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Draheim Upbeat as Fleetwood RV Sets New Course

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July 21, 2009 by   Leave a Comment

The new Fleetwood RV Inc. expects to build 2,500 Class A and C motorhomes within the next year, resulting in about $275 million in sales while “returning the company to its roots” with an emphasis on value-priced motorhomes, according to John Draheim, president of the new company owned by American Industrial Partners Capital Fund IV (AIP), a New York City-based investment firm which bought some of the assets of bankrupt Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.

”A lot depends on the market,” Draheim said during a break Tuesday at Fleetwood’s exhibit during the Family Motor Coach Association’s 82nd International Convention in Bowling Green, Ohio.  ”If we are able to build more diesel (units) than gas, it would be higher on the dollar side.”

Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., Riverside, Calif., filed for bankruptcy in March just days after announcing that it would no longer compete in the towable marketplace.

The new motorized RV builder’s headquarters will be in Decatur, Ind., where it purchased two of Fleetwood Enterprises’ manufacturing factories, two RV service plants and Fleetwood’s Gold Shield fiberglass facility along with some equipment in Riverside.

Three production lines are expected to be up and running by Labor Day, according to Draheim.

Fleetwood RV intends to hire about 650 employees to work in Decatur and will engage a temporary work force in Riverside to continue to build motorhomes while the Decatur plant starts up. ”We will be able to utilize the California operation on a temporary basis to produce product for a four- or five-month period,” Draheim said.

While continuing to build higher-priced diesel products, the company’s first new motorhome — unveiled at Bowling Green — is a gas-powered Bounder Classic targeted at value-priced buyers. The new Bounder, a brand that was once Fleetwood’s popular flagship — is intended to begin a return to the days when Fleetwood founder John Crean Sr. placed a premium on practicality, functionality and price sensitivity.

“It will have a lot more drawers, cabinets, cubby holes and shelves behind the sofa where you can put your bedding during the day,” Draheim said.

The Bounder Classic — initially available in three 30- to 34-foot floorplans on Ford chassis — will retail for between $100,000 and $105,000 Draheim reported. “Bounder had migrated to too high in price,” he said. “We felt we needed to get our Bounder to be the most powerful gas brand name and back in the heart of the market.”

Additionally, it’s likely that some Fleetwood brands will be dropped by the new company. “We are right-sizing the company to be break-even at our current revenues,” Draheim said. “Looking at the current industry volume, we have too many brands for that size of market.”

At one time, Fleetwood Enterprises employed more than 1,000 people in Decatur, but eliminated 550 jobs last December. On Friday (July 17), Fleetwood Enterprises’ 700 remaining employees nationwide were terminated and Fleetwood RV began taking employment applications from former Fleetwood Enterprises employees and others. Those rehired in Decatur will have to take a 10% across-the-board pay cut and their benefits will be adjusted, Draheim said.

He said the company was “overwhelmed” when 1,500 people applied for the jobs late last week when word spread around Adams County, just south of Fort Wayne, that Fleetwood was hiring.

In addition to paying $32.2 million for Fleetwood Enterprises’ assets, Fleetwood RV also assumed an estimated $20 million in warranty responsibilities for Fleetwood Enterprises’ motorized products.

”In the acquisition the new company will honor warranties for those customers who had a unit in their possession that still has adequate warranty period left as well as the unsold units on dealers’ lots,” Draheim said.

Fleetwood RV’s dealer base will consist of former Fleetwood Enterprises’ dealers as well as others.

”We are going to be looking for well-capitalized dealers who are the best option in each market,” Draheim said. ”We feel like the old organization had a very strong distribution channel. That was one of its best assets, albeit the channel has been under pressure for the last 18 months based on volume.”

Draheim said Fleetwood RV already has signed a floorplan agreement with one of the nation’s largest wholesale financing lenders and is in negotiations with another.

“We are very optimistic that we will have repurchase agreements with both of them very shortly and I think we will have adequate availability of wholesale funds,” Draheim said. “I don’t see that as an issue.”

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