Fleetwood RV Kicks Off 2010 Dealer Meeting
Fleetwood RV Inc., a new company launched last year as the successor to the Fleetwood brand, kicked off its 2010 National Dealer Meeting Tuesday night (Aug. 24) with a rousing address by Fleetwood President and CEO John Draheim at the Grand Wayne Center in downtown Fort Wayne, Ind.
Fort Wayne is located less than a half hour north of Fleetwood’s new Decatur, Ind., headquarters and is a fitting site for a more low-key event that Fleetwood RV prefers versus the kind of glitzy annual dealer meeting that Fleetwood’s predecessor, Riverside, Calif.-based Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., used to hold in Las Vegas prior to the Great Recession.
Make no mistake about it, this is a “new Fleetwood,” Draheim reiterated in his address to a room full of attendees, including 30 vendors (24 of them with displays), three banks and about 100 dealer personnel from 45 dealerships. Draheim said Fleetwood’s focus today is on “creating partnerships” with dealers to whom he extended “a heartfelt thank you for helping us restart our company and be profitable.”
“We really do appreciate all the support that you’ve given us over the past year,” said Draheim, standing on a stage amid a display of 2011 product.
One of the company’s main missions in the near term is to explore new market opportunities, he reported, whether that involves extending existing brands or launching altogether new ones.
“We’re going to do that by looking for new market spaces that we’re not in that we can go into and both make money,” said Draheim, a veteran of Thor Industries Inc. and Monaco Coach Corp. before assuming the reins at Fleetwood RV. “We do that through providing exceptional product value that allows you to make money. We do that by trying to align ourselves with all the bankers in the room and promoting quicker retail turns because, after all, that’s what they’re looking for — quicker turns.”
Toward that end, GE Capital, Commercial Distribution Finance announced yesterday that it will be the exclusive wholesale lender for an aggressive new Fleetwood inventory stocking program designed to promote high turnover of new inventory. The program provides a competitive interest rate on financed inventory for 120 days and allows dealers to be reimbursed by Fleetwood for 100% of interest charges on new inventory financed through GE Capital and sold in 60 days or less.
Another key mission in rebuilding the Fleetwood brand, which soon will be part of a new consolidated Allied Speciality Vehicles Inc. (ASV) unit under the continued ownership of American Industrial Partners Capital Fund IV LP (AIP), is projecting an “extended family” atmosphere through which the company’s management, retailers and 1,200 employees can work amicably through any issues that inevitably surface in building a new company from scratch.
Lean production practices, warranties and Fleetwood’s new management team were all part of Draheim’s Power Point presentation. In addition to Draheim, that new team currently includes CFO Debra Pak, Vice President of Operations Luis Ortiz and new Vice President of Engineering, Development & Design Colin Roberts.
Draheim, by the same token, talked about how Fleetwood has gone about answering dealer requests to consolidate its product offerings. The result is that the company’s brands have been reduced from 27 in 2010 to 14 in the 2011 model year.
Fleetwood’s new approach to developing a dealer body was also on Draheim’s mind. Rather than assembling a big dealer body — Fleetwood currently has about 80 dealer locations, a tiny number vs. the 1,800 Fleetwood Enterprises once had — the company is more focused on establishing links with a smaller group of retailers that holds like-minded “core values.”
Draheim says that’s been a consistent theme with AIP and a real key to launching a new enterprise in these strange economic times. Keep in mind, he noted, that AIP and Fleetwood launched Fleetwood RV in 2009 in the middle of a daunting recession. “Now imagine in that environment, with the economy, fuel prices, the lending environment, the oversupply of product in the marketplace, the inability of most retailers and OEMs to hold margins, who in their right mind would start a new company?” he asked, rhetorically.
“Well, we did,” Draheim continued. “And we’re here to talk about it, and we’re profitable. That is a heck of a statement. We have no debt. We’re generating positive cash and have been for some time. We have engaged some of the industry’s best suppliers. We’ve developed relationships with the industry’s key lenders — both wholesale and retail. We’ve grown a dealer network, some of which we’ve had prior, some that we didn’t do business with prior.
“And if you gave that dealer list today to somebody who was familiar with the motorhome business today, they would tell you ‘this is a who’s who of motorhome dealers across the country,’” said Draheim. “We feel extremely humbled and confident in the quality of our dealer chain. And at the end of the day, it’s all about the quality of the dealer who creates the experience for the retail customer. So we’re honored that you’re here and that we’re in business with you.”
Fleetwood’s meeting agenda included a tour of the company’s Decatur facilities and an afternoon of meetings. The meeting ended Thursday with an awards luncheon.