Repeat top-selling brands included the Keystone Montana fifth-wheel, Jayco’s Jay Flight travel trailer, Tiffin’s Phaeton diesel-powered Class A motorhome, Forest River’s Georgetown gas Class A and Winnebago View’s diesel minimotorhome. The only two first-time leaders were the Coachmen gas Class C motorhome and the Forest River Rockwood folding camping trailer.
The Montana led the pack for the 10th consecutive year with 9.4% of retail fifth-wheel sales while Jayco Inc.’s Jay Flight snagged 6.4% of the travel trailer market, according to Statistical Surveys Inc., the Grand Rapids, Mich., company that tracks RV industry retail sales.
In the motorized market, Tiffin Motor Home Inc.’s Phaeton was the best-selling diesel motorhome with 13.2% share, Forest River Inc.’s Georgetown was the top-selling gas Class A, with 13.9% share, and Winnebago Industries Inc.’s View was the No. 1 Class C diesel on the market with 21.9% share.
Other 2010 market share leaders were Class B, Winnebago’s ERA (16.6%; Class C gas, Forest River Inc.’s Coachmen (17.6%); folding camping trailers, Forest River’s Rockwood (7.3%); and park models, Breckenridge (17.6%).
Keystone President Bob Martin said the Montana has staying power for several reasons with customer loyalty being high on the list.
”Loyalty is important,” said Martin, whose Goshen, Ind., company hosts about 100 Montana owners at a rally each fall at the nearby Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds. Many of them have bought five or six Montanas over the years.
”Members of the Montana Owners Club are incredibly loyal,” he added. ”After they buy a Montana, they just won’t buy anything else. Montana is user friendly and loaded with features with quality that no one else can match.”
Jerry Williamson, Tiffin national sales manager, said that while the Paeton was developed as an entry-level motorhome, over the years it has evolved into a mid-priced coach in the ”sweet spot” of the diesel market.
”We improved the product as far as amenities and styling every year,” said Williamson, who noted that most RVs creep up in price as consumers ask for more features and amenities. ”We ‘mother-hen’ the Phaeton very closely. We have the best feature package that is offered in the mid-range price point.”
Roger Martin, Winnebago Industries Inc. vice president of sales and marketing, said we worked closely with Daimler AG, Mercedes Benz’ parent company, and invested the time and money to develop the Winnebago View along with sister-brand Itasca Navion on the high mileage Sprinter cab chassis, previously offered only in a B-van configuration. These efforts provided Winnebago Industries with a head start in developing these products over other manufacturers.
”That’s the primary reason that the product has been so successful,” Martin said. ” It was unique in the industry for two or three years before folks starting copying the idea.
”The View essentially created the segment of the fuel-efficient, stylish units based on the Sprinter,” noted Martin. ” I also credit the dealer organization we have. They really grasped this concept and did an excellent job selling it.”
Sid Johnson, Jayco Inc. marketing director, noted that the Jay Flight has changed during the six years it has led the travel trailer market.
”Initially, Jay Flight was positioned as a lower-end entry-level product that offered a great deal of value for the price,” Johnson said. ”It’s still somewhat that today, except that it has been steadily improved over the years from the standpoint of features.”
That, he said, appeals to younger buyers with families who have come to expect more than their Baby Boomer parents. ”It’s a heavy number from first-time buyers with a heavier than normal incidence of college education,” Johnson said. ”I’m not sure what all that says, except in terms of Jayco’s strategy, that product has become not only our bread-and-butter, but provides the foundation of our entire travel trailer strategy.”
The Green Certification of Forest River Inc.’s Class C products and Coachmen’s Class A and C products are complete, according to a news release from T.R. Arnold & Associates Inc. (TRA).
These motorhomes have reached the Silver level of Green Certification and can be seen at this year’s National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky. The show runs Tuesday through Thursday.
As a result, all of Coachmen’s products have earned Green Certification.
“Both Coachmen and Forest River display a sincere desire to have minimal impact on the environment. They also understand that their environmentally friendly practices are improving their bottom line,” TRA stated.
As Forest River Inc. marks its best sales year since being founded in 1995 by Peter J. Liegl, the multi-divisional company anticipates hosting 2,800 people at its third annual dealer meeting, Sept. 29-30, at its corporate headquarters in Elkhart, Ind.
”I guess we are going to have a 40% increase this year in attendance,” Liegl told RVBUSINESS.com. ”The response has been phenomenally good.”
The show will feature Forest River, Coachmen, Palomino and Prime Time recreation vehicles along with buses, cargo trailers, manufactured homes, commercial vehicles, ice houses, pontoon boats and bathroom units manufactured by other divisions.
In an exclusive interview with RVBUSINESS.com, Liegl estimates that Forest River’s sales for 2010 will be in the range of $2.5 billion, up 74.2% compared to last year.
”We’ve never had a better year in our whole history,” Liegl said. ”We’re happy with that. But by the same token, we picked up a lot of pieces of the pie (market share) where other people went out of business.”
Soon to join Forest River’s lineup is the reincarnation of the Shasta brand in a new division under the direction of industry veteran Brad Whitehead that will build stick-and-tin travel trailers, minimotorhomes and laminated trailers and fifth-wheels. Shasta’s new lineup will make their debut Nov. 30-Dec. 2 at the 48th National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.
”We won’t have anything from Shasta at our dealer showing, but there’s a need for a Shasta-type product and we’ll have it at Louisville,” Liegl said.
Although the recent proliferation of northern Indiana dealer meetings has raised some concerns within the industry regarding the ultimate impact on the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) Louisville Show, Liegl said that Forest River’s dealer show is meant to compliment the Louisville Show, rather than replace it.
”I think we need both,” Liegl said. ”No 1, Louisville is limited to RVs. By the same token, space is extremely costly there. I’ve got my show here in a field next to corporate headquarters. I can display more at no cost.”
Liegl, at the same time, said the Louisville Show by itself isn’t long enough to spend the time necessary with Forest River’s dealers. ”Our show just gives us more time to spend with our dealers communicating,” he said. ”That’s all Louisville is, communicating. But with our own show, we’ve got more time to do that.”
The Berkshire Hathaway Inc. subsidiary’s foray into staging its initial dealer meeting in 2008 with the theme ”Pick Your Partner” was spurred by the desire to ”let dealers know that financially, unquestionably, we were the strongest (RV manufacturer),” Liegl said.
”We wanted to make it known that they should make sure that their ‘partner’ was going to be here through thick and thin,” Liegl added. ”And obviously, it worked very successfully for us.
”In effect we were saying to dealers that they needed to know who they were doing business with because if your manufacturer goes out of business, you’ve got a problem, not only a problem getting your warranty, but a problem selling them and getting them financed.
“Every dealer out there understands that very well today when they look at the manufacturers that went out of business and the problems they had with the product that they had on their lots.”
Liegl said the theme for this year’s gathering will involve a ”thank you” to dealers for making Forest River the success it has become.
in the big picture, Liegl said a host of RV manufacturers holding dealer open houses and shows the same week in September is, in reality, boosting attendance at Forest River’s gathering.
Those other companies hosting dealers include Gulf Stream Coach Inc.; Thor Industries Inc. subsidiaries Keystone RV Co., Thor Motor Coach (recently created from the consolidation of Four Winds International Corp. and Damon Motor Coach), Breckenridge and Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc.; Monaco RV LLC; Livin’ Lite Recreational Vehicles; Dynamax Corp,; EverGreen Recreational Vehicles LLC; Sunnybrook RV; and Carriage Inc. Meanwhile, Jayco Inc.’s annual Master Sales Training Session for dealers’ sales staffs is partly slotted in the same time frame.
”Having the competition have their (dealer shows) at the same time has boosted our numbers,” Liegl said. ”We’re getting commitments (from competitors’) dealers that they are coming to ours too.”
Forest River Inc. sold about 40 towable SURVs and Coachmen Class A motorhomes at its display (shown here) at the annual Sturgis Bike Rally in the Black Hills community of Sturgis, S.D., that ended Sunday. ”We had a real good response,” said Curt Smith, general manager of Forest River’s Work and Play toy hauler division. ”We were very, very happy with the turnout. We sold fifth-wheels, travel trailers and a couple of motorhomes.” Smith again this year set up the Work and Play display on Sturgis’ downtown Main Street with representatives from Forest River’s Puma and Cherokee towable and Coachmen motorhome divisions along with an estimated 700 vendors. The annual motorcycle rally draws about 800,000 people to the town of Sturgis (pop. 5,950), and although no official estimate was available on this year’s attendance, the town’s sanitation department told a local TV station that the amount of garbage it had collected through Sunday was up 18% over last year.
A recent RV show in Edmonton, Alberta, gave consumers a glimpse of the future in RVs.
The Shasta trailer is built by Coachmen Recreational Vehicle Co. Constructed with today’s technology, the Shasta captures the look of the original with a lightning bolt stripe on the side and wings on the rear of the trailer, according to the Edmonton Journal.
Ted Trowsse said he signed up to sell Shasta trailers on the condition he could have the first one built to bring to the recent RV show. That meant he was displaying the trailer before dealers in the United States had an opportunity. The Shasta was one of several retro-look trailers at the show.
Trowsse said he hoped to sell 10 out of the show. Much of the interest came from owners of collector cars, some of whom are restoring original Shastas, who could see a Shasta behind their old vehicle. The trailer’s light weight (2,400 pounds) for the 12-foot model and 3,100 pounds for the 16-foot is an attractive feature for tow vehicles old and new.
There’s a market for people with smaller vehicles such as minivans or compact sport utilities, Trowsse said. However, old car guys are the biggest part of it. He intends to show off the Shasta at collector car shows this summer.
Other retro-look trailers at the show were the R-Pod and the T@b. The T@b lineup started with a teardrop trailer, but has grown to include the T@da — which is longer with rounded ends and a flat roof. The T@da has a regular price of $24,900.
From Class A motorhomes with a veranda to Class C’s on steroids to a bumper-pull toy hauler with an airbrushed purple and black paint scheme, there were RVs for nearly every taste and pocketbook at the Edmonton show.
The best prices tended to be on units that dealers had bought before the loonie dropped to its current level of 80 cents against the U.S. dollar. The slumping Canadian dollar has seen increases of thousands of dollars on recently ordered RVs.
Walter Dubecki, sales manager at Western RV Country in Leduc, Alberta, said buyers can save thousands of dollars by purchasing a unit out of a dealer’s stock rather than ordering a unit.
Two travel trailers built by Coachmen stood out as good values — the Aristocrat sold by Carefree RV for $15,995 and the Dutchmen Sport priced at $16,365 by Northern Lights RV. Show visitors lined up to check out the R-Pod, manufactured by Forest River Inc., during the show’s opening night. Hill said his staff sold one R-Pod on opening night.
Hill first saw the R-Pod during a show in Indiana for Forest River dealers in late October. Production is ramping up on the trailers, but all floor plans are not yet available. Those additional floor plans will become available in the coming months.
The R-Pod designer aimed to build a light, strong trailer that could be pulled by vehicles with 3,500-pound towing capacity such as minivans, crossovers and SUVs.
“We’ve had a lot of people in their mid-20s who normally would not look at travel trailers who see it and say, ‘I’d own one of those,’” Hill said.
For decades, Class C motorhomes were built on cutaway van chassis. The van front and chassis was combined with a motorhome body that included a portion that overhangs the cab. However, in recent years a new style of Class C has appeared that uses a conventional truck chassis. Several examples were on display at the show, including models built on Chevrolet Kodiak, International and Freightliner chassis. Factory and dealer representatives refer to these units as “Class C’s on steroids.”
For some buyers, an attractive feature with these motorhomes is the towing capacity that can exceed 15,000 pounds. Race car owners, for example, could tow their competition vehicle behind the motorhome.
But Larry Luther, Class C regional sales manager for Gulf Stream Coach, explained that there’s another way SuperNova motorhomes, built on an International truck chassis, could make it to the races. The roof is strong enough that it can be used as an observation deck for watching, for example, a NASCAR race or a fireworks display.
The SuperNova, with tow capacities up to 15,000 lb., has “sold great for us,” Luther said, explaining sales have totalled about 600 units a year in its first two years on the market.
The Canadian price starts at $210,000 for the SuperNova, which is equipped with a 6.0-litre V8 diesel engine — the same engine International supplied to Ford as the Powerstroke diesel — an Allison automatic transmission, twin 70 U.S. gallon fuel tanks and a built-in Onan diesel generator.
The Jayco Embark comes equipped with a 20,000-lb. hitch. It is equipped with a 330 Cummins engine and Allison automatic.
Al Schafer, an RV City sales consultant, said the Embark, which has just begun rolling off the production line, is new for 2009.
The Embark is equipped with an 8,000-watt diesel generator and a 1,800-watt inverter so that occupants will always have power even if hookups aren’t available.
RV City offered the Embark and a new Honda CR-V sport utility at the show special price of $281,783.
Schafer said the Embark will be available with a radar system that will scan the road ahead for obstacles. This could be handy when weather or light conditions limit the driver’s ability to see.
The Bigfoot Class C, built on a Chev Kodiak chassis at the company’s factory in Armstrong, B.C., uses lightweight construction. This motorhome, also equipped with an Allison automatic, offers the Duramax diesel engine as an option, giving it the pulling power to tow, for example, a horse trailer. List price equipped with the Duramax is $220,700.
The Coachmen Leprechaun is a Class C with a more conventional appearance since it’s built on a Ford van chassis, but it has interior finishing that Western RV’s Dubecki says moves it into the class of a yacht or a penthouse. The interior features fine cabinetry and other features that set it apart.
For example, instead of the standard dinette booth, the Leprechaun has a couch and table.
Dubecki said the Leprechaun would be a good choice for a couple who might want to use it to tour Canada or the U.S. The Leprechaun, equipped with 6.8-litre V10 gasoline engine, is priced at $89,900.
Dubecki said most people would never own a motorhome long enough or drive far enough to make up the thousands of dollars in additional cost of a diesel engine.
The MXT toy hauler, built by KZ RV LP, caught the eye of visitors to the Trailblazer RV display. The optional airbrushed purple and black paint scheme made the MXT a trailer to remember. Trailblazer sales manager Bill Burnett said the lightweight trailer was being called “the purple people pleaser.”