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Woodworth to Appear Saturday on Today Show

April 16, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

David Woodworth

David Woodworth

NBC’s Weekend TODAY Show will interview RVIA spokesman and noted RV historian David Woodworth Saturday morning.

The segment will feature a 2010 Fleetwood Discovery and a 1916 Telescoping Apartment RV. The segment is scheduled to air live outside TODAY’s New York studios between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. EST, according to an alert from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).

During the segment, viewers will see and hear about the evolution of RVing over the past century. Woodworth will also convey key messages such as the value and benefits of RV ownership.

As this is a live news program, the segment could be pre-empted by breaking news. Check your local listings to confirm the time the Weekend TODAY Show airs in your area.

RVIA and its public relations agency, Barton Gilanelli & Associates, continue to generate positive national and local RV stories about the RV industry and its centennial celebration.

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Fleetwood Gets Air Time on Oxygen Network

April 7, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Tori and Dean

Tori and Dean

The first two episodes of “Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood,” starring Fleetwood RV’s popular Bounder, Class A gas motorhome, will be televised tonight (April 7) on the Oxygen Network. The premiere episode airs at 10 p.m. EST and PST (9 p.m  CST).

In the new season, Tori Spelling and husband Dean McDermott will offer an even closer look into their family life and at their own relationship, which will include a first-ever Spelling-McDermott cross-country family road trip. When the season kicks off, fans will be treated to a fun-filled, bumpy ride while Tori and Dean take turns at the wheel.

Visit the show’s website for sneak peeks and photos of Tori and Dean’s road trip in Fleetwood’s most popular gas motorhome: http://tori-and-dean.oxygen.com/.

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Atlantic City RV Show Sustains Good Start

March 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The Atlantic City RV & Camping Show was busy right from its noon opening last Friday and there were plenty of buyers for its travel trailers, fifth-wheels and motorhomes in Atlantic City Convention Center — buyers from the past, present and future, according to the Press of Atlantic City.

Bill and Elly Sulzmann of Little Egg Harbor Township, N.J., came to the show to see what’s new. They already own two recreational vehicles, one a 25-foot trailer they use for travel. The other is a trailer with two slideouts they keep on a site at their favorite campground, Timber Lake Camping Resort in nearby New Gretna.

That one has double bunk beds in the back, Bill Sulzmann said, to accommodate the frequent visits from the couple’s 12 grandchildren.

Sometime in the future, he said, they’d like to trade both RVs in, get a motorhome and take it out West.

“But right now, there’s no need to get into a big loan,” he said, prompting his wife to add, “Not in this economy.”

Fred and April Watson of Atco are preparing to buy their first camper, a travel trailer that has three things a guy 6-feet-6-inches tall needs: a 7-foot ceiling, and 80-inch long bed and a big bathroom.

With their twin 3-year-olds nearly ready for recreation, the Watsons weighed April’s camping background against Fred’s time on large houseboats. The camping won in part, Fred Watson said, because anything on the water uses lots of extra expensive gasoline.

They liked the Sundance by Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC they saw Friday, but still have more work to do before buying.

Karen O’Conner, of Mantua, was already a buyer, having gotten a good deal on a 33-foot travel trailer last year.

She was at the show mainly to scout new campgrounds to visit this year with her family.

Last year, she, her husband and 2-year-old son went to Big Timber Lake Campground in Cape May Court House and Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp Resort in Mays Landing. They especially liked Shellbay Family Camping Resort in Cape May Court House.

“I’m looking for places that have waterparks. Our son loves the water,” O’Conner said.

Visitors should have loved the prices at the show, deeply discounted since the RV industry is at the bottom of its recession sales decline.

George Teutsch of Atlantic-Cape RV of Galloway Township showed a “loaded” 40-foot fifth-wheel trailer marked down to $59,900 from $84,000.

Among the smallest of the 120 or so vehicles on display is the R-Pod by Forest River Inc., about 18 feet but with a kitchen, refrigerator, furnace and bath. That’s priced at $11,999.

At the other end is the Fleetwood Discovery, a 40-foot-long motorhome the size of a bus that has every luxury, including an outdoor flatscreen TV to supplement the three inside. That’s priced at $194,950.

They drew lots of looks, even though nearly everyone at the show was interested in something in-between for themselves.

The show was sponsored by Affinity Events, a division of Affinity Group Inc. (AGI), which also publishes WWW.RVBUSINESS.com.

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Mike Thompson’s RV Super Stores Opens Fourth Store

November 5, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Mike Thompson's logoMike Thompson’s RV Super Stores Tuesday (Nov. 3) opened a fourth location in Cathedral City, Calif., about 130 miles east of its flagship dealership in Santa Fe Springs southeast of Los Angeles.

“It’s kind of exciting that for the first time in a year and a half, we are hiring people instead of laying them off,” said Mark Rosenbaum, Mike Thompson’s sales director.

Mike Thompson’s, which also operates stores in Colton and Fountain Valley, Calif., has hired about 25 people to staff the new dealership featuring an outdoor display area on two acres.

“We’ve moved into the Palm Desert area to capture some of the Snow Bird market — the people from the East Coast, Midwest and Northwest who come to the sunny areas during winter months,” Rosenbaum said. “There was inventory sitting on the ground as of Tuesday. Five customers showed up while we were setting up.”

Rosenbaum said Mike Thompson’s will market heavily to RV owners occupying Palm Desert-area RV campgrounds and resorts with which the dealership already has made contact.

The dealership, Rosenbaum said, will establish temporary displays at several local campgrounds. “The local campgrounds have been absolutely the best you could possibly ask for,” Rosenbaum said. “They’re looking forward to a dealer being involved in the market out here.

”We will be visiting the campgrounds with units and we will have get-togethers for the campers. Word-of-mounth is the most important marketing we can do.”

Having recently added Tiffin motorhomes to its inventory, Mike Thompson’s also retails Itasca, Fleetwood Bounder and Bounder Classic, Forest River Georgetown, Damon, CT Coachworks and Four Winds motorhomes and Keystone towable RVs.

The new store’s split will be about 50/50 between motorhomes and towables, although Rosenbaum said that ”trailers will probably grow more.”

Rosenbaum credited Mike Thompson’s 97% customer satisfaction rating — measured by an independent research company — as generating the business to expand during economically challenging times.

”Our customer service index is pretty strong so we have some very strong customer loyalty,” he said.

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Fleetwood Debuts Limited Run Quest Minimotorhome

October 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Fleetwood Quest

Fleetwood Quest

Fleetwood RV Inc., Decatur, Ind., a leading producer of Class A and Class C recreational vehicles, has launched the limited edition 2010 Quest, a value-priced Class C diesel motorhome built on the imported, fuel-efficient Dodge Sprinter chassis, according to a news release.

The limited production run of 150 units will be available at select Fleetwood RV dealers nationwide.

The 2010 Quest is available in two 24-foot single slideout models: a rear bath floor plan with opposing sofa beds (24E); and a rear gaucho dinette with sofa sleeper and optional queen air mattress sofa bed (24L). Low profile caps and overhead 26″LCD TVs are standard on both models.

Customers also can select the optional cabover bed with 19″ LCD TV and DVD player.

“The 2010 Quest combines the fuel-efficiency of our Icon and Pulse motorhomes with the value pricing of our traditional Class C motor homes,” said John Draheim, Fleetwood RV president. “The market’s response to Quest has been better than expected. Our entire production run sold out in two weeks, and dealers are retailing them as fast as we can deliver them.”

“Our customers love the 2010 Quest,” said Loren Baidas, owner of General RV, with locations in Michigan, Ohio, Florida and Utah. “Both models are equipped with a multitude of standard features and increased sleeping capacities, even without the optional cabover bed, plus its price point makes it difficult to ignore.”

Retail prices start at $84,000.

For more information about the 2010 Quest, or any Fleetwood motorhome call 1-800-322-8216 or visit www.fleetwoodrv.com.

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Northwood Starts Up Former Fleetwood Plant

May 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Production began today (May 19) in a former Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. towable facility in La Grande, Ore., purchased earlier this month by Ron Nash, president of Northwood Manufacturing Inc., which already was based in the northeast Oregon community.

“We will have some lines similar to what Fleetwood was doing with the Prowler, Wilderness, Terry and Backpack” Nash told RVBusiness.

The former Fleetwood factory, which Nash bought for $2.05 million, will produce yet-to-be-named towables under a new corporate umbrella.

“It will be owned by the (Northwood) corporation, but it will be a separate company with a new name,” Nash said. Units will be sold mostly in the northwest U.S. and southwestern Canada.

Nash anticipates shipping the first medium-priced units from the former Fleetwood factory by the middle of June. “We are not going to build the real low-end stuff,” said Nash, who was a Fleetwood general manager a number of years ago. “We need to build stuff with a little more integrity than that.”

One hundred production employees and a dozen managers, most of whom worked for Fleetwood before it closed its towable division in March prior to filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, have been called back. “Most of them are long-term Fleetwood people who were laid off,” Nash said. “And we’ve taken some people who have worked here (at Northwood).”

Nash said he also expects that as many as 50 Fleetwood dealers will stock the new product. “We have just started setting up the dealer network,” Nash said.

The 79,000-square-foot former Fleetwood factory complex includes a 72,000-square-foot main plant, a 7,000-square-foot chassis shop and an open-air warehouse. “It is a major move on our part, not only from an expense standpoint but from an opportunity standpoint,” Nash said.

The new company will set up extended warranties for Fleetwood products and for the foreseeable future will keep parts on hand for Fleetwood towables.

Northwood, with about 170 employees and a 200,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in La Grande, builds Nash and Arctic Fox travel trailers and fifth-wheels, Arctic Fox truck campers and Desert Fox sport utility RVs.

In May 2008, Northwood closed a manufacturing facility In Westchester, Va., that previously belonged to Fleetwood, citing the company’s inability to build its own frames as it does in Oregon.

“Our business has been difficult,” Nash said. “But we’ve maintained some of our best dealers and they are coming back to sales levels that are similar to what they were before the recession. Durability seems to have become a main issue, and that always has been our deal.”

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Wall Street Firm: Faint Signs of RV Bottom

May 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The Wall Street investment firm Robert W. Baird & Co. sees a silver lining in this week’s quarterly report from Thor Industries Inc.

Thor reported a 41% drop in sales for the third quarter, but topped expectations on share gains and rental orders. “Backlog fell, but improved sequentially hinting at a stronger summer than we had modeled,” the investment firm reported to its clients. “Bankrupt competitors may resurface, but Thor has cut costs and accumulated cash to emerge stronger in the next cycle. We raised our price target to $21 and are looking for an opportunity to get involved.”

Thor reported preliminary sales for the quarter of $415 million, down 41% but it topped Baird’s estimate of $274 million.  RV sales fell 48% to $311 million, but “exceeded our pessimistic estimate.” Bus sales fell 3% to $104 million. RV fundamentals remain weak, but improved as the quarter unfolded. It was not as bad as feared, Baird concluded.

The backlog fell to $441 million, down 16% from $526 million last year, including a 9% drop in the RV backlog and 23% drop in the bus backlog. “Importantly, the backlog improved sequentially and implies better Q4 revenue than we had modeled – suggesting Thor will remain profitable in FY2009.,” Baird stated.

Thor improved its towable share to 31.3% year-to-date, up from 30% in 2008, the investment firm noted. “Meanwhile, Fleetwood and Monaco filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection – leaving the door open to survivors like Thor. Together, Fleetwood and Monaco represented 7% of the towable market and 28% of the motorhome market in 2008. Recently, Navistar acquired assets from Monaco but has not indicated whether it plans to build RVs – so the share opportunity remains unclear.”

We have begun to see faint signs of a bottom in the RV market,” Baird stated in its industry outlook. “Dealers remain reluctant to accumulate inventory, but consumer confidence has improved - hinting at a retail bottom. Meanwhile, Thor has cut costs and accumulated cash to position itself as a lean survivor with share-gain opportunities as the market recovers.”

Baird raised  its earnings estimates for Thor based on this week’s report. It projects the company will earn 20 cents per share for the current fiscal year, up from its earlier estimate of a loss of 25 cents per share, and projects the company will earn 85 cents per share in FY 2010, up from 25 cents per share.

Thor reported $296 million in cash and equivalents at the end of the third quarter, a 19% increase over a year ago. This amount, Baird noted, will be sufficient to support acquisitions, internal growth initiatives, share buybacks and higher dividends.

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Fleetwood Works to Secure Financing

April 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Since filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this month, Riverside, Calif.-based RV maker Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. has received the court’s go-ahead to pay what it owed utilities, workers compensation benefits and employees, among other items, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

The company also has been granted permission to honor its warranties and dealer incentives — good news for the company and the company’s largest dealership, Lazydays RV Supercenter in Tampa,  Fla., which has $15 million worth of Fleetwood inventory on its lots and $1.2 million worth of warranty claims on its books, according to statements at a recent bankruptcy hearing.

What remained uncertain as of late last week was the company’s efforts to obtain debtor-in-possession financing — a key that would allow Fleetwood to continue operating while officials try to find someone to buy the company.

A budget submitted in court filings forecasts the company’s sales and expenses from March 15 through June 14. According to the budget, Fleetwood expects to sell $81 million worth of products in that time.

But the company’s purchases, payroll, operating costs and more would cost it $103.3 million.

Fleetwood also needs $8.7 million to secure a bond to build military housing at Fort Bliss in Texas — part of a multi-million Defense Department contract.

The difference could be paid with debtor-in-possession financing — essentially a line of credit to keep it operating while a buyer is sought.

That’s where Bank of America, which has been a lender to Fleetwood, stepped in to offer an $80 million line of credit. However, it proposed charging Fleetwood $2.4 million in closing fees.

Hamid Rafatjoo, an attorney representing creditors, called the fee “outrageous” during last week’s bankruptcy hearing.

Wording in the more than 200-page financing proposal also indicated that the bank or Fleetwood could raise the $80 million credit limit at will without informing anyone else, Rafatjoo said.

“The committee isn’t going to support giving away the entire business to the bank,” he said.

A final proposal is due to the court by April 21.

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Union Workers Forge New Contract With FTCA

March 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Workers at Somerset, Pa.-based FTCA Inc., which builds folding camping trailers under the Coleman brand, approved a new four-year contract that provides annual wage increases, restores incentive pay and creates a new pension plan, the United Steelworkers said Wednesday (March 18).

The Tribune-Review reported that USW Local 2632, which represents about 200 workers at the plant, said the contract restores 10 paid holidays, vacation pay, shift differential and incentive pay and gives workers coverage under a previous health insurance program.

The union has been bargaining for a new contract since last fall.

FTCA was formed when Blackstreet Capital Partners LLC, a private equity firm based in Bethesda, Md., bought the former Fleetwood Folding Camper Trailer division from Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. on May 12 for an undisclosed sum. The purchase included the 430,000-square-foot plant in Somerset.

As part of a buyout, FTCA announced in early August that it had reached an agreement with The Coleman Co., Wichita, Kan., for use of the brand name.

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Fleetwood Negotiates for Bankruptcy Financing

March 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. is negotiating with Bank of America for bankruptcy financing and hopes to present a plan to a bankruptcy court as early as next week, according to court documents.

Reuters reported that company spokeswoman Rivian Bell was not able to specify the amount of debtor-in-possession financing being discussed. Such financing is a loan made to a company to help it fund operations while it restructures under bankruptcy protection.

Fleetwood, which also makes manufactured housing, has asked the court to approve emergency funding to pay workers’ compensation benefits to third-party administrators, according to the company’s filing with the Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California in Riverside, Calif., on Monday. A hearing was scheduled for today (March 17).

Fleetwood filed for bankruptcy on March 10, hurt by high fuel prices and the U.S. economic recession that had limited sales of its recreational vehicles. The U.S. housing market decline has also slashed demand for its manufactured homes.

It is shuttering its travel trailer division and seeking a buyer for its motorhome and manufactured housing units.

“There has been outreach to strategic and financial buyers and there has been interest,” said Bell, adding that she was unable to clarify further.

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