acquired by Poindexter.

In addition to stretch limousines, Federal Coach also made hearses and buses. The bus line was sold last year to Starcraft in Goshen, Indiana. Hearses, while also decreasing in numbers due to the growing popularity of cremations, will continue to be made at the Amelia, Ohio, manufacturing facility.

[Federal Coach photo]

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