A good crowd of current and prospective dealers were on hand Tuesday morning (April 9) at the Gaylord Texan Hotel in the Dallas suburbs for the kick off of Nappanee, Ind.-based Newmar Corp.’s first national dealer meeting since the recession put a damper on the U.S. economy in 2008.
And while the all-motorized RV builder showed an array of new 2014 models, family-held Newmar’s management also displayed an upbeat outlook in its presentations and an aggressive slate of new product and service initiatives unveiled this week in Texas.
“The recession’s a thing of the past,” Newmar President Matt Miller told RVBUSINESS.com, “and we’re focused on leading in product innovation and design. And, of course, we’ve always been a leader in quality and service.”
“That’s our focus to the dealers — that the recession is behind us and the future is bright,” agreed John Sammut, vice president of sales and marketing. “And I think in Tuesday’s business meeting that was a repeated theme throughout, not only in the remarks to dealers, but in many of the things Matt highlighted with regard to changes in product for 2014.
“The bottom line is that we never stopped investing in the product and our company. We fulfilled all our obligations, no matter what. But that’s all behind us, and we really do think Newmar dealers in particular should feel good about their future.”
Newmar, which planned to honor its top performers in terms of customer satisfaction at a Wednesday evening ceremony, showcased an array of new features and floorplans, including several full-wall slide models and the return of the legendary Detroit Diesel engine brand. The company debuted a 500-hp DD13 version that is available on the $750,000 (retail) Essex Class A equipped with Freightliner SLR chassis.
According to Newmar, the coach comes with a steerable tag-axle and a “Virtual Technician” on-board diagnostic system through which drivers can communicate with qualified tech support when experiencing engine trouble. The Essex is also available for the same price on Spartan chassis.
Other new models drawing special attention in Dallas included a new full-wall slide variant of the company’s popular, 39-foot, $188,000 (retail) Canyon Star toy hauler Class A — the company’s top-selling floorplan — and a significant upgrade of the high-end King Aire A-body that, for $902,000 (retail), has been positioned as an affordable option for today’s bus conversion buyer. The builder also showed the Ventana Class A, retailing for $284,000, offering new floorplans and additional length in some models.
The King Aire, like the rest of Newmar’s lines, comes with TRW’s Comfort Drive steering developed for dramatically easier big rig handling — a feature that Newmar’s management is promoting through a series of test drives at rallies and shows around the country.
“One of our approaches with the King Aire is to actually take business away from the bus conversion manufacturers,” said Miller. “It has a bus look, but it’s half the price. We have provided a better drive with Comfort Drive. With its axles and suspension, it’s a better ride than bus conversions. And when you look at the inside and everything that’s on the unit, it’s a tremendous value.”
As expensive as that coach might seem to many potential American motorhome buyers, Sammut said the company has kept a strong hand in more affordable price tiers, with virtually half its coaches still being lower priced, gas-fueled coaches.
“We don’t have a down-and-dirty price point product — and we probably never will because we’re just not that kind of company,” said Sammut. “But we do have at every price point down into our gas products competitively priced and affordable product.”
Among the other key initiatives at Tuesday’s presentations:
• A continued emphasis on improving the company’s 13-year-old customer service index (CSI) program.
• A substantial investment toward a website upgrade to better display product in a more user-friendly manner and facilitate more lead generation.
• Enhanced product branding in the trade and consumer press.
• A closer focus on the value of plant tours as a viable branding and sales tool.
• A retained emphasis on Newmar’s sales and executive management teams working and supporting rallies and shows.
• Opting to continue for a fourth year the “Newmar Product Road Show” through which the company’s senior management and spouses visit selected dealers around the country.
• Stepping up the focus on training dealers and retail sales personnel through the company’s newly launched Newmar Professional Product Institute.
• Revitalizing the company’s Dealer Advisory Board.