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MARK III's VITULLI CITES PERSONALIZATION TREND AND COMING MANUFACTURER/DEALER SHAKEOUTS IN CUSTOM VAN BUSINESS

 PALM BEACH, Fla., Nov. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- The president of the nation's largest converter of custom vans and trucks said that consumers' increasing desire for personalized vehicles provides a positive signal for custom vehicle builders and dealers.
 During a presentation before the J.D. Power International Automotive Roundtable here, Clark J. Vitulli, president/CEO of Mark III Industries, Ocala, Fla., said, "There's nothing more personal than a custom-built van or pickup truck or sport utility vehicle. And forecasts indicate that this personalization trend will continue to grow during the next few years."
 Vitulli cautioned, however, about the impact of stringent vehicle safety and environmental regulations at federal, state, and local levels. "The cost and difficulty of complying with these regulations are making it harder for vehicle conversion companies to stay in business," he said. "Further, it's harder than ever for custom converters to obtain credit approval from the Big Three vehicle manufacturers."
 Just a few years ago, according to Vitulli, there were thousands of van conversion companies in the U.S. Today, he said, that number has decreased sharply and, of those, only about 90 are approved by the Big Three. "By the end of this decade, there will be fewer than 50 remaining," he predicted.
 "Over time," Vitulli said, "converters that can't keep up with new regulations or who face credit problems will be forced off the road. And those who haven't dropped out by the end of the decade will probably be those who are now bigger and stronger financially and who have developed the management depth to accommodate a changing industry."
 Vitulli, who joined Mark III in September after four years as executive vice president and chief operating officer with Mazda Motor of America, said that his company anticipates sales of nearly 60,000 units this year -- up from 48,000 the previous year and 25,000 in 1991. According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, total industry van conversion sales for 1993 will be about 189,000, up 5 percent from the previous year.
 In order to stake its claim as a survivor, Vitulli outlined several steps that Mark III will be taking in the near future -- gradual reductions both in the number of car and truck lines manufactured, and the number of authorized Mark III dealers.
 "Today we have 16 different car and truck lines that we handle. When you add in the number of colors we offer and the various options that customers want, it's safe to say that we don't have any two vehicles that leave our plant that are absolutely identical," he said. "We're not going to be around a decade from now if we continue to do business this way. We've got to focus on the 15 or 12 or 10 models that consumers want most."
 As for reducing the number of dealerships, Vitulli said that presently Mark III has 3,700 dealers on its roster. "We have to focus down to, say, 1,000 dealers -- those who are doing enough business to support their investment in our products, and our investment in sales and service training and other support activities."
 Mark III designs, manufactures and sells custom luxury vans and pickup trucks. It is the largest unit volume converter of Dodge, Chevrolet and Ford vans in the world. Anticipated sales volume for 1993 is $200 million. The company's production facilities and general offices are in Ocala, Fla.
 -0- 11/9/93
 /CONTACT: Harry Costello of Hill and Knowlton, 813-221-0030, for Mark III; or Clark Vitulli of Mark III, 904-732-5878/


CO: Mark III ST: Florida IN: AUT SU:

RK-PC -- FL011 -- 2380 11/09/93 15:36 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Nov 9, 1993
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