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Stat Surveys: May Motorized Sales Turn Downward

July 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Two months of steady growth in the retail sales of motorized RVs came to an end in May with a decline in both Class A and Class C retail registrations, according to the latest report from Statistical Surveys Inc.

The Grand Rapids, Mich., firm reported total registrations of 1,709 units, compared with 3,508 in May 2008, for a 51.3% decline.

The May registration total of 1,709 fell short of the 2,221 sold in April.

The breakdown by class for May was as follows:

  • Class A, 928 sold compared with 1,887 in May 2008.
  • Class C, 781 sold compared with 1,621 in May 2008.

Winnebago Industries Inc. regained the No. 1 position for motorhome sales with 370 units retailed in May, compared with runner-up Thor Industries Inc.’s  318. The two were locked in a dead heat in April.

Winnebago’s market share for May was 21.7%  and 19.1% year-to-date, while Thor’s was 18.6% for May and 18.4% year-to-date.

By class, Winnebago was No. 1 in Class A sales with 184 units sold (19.8% market share) in May, while Thor and Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. were tied for second each with 153 units sold (16.5% market share). And Winnebago held the top spot in Class C sales with 186 (23.8% market share). Thor was second with 165 sales (21.1% market share).

The reporting firm revealed that the state of Alaska experienced a two-year decline of 91.8%

“Alaska is a big rental fleet state. We believe that the 2008 (total) contains rental fleet registrations. The May 2009 data reflects the retail accurately without any rentals,” Statistical Surveys noted.

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Future of Fleetwood’s North Carolina Plant Uncertain

July 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The jobs of about 70 people employed by Fleetwood Homes in Rocky Mount, N.C., hinge now on the answers to two questions, according to the Roanoke (Va.) Times.

First, will a buyer emerge for Fleetwood Homes, a subsidiary of bankrupt Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.? And if an acquisition of Fleetwood Homes proceeds and is approved by a bankruptcy judge, will the new owner continue to operate the Rocky Mount plant?

For now, there seems to be reason for optimism that Fleetwood Homes will be acquired. One potential buyer already has stepped forward. Arizona-based Cavco Industries, a leading producer of manufactured housing, and investment partner Third Avenue Trust Value Fund have made an offer on some of Fleetwood’s related assets.

“If, for some reason, a sale does not go through, Fleetwood would terminate the employees in Rocky Mount,” said Sydney Rosencranz, a spokeswoman for Fleetwood Enterprises.

That possibility led the company to comply with state regulations by filing a related termination notice last week, she said.

But Rosencranz said it is “more likely that a buyer will come in.”

Once that happens, the new owner will decide whether to continue to build manufactured homes in Rocky Mount, she said.

Scott Martin, Franklin County’s director of commerce and leisure services, said Monday (July 13) the county is cautiously optimistic that the Cavco purchase option, as reported to date, will provide “long-term viability” for the production facility and its employees.

On March 10, Fleetwood Enterprises filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. At the time, it listed assets of $558.3 million and liabilities of $518 million.

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Fleetwood Rally Brings Motorhomes Back ‘Home’

July 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

An RV rally in Decatur, Ind., is raising support to keep Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.’s operations there. It comes just weeks after a New York company bought the bankrupt RV maker. Now, the future of Decatur’s plant is up in the air.

This week, nearly one hundred RVs in town for a special rally could help turn things around, according to WANE-TV, Fort Wayne.

The motorhomes come from all over, in different sizes and colors but with one very important thing in common: they were all made by Fleetwood.

“This is where all the motorhomes that people have purchased were built at, here at Plant 44 in Decatur, Ind.,” explained Randy Hendricks, Fleetwood rally coordinator.

And, in the parking lot of Bellmont High School is where you’ll find all those American Coaches.

Ninety-seven have come to town for a special “Coming Back Home Rally.” It’s one of the annual events held by the American Coach Chapter of the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA).

Every year dozens of RV owners take part in event just like the rally for a little fun and fellowship, but this year, the rally in Decatur also has a special purpose.

“We want Fleetwood to stay and we want to show Decatur how much they mean to us,” Marcia Bratsburg, eastern director of the American Coach Chapter told NewsChannel 15.

After a turbulent year of layoffs and filing for bankruptcy for the company, rally organizers hope the event is also a lifeline for Fleetwood.

Last year, Fleetwood cut 550 of its 600 workers. In March, it filed for bankruptcy.

The struggling RV maker was recently bought by a New York company, American Industrial Partners, and it’s not clear how the purchase will affect the Decatur plant.

Decatur Mayor John Schultz is optimistic the showing of support might convince the new buyers to keep Fleetwood operations right where they are.

“I hope that will have an impact; hopefully, it give us a heads up on any other competition that we’re up against,” explained Schultz.

The RVs will be gone when the rally ends on Saturday (July 18); but just a few days after that, Schultz is hoping for an announcement that Fleetwood won’t be leaving.

City leaders also recently granted Fleetwood a tax abatement to further encourage the company to keep its operations in Decatur.

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RV Maker Sees Pent-Up Demand in Western U.S./Canada

July 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

After facing an uncertain financial future, Riverside, Calif.-based Pacific Coachworks, a travel trailer manufacturer founded by two former executives of Thor California in July 2006, is returning to full production, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

The company, which builds the Tango and Tango Twist brands of travel trailers and fifth-wheels that can be towed, laid off most of its 150 employees in December. Executives plan to rehire 85 workers immediately. Tom Powell, founder and CEO, said he’s confident the travel trailer market will see a rebound in the fourth quarter, but “we’re still going to remain staffed as though it doesn’t,” he said.

He expects to have his full staff back by spring to work at the company’s 66,000-square-foot factory, he said.

The nearly 60 dealers in the Western United States and Canada that the company still sells its recreation vehicles to have reported a pent-up demand for trailers, he said.

“The feeling now of most people is, ‘OK, I’ve been through the worst recession since the Great Depression and I still have my job, my camper is still old and needs to be replaced,”‘ said Powell, adding that lending for trailer purchases has loosened.

At its height, the company employed 187 workers who were building 10 to 12 trailers a day. Now the company can manage to make a profit by building just four to five trailers a day, he said.

Powell, a 32-year RV industry veteran, said he had hoped to restart production by February or March but, despite having orders, he didn’t have the capital.

His company’s fate may have been much different had he not made a private stock offering that closed on June 30 and gave him the funding necessary to stay open.

Powell wouldn’t say how much was raised.

“There are a lot of people who are optimistic about 2010,” said Jeff Kurowski, director of industrial relations for the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA). But they’re not unrealistic, he said.

Industry forecasts indicate that the next year will see an increase in shipments but won’t exceed the volume of shipments in 2005 and 2006. Financing remains a challenge both for dealers seeking loans to buy new models to sell and for customers who have to put more money down, sometimes 20%, on trailers and motorhomes than they did prior, he said.

Kurowski said dealers are saying they’re running low on inventory and would like to order more if they can get loans.

There were 128,100 conventional travel trailers shipped in 2008 and another 57,000 fifth-wheel trailers, according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). The trailers accounted for 78% of the total recreational vehicle market in 2008.

Only 3.7% of all conventional travel trailers and about 4% of fifth-wheel trailers were built in California, according to the group.

Powell said 24 of his competitors have left the industry in the past two years — including Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. in Riverside, which filed for bankruptcy March 10 and sold its trailer division.

“There are dealers scrambling to replace Fleetwood products and Weekend Warrior products and 22 others,” he said.

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NYU Business Prof Sees Bankruptcy Pace to ‘Quicken’

July 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: Robert Salomon, associate professor of management at New York University, filed this blog last week providing updated numbers on the rate of bankruptcy filings in the U.S. The listing of  156 “major” filings includes RV makers Monaco Coach Corp. and Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.

In January I predicted (see Notable Bankruptcies of 2009: Q1) that “major” bankruptcies in 2009 would challenge the 383 mark set in 2001 (the high-water mark after the dotcom bubble). I even suggested that it was possible that we could exceed 400 “major” bankruptcies in 2009.

According to Bankruptcydata.com, there have been 156 “major” filings thus far in 2009. Assuming that bankruptcies are equally distributed throughout the year, this puts us on pace for 312 bankruptcies. That is tracking well shy of my prediction. In fact, bankruptcies were down significantly from Q1 to Q2, as there were 90 bankruptcies in the first quarter but only 66 in the second.

That stylized fact begs the question: Is that a “green shoot” dip in bankruptcy filings, or is this simply a seasonal fluctuation?

Although I cannot be certain, the latter makes more sense for several reasons. First, bankruptcies are a lagging economic indicator. As with employment, bankruptcies typically peak well after the economic trough. For example, although the dotcom bubble burst in March of 2000, bankruptcies did not peak until 2001, and were elevated into 2002. So even if you believe that the economy has bottomed out (which is not entirely clear yet), we should still expect to see bankruptcies rise. Second, according to bankruptcy statistics from the U.S. Courts website, the pace of bankruptcy filings generally increases in the second half of the year.

For these reasons, I expect the filing pace to quicken as the year goes on, and I believe that we will ultimately challenge the 383 mark from 2001.

Go to http://blog.robertsalomon.com/2009/07/02/notable-bankruptcies-of-2009-q2/ to see an updated list of what the writer sees as the “noteworthy” bankruptcies of 2009, as reported by Bankrupctydata.com.

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RVIA Lauds Potential of NBC’s ‘Great American Road Trip’

July 8, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

rvia-logo2RV travel and camping are receiving a timely boost with the debut of NBC’s Great American Road Trip, the reality TV show showcasing the adventures of seven families traveling in motorhomes on a cross-country road trip.

“This is tremendous exposure for the RV industry coming at a time when American families are focused on summer travel,” said Gary LaBella, RVIA vice president and chief marketing officer, in a news release following the show’s debut Tuesday night (July 7).  “The message of the show reflects the appeal of RVing…that families reconnect and recharge as they spend time together traveling.”

Airing on NBC on Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. EDT, the Great American Road Trip is a new series where seven families from divergent backgrounds take the vacation of a lifetime.  Over eight episodes the families will travel iconic Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles in their own motorhome through cities large and small, all while competing in a medley of humorous challenges that will ultimately lead one family to victory.

El Monte RV, a national RV rental company, provided the motorhomes used in the Great American Road Trip.  The units are Bounder type A motorhomes built by Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.  RVIA’s Public Relations Department worked with the program’s producers on content and messaging.

“The premier really had some nice moments, including the beautiful sights seen from the RV and family and friends bonding at the campground,” said LaBella.  “We’re hopeful this continues throughout the remainder of the show and grateful to El Monte for making this wonderful exposure possible.  The series has the potential to make millions more American families aware of the benefits of RV travel and camping this summer and beyond.”

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Fleetwood to Close Indiana Manufactured Housing Plant

July 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

RV and manufactured homes producer Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. said it will close its housing plant in Garrett, Ind., and terminate 87 workers.

Operations will cease by Aug. 31, according to a notice filed with the state of Indiana and reported by Manufacturing and Technology eJournal.

Workers are not represented by a union.

In March, the company shut down its travel trailer division and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The move included closing plants and service facilities in several states.

At that time, the Riverside, Calif.-based company said it employed more than 3,000 people in 15 plants located in 10 states. Fleetwood’s products are primarily marketed through extensive independent dealer networks throughout the United States and Canada.

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Thor, Winnebago In Deadlock for Motorhome Lead

June 29, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

thor-logoThor Industries Inc. and Winnebago Industries Inc. moved into a dead heat for first place in retail sales of motorhomes through April, according to the latest report from Statistical Surveys Inc., Grand Rapids, Michwinnebago-logo.

Dealers reported retail sales for each company through April 30 of 1,214 for an 18.4% market share.

Winnebago had held a solid lead over Thor but Thor’s Damon and Four Winds International divisions posted impressive retail sales numbers catapulting Thor into a tie for the top spot, according to Jackson Center, Ohio-based Thor.

Thor’s motorized divisions retailed 501 units in April to Winnebago’s 425, accounting for the catch-up. The majority of Thor’s motorhome sales in April (323) were Class C’s. Winnebago retailed 239 Class C’s during the month.

In April 2008, Winnebago held a 17.3% market share to Thor’s 14.4% and Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.’s 15.3%. 

“These results are exciting and are a testimony to Thor’s commitment to the motorhome industry. We are poised to continue increasing our market share by giving our dealers and retail customers what they want and need,” said Bill Fenech, president of Damon Motor Coach and Four Winds International, in a news release. “Our dealer partners are selling our products and customers are asking for our products, because they know their manufacturer is going to be here in the future.”

“As always, and especially through these difficult times, product development is a daily priority. Listening to the needs of our dealers and retail customers has helped Damon produce some of the hottest products in the market,” said Matt Thompson, general manager for Damon Motor Coach.

With 24.1% market share (year-to-date) in the Class C market, Four Winds International’s Class C products have steadily increased Thor’s overall market position. “We have been fortunate to build great partnerships with our dealers, which have helped us capture more of the retail market. We are sticking to the basics and keeping it simple. Dealers will continue to see improvements to our products and processes in the future,” said Dana Simon, general manager for Four Winds International.

Winnebago was a close second with 22.2% of the Class C market..

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Fleetwood’s Smith Looks for ‘Smooth Transition’ to AIP

June 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

fleetwood-logo1The principals of Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. and the buyer for its motorhome division, American Industrial Partners (AIP), each commented this afternoon on the bankruptcy court’s approval on Wednesday (June 24) to sell the division to AIP.

The sale of Fleetwood’s motorhome assets to AIP for $53 million is subject to pre-closing conditions and post-closing adjustments, according to a news release. Fleetwood did not conduct an auction because no other qualified bids were receivedaip-logo.

“Fleetwood’s motorhome brands are highly respected, and we are confident that this market will recover with the broader economy,” said Dino Cusumano, partner of AIP. “We look forward to continuing to manufacture Fleetwood motorhomes. Fleetwood’s dealers and customers should see no change in Fleetwood motorhomes’ commitment to high quality industry-leading product. We greatly value the relationships that Fleetwood has with its dealers, customers and suppliers and very much look forward to continuing and improving those relationships going forward.”

Elden L. Smith, Fleetwood president and CEO, stated that management, “is pleased to see that the Fleetwood name will be preserved in the RV market place with this sale to AIP. The Fleetwood motorhome group will benefit greatly from having ownership that is well capitalized, experienced, and committed to growth in the RV industry. We are now focused on making this a smooth transition for our dealers, Fleetwood motor home owners, and associates.”

The sale includes two motorhome manufacturing facilities, two motorhome service facilities, and Fleetwood’s Gold Shield supply subsidiary, all presently located in Decatur, Ind. It also includes the intellectual property for Fleetwood’s existing motorhome brands and certain machinery and equipment in Riverside, Calif. AIP may operate the Riverside facility for an undetermined period of time going forward. AIP has agreed to assume certain liabilities, including warranty obligations on Fleetwood motorized products.

The companies expect the deal to close within a matter of weeks.

Additional information about the company’s reorganization may be found online in the news section of www.fleetwood.com or at www.kccllc.net/fleetwood.

American Industrial Partners was founded in 1989 and is a leading U.S. based private equity firm that makes control equity investments, in partnership with management, in well positioned U.S. headquartered industrial companies with leading market shares that can benefit from the firm’s systematic approach to implementing strategic and operational improvements. It is investing its fourth fund which recently closed with $405.5 million of committed capital. For more information, visit www.aipartners.com or American Industrial Partners can be reached at (212) 627-2360.

Founded in 1950, Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. and its various subsidiaries produce, distribute and service recreational vehicles and manufactured housing.

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Update: Judge OK’s Fleetwood RV Division Sale

June 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

A $53 million sale of Fleetwood Enterprise Inc.’s RV division to a New York equity firm was approved Wednesday (June 24) in bankruptcy court in Riverside, Calif.

American Industrial Partners was the only firm to bid for Fleetwood’s RV division, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

The deal is expected to close July 10.

American Industrial Partners agreed to buy Fleetwood’s intellectual property and RV brands in addition to two motorhome manufacturing plants, two motor home service centers and the company’s subsidiary Gold Shield supply, all located in Decatur, Ind.

Dino Cusumano, a partner with American Industrial Partners, cited a confidentiality agreement signed with Fleetwood and wouldn’t confirm or deny speculation that the RV manufacturing operations would be revived in Decatur and the company’s headquarters moved there.

Details of the deal regarding any possible leadership transitions from Fleetwood to American Industrial’s operations and what fate is in store for Fleetwood’s RV plant in Riverside, which wasn’t part of the sale, remained unclear.

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RV Legend OEMs Among 79 M&As So Far in 2009

June 15, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s been nearly six months since The Deal magazine reported that more and more corporate acquirers were eying the distressed market for potential targets. So, did they arrive? 

If we narrow the definition of distressed deals to transactions involving a bankrupt seller, the answer is yes. According to The Deal Pipeline’s bankruptcy M&A database, 79 corporations have acquired or been approved to buy assets from a bankrupt seller so far this year. That compares to 51 similar transactions in the same period last year, and 102 total in 2008.  

Looking more closely at this year’s numbers, it’s no surprise the automotive industry has seen the most action from corporate buyers of distressed assets. There have been 12 bankruptcy M&A deals involving a strategic buyer since Jan. 1. Highlights include:

  • Hertz Global Holdings Inc.’s acquisition of Advantage Rent A Car Inc. 
  • Seffner, Fla.-based Lazydays RV Center Inc.’s acquisition of 154 Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. trailer units.  
  • Penske Automotive Group Inc.’s acquisition of General Motor Corp.’s Saturn brand. 
  • Navistar International Corp.’s Workhorse International Holding Co.’s acquisition of certain Monaco Coach Corp.’s recreational vehicle assets.

Retail was the next most active industry for corporate buyers, with nine transactions, including:

  • Winter Sky Retail Ltd.’s acquisition of Madhouse Ltd.
  • Aurora Fashions Ltd.’s acquisition of Mosaic Fashion Ltd.
  • Sleepy’s Inc.’s acquisition of Dial-A-Mattress Operating Corp.

Strategic acquirers were also active in the media and energy industries, with six and seven transactions, respectively.

For corporate acquires that have yet to dive into the deepening pool of bankrupt assets, be aware that the learning curve is steep. As Sullivan & Cromwell LLP partner Frank Aquila said, even prenegotiated terms will likely be revisited in a bankruptcy sale. Still, as the data above indicates, the opportunities available may be too good to keep many strategics sidelined for long.

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Fleetwood Signs Asset Purchase Agreement with AIP

June 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. reported Tuesday (June 2) that it has signed an asset purchase agreement to sell its motorhome business to American Industrial Partners Capital Fund IV LP (AIP) of New York.

The Riverside, Calif.-based RV and manufactured housing builder is operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy and has been actively looking for buyers of its various business units.

AIP is a middle market private equity firm which makes control investments in leading North American-based industrial businesses. Last week, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved sales procedures for an auction to explore whether any higher or more qualified bids could be obtained, according to a news release.

AIP’s $53 million bid is subject to reduction for the assumption of certain liabilities not to exceed $18 million, including warranty obligations on Fleetwood motorized products. The price is also subject to an adjustment for the amount of current assets purchased at the time the transaction closes.

Under the bidding procedures, any competing bidders must submit qualifying bids by June 18, and if the company receives qualifying bids, the court will hold an auction on June 22. The court hearing to finalize the sale is tentatively scheduled for June 24.

The offer from AIP includes two motorhome manufacturing facilities, two motorhome service facilities and Fleetwood’s Gold Shield supply subsidiary, all located in Decatur, Ind. It also includes intellectual property for Fleetwood’s existing motorhome brands and certain machinery and equipment , but does not include the company’s motorhome manufacturing facilities in Riverside and Paxinos, Pa., or its travel trailer plants, brands, and intellectual property.

“We are pleased to have signed an agreement to sell our motor home operation. AIP is a very capable and qualified organization,” said Elden L. Smith, Fleetwood president and CEO. “Since the sale process under Chapter 11 enables other bidders to come forward, we cannot say for certain what the outcome will be. We do expect, however, that the final purchaser will seek to take advantage of the Fleetwood name and legacy, as well as endeavor to preserve as many jobs as possible.”

Fleetwood is also pursuing buyers for its manufactured housing business.

Management believes that it continues to have adequate cash to fund operations until its businesses are sold.

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Clayton Homes Buys Fleetwood’s Trendsetter Unit

June 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. has sold its Trendsetter military housing assets to CMH Manufacturing Inc. for $4.5 million in cash following last week’s bankruptcy court approval of the sale, according to Modular Home Builder.

 CMH is a subsidiary of the Clayton Homes family of companies, subsidiaries of Berkshire Hathaway, which also owns Forest River Inc., Elkhart, Ind. Trendsetter manufactures modular barracks for the U.S. military in two adjacent facilities located in Belton, Texas, south of Waco.

Under the terms of the purchase agreement, CMH will enter into new contracts to complete current Trendsetter projects at Fort Sam Houston and Fort Bliss, and for another building at Fort Sam Houston. It is expected that CMH will make conditional job offers to most of the unit’s team members. Fleetwood’s existing bonding obligations on its military business, which Fleetwood backs with letters of credit, will be significantly reduced as a result of the transaction.

With Warren Buffet’s backing and government connections, it won’t be too long before Trendsetter will be building more than military hosing for the government, the magazine speculated.  “Clayton Homes seems to be weathering the storm better than most modular home builders,” the magazine concluded.

 

 

 

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Canadian Dealer Eyes Other Fleetwood Oregon Site

May 28, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The Canadian RV dealer who tried to buy Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.’s La Grande, Ore., plant has cast a glance at the bankrupt company’s Pendleton site.

Craig Little, owner of Arbutus RV & Marine Sales on Vancouver Island, offered $1.8 million to buy the 79,000-square-foot La Grande plant. But Little lost out during a sale hearing and auction May 13 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Riverside, Calif. Ron Nash, owner of the La Grande-based RV maker Northwood Manufacturing, bought the property with a bid of $2.05 million.

During a phone interview Wednesday (May 27), Little said Fleetwood has approached him about its Pendleton property, and Tracy Bosen, local economic development director, has discussed it with him as well, according to Pendleton’s East Oregonian

But so far, there’s only has been talk.

“At the moment, we haven’t got a bid in, let me put it that way,” Little said.

Fleetwood Enterprises shut down its trailer manufacturing division in early March, closing plants in La Grande and Pendleton and laying off more than 400 workers between the two sites. Shortly after announcing the closures, Fleetwood declared bankruptcy.

Little said he knew Northwood was likely to make the move, but he expressed disappointment as to why. He said it seemed as though Northwood, which already has a plant close to the Fleetwood site, is just trying to keep a competitor from locating nearby.

“I’m not sure if that’s the best thing for La Grande, but I understand the business decision,” Little said. “We would have liked to have been a serious employer of that area, for sure.”

Little said he even had a team in place and had arranged for some of the former Fleetwood employees in Pendleton to join the La Grande operation.

Northwood makes trailers, fifth-wheels and truck campers in a plant in the Union County Airport industrial park. The company also recently built a facility for manufacturing trailer axles and chassis.

Northwood wasted little time in getting its new acquisition operating, beginning production May 19 of new towable products. Reports indicate the company brought in some of its workers, but also hired back about 100 former Fleetwood workers and a dozen managers.

Bosen said there has been “considerable interest” in the Fleetwood property in Pendleton. But, as with anything else, the real proof will be when someone puts signature to paper.

The Pendleton facility is on about 24 acres with an assessed value of about $5.47 million and a real market value about $20,000 more. The site has two large manufacturing facilities of almost 100,000 square feet each. 

While the property “has a lot going for it,” Bosen also said there are issues compounding any easy decisions. 

First off, the property is set up for making recreational vehicles, and RV makers have been going out of business. And the bankruptcy adds another layer, he said. Once the property is in receivership, a bankruptcy court judge will have to take Fleetwood’s creditors into consideration when regarding the property.

For his part, Little said he is now on to “Plan B.”

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Canadian Dealer Laments Supply Chain Problems

May 26, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Canada’s largest recreational vehicle dealer may have missed out on becoming an RV manufacturer last week, but British Columbia-based Arbutus RV and Marine Sales continues to look at options to gain more control over the supply chain, according to the Times Colonist, Victoria, B.C.

Arbutus lost out on a chance to pick up a La Grande, Ore., travel trailer manufacturing plant being sold by Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., which filed for bankruptcy protection in March.

Arbutus originally bid $1.8 million for the plant, but Northwood Manufacturing, also of La Grande, came up with a competing bid and forced a courtroom auction in California. Northwood won out with a bid of $2.05 million.

“Another manufacturer just down the street didn’t want to see us come in and be a competitor,” said Arbutus owner Craig Little. “I guess somebody else figured they needed it more than we did.”

Northwood, which also makes travel trailers, has said it intends to continue using the plant for that purpose.

According to court documents, Fleetwood will continue to pursue buyers for its major businesses.

Little said his company bid on the plant as a means of maintaining a consistent supply of product and to have some quality control over the products it sells.

That’s becoming more important as the industry feels the pinch of tough economic times in the U.S.

“With the U.S. economy being so challenged it has been a tough time for RV manufacturers with that soft market,” said Little, who was quick to note his company is having a record year.

But that isn’t the case for a number of RV manufacturers that have been forced to take drastic action.

Industry leaders Fleetwood and Monaco Coach Corp. have both filed for bankruptcy protection, while earlier this year, Winnebago Industries reported a loss of $10.4 million in its second quarter — the third quarterly loss in a row.

Little said he would have loved to have some control of the manufacturing side of the business, but he is not concerned about supply. Indeed, he has been meeting with other manufacturers to discuss partnerships.

“We’re in discussions to either get involved on the manufacturing side or be in a position, because of the volume we do, to being hands-on in the product mix to ensure the quality is there for us,” he said, adding there may be a chance for Arbutus to dictate some private labelling of products for its marketplace.

“Whether we partner with manufacturers, it will be a closer-than-ever relationship that we move forward with, and we look forward to added value we can share with our client base,” he said.

Little said his 21-year-old company continues to thrive through tough economic times because of its track record and Vancouver Island’s unique makeup.

“The Island economy has a lot of retired money, so that’s not quite as susceptible to some of the challenges out there, and our banking system has been great,” he said of record low interest rates that make borrowing appealing.

But the big reason RV sales have remained strong, he said, is it remains an inexpensive way to get away.

“It’s still the most cost-effective holidaying you can do,” he said.

“You can pick anywhere you live on Vancouver Island and I’ll bet within five to 15 minutes you can be somewhere RVing.”

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