Jayco Details Restructuring at Dealer Confab
Middlebury, Ind.-based RV builder Jayco Inc.’s revised management team was on a mission during the company’s “2014 Homecoming” dealer meeting, June 22-25 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, to assure representatives of some 170 dealerships in attendance that the future will exceed the past after a series of unusual and, some would say, exciting new developments for the traditional, family-held towable and motorized RV builder.
Changes at Jayco, a 2,200-employee company located in the northern Indiana village of Middlebury, have involved shifts in top management as well as the February acquisition of towable builder Open Range RV Co. and – perhaps more than anything else — the ongoing rollout of a new divisional format for the formerly corporate-centric, traditional-style firm.
President & CEO Derald Bontrager stressed in his keynote remarks that all of the changes occurring at 47-year-old Jayco over the past few months – in the wake of the company’s announcement this past spring that members of the founding Bontrager family would be taking greater hands-on roles in corporate affairs – are part of a strategic plan developed by Jayco’s board to stay competitive in a consolidating marketplace in which Jayco last year retailed a record 35,000 units.
All of it is said to be consistent with a new corporate branding tag line, “Generations of Family Fun,” according to Derald Bontrager and his brother, Wilbur Bontrager, whose company operates four facilities in Amish-populated areas around Middlebury, Shipshewana and Topeka, Ind., as well as Twin Falls, Idaho.
“Well, the message that we’re trying to communicate this week and that I was trying to communicate in my talk is that we’ve had a lot of change within our organization in the past several months and we’ve brought in some new leadership, and the whole point is to really get laser-focused with all the division and product lines and become an even greater force in the RV industry,” said Derald Bontrager. “You know, we’re committed to the future, and we’re going to grow and I want to communicate to our dealers that we’re going to be the best partner we can possibly be and give them products that are spot on and are going to turn on their lots.”
Curiously, the crux of the new divisional format for Jayco, the nation’s No. 3 RV builder, is similar to that of current market share leaders Thor Industries Inc. and Forest River Inc. in the sense that each of Jayco’s newly established divisions has its own president and dedicated operating management team as well as a measure of relative independence. Having parted company recently with former COO Jim Jacobs, a popular industry exec who left Jayco this spring for an undisclosed position at Forest River, Jayco’s divisional presidents include:
• Tadd Jenkins, who last year resigned his post as a Jayco vice president to work out west in the car business and returned recently to take over the reins of the newly established Jayco Motorhome Group, which consists of the former Jayco Motorized and Entegra Coach operations.
• Matt Thompson, formerly of the Thor Motor Coach and CrossRoads RV divisions of Thor, is president of Jayco Towables.
• Akos Sefcsik, who for the past year had served as general manager and vice president of Jayco’s Starcraft operations in Topeka, is now the division’s president.
• Randy Graber, a co-founder of Open Range RV Co., renamed Highland Ridge RV Inc. after its acquisition earlier this year by Jayco, is now serving as president of Highland Ridge.
Beyond that, management changes surrounding those four newly established divisions have been fast and furious, especially at the Jayco Motorhome Group, where the realigned team includes Vice President of Product Development Pat Carroll, Vice President of Sales Chuck Lasley and Vice President of Operations Devon Miller.
Over on the Starcraft side of the equation, meanwhile, Jason Bontrager, Wilbur’s son, has moved up to vice president of operations.
During the week, dealers were introduced to 12 new floorplans and had a chance to see the completely revamped Jayco toy hauler line. The Octane and Octane Super-Lite feature a new radius profile with fiberglass front, upgraded amenities on the interior and five new floorplans. The Seismic features three new interior colors with coordinating countertop colors, a 50-inch TV and a new exterior look including an illuminated Jayco logo. In addition, Jayco introduced the new Seismic Wave featuring four full-featured floorplans at a competitive price point.
The Jayco Motorhome Group introduced the new 37HJ Seneca floorplan to the lineup as well as a newly re-designed front entertainment center and new residential-style kitchen. The Greyhawk added the 29ME floorplan to its lineup in addition to making the JRide Ride and Handling package standard on Greyhawks for model year 2015.
Jayco also honored its top dealers, including:
• Class A & C motorhomes: Richardson’s RV Centers Inc.
• Camping trailers: Trailside RV Center, Grain Valley, Mo.
• Travel Trailers: Crestview RV Center, Buda and Selma, Texas
• Fifth-wheels: Happy Trails RV Inc., Grande Prairie, Alberta, and Prince George, B.C.
• All Jayco towables: Crestview RV Center.
• Top Combined Overall Retailer: Happy Trails RV Inc.
• Jayco Founders Award: Rick’s RV Center, Joliet, Ill.