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.”
Tom Johnson Camping Center announced that it is being named by Fleetwood RV Inc. as the No. 1 Jamboree Class C dealer in the nation and a Top Dealer Award recipient for American Coach and Southwind luxury motorhomes.
The Tom Johnson store in Marion, N.C. earned the distinction for the Jamboree brand while the Concord, N.C. earned Top Dealer Award for American Coach and Southwind.
“It is an honor for us to be named Top Dealer for American Coach and Fleetwood RV and we are very excited to be the No. 1 Jamboree Dealer in the nation,” said Gary Stroud, vice president. “Fleetwood and American Coach produce high quality products and listen carefully to customer needs. This philosophy of focusing on customer needs aligns with the Tom Johnson Camping Center business philosophy.”
Tom Johnson Camping Center is currently gearing up to host its 31st Annual Customer Appreciation BBQ set to run Sept. 8-10. This annual free event for customers includes a complimentary three-night stay in the Tom Johnson Camping Rally Park at the Marion location, nightly entertainment, seminars and activities, and complimentary breakfast and dinner on Sept. 10.
Monaco RV LLC, Carriage Inc., Travel Lite Inc., Fleetwood RV Inc. and Newmar Corp. are joining forces to display new products Sept. 19-22 on a 17-acre parcel of land on the northeast corner of U.S. 20 and C.R. 17 during Elkhart County’s 4th Annual RV Open House Week.
In what amounts to a classic case of how the emerging Open House casts industry competitors in unusually cooperative roles, the five adjacent exhibits will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily – and later when necessary — with a joint catered luncheon available 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. all four days, according to Ed Kinney, vice president of sales and marketing for Carriage, who played a pivotal role in organizing the display area.
The five-company exhibit, on the southeast side of Elkhart and a few minutes from the larger Forest River Inc. and Thor Industries Inc. displays, offers easy access, ample parking and close proximity to other manufacturer displays in the area, according to a Thursday (Sept. 1) Monaco release.
“We’re all splitting the costs, which are really low,” says Kinney, adding that there will be well over 100 units on display at the joint exhibit. “Everybody’s in this together.”
Kinney says this corporate cluster results from the experiences of some companies that felt their locations during last year’s Open House were too remote from the daily dealer traffic. Carriage’s management last year hosted dealers at the company’s home plant in Millersburg, a good 20-minute drive south and east of Elkhart.
Monaco’s main plant is in Wakarusa, Ind., while Newmar is in Nappanee, Ind., Travel Lite is based in New Paris, Ind., and Fleetwood is located about an hour’s drive southeast in Decatur, Ind.
There will be a tent set up amid the displays, said Kinney, adding that access to the paved parking area is off of C.R. 17.
“We look forward to bringing our products closer to dealers who will be in the Elkhart area,” noted Monaco’s Mike Snell, senior vice president of sales and product development. “We want it to be effortless for dealers to see our products, to learn about our advantages and connect with our employees and company. The manufacturer-dealer relationship is all about fostering good relationships based on open communication. At the same time, we want to provide the best, most state-of-the-art RVs on the market.”
“We’ll have lunches every day for dealers and visitors,” Kinney added. “We’re just real excited. It’s going to be a great turnout. It’s a nice layout. It’s a perfect piece of property – easy in, easy out, lots of easy parking. So, we’re just thinking of convenience for the dealers. And, you know, we’re three minutes from the Hall of Fame (where Thor will be set up). It doesn’t get better than that.”
Fleetwood RV Inc. debuted new models in the company’s Class A diesel pusher lineup along with the entry-level Jamboree Searcher and Tioga Montara C-bodies during the two-year-old company’s Aug. 23-25 National Dealer Meeting at the Grand Wayne Center in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Introductions by Decatur, Ind.-based Fleetwood included:
• Providence: Aimed at the “higher end of the price spectrum,” the 2012 Providence diesel pusher offers several upscale amenities such as polished porcelain floors, molded fiberglass roof and enhanced interior design with wall art and countertop edge detail upgrades. The line is available in four floorplans – three 42-foot models powered by a 450-hp Cummins 8.9L engine and a 40-footer equipped with the 380-hp ISC Cummins engine. The 42P is a tag-axle unit while the 42M offers a triple-slide and full-wall bath. Standard features include full-body paint, Aqua-Hot system (42M only), 2,000-watt pure sine wave inverter w/remote, hardwood cabinet doors/drawers, double roller shades, side-swinging luggage doors, and exterior grill and galley (optional).
• Discovery:The diesel pusher Discovery lineup features six models, including three tag axle units, all powered by a 380-hp Cummins ISC 8.3L engine. All-new floorplans for 2012 include the 42D, a quad-slide layout with a luxurious master suite, and the 42M, a full-wall-slide model with a Sony 40” mid-ship LCD TV. Features include 84-inch ceiling height, full-body paint, porcelain tile floor with decorative inserts,
hardwood cabinet doors/drawers, double roller shades, side-swinging luggage doors and optional exterior grill and galley.
• Jamboree Searcher and Tioga Montara: Both C models are available in three floorplans, including a 22- and 23-footer along with an all-new 25-foot model. All units feature a cab-over bed, spacious dinette and full bath with shower. Other features include hardwood cabinet doors; high-gloss smooth fiberglass exterior; a one-piece molded fiberglass front cap; and a full basement exterior with pass-through storage. Priced to compete in the entry-level market, MSRP’s are $64,190.
Fleetwood RV Inc. President and CEO John Draheim told dealers during the company’s Aug. 23-25 National Dealer Meeting at the Grand Wayne Center in Fort Wayne, Ind., that the Decatur, Ind.-based motorhome builder has been taking a close look at the way it’s perceived by its dealer network and end-consumers.
Toward that end, Draheim introduced Fleetwood’s new “marketing partner,” Fort Wayne-based LaBov & Beyond, a niche marketing agency whose clients include automotive, financial service, marine and sports businesses – particularly companies that sell through dealers and distribution networks.
In an effort to “stay connected with what’s going on in the market,” Fleetwood asked LaBov & Beyond to talk to their customers, interview dealers and engage with owners. The agency in the past year interviewed 30 dealers and gathered input from numerous others while sitting down with 100 consumers and surveying 250 others online, and Draheim shared some of the highlights of those interviews.
He said the dealers gave the two-year-old company high marks for product – with some advice on fit and finish – plus kudos for sales and service, organization and its ability to build relationships in the marketplace.
“You told us that we need to help you drive traffic, that it’s a very difficult market and if there’s things that we can do to help you drive traffic that you’ll help us,” said Draheim.
“You also told us in this process two interesting things: One, you’re seeing a lot of first-time buyers and there’s no rhyme or reason to what they buy. They may buy a Class C, a Searcher or Montera. They may come in and buy a (lower priced gas Class A) Storm. They may actually buy a (higher-priced diesel A-body) Revolution. But the point is that there are new buyers coming into the market space, and it’s healthy for our industry.
“You also told us that the percentage of cash buyers has gone way up in the past 18 to 24 months, which is yet another new phenomenon.”
Consumers, he added, are more informed than their predecessors due to the Internet.
“The shopping and buying process that the owners are going through today has changed,” said Draheim. “On average, they’re starting their process three to six months prior to making a purchase. In some cases, it’s much longer. We also found that they tend to keep their coach between 24 and 50 months before they trade. They start their research, their education process, online. They gather their information from websites. They download or request brochures from those websites. Then, they may go to a show or rally.
“We asked them why? Because they feel it (a show or rally) is a more non-threatening environment than a retail dealership. They’re not ready to buy. They’re still researching. They move from the awareness phase of the buying process to the consideration phase, but they’re still not ready for a transaction. And they also told us that the purchase is as much about the relationship as it is the product – just as some of you have told us that our relationship in some cases is more important than the product. The customers feel the same way about you in the buying process.”
Fleetwood, in turn, has been working to integrate some of this input into its corporate and marketing, sales and follow-through strategies.
During the meeting, Fleetwood also honored its top dealers for the year. Awards included:
• Ancira Travel Villa, Alvarado, Texas — Top Dealer for Discovery, Bounder, American Tradition and American Revolution
• Centre Du VR. Victoriaville, Victoriaville, Quebec — Top Dealer for Southwind and Jamboree
• Dixie RV Superstore, Hammond, La. — Top Dealer for Discovery and Tioga
• General RV Center, Wixom, Mich. — Top Dealer for Bounder Classic; Overall Top Motorhome Dealer Multi Location
• Giant RV, Montclair, Calif. — Top Dealer for Southwind and Terra; No. 1 Jamboree Dealer in the Nation; No. 1 Providence Dealer in the Nation
• Harberson RV Pinellas, Clearwater, Fla. — Top Dealer for Southwind
• Holiday World of Houston, Katy, Texas — Top Dealer for Discovery
• Holland Motor Homes, San Diego, Calif. — Top Dealer for Bounder Classic and Jamboree
• La Mesa RV Center, Sanford, Fla. — Top Dealer for Expedition, Jamboree and Storm
• Lazydays RV Center, Seffner, Fla. — Top Dealer for Southwind, Bounder Classic, Storm and Terra; Overall Top Motor Home Dealer Single Location; No. 1 Dealer for Discovery, Bounder, Expedition and Tioga; No. 1 Dealer for American Heritage, American Eagle, American Tradition and American Revolution; Overall Top American Coach Dealer; #1 Dealer for American Heritage, American Eagle, American Tradition and American Revolution.
• McGeorge Camping Center, Ashland, Va. — Top Dealer for Storm
• Mike Thompson’s RV Superstore, Colton, Calif. — Top Dealer for Tioga
• Mike Thompson’s RV Superstore, Fountain Valley, Calif. — Top Dealer for Tioga
• Neil’s Motor Homes, North Hills, Calif. — Top Dealer for Terra
• Northside RV’s, Lexington, Ky. — Top Dealer for Terra
• RV World, Yuma, Ariz. — Top Dealer for American Eagle and Bounder Classic
• Tom Johnson Camping Center, Concord, N.C.– Top Dealer for Southwind, American Heritage, American Eagle, American Tradition and American Revolution
• Tom Raper RV, Richmond, Ind. – Top Dealer for Discovery and Bounder
• Dixie RV Superstore, Hammond, Louisiana — #1 Terra Dealer in the Nation
• Mike Thompson’s RV Super Store, Santa Fe Springs, Calif. — #1 Storm Dealer in the Nation; #1 Tioga Dealer in the Nation
• Niel’s Motor Homes, North Hills, Calif. — #1 Southwind Dealer in the Nation
• Tom Johnson Camping Center, Marion, N.C. — #1 Jamboree Dealer in the Nation
• Woody’s RV World, Calgary, Alberta — #1 Bounder Classic Dealer in the Nation
• El Monte RV, El Monte, Calif. — Overall Top Rental Dealer
Fleetwood RV Inc. unveiled its 2012 Class A gas-powered Storm during the company’s 2011 National Dealer Meeting last week at the Grand Wayne Center in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Touted as a “crossover” motorhome, Fleetwood said the Storm features the sleeping capacity and value of a Class C coach along with the roominess and storage capacity of a Class A.
“It’s a coach that is loaded with standard features, and offered at a value that appeals to a wide range of RVers,” said John Draheim, president and CEO of the two-year-old, Decatur, Ind.-based builder.
The 2012 Storm is available in five floorplans, ranging in size from 28 to 32 feet. The dual-slide 32BH offers either standard bunk beds or the optional “Bunk Bed-n-Breakfast” space-saving two-person dinette with convertible bunk beds while the dual-slide 32V features a 30-inch deep living area slideroom.
The Hide-a-Loft option, featuring a queen-sized, electronic drop-down bed with air mattress located above the driver/passenger captain’s chairs, is available on all models.
Standard features on the 2012 Storm include one-piece windshield 82-inch interior height; Soft Touch Flexsteel driver/passenger captain’s chairs; high-gloss fiberglass sidewalls; pass-through storage; and a full basement exterior with enclosed, heated holding tanks and luggage compartments.
Also standard are an Onan 4.0 kw MicroQuiet generator;15,000-BTU ducted air conditioner; patio awning; rear vision camera with monitor built in to the dash radio; dual deep cycle auxiliary batteries; and whole coach water filtration. Base MSRP is around $82,000.
Fleetwood RV Inc., a leading producer of Class A and Class C recreational vehicles, recently unveiled its new website, www.fleetwoodrv.com.
According to a press release, the site has been designed to be the “best on-line resource for both current Fleetwood owners and prospects.”
Fleetwood said it is committed to forward-thinking in the RV industry, including products as well as marketing.
“Our new website is just the beginning of our marketing innovation, which will continue,” said John Draheim, president and CEO of the Decatur, Ind.-based company. “When planning the new website, we looked at best practices in the automotive, boat and RV industries to create a site that will change the way people engage with our products. We want our website to be a destination, not just a stop along the road, and I think this redesign sets that tone clearly.”
Fleetwood’s new website not only has a whole new look and feel, but it also provides clearer product information, larger product images, and a “Build Your Own” feature that allows consumers to build customized flyers that they can save, print or share on social media sites.
In a rather eloquent address to his company’s dealers, staff and key suppliers, Fleetwood RV Inc. President and CEO John Draheim discussed the market, his company’s quest for quality and the health of the two-year-old firm during Fleetwood’s 2011 National Dealer Meeting Wednesday (Aug. 24) at the Grand Wayne Center in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Indeed, within seconds of stepping to the stage at Fleetwood’s dealer meeting, which took place Tuesday through Thursday in Indiana’s second largest city and about a half hour north of Fleetwood’s headquarters in Decatur, Ind., Draheim set out to dispel negative perceptions about the economy as it relates to the U.S. motorhome arena.
“I visited with several of you last night and, of course, have been in touch with many dealers and customers at events in the past 60 to 90 days, and it’s a tough market,” said Draheim, before a crowd that included about 85 dealer personnel. “We’re flying into very difficult economic headwinds today. Retail traffic is spotty. In some areas it’s pretty good; in other areas it’s not so good. I talked to a dealer last night who said for two weeks he didn’t see enough (traffic), then, all of the sudden, he was covered up (with business) over the weekend.”
As for Fleetwood itself, which was established in 2009 when American Industrial Partners Capital Fund IV LP of New York acquired the Decatur operation for $53 million from its bankrupt predecessor, Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., Draheim said Fleetwood and its sister divisions in Allied Specialty Vehicles (ASV) are all profitable.
ASV is a billion-dollar-a-year, 3,000-employee network of ten companies and 13 brands located throughout the country into which Fleetwood was integrated in February. ASV is comprised of divisions for fire and safety (fire trucks and ambulances), RVs (Fleetwood and its high-end American Coach division) and commercial and industrial products (including bus companies, Gold Shield fiberglass and sweeper products).
Draheim said Fleetwood’s retail turn rates right now remain respectable, averaging 100 to 110 days, and with the company’s best selling Discovery Class A posting a mean turn rate of closer to 84 days.
And he insisted that business exists for those willing to work hard enough to get it.
To illustrate that point, he said that July was Fleetwood’s best retail month in the past year. “We’ve lowered our dealer inventories 12% in the last 90 days,” he said. “That’s over 180 units that have come out of the channel in these economic times. We had high water marks set in record sales on American Eagle, Expedition, Bounder Classic, Storm, the new Tioga Jamboree DSL’s and Searcher Montera. All had their highest sales since we’ve launched those products in the new company in the month of July – in this economy.
“There is business out there,” he added. “You’ve got to fight for it, and, yes, we’re all under margin pressures. But there is business to be had.”
Meanwhile, he says, Fleetwood’s pursuit of a lean manufacturing format, a “cultural transformation” the company has pursued for 18 months, continues today.
“Lean is about limiting waste, not being a batch manufacturer and building one unit at a time,” said Draheim. “Thankfully we’ve made this investment in this process in the last 18 months because, when you’re in an economy like today’s, it would be very difficult to run our plants the way we used to. We can respond to market demand very quickly now because we no longer build batches of products. We build one at a time.”
As part of this transformation, they’re involving suppliers and have implemented an internal certification process for their associates, who are recognized for becoming certified.
Draheim, in turn, commented on the general quality of industry products, Fleetwood’s included.
“You’re not satisfied,” he told the dealers. “We’ve done some research on all this, and we know that you’re not satisfied with us or with some of our competitors. Sometimes, it’s (product quality) good, and sometimes it’s not so good. It’s inconsistent. The fact of the matter is that we’re also not satisfied. This is all part of the journey, the process. To have quality product, you’ve got to have quality people and suppliers. We’re working on this on our journey as well.”
In an effort to elevate expectations at Fleetwood, Draheim is promoting the use of Customer Response Teams that inspect every unit, and he even closed plants last week because he didn’t find some of the quality audits acceptable and he wanted “to recalibrate everybody on what we will accept and what we won’t accept.”