Joe Altman, president of Altmans Winnebago, announced today (May 9) that the Altman family has made the difficult decision to wind down their dealership operations in Carson, Calif. The process began on May 6.
“Our family has experienced 40 years of great and challenging times,” Altman noted in a news release, “but current market conditions suggest it’s time to end this chapter of our business.
“Over the next month or so, Altmans will be liquidating the remaining inventory of motorhomes and towables that will give buyers and other dealerships the opportunity to purchase RV’s at substantial savings.
“We are truly going to miss the many relationships developed over the last 40 years, but the time has come to say goodbye to the industry we love,” he concluded.
The dealership first opened its doors for business in 1971 in Baldwin Park, Calif.
Robert and Barbara Nicolson, retired supermarket employees from Sedona, Ariz., recently traded in their 2006 motorhome for a new Tiffin Allegro Bus that lists for $355,000. Amenities include a dishwasher, washer and dryer, full-size refrigerator and 1 1/2 bathrooms.
“How nice is it? Well, I’m having a hard time convincing my wife that it’s time to go home,” Robert Nicolson told the Los Angeles Times from a Petaluma, Calif., campground.
The couple — he’s 72, she’s 68 — “were very happy with the deal” of unspecified proportions that they negotiated, in which they unloaded their old 40-footer, Robert said. Added Barbara: “We figured, ‘What are we waiting for? We’re both healthy. Let’s enjoy it.’ ”
RV manufacturers and dealers would love to see more people like the Nicolsons.
During the last few years, the recreational vehicle industry suffered along with consumers because of record-high diesel and gasoline prices, the recession and the credit crunch. Now, U.S. retail sales of RVs have risen, although by only 3%, to 92,974, in the first six months of the year compared with year-earlier sales.
Experts and RV dealers attribute the increase to relatively stable fuel prices, the improved economy and the cautious easing of credit, especially for motor homes that sell for $100,000 and less. On top of that, many dealers are offering hefty discounts to get the big buggies moving again.
Joe Altman, president of Altman’s Winnebago, said consumers were still holding back. The number of people calling and visiting the Carson dealership and hits on the dealership’s website have increased 10% to 12% over last year, but sales are only inching up. That’s despite some large markdowns at Altmans, such as a 2010 Winnebago Vista reduced to $82,939 from $103,716 and a 2008 Winnebago Chalet discounted to $74,939 from $107,755.
To get customers to buy, “they have to have a feeling of wealth in the equity of their homes and investments. They have to feel that their income stream is secure. And if they already own an RV for a trade-in, it’s good if it’s worth more than they owe,” he said.
Altman has been pushing for sales at the lower end of the market.
“RVs above $100,000, we’re avoiding those. It’s still tough to get a loan for them,” Altman said, adding that customer service is more important than ever even when people leave the dealership without buying.
“When they do decide to buy, I want them coming back here,” he said.
The RV industry is coming off the worst sales period since 1979-1981. Then, it was a matter of high unemployment, fuel shortages and long lines at filling stations, double-digit interest rates and the implementation of the 55 mph speed limit.
Through the first six months of 2008, sales of recreational vehicles of all kinds totaled 135,451. That was a month before diesel prices topped $5 a gallon in some parts of the U.S. and gasoline rose to more than $4 a gallon. In the first half of 2009, sales dropped to 89,839 vehicles, a decline of nearly 34%.
Those numbers tell only part of the story. The two most expensive classes of RVs fell further than all the rest. Sales of the roomiest and most luxurious Class A motorhomes, vehicles that can cost as much as $400,000, declined by more than 45% in 2009. At the next level, motorhomes that cost as much as $140,000, unintuitively labeled Class C, saw a sales drop of 42%.
The RV industry’s ups and downs played out at Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. of Riverside.
One of the oldest names in the business, Fleetwood was declared the industry sales leader in 2007. In 2008, it was shuttering factories and slashing its payroll by 70%. In 2009, Fleetwood filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and its assets were sold. Fleetwood’s motorhome division was acquired by a private equity firm, American Industrial Partners.
Many longstanding RV owner groups have disappeared. The California chapter of the Fleetwood Travelcade Club, founded more than 50 years ago, was attracting so few RVers to gatherings that leaders decided to disband last March.
“We used to get 500 RVs at our events. The last one we held, in Yuba City, [Calif.,] in March, had 78 RVs. That was the swansong of our club,” said Kathy Sexton, whose husband, Mike, served as the group’s last president.
Sexton said that some of the old members will try to stay together in a new group they have dubbed California Dreamers. A planned get-together in Hemet is expecting to attract just 10 couples.
“We’re not expecting to have more than 20 rigs at our events,” Mike Sexton said. That’s in spite of the fact that the new club will welcome owners of all makes and models of RV, not just Fleetwoods, as the old group had.
Even now, as sales recover, most of the increase has come in cheaper segments of the RV market. Motorhome sales are strongest among Class B offerings, while the generously appointed Class A varieties are still on the decline compared with 2009, with sales down 8% through June to 5,242 vehicles. That was half the number recorded during the first six months of 2008.
Those who have been buying during this period have been frugal types willing to be patient and fight for a bargain.
Chuck and Alice Jarocki of Clovis, Calif., bought a “popup” folding trailer camper about a year ago on eBay for just $5,500 after a dealership grew weary of trying to sell it for nearly $9,000.
The Jarockis are avid campers who decided it was time for a step up from tents and sleeping bags on the ground. Their trailer has a heater with a regular thermostat, a refrigerator, a three-burner stove, an outdoor shower and a port-a-potty. Best of all, the Jarockis say, it has a queen-size bed.
“That sleeping bag just wasn’t cutting it,” said Alice, 73. Chuck is 80. “You can stay in this trailer for a week and still be comfortable.”
Joe Altman, president of Altmans Winnebago, announced today (Aug. 19) that it will close its store in Colton, Calif.
Altmans will be continuing its normal retail sales, service, rentals and parts operation in Carson, Calif.
“We have made the difficult decision,” Altman said in a news release, “to suspend our operations and close our store at the American RV Expo in Colton. It’s been over two years since this serious economic downturn began and our efforts to maintain an adequate sales volume have not been sufficient to sustain profitability.”
Altman also stated that it was a very difficult and sad decision since the entire Colton crew made a gallant effort to preserve the location. Altman continued saying, “The closure of our Colton facility is a reflection of some very difficult times in our country, not [the crew's] efforts, abilities, or work ethics.
“The time has come to focus on a new future and concentrate our resources where we can produce more concrete results,” said Altman. “Our Carson facility is still fully operational with more 2010 and 2011 Winnebago Motorhome and Lance trailer models than any other dealer in the West, and there are more on the way.”
Altman continued by saying that they we will meet the challenges ahead and that with over 39 years in the RV industry and all of their professional staff consolidated under one roof, they will still have competitors scrambling to meet the many Altmans advantages they can offer their customers.
Joe Altman, president of California-based Altmans Winnebago, announced today (April 16) that the dealership’s Priority RV Service departments in Carson and at the American RV Expo in Colton will offer a limited number of RVers the opportunity to get their RV oil change for only $5, and yes, that price does include the filter.
The offer is in conjunction with an open house promotion.
“We expect many customers will want to get their motorhome ready for the summer with this amazing service special,” Altman stated in a news release.
This opportunity is available to the first 120 customers on May 15-16 in Carson and for the first 60 customers at the RV Expo in Colton on May 22-23.
This oil change offer is part of the Altmans Open House Sales Event. “This is the biggest event we’ve had all year,” continued Altman. “There will be unbelievable deals on new and used Winnebagos, free food and refreshments, gifts for everyone, accessory tents and seminars, factory personnel and a fun, relaxing way to see the latest RVs from Winnebago in a hassle-free, family friendly atmosphere.”
Also on hand for the event will be current RV owners to answer questions for those considering their first purchase of a motorhome or trailer, free test drives as well as activities all weekend for the kids.
“We offer customers a lot more than just the keys,” says Altman, “and with over 38 years in the industry we strive to keep just one step ahead of what our customers have come to expect of us.”
Altmans Winnebago has grown to become one of the largest RV dealers in Southern California offering a full range of products from new and used Winnebago, Lance Trailer sales as well as pre-owned models from other brands such as Fleetwood, Damon, Monaco, Thor, Gulfstream, Jayco and Newmar.
Altmans Winnebago is also well known for their Los Angeles-based fleet of RV rentals consisting of 2009 Winnebago rental motorhomes. With five different models from which to choose, customers can rent the motorhome that best suits their needs.
In addition to sales and rentals, Altmans Winnebago also provides a wide range of services dedicated to providing customers with motorhome maintenance, repairs, body and paint work, RV accessories, RV financing and insurance.
For more information, visit Altmans Winnebago website, www.altmans.com, or contact George Murphy at 310-518-6182.
Gary Conley, national sales manager for Lance Camper Manufacturing Co., announced today (March 5) that the 2010 Lance ultralight trailer line is now available at Altmans Winnebago Southern California location in Carson.
“Altmans is well equipped to handle our Lance trailer line offering those customers the same Altmans advantages as their hi-line motorhome buyers,” Conley stated in a news release.
For over 45 years, Lancaster, Calif.-based Lance is known for its quality and dedication to each product produced and has won the Recreation Vehicle Dealer Association’s DSI (Dealer Satisfaction Index) Quality Circle Award eight times.
“When you consider Altmans’ 39-year reputation as a trusted RV dealer, buyers have the best of all combinations,” said Conley.
Lance will feature Ultralight models that are compatible with vehicles pulling 5,000 pounds or more. Not only can these light trailers be pulled by a Suburban, Expedition or other SUVs, but they can also be pulled by a wide variety of other vehicles as well.
“Winnebago motorhomes and Lance are a perfect marriage of product. We’re proud to offer the most celebrated name in motorhomes to our customers,” added Joe Altman, president of Altmans Winnebago, “and with the inclusion of Lance trailers, our sales professionals, factory trained technicians and our Priority RV Parts departments are standing by to assist our customers in making their RV dream come true.”
Altmans Winnebago announced Thursday (Dec. 31) that it will be offering a Fuel Price Guarantee to its rental customers reducing the cost of gas to $1.99 per gallon.
“In this unique environment when our customers are looking to stretch their vacation dollar, we’ve made the most affordable family vacation even more attractive by reinstating our Fuel Price Guarantee,” said Patrick Moreno, director of rental operations for Carson, Calif.-based Altmans, in a news release.
To qualify for the Fuel Price Guarantee, a customer need only book a vacation by Jan. 31 and complete the trip before May 27. For details click here.
Altmans rents 2009 Winnebago motorhomes and features four distinct models of fully equipped, self-contained Winnebago RVs in different lengths and floor plans.
For further information, contact George Murphy at (310) 518-6182.
Altmans Winnebago with locations in Carson and Colton, Calif., , has opened the Altmans Advantage Club Lounge at the Carson facility.
“Any customer who purchases a new or preowned Winnebago motorhome from us or any other make for that matter, arrives in for any service matter will receive their personal code to a very special waiting room,” said Altmans President Joe Altman. ” The air-conditioned smoke-and-noise free Advantage Club Lounge boasts such luxuries as a large wall mounted flat screen television, extremely comfortable leather theater seating, a Cyber Cafe with Wi-Fi, tables to write, read or enjoy free refreshments and snacks.
“Our dealership, like most others spends a lot of money promoting our product line to get customers to visit our facilities,” Altman said. “So when they eventually make that all important purchase, it’s imperative to us that they know just how special they are.”
“I think,” continued Altman, “that most customers know that it is just as important from whom you buy as what you buy. We have been doing RV sales for over 38 years and we are proud to offer our customers and potential customers alike many advantages that no other dealer offers.
“The Altmans Advantage Club Lounge is also made available to our Priority RV Network customers. And because we sell many preowned motor homes brands such as Monaco, Forest River, Coachmen, Georgie Boy, Tioga, Bounder, Southwind, Pace Arrow and Itasca, those that purchase a competitors brand from us will also have access to our Altmans Advantage Club Lounge.
“It really does feel like I am part of a special club!” said Edna Burke as she relaxed in the Altmans Advantage Club Lounge while an Altmans Winnebago master certified technicians performed service on her Adventurer.
“Need I say more?” said Joe Altman.
For further information, contact George Murphy at (310) 518-6182. Visit http://www.altmans.com/
Altmans Winnebago is celebrating its 38th year in the RV business this month.
“We opened our doors 38 years ago this July in the Los Angeles area and are celebrating with free gifts for everyone,” Joe Altman, the company’s president, said in a news release. “We’re serving food and beverages on the weekends, and during this sale new and used motorhomes can be purchased at prices up to 40% off original prices.
“The current financial crisis has made it difficult for everyone, but by tightening our belt and focusing our efforts on retailing the finest products available, we are surviving this storm.”
Over the last 38 years, Altmans Winnebago has grown to become one of the largest RV dealers in Southern California with locations in Carson and Colton, and provides a full range of services from new and used Winnebago sales as well as other brands such as Fleetwood, Damon, Monaco, Thor, Gulfstream, Jayco and Newmar .
Altmans is also well known for its fleet of RV rentals consisting of 2009 Winnebago motorhomes.
Altmans Winnebago is now a member of the Priority RV Network, which consists of dealers from coast to coast (50+ RV dealerships representing over 100 locations in 36 states) dedicated to providing customers with the best value available motorhome repair, RV accessories and RV sales in the RV industry.
“As we move forward into the next 38 years,” said Altman, “the future looks very promising as we continue with great prices and excellent customer service.”
Three years after the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) offered Altman’s Winnebago nearly $1 million for its land, the agency ended up paying nearly $8 million.
The payment was part of settlement agreement reached on June 8 between Altmans and Caltrans, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, West Covina.
Caltrans will use Altman’s property to widen the Interstate 10 freeway in Baldwin Park.
“We are very happy that we finally got them to see our point of view,” said owner Joe Altman. “Now, we can concentrate on selling RVs.”
Judy Gish, Caltrans spokeswoman, said she could not discuss the details of the settlement agreement because it is not yet finalized.
The agreement was signed by Caltrans attorney Erick Solares on June 8 and is scheduled to be complete in the next two weeks, records show.
“We can’t comment except for that we are working with them to resolve the issues,” Gish said.
Altman’s Winnebago has been a fixture along the freeway in Baldwin Park since 1971. The one-time corporate headquarters will be demolished along with several other businesses and homes for a freeway widening project. Work in the area began in April.
Although Caltrans notified Altman’s in 2002 that it would take the land, no action was taken until 2006, according to court records.
In 2006, it made its first offer, at $953,000, to buy portions of the property.
After Caltrans officially seized Altman’s through eminent domain proceedings in 2007, it upped its offer to $3.86 million – but that offer was only good for the cost of the property and did not include any payment for loss of business Altman’s would see.
Altman’s employs 167 people at its stores in Carson and Colton, and generated more than $61 million last year.
Bruce Cooper, a former owner of an RV dealership who was prepared to speak as an expert witness on behalf on Altman’s, said the timeframe used by Caltrans to assess the value of the company was incomplete.
“The industry fell off the cliff after October 2008, just as the car business and everything else did,” Cooper said. “But the appraisal only focused on the months after October.”
Believing the terms unfair, Altman’s asked for a jury trial, which was scheduled to begin May 5 in Los Angeles Superior Court.
With just one week before the trial, Caltrans made its settlement offer. The proposed judgement was signed on June 8.
Former Altmans Winnebago President Dave Altman, now deceased, had two pieces of business advice for entrepreneurs: avoid lawsuits and never go to court.
Now his family members are tangled up in a legal battle with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) over the value of the business he started in Baldwin Park, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
Caltrans seized Altman’s through eminent domain proceedings in 2007 and offered to pay $3.86 million for Altman’s land along the Interstate 10 freeway. But the state transportation agency offered nothing for the business, which it deemed valueless.
Now the Altman family finds itself in court seeking just compensation for a loss it values at $9.9 million.
“Caltrans has been remarkably oblivious,” said attorney John Murphy, who is defending Altman’s. “This is a business that employs over 167 people and generated over $61 million. That is not a profile that is valueless.”
Erick Solares, a Caltrans attorney, and Maria Raptiz, spokeswoman for Caltrans, declined to comment.
Altmans Winnebago has been a fixture along the 10 Freeway in Baldwin Park since 1971. The one-time corporate headquarters will be demolished along with several other businesses and homes for a freeway widening project. Work in the area began last week.
The Caltrans project will add two carpool lanes on each side of the freeway.
Although Caltrans notified Altman’s in 2002 that it would take the land, no action was taken until 2007, according to court records.
Believing the terms unfair, Altman’s has asked for a jury trial.
Caltrans seized the family’s flagship business in January, the month that Dave Altman died. Today, the abandoned building is boarded up. It was a site popular with taggers until Caltrans crews cleaned the graffiti.
The company also operates stores in Carson and Colton.
Owner Joe Altman, a La Verne resident, said he is familiar with the area and understands Caltrans’ need to expand the freeway – but he wants to be compensated fairly.
“Every business goes through cycles, and (Caltrans) happened to hit us at the bottom of a cycle,” Joe Altman said. “But for them to say that we are a ‘valueless’ company? Sometimes there are differences in opinion, but this is just shocking.”
Baldwin Park Mayor Manuel Lozano said he was sad to see the business close, especially because it had been such an institution in the city for so many years.
“They were a prize winner for us, but they fell victim to the expansion of the 10 Freeway,” Lozano said. “They leave a great legacy, not only because of the fact that they contributed to sales tax, but also to the city as well.”