Middlebury, Ind.-based Coachmen RV, a division of Forest River Inc., is marking a milestone with the launch of its 50th Anniversary Edition Brookstone fifth-wheel.
“We recognized that we needed to simplify and streamline Brookstone into one product offering and have accordingly repositioned, redesigned and redefined it with the Brookstone ’50th Anniversary Edition’ which replaces all prior Brookstone products,” Fred Hershberger, general manager of Coachmen RV’s fifth-wheel division, stated in a press release. “Our brand charter is simple – we are deliberate in our design to build the most user-friendly and functional luxury fifth-wheel available, and do so at a fantastic price.
Hershberger noted that floorplans offer dedicated storage for a full-sized kitchen trash can, silverware drawer, long utensil drawer, lay-down spice rack drawer, pots and pans drawer, wine rack and optional dishwasher. Kitchens are also equipped with a broom closet, dual full-sized clothes basket storage, a cabinet that stores a mini-step ladder and a hide-a-way pet feeding station. Other interior features include a 50-inch LED Smart television, MCD roller shades and optional powered incline bed.
“Consumers will enjoy world class towing with the 50th Anniversary Brookstone which combines best-in-class aerodynamics with the LCI Correct Track Alignment System, Dexter Axles and MOR/ryde suspension,” Hershberger said.
Brookstone will begin to ship its first floorplan, a 37-foot triple slide fifth-wheel with a base MSRP of $55,000, during the month of June. For more information regarding Brookstone, call (574) 825-5821.
Industry veteran Johnny Hernandez has been named sales/product manager for Coachmen RV’s Brookstone fifth-wheel line, according to a press release.
“Johnny has been a key part of the Brookstone sales team since 2010 and will continue to be responsible for Brookstone sales in the south and central plains territory,” said Don Medd, general manager of Coachmen’s fifth-wheel division. “He brings many years of experience in product and sales management and has great product vision accompanied and supported by strong dealer relations.”
Dymon Farrer joins the Coachmen Brookstone sales team handling the Midwest region. Farrer has extensive product and sales experience with fifth-wheels, according to Coachmen, a division of Forest River Inc. “We look forward to the many contributions that Dymon will make in strengthening our Brookstone product value and value proposition,” said Medd.
Both Hernandez and Farrer will be working out of the Coachmen complex located in Middlebury, Ind. For more information on Coachmen visit www.coachmenrrv.com.
Coachmen RV, a division of Forest River Inc., recently selected the American Duo Shade system from MCD Innovations for two of the company’s Class A motorhomes: Sportscoach Pathfinder and Sportscoach Cross Country.
“I am happy that Coachmen has made the commitment to add MCD shades to these coaches,” said MCD Senior RV Market Manager Travis Townsley. “Their customers will be very happy with the modern look and functionality of the shade system.”
Townsley said the shade system employs a simple “Touch-n-Release” motion to raise each shade. Motorhome owners will also benefit from the solar and UV protection the day shades offer as well as the 100% light-blocking capabilities of the night shades.
He added, “At MCD, we are committed to the ‘Made in USA’ philosophy and are proud to be working with a company that has had such a long-standing commitment to providing quality products to the RV consumer.”
Tom Johnson Camping Center announced that the dealership will carry the Sportscoach Cross Country Class A motorhome from Coachmen RV. According to a press release, the Cross Country is the first of select Coachmen motorhomes joining the extensive inventory offerings at North Carolina-based Tom Johnson Camping Center.
“We are very excited to add the Cross Country Class A diesel pusher to our inventory offerings,” said Gary Stroud, vice president. “The Cross Country is a luxurious motorhome, packed with the features desired by today’s buyer, at a value price point.”
The Cross Country motorhome provides excellent ride quality, large storage capacity and a luxurious interior. Presently the Cross Country is offered in four floorplans ranging from three and four-slideout models up to a full-wall slideout floorplan. Interior amenities include solid surface countertops, full extension roller bearing drawers, raised panel hardwood cabinet doors, true flat floor bedroom and side opening storage doors.
“Tom Johnson Camping Center is focused on providing the best value to our customers and the Cross Country adds another option in our extensive offerings to continue to deliver on that promise,” stated Stroud. “We want to be able to provide our diverse customer base with the best product for the best price and this Cross Country will add to our ability to deliver that value to our customer.”
Tom Johnson Camping Center recently began stocking Four Winds Class C motorhomes and Joey travel trailers. The company said additional brands and products will continue to arrive in the near future.
Middlebury, Ind.-based Coachmen RV has introduced an upgrade package to its popular Brookstone fifth-wheel lineup — the Brookstone Diamond Edition. “The Diamond Edition is a package that includes many of our popular options plus some exclusive features that are not offered on the standard Brookstone,” reported Josh Staley, product manager for the Brookstone fifth-wheel line. The Diamond Edition package features include an exclusive full-body paint package, Level Up six-point automatic hydraulic leveling system, 40-pound LP bottles, 12-cubic-foot refrigerator with ice maker and solar reflective, flush-mount, frameless windows. “The Diamond Edition package adds up to $15,000 of retail value that we are offering at a substantially reduced price,” added Staley, whose company is a division of Forest River, Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway company. “The Diamond Edition package can be added to all of the Brookstone floorplans and comes with all the great features that have made the Brookstone fifth-wheel popular among retail customers: the gelcoat fiberglass, 165 cubic feet of pass-thru storage, four-step entry, hardwood hickory cabinetry, larger TVs, one-piece round front fiberglass showers, 31-inch deep bedroom slides, and stackable washer/dryer-ready.”
North Carolina’s Bill Plemmons RV World, with locations in Rural Hall, Raleigh, Salisbury and Mocksville, has announced the addition of the Apex travel trailer by Coachmen RV to its dealership product lines.
The Apex is the only expandable model on the market today with a queen bedroom suite design plus a unique floorplan that allows complete privacy in the queen bedroom, the dealer noted in a news release. Other Apex standard features include lamination surround construction, Azdel composite sidewall construction, bronze tint safety glass windows, radius roof with one-piece seamless membrane protection, double-entry step on all models, enclosed hinge baggage doors, aluminum wheels with nitro filled radial tires, 6-inch I-beam steel frame, two-tone maple cabinet doors, high definition laminated residential counter tops and under-mount, double-bowl kitchen sink with cover.
“We believe this new travel trailer line completes our selection and offers the travel trailer shopper a state-of-the-art expandable unit in a price range that’s easy on the pocketbook,” said Greg Bobbitt, general manager of Bill Plemmons RV World. “The Coachmen product is a proven winner and the Coachmen name is a household name that is trusted. Plus, the Apex travel trailer is a quality unit priced affordably.”
Bill Plemmons RV World is a 2nd generation RV dealership and is the current recipient of the Top 5 Blue Ribbon Award recognizing the company as one of the top five dealerships in the United States and Canada. The company has been in business since 1951 and is celebrating its 60th Anniversary this year. The company specializes in service, parts and sales of America’s top RV brands in both towable and motorized RVs representing over 83 RV model brands overall. To learn more, visit www.BillPlemmonsRV.com.
Coachmen RV and Clem’s RV & Trailer Sales have been doing business together since Coachmen was founded in 1964, according to a news release.
Michael R. Terlep, president of Coachmen RV, a division of Forest River Inc., presented the award to Giancola at the Forest River Product Expo in Elkart, Ind., in September.
“Our Industry is an industry rich in relationships, friendships and value. We at Coachmen place a special value on our longstanding relationships and it is with great pleasure that we present our long time friend and business partner with this special tenure and longevity award,” stated Terlep.
“It’s such an honor to accept this award,” said Giancola. “Our partnership with Coachmen goes all the way back to October of 1964. Being a Coachmen dealer for over 46 years has been truly rewarding.”
Clem’s RV & Trailer Sales opened its doors in March 1964 in Ellwood City, Pa., under Giancola’s parents, Clem and Helen Giancola. Today Clem’s RV & Trailer Sales is Western Pennsylvania’s largest RV dealer carrying seven different product lines of new and used travel trailers, fifth-wheels, tent campers and used motorhomes.
Coachmen was founded in 1964 by three brothers: Tom, Keith and Claude Corson. In December of 2008, Coachmen RV became a member of Forest River Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway Inc. company. Coachmen RV is headquartered in Middlebury, Ind..
“Being a Coachmen dealer has allowed us to consistently provide our customers with a reliable – value added product with the most recognized name in the business, backed by a great company. This has proven to be a real asset for both our dealership and the customers that we serve,” said Giancola. “We look forward to being a Coachmen dealer for many more years to come.”
It’s been just three weeks since the new Campers Inn RV dealership opened on Cassopolis Street in Elkhart, Ind., but already Tom Dewalt, location manager, likes what he sees.
“I am happy with the traffic we’ve been getting. (Even) In great years, this would have been good,” he told RVBUSINESS.com.
The store, owned by East Coast dealer Jeff Hirsch, exclusively carries Forest River Inc. products — both Forest River and Coachmen RV towables and motorized brands. New inventory is arriving daily.
Dewalt also is selling a decent number of FEMA trailers Hirsch picked up at auction, some of them, especially the early units sold directly through RV dealers in 2005, in pretty good condition, he said.
The property is located on Cassopolis Street on the north side of Elkhart, the main point of entry into Elkhart from the Indiana Toll Road (Interstate 80/90) and was formerly occupied by Michiana RV, a former Coachmen company store. It covers seven acres and features a 15,000-square-foot enclosed showroom and 16 service bays.
Dewalt concedes that he is starting slowly, having rehired some of the former Michiana RV employees, including certified service techs who were laid off when the dealership closed.
“We already have most of our lines settled,” said Dewalt. “It will be business as usual for the most part. Right now our focus is on getting our processes and systems in place, people trained and Internet up and running. I’m looking to actively buy some used.”
He expects to do a significant amount of business over the Internet.
Hirsch is leasing the site from Forest River, which obtained the former Michiana RV dealership property when it bought the RV segment of Coachmen Industries Inc. late in 2008.
The property sat idle for the past year and a half until Hirsch and Forest River hooked up. Hirsch also owns stores in Kingston and Merrimack, N.H., Leesburg, Fla., Raynham, Mass., and Macon, Ga.
“We’re not standing alone in this,” Dewalt stressed. “We’re part of the Campers Inn operation.”
Like Hirsch, Dewalt grew up in the RV business. His parents started Dewalt’s RV in Easton, Pa., in 1966, the same year Hirsch’s father started his first dealership in New Hampshire.
Dewalt and the younger Hirsch participated in the same Spader 20 Group and became good friends after Dewalt left the family business, which subsequently closed, and joined Coachmen. Dewalt was working on a special project for Coachmen when the RV segment was sold to Forest River.
That job went away, but Dewalt took on a Coachmen territory in the Southeast selling Catalina travel trailers. With retail selling in his blood, however, Dewalt welcomed the opportunity to join Hirsch when the Elkhart store post opened up. “Jeff and I share a lot of the same philosophies in business. It’s a nice fit for me,” he said. “For me, retail is what I know and wanted to get back into that.”
Hirsch is the third out-of-state dealer to try the Elkhart County market in the past five years. Two earlier attempts, by Florida-based Suncoast RV and Pleasanton, Calif.-based DeMartini RV, both failed during the recent recession.
Why will this be any different?
“The market here is difficult but there has been a terrific amount of attrition.,” said Dewalt. “There used to be 15 dealerships in Elkhart. Now, counting us, there are five. This is a tremendous opportunity. We have low overhead, despite this facility. We don’t need a lot of business to make this work.”
And in Dewalt’s view, there’s still magic to selling RVs in Elkhart, Ind. “A tremendous amount of people come through here from out of the area who want to see if they can make a deal in the ‘RV Capital of the World,’ so that’s driving some traffic,” he said.
AZDEL Inc., Lynchburg, Va., reports that it has shipped more than 10 million square feet of composite panel technology into the RV market during the first six months of 2010. The company estimates that more than 20 million square feet of its composite panels are in service today since entering the market in 2006, according to High Performance Composites.
AZDEL attributes its initial market entry and developed success to Coachmen RV, a division of Forest River Inc., which led the industry in validation of its composite panels and continues to be a lead user, using AZDEL’s composites across all motorized models. The company points to the composites’ light weight, moisture stability, no odor, insulation properties, ease of assembly, impact and puncture resistance and dimensional stability as key properties.
Greatest adoption has been in towable lightweight and ultra-lightweight RV models where AZDEL panels are standard. Azdel reports that in some models manufacturers have achieved weight savings of as much as 300 lb.
Forest River Inc. has unofficially taken over the No. 1 position in retail sales of motorized RVs.
The Elkhart, Ind.-based manufacturer quietly took over the top spot from perennial leader Winnebago Industries Inc. based on recent retail sales reports from Statistical Surveys Inc. (SSI).
SSI reports separate retail sales figures for Forest River and its subsidiary, Coachmen RV, which it acquired from Coachmen Industries Inc. late in 2008.
However, when combined, the Forest River sales for April as well as for 2010 year-to-date clearly exceed Winnebago and other leaders, Thor Industries Inc., Fleetwood RV Inc. and Monaco RV Inc. Forest River Inc./Coachmen had a 21.5% market share year-to-date through April to Winnebago’s 19.5%.
However, the change at the top won’t necessarily be recognized by SSI.
“Forest River has requested that these companies remain separate in our reports,” Tom Walworth, SSI president, told RVBUSINESS.com. “This is not unusual in that we have done this in the past for other companies.”
Will SSI consider combining them at some future date as well, or do you prefer to keep them separate?
“This would be up to Forest River; in some cases it would cause problems to the dealer body. If Forest River has a dealer in the area and a Coachmen dealer in the area, they will compete with each other. If you put them under the same parent company, there may be state franchise laws that would not allow this. This would be similar to the auto side of the business that Chevy and Buick having separate Identify.”
Walworth said in the final analysis, it’s “up to the parent company to decide how they would like to treat this. I do not think that Forest River is driven on market share; they would monitor the improvement in market share as a sign of improvement for a brand or a division. In the motorhome industry there are rental contracts that will spike the market share of a manufacturer from time to time; since we do not track rentals, it would be difficult to identify this. You would want to monitor the year-to-date number to see if this will hold in the future months.”
Coachmen RV’s Viking Plant in Centreville, Mich., has been certified as a “Green Capable” RV Manufacturer and will soon display the TRA Certified Green label on its Coachmen and Viking Camping Trailers, according to a news release.
The Viking facility runs a low-waste plant that incorporates recycled shipping containers that are sent back to the supplier. They also recycle what material is available, such as steel and aluminum. They make a conscious effort to use a material before it ends up in the landfill.
The Viking camping trailer is very lightweight and, therefore has less of a carbon footprint. It has earned the right to display the SILVER Certified Green RV label!
For more information on green certification, visit www.tragreen.com or contact Mandy Leazenby at 1-800-398-9282.
Coachmen RV’s fifth-wheel plant in Middlebury, Ind., has been certified as a “Green Capable” manufacturer and will soon display the TRA Certified Green label on its fifth-wheels.
This plant produces the Chaparral, North Ridge and Brookstone fifth-wheel products. The facility incorporates low VOC interior adhesives and sealants and uses lithium ion battery-operated power tools. These are just a few examples of how this plant has earned its new green certification, according to a news release.
The units offer three skylight/vents per standard unit, letting in fresh outdoor air and sunlight. These units also use a lightweight exterior fiberglass composite material from a green manufacturer that uses the exhaust air from production of the material to produce energy which is fed back into the production process.
Look for the “Certified Green” labels on RVs to ensure a healthier and more sustainable product.
For more information on the Chaparral, Brookstone or North Ridge, visit www.coachmenrv.com. For more information on green certification visit www.tragreen.com or contact Mandy Leazenby at (800) 398-9282.
Coachmen RV’s Plant No. 220 in Middlebury, Ind., has been certified as a “Green Capable” RV manufacturer and has earned the right to display the TRA Certified Green label on its Freedom Express RVs, according to a news release.
The Freedom Express has been thoroughly evaluated against a national consensus standard by TRA Certification and has achieved a GOLD rating. Coachmen RV is a division of Forest River Inc. Other Forest River products that have been certified green are the Surveyor and r•pod, both at the GOLD level.
“This is a milestone for the green movement within the RV industry in that many RV manufacturers are seeking certification for more than one product line or division,” according to the release. “Attaining green certification is the result of a process using effective production techniques in combination with healthy materials as well as resource, energy and water efficiency. The result is a better quality RV that satisfies consumer needs with less environmental impact.”
Look for the “Certified Green” labels on RVs to ensure a healthier and more sustainable product. For more information on the Freedom Express, visit www.coachmenrv.com.
For more information visit www.tragreen.com or contact Mandy Leazenby at (800) 398-9282.
RVB: So, Mike, how things are going for the new Coachmen at this point?
Terlep: We are streamlined and simple and far quicker to market. Our focus is on the product, the customer and sales. And just as we frequently look into the review mirror in driving a car, we are keeping abreast of the competitive landscape. The new Coachmen is gaining market share and, yes, we are once again profitable. We’ve been profitable the last nine months and we generated a profit for 2009.
RVB: But Coachmen’s RV business generated big losses while part of the former Coachmen Industries Inc. How do you explain this turnaround?
Terlep: You eliminate all the commotion, the waste, the excess. You streamline the process, eliminate the processes you don’t need and you get to the market on a timely basis with a great product.
RVB: Would you call this a seamless transition or were there bumps along the way?
Terlep: I’d love to say it was seamless. The Forest River organization has a lot of great people in it and we had a lot of help from a lot of great people. So, I think the integration was about as seamless as you could have orchestrated with the merger as large as it was. We had a few bumps in some areas. But in the eyes of the (RV) owners, the dealers, the suppliers and employees, I think it went remarkably well. I believe anybody you talk to would reinforce that.
RVB: Tell us about your management team.
Terlep: The management team is made up of a diverse, dynamic, talented and motivated group of individuals that have one thing in mind: winning. There is tremendous chemistry in our team and we enjoy working together. We are having fun and we are putting W’s in the win-loss columns. Our management team is empowered and very focused.
RVB: How much carry-over exists in your team from “Old Coachmen” to “New Coachmen?”
Terlep: Quite a bit, especially in the plants. In the management team and sales team there is a blend of those that had been with Coachmen and some new blood. I believe that through the transition and integration of Coachmen into Forest River we rebuilt a team of “all stars,” the best of the best. There are six divisions within the new Coachmen, each headed by a general manager with a dedicated plant, sales team, and each operates under its own profit and loss. There are no vice presidents in our divisions. No layers, only doers. Dave Miller heads Class A’s, Mike Bear the Class C’s, Don Medd the fifth-wheels, Bob Dumm the laminated travel trailers, John Babcock the conventional travel trailers and Gar Warlick the folding camping trailers. Sandy Marschke oversees our support plants. They report to me and I report to Mr. Liegl (CEO Pete Liegl).
RVB: We’re told that there are fewer product lines today bearing the Coachmen brand name. Why is that?
Terlep: We streamlined and rationalized our product offerings. Any product line that could not stand on its own was eliminated. Any product that was not generating the results at retail that our dealers and we need and expect was eliminated. We have limited the number of floorplans within each product line with the view of improved product turns at the dealer level. It is difficult to generate three to four turns a year if you have 40 floorplans to choose from.
We placed a moratorium on the number of floorplans each division can generate. If they want to bring another floorplan to market, they need to eliminate a weaker floorplan. This reduces lead times on products, improves turns, improves quality by increasing repetition in our plants and keeps the best product in the market.
Every product line underwent vast improvements to elevate its competitive position in the market and we introduced six new product lines targeting what we believed to be the largest market segments and growth opportunities of the market: the Catalina travel trailer, Freedom Express travel trailer, Apex travel trailer, Brookstone fifth-wheel, North Ridge fifth-wheel and Encounter Class A.
The carry-over product lines that have been vastly redesigned include the Chaparral fifth-wheel, the Freelander, Leprechaun, Concord and Prism Class C’s, the Mirada, Cross Country and Pathfinder Class A’s and, of course, our Viking and Clipper camping trailers. We are experiencing market share gains in all of our products and fully expect and intend on building upon these gains throughout 2010.
RVB: How did dealers respond at your first Louisville Show?
Terlep: Excellent. We wrote business and signed a lot of new dealers.
RVB: What changes has your dealer body undergone in the past year?
Terlep: Our dealer body remains the lifeline of our company and our success. We can only be as successful as our dealers are, so we want to make them as successful as we can selling our products. The make-up of our dealer body, just like all distribution bases, has changed through the recent recession due to attrition. We continue to value many long tenured relationships with dealers that have been with Coachmen for as many as 40-plus years and we have added a number of new dealers to the Coachmen dealer body that have brought new energy and volume to our company.”
RVB: If you could capsulize it into a few words, what is your philosophy at the new Coachmen?
Terlep: The philosophy of Coachmen is really quite simple – perform! Generate results! Win!! As for business principles, they remain the same as those on which Coachmen was founded: Our word is our bond. Practice the golden rule. And business goes where it is invited and stays where it is well cared for. Coachmen is managed as a stand-alone division of Forest River. There is no effort to cross-promote or align or not align with Forest River dealers. We believe the best product at the best dealership will win in the marketplace. This is what keeps Forest River so strong.
RVB: Although the Coachmen RV business is still part of a publicly held company, you’re much lower on the food chain as a unit off a larger company, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Does that change in any way your accountability to shareholders.
Terlep: The accountability of Coachmen to perform is just as prevalent now as it was under old Coachmen. There was never an absence of accountability. However, under the current structure we are able to focus our energies on running the business, and we have far fewer distractions that accompanied being higher up on the food chain, as you put it.
There are many stakeholders in the game and they all have expectations of us. We need to meet the expectations of all stakeholders starting with Berkshire Hathaway and Forest River Inc. all the way through to the end consumer. In any event, the goal is to quiet the critics and generate results. Under Forest River Inc. and the leadership of Mr. Liegl, I believe that we are doing just that.
The business model of Forest River has permitted us to simplify and focus our energies on the key fundamentals of the business.
Let me be clear on one point: old Coachmen was a great company and grew to be an industry leader over a very long 46-year history, much longer than the average life of a company and certainly much longer than the average life of a publicly held company. It was time for a change and the change was a good change for Coachmen — the brand, the dealers and the consumer — and I believe that the addition of Coachmen to Forest River has provided the value that Mr. Liegl saw in the opportunity. Coachmen is a great brand that has been in a sense, reborn. But let’s not forget that the equity and value in the Coachmen name lies both in its history and in its future.