In the wake of its announced acquisition of Navistar Inc.’s RV operations, Allied Specialty Vehicles (ASV) has begun assembling the pieces for its emergence as a major player in the motorhome segment.
Faced with a raft of organizational and engineering challenges, ASV has mapped out a strategy that will consolidate the building of four high-profile motorhome brands at its campus in Decatur, Ind., while also realigning its corporate structure.
“We will be manufacturing four very iconic motorhome brands – Fleetwood, Monaco, Holiday Rambler and American Coach – all with strong recognition in the marketplace, a loyal customer base and tremendous dealer networks,” noted John Draheim, president and CEO of Fleetwood RV Inc., a division of Orlando, Fla.-based ASV.
As part of the buyout, ASV purchased all of the equity interests of Navistar RV, including manufacturing operations for Navistar’s R-Vision and Holiday Rambler towable units in Harrisburg, Ore., and Navistar’s Monaco and Holiday Rambler brand motorized RVs in Wakarusa, Ind. ASV, which is owned by private equity firm American Industry Partners, has also entered into a multi-year leasing agreement for Navistar RV’s Elkhart, Ind., plant, a former Roadmaster chassis facility that houses towable operations. The sale does not include Bison Coach, Navistar’s horse trailer manufacturing business.
“Towable operations will not be impacted,” said Draheim. “The Roadmaster chassis is currently being assembled in an out-building in Wakarusa. We haven’t made a decision if we will continue to build chassis.”
Phasing out Operations in Wakarusa
The most imposing challenge will be the phasing out of operations in Wakarusa while preparing for a ramp-up of production in Decatur where ASV operates facilities encompassing 558,500 square feet of manufacturing space. Currently around 412,000 square feet are being utilized for Fleetwood/American Coach production.
“We are going to continue to build units in Wakarusa for the next three or four months, fulfilling all of the commitments already on the books,” Draheim said. “I anticipate that the last unit will run down the line sometime in August. At the same time, we’ll be implementing a parallel project in Decatur to prepare for the move.”
Draheim reported that the relocation will impact around 500 workers at the Wakarusa plant, 400 involved in production work. “The balance are in product development and engineering, and we are hiring people from those groups. Parts and service will not change.”
Draheim said that while production will continue, the work force will be incrementally pared down. Employees, who were meeting with management today, would be considered for openings in Decatur.
“I don’t see us starting production in August or even September,” he said, “so I don’t know if people will be able to wait that long. Our intent is to sell the Wakarusa facility. We have already received interest from a few industry companies where people would be able to find employment.”
He added, “Our top priority is taking care of these people who lost their jobs.”
Launch of a New Era for ASV
Draheim said that initially ASV would essentially be setting up two companies in Decatur.
“We will be forming two separate business units – Monaco/Holiday Rambler and Fleetwood/American Coach,” Draheim said. “Sales, marketing, product development, parts and service will all run independently. Long-term that may change. I can envision how the two companies and four brands will fit under the ASV umbrella.”
Product development, however, remains at the forefront.
“We will be adding additional product development/engineering resources to those inherited in the deal from Navistar, as we view product as an extremely important component for success,” he said. “One of our main goals will be to further differentiate the brands. Monaco was the premier luxury motorhome in the market, but Navistar tried to change the product through its engine strategy. They tried to make Monaco something it’s not.”
Draheim said that the production side would not be immediately impacted, noting that RV sales had been dropping since Navistar Inc. announced last October that RVs represented a “non-core” business.
“At the volumes we’re running today, we’ll be able to integrate production in Decatur without changing our facilities,” he said. “As volumes increase, we may need to reconfigure.”
ASV’s management structure will also be in a state of flux while operations are merged. Draheim will continue to head up Fleetwood/American Coach while longtime Monaco executive Mike Snell has been named as president of Monaco/Holiday Rambler. Bill Osborne, president of Navistar RV, will not be part the new team.
“Mike will be reporting to ASV COO Jim Meyer, who is also acting COO for Fleetwood,” Draheim said. “We are currently conducting a job search to fill the Fleetwood slot so Jim can concentrate on his corporate responsibilities.”
He added, “In the next 60 to 90 days we will announcing a new management structure. I can foresee a corporate ASV RV umbrella with two business unit presidents and one COO to oversee operations. Right now, we are wading our way through all the changes and are focusing on implementing a plan that makes sense.”
Fleetwood RV Inc. recently released a “Build Your Own” mobile tablet application that allows users to configure a Fleetwood motorhome to their own personal specifications. According to a press release, the app is free and available for download at the Apple App Store and Google Play.
The new Fleetwood RV app lets users choose their preferred Fleetwood model and the floorplan that best fits their lifestyle. The app offers a selection of inviting exterior graphics, interior décor and cabinetry options to choose from. Allowing an even greater level of customization, the app provides additional optional features in categories such as the galley and appliances, living room and furniture, electronics, bedroom and exterior.
“The mobile tablet application provides our customers the ability to explore our full range of amenities and options while they build their own unique motorhome,” commented John Draheim, president and CEO of the Decatur, Ind.-based builder. “The app is an ideal example of how our brands continue to employ innovative marketing techniques that engage our owners and dealers.”
After users have designed their customized motorhome, they can compare the suggested retail price of the vehicle to the price as it’s been configured. They also have the option to e-mail the configured motorhome to themselves or share it with friends.
A “Build Your Own” mobile tablet application is also available for the American Coach brand, Fleetwood’s high-end motorhome line. The American Coach version of the app displays rich product décor and features and actively updates the floor plan as the user makes his or her specific selections.
“These apps provide a significant benefit to dealers and customers, who are now able to explore the endless possibilities, floorplans and options, all from the convenience of a mobile device,” added Draheim.
Plans call for a mid-May debut of Fleetwood RV Inc.’s restyled 2014 Discovery diesel pusher Class A — the first major upgrade of Fleetwood’s popular Discovery since 2007. Updated inside and out, the 36- to 40-foot 2014 Discovery is available in four floorplans – two with full-wall slideouts – on a 32,000-pound GVWR Freightliner XCM modular chassis adapted to Fleetwood’s PowerBridge platform and equipped with a 380-hp Cummins 8.9L diesel engine. MSRPs range from $270,000 to $286,000. The exterior sports oversized headlights with LED accent lighting in addition to a front slideout generator access door and revised colors and graphics. Inside is a more automotive wraparound dash with faux-wood inlays and soft-touch surfaces while new interior decors and wood options have been added. “Discovery has been Fleetwood’s iconic diesel brand for years and is a mainstay of our product lineup, so the design changes for 2014 are evolutionary,” reports Kyle McCrary, senior vice president of product planning and design for Decatur, Ind.-based Fleetwood. “Our process began by placing a new focus on appealing to both husband and wife. For him, we started from scratch with a new dash design to make it more driver-centric with the most modern switchgear and premium materials. For her, we kept the traditional interior styling but updated it with warmer fabrics and wall coverings, and new hardwoods. And to add some drama, we’re using massive 24-inch-by-24-inch polished tile plus an updated galley that includes new LG countertops, glass-tile backsplashes, a spice shelf and additional outlets. These updates will put Discovery at the top of its class for 2014.”
Fleetwood RV Inc. President and CEO John Draheim has been appointed to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce board.
According to a press release, Draheim will serve a three-year term through 2015. The board is made up of 180 business and civic leaders throughout Indiana.
With a focus on developing aspects of the organization’s business advocacy groups, the board members serve on various committees that research topics and define policy positions for adoption. These positions are then used by the chamber’s advocacy team to initiate and evaluate legislation at the Indiana Statehouse and in Congress.
“It’s an honor to be asked to serve on the Indiana Chamber of Commerce board of directors,” said Draheim. “The chamber serves an important role in promoting economic prosperity and job growth in Indiana, something which is incredibly important to the people of our state and to companies like Fleetwood RV.”
Decatur, Ind.-based motorhome builder Fleetwood RV Inc. has partnered with Fort Wayne’s Bishop Luers High School in its participation during CANstruction 2013, in support of the Community Harvest Food Bank (CHFB).
According to a press release, CANstruction pairs local high school students with business sponsors and engineering mentors to design and build structures based on this year’s theme, “Dynamic Duos.” The structures are all built using only cans of food, which are then donated to the CHFB and for distribution throughout the nine counties which it serves.
On exhibit from April 12–21 at Fort Wayne’s Glenbrook Mall, Bishop Luers’ “Bo, Luke and the General Lee” structure represents the iconic television twosome and how they fought for the good in their 1969 Dodge Charger, the General Lee. This design also resonates the efforts of the CHFB in the fight against hunger within the community.
“This is our second year of sponsorship with the CANstruction program and we’re extremely pleased to be able to sponsor Bishop Luers High School in this worthwhile cause,” said Doug Hormann, director of human resources for Fleetwood RV. “Fleetwood RV’s commitment to this program supports our continuing efforts of giving back to the community while providing the ability for Bishop Luers students to showcase their design and do their part in the fight against hunger.”
Decatur, Ind.-based motorhome builder Fleetwood RV Inc. announced that John McKibben will join the company as director of operations.
McKibben’s responsibilities will include management of on-line and off-line production, lean manufacturing processes and operational resource planning. With 17-plus years in production management, he offers wide-ranging experience applying advanced lean manufacturing strategies in plant environments.
Most recently serving as plant manager at Bluffton Motor Works, McKibbon also has prior management experience at Nestle and General Motors Co. As a certified Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) coach, he also trains teams in TPS and TPM tools to improve safety, quality and productivity.
“John’s broad management background and lean manufacturing expertise is a great match for our organization,” stated John Draheim, president & CEO of Fleetwood RV. “He has a proven track record of consistently attaining production schedules, meeting quality expectations, solving process challenges and improving safety, all of which are extremely important to our work here at Fleetwood RV.”
McKibben, a Fort Wayne, Ind., native, replaces Luis Ortiz. A Six Sigma black-belt and lean expert, Ortiz advances to a new consulting role for Fleetwood RV stakeholder, American Industrial Partners (AIP).
“Luis played a critical role in the development of our lean manufacturing journey and we’re incredibly grateful to have had him on our team,” said Draheim. “He has accepted a position with AIP as a lean sensei where he will get to extend his expertise to an expanding portfolio of companies.”
American Coach, the luxury coach division of Decatur, Ind.-based Fleetwood RV Inc., highlighted three new floorplans for the American Heritage, American Eagle and American Tradition models at the 50th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., November 27 – 29.
According to a press release, American Coach also introduced its brand essence statement — “The trusted leader in quality-engineered luxury RVs” — and unveiled a new website that effectively communicates the American Coach message, including industry-leading support, a trusted brand and “a passion to produce the best products and innovation in design and engineering.” The refreshed website, www.americancoach.com, features a design that’s consistent with a luxury brand, larger product images, easy navigation, a “Build Your Own” application and improved owner center portal.
A series of brochures, one for each American Coach model, was also produced that not only highlights the company’s all-new floorplans, but the innovative design options available. Mindy Cox, an interior designer with 18 years in the industry, joined the American Coach team this year and will be a driving force in the company’s renewed focus on distinctive design.
“The American Coach brand is the epitome of luxury when it comes to motorhomes, and we’re focused on continuing to build them with meticulous attention to detail and the highest level of sophisticated design,” said Kyle McCrary, vice president, design, sales and marketing.
In addition, a new American Coach iPad application was introduced at the Louisville show that provides dealers with an effective, mobile sales tool they can use to show customers floor plans, décor options and the “Build Your Own” feature.
Allied Specialty Vehicles (ASV), parent to Decatur, Ind.-based Fleetwood RV Inc., has appointed James R. Meyer as COO.
According to a press release, Meyer, 50, most recently served as president & CEO of Hatteras Yachts, a subsidiary of Brunswick Corp. His 30-year career includes director of product development at Ford Motor Co. for medium and large cars as well as crossover vehicles and general manager of small cars for Mazda.
“Consistent with our growth objectives, the addition of Jim Meyer as COO further strengthens our ability to deliver our operational excellence initiatives and strategic plans,” said Peter Guile, CEO of ASV. “Jim has an ideal background for ASV including vehicle product development, strategic sourcing and a proven track record of growing profit margins and strengthening businesses. He understands our recreational vehicle segment from leading a luxury yacht business and brings significant Asian and European operating experience.”
Meyer holds an MBA from the University of Michigan, a masters in engineering from MIT and a bachelor’s in engineering from the University of Michigan.
Based in Orlando, Fla., Allied Specialty Vehicles is a $1 billion revenue, privately held company comprised of industry leading brands in fire and emergency, recreation and commercial specialty vehicle segments.
Fleetwood RV Inc.’s growth warranted a visit by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and members of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) board to the builder’s headquarters in Decatur, Ind., today (March 22), according to a press release.
Fleetwood RV, a leading manufacturer of Class A and Class C motorhomes, relocated its headquarters to Decatur in 2009 after consolidating its California and Pennsylvania manufacturing operations. The IEDC invested up to $9 million in performance-based tax credits and up to $100,000 in training grants based on the company’s accelerated job creation plans.
The company currently employs 1,106 workers at the Decatur manufacturing facility and recently hired 170 temporary employees to work on a four-month project.
Fleetwood said that much of its success is attributed to an ongoing commitment to innovation in its Fleetwood and American Coach brands. The company recently introduced the Excursion, a 33-foot Class A diesel model that has earned high accolades for its features and amenities.
“Through Gov. Daniels’ leadership, the efforts of the IEDC and the hard-working principles of the citizens of Indiana, this state has become a model for economic growth and job creation,” said John Draheim, president and CEO of Fleetwood RV. “As Fleetwood RV continues to grow, we plan to add more jobs and help to create an exciting future for the people of Indiana.”
Decatur, Ind.-based motorhome builder Fleetwood RV Inc. recently was awarded quality recognition from Ford Motor Co.’s Qualified Vehicle Modifier (QVM) Program.
• Compliance with all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).
• Conformance with all Ford industry guidelines for vehicle conversions.
• Annual facility inspection and review of converter’s processes.
• A commitment to continuous improvement.
According to Ford, the purpose of this program is to assure vehicle modifier’s have the capability and processes in place to complete the vehicle in a repeatable manner – maintaining the integrity of the Ford chassis system while meeting federal and other compliance standards in place at the time of the build, and providing end-users with a quality built vehicle that meets their expectations.
“We believe we have achieved excellence in Ford’s Motor Home Quality Vehicle Modifier Program because of the investments we have made in engineering technology and lean manufacturing,” stated Fleetwood RV President and CEO John Draheim. “Our continued commitment to the quality and safety of our products is a driving force behind the products we deliver to our customers.”