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.”
Decatur, Ind.-based Fleetwood RV Inc., a leading producer of Class A and Class C motorhomes, today announced the nationwide rollout of its 2012 Bounder – the company’s most recognized motorhome brand.
“Bounder has been a household name in the RV industry since its debut in 1985 and is best known for its high-function, no frills features,” said John Draheim, president and CEO of Fleetwood RV. “For 2012, we focused on updating and elevating Bounder so it would appeal to a younger buyer. We added two new floorplans and upgraded the interior décor. This is definitely not your grandfather’s Bounder anymore.”
The 2012 Bounder lineup includes four floorplans: the 33-foot, dual-slide 33C floorplan with a 40-inch Sony mid-ship LCD TV and Ultraleather transform-a-sofa; the 33-foot, full-wall-slide 33U floorplan with a 32-inch Sony mid-ship TV; a 35-foot, dual-slide 35H floorplan with a large master suite; and a 35-foot dual-slide, bath-and-a-half 35K floor plan with a 40-inch Sony mid-ship LCD TV and Ultraleather transform-a-sofa.
Top features on the 2012 Bounder include Sony electronics and optional Blu-Ray surround sound system; electronic fireplace (available on 33C and 35K only); exterior entertainment center (available on 35H and 35K only); standard full-body paint; halogen lighting throughout and king bed (optional).
For more information about Fleetwood RV and its full-line of Class A and Class C recreational vehicles, call 1-800-322-8216 or visit www.fleetwoodrv.com.
You may have to look harder to see those convoys of motor homes headed for vacation spots this summer. According to a report in USA Today, RVs are getting smaller.
While sales of traditional motorhomes have grown at a respectable 6.2% rate for the first six months of the year, two smaller classes encompassing large van conversions have grown nearly twice as fast, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) reports.
“The era of bigger-is-better and more ostentatious” is over, declares RVIA President Richard Coon. Now, “the trend is toned down quite a bit.”
Blame the economy and gas prices, but also retirees who have decided they don’t need rolling McMansions for status in otherwise hard times.
“Fuel prices are driving it, but this is a cultural shift,” says Bob Wheeler, CEO of Airstream Inc., which converts delivery-van-style Mercedes-Benz Sprinters into low-key motorhomes. “There’s a shift away from conspicuous consumption.”
Though these units are priced upwards of $125,000, Wheeler says they typically don’t have the fancy paint and graphics of larger units. “No flashy paint job,” he says. Rather, it’s “understated elegance” — and up to 18 miles a gallon from the modest diesel engine, triple the gas mileage of some big gasoline-powered motor homes.
Even in the bigger vehicle classes, some RVers are downsizing. Fleetwood RV Inc. says many buyers of more traditional motorhomes, who formerly would have opted for 36-footers or bigger, today are downsizing to its 28- to 32-foot Storm line, which starts at about $92,000, says Lenny Razo, eastern regional sales director.
USA Today reported that those RVs are being fitted with more space-maximizing features, such as bunks that drop from the ceiling. Many buyers “are getting older, and they don’t need as much” space, Razo says.
Winnebago Industries Inc., too, has introduced more lower-priced motorhomes and fuel-saving diesels. “In the last couple of years, people are wanting value products, not necessarily all the bells and whistles like in 2004,” says spokeswoman Sheila Davis.
Smaller motorhomes also can be more versatile, such as serving as a base camp for little leaguers at games, as well as a home away from home on vacation, she says.
Fleetwood RV Inc. hosted over 400 motorhome owners and suppliers at its “Circle Your Wagons in Shawnee” national rally at the Heart of Oklahoma Expo Center in Shawnee, Okla. last week.
According to a press release, the event, which was the company’s third national rally, included live musical entertainment, a patriotic day parade, Fleetwood RV rally service support and various vendor displays and seminars.
“Overall, the event was a huge success,” said John Draheim, president and CEO of Fleetwood RV. “We always enjoy the opportunity to spend time with our owners; getting to know them better and thanking them for their loyalty and support. I know that I can speak on behalf of everyone from Fleetwood that was in attendance when I say that this year’s event was hard to leave because of how much fun we had with our owners. They really are the best owners in the industry.”
Capitalizing on the excitement, the company announced details for its fourth national owner rally in Goshen, Ind. The event will be held June 27 – July 1, 2012. For more information, including pricing and how to register, please visit: www.fleetwoodrv.com/mhevent.
Rand McNally will kick off its inaugural Best of the Road Rally today (June 23) at Liberty Park in Jersey City, N.J., with Fleetwood RV Inc. serving as the official RV for the event.
According to a press release, the rally will feature a cross-country search for the best small towns in America. Celebrating the great American road trip and the official start to summer, five teams of traveling duos will be handed the keys to a brand-new Saab equipped with Rand McNally’s RVND navigation device.
The teams will depart on a three-week adventure looking for the following categories: friendliest, most beautiful, best for food, most patriotic and most fun towns in America. Each team will be assigned one category for review, which will be unveiled just prior to
• Captain and Clark: Tawny Clark, 25, Bremerton, Wash., and Christopher Staudinger, 25, Pasco, Wash.; a couple who met at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro and dub themselves “modern cartographers,” documenting their travels on their popular blog.
• Fun Finders: Jim Parr, 67, and Bonnie Parr, 65, from St. Petersburg, Fla.; a retired married couple who met in clown school and dedicated their lives to “clowning around” and helping others.
• Gone With the Wynns: Jason Wynn, 29, and Nikki Wynn, 29, from Carrollton, Texas; a married couple who traded in their Dallas home for a life on the road in a fuel-efficient, sustainable RV.
• McNavigators: Daniel Schaub, 36, and JoAnne Schaub, 35, from Cary, N.C.; a happily married couple for 14 years, the Schaubs met in Yellowstone National Park and found that a life on the road brought them together when they were drifting apart.
• Traveling Jules and Traveling Jones: Juliana Broste, 28, and Joan Broste, 62, from Littleton, Colorado; a mother and daughter who have both traveled extensively on their own, but the Best of the Road Rally will be the first time together.
RV Buddies took a look at the Terra 34DS from Fleetwood RV Inc. and rates it as one of the best RV buys of 2011. To see the full review and video go to www.RVBuddies.net now.
“There are a few companies creating interesting floor plans,” said Mark Summers, executive producer of RV Buddies. “What is surprising is to find one of the best in an entry-level Class A motorhome.”
The Fleetwood Terra 34DS starts at $99,000, and offers a lot of value for the money. Full body paint is optional and applied to Fleetwood RV’s impeccable standards. An almost invisible optional bed lowers over the cab area to provide queen-size accommodations. The galley and dinette are forward and laid out well. But amidships is where the big surprise presents itself. The HD-TV is at eye level and both sleeper sofa and comfy lounge chair have views. And for someone working at the dinette on their laptop – they won’t miss a single lap around the track or touch-down.
Moving aft through a hallway is a side bath with plenty of room and privacy. In the back is a residential queen with a large window in the back cap making the space seem even larger.
“The Terra 34DS is unexpected. From the front cap that is stunning to the interior that is truly livable,” adds Summers.
GE Capital, Commercial Distribution Finance today (Aug. 24) announced it has been selected as the exclusive wholesale lender for Fleetwood RV’s new inventory stock program designed to promote high turnover of new inventory.
This program will provide a competitive interest rate on financed inventory for 120 days and will allow dealers to be reimbursed by Fleetwood for 100% of interest charges on new inventory financed through GE Capital and sold in 60 days or less, according to a news release. A second tier will provide for 50% interest reimbursement for inventory sold between 61-90 days. All Fleetwood RV products invoiced on or after Monday, August 23, 2010, are eligible under the program.
“At Fleetwood RV, we are focused on retail and creating additional margin opportunities for our dealers,” said John Draheim, CEO/resident of Fleetwood RV Inc. “This new program reinforces that ideology by lowering costs and adding more value into our products, which helps our dealer partners turn their inventory more quickly. We are excited about the opportunity it creates for our dealer body and appreciate the creativity from GE Capital in its design and implementation.”
“The Fleetwood RV interest reimbursement programs provide a strong incentive for dealers to sell through at retail in today’s market,” said Peter Lannon, managing director – RV, for GE Capital’s CDF business. “We have worked closely with Fleetwood on this program and we are pleased to be able to help them deliver this reimbursement program to their dealers.”
GE Capital’s Commercial Distribution Finance business provides financing options that include inventory financing, purchase order financing, accounts-receivable working capital loans and other programs for recreational vehicles and other industries.
The Fleetwood RV interest reimbursement program is an exclusive program for dealers in the U.S. GE Capital finances all purchases under the program. Dealers pay interest charges to GE Capital and then apply to Fleetwood for the interest refund. Fleetwood RV determines the dealer’s eligibility for the program and administers all payments.