As its restructured management team had promised, Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc. unveiled its consolidated and revised product lines – with plenty of fanfare — to a crowd of U.S. and Canadian dealers on Wednesday and Thursday (Oct. 21 and 22) at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds in Goshen, Ind.
Led by Don Clark, the energetic former Keystone senior vice president who moved over to Thor’s Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc. division in April, the new Dutchmen team served up pep talks, grilled chicken, rock ‘n roll music and some aggressive, behind-the-scenes sales presentations over the two-day session to some 240 dealer personnel representing more than a hundred dealerships.
It was all part of what Clark called “The Launch of the New Dutchmen.”
The meeting allowed Goshen-based Dutchmen – like a growing number of U.S. RV manufacturers — to exclusively get with its dealers prior to December’s National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., so that they could better focus Louisville Show time on new dealer prospects.
After all was said and done, meanwhile, Dutchmen brought in many of the Goshen company’s 600 employees and their families last night (Oct. 22) for a dinner, kids games and a chance to see some of the “New Dutchmen’s” finished 2010 products.
In front of a dinner crowd Wednesday night, Clark thanked the Dutchmen family – including local employees and dealers from as far as Vancouver, Bristh Columia — for all they’ve accomplished in short order since he succeeded former president Rich Florea in April.
“This open house is officially the unveiling of the new Dutchmen where we’ve invited our dealers from across the nation and Canada to come here and preview our newly — not just reengineered – but reinvented products,” Clark told RVBUSINESS.com. “This is the new Dutchmen. We’ve taken our product lines down from 18 to seven brands. And the reasons we did that? Dealers can no longer take chances on fringe markets that only give them two to three or four percent of what is selling in the marketplace. Dealers, especially in this challenging environment, need to focus on that business that brings in 95% of their revenues. That’s what we’ve done as a company.”
Out of the lineup as a result of the product consolidation were fashionable and rather eye-catching small niche products like the T@B, T@DA, TOPO and EcoLogic. “These were really cool niche products that were probably worth taking a chance on in great times,” said Clark. “And you know what? In some markets, the product was good. In some markets, the product created a lot of attention. That’s not enough in this type of an environment. You’ve got to have something that has sustaining power and hits that meat of the market that’s going to turn for your dealers and make them money. Play time’s over. Dealers are serious about their business.”
By the same token, the seven “mainstream” brands that Dutchmen’s now targeting, all of which have been upgraded for 2010, include Denali, Four Winds, Colorado, Grand Junction, Aerolite, Kodiak and Dutchmen. This array of more conventional products keeps the company within an affordable range, Clark noted, with nothing above the $50,000 price tag of its newly revised flagship Grand Junction.
All in all, Clark added, dealer response has exceeded expectations and things are going well at Dutchmen. “We’re actually increasing our volume,” he said. “Sixty days ago, we hired 50 additional people. We fired up a plant full time, and we’re ramping it up as quickly as we can. And we intend to grow more this spring.”