For the first time in memory, the industry’s two RV-building volume leaders, Thor Industries Inc. and Forest River Inc., are in a dead heat for retail market share in both towable and motorized RVs, according to Statistical Surveys Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich.
At least they were at mid-year, with the two Elkhart, Ind.-based manufacturers each occupying exactly 35.4% of the “all towable” market. In fact, they were only nine units apart through June – Thor at 39,803 units vs. Forest River at 39,794. At the same time, Thor’s towable RV unit sales were up 8.8% and its market share was down slightly to 1.7%, while Forest River’s unit sales were up 19.5% and its market share grew 8% for the six-month period.
The picture is much the same on the motorized side of the ledger because Forest River through June was accounting for 25.2% of the retail market based on sales of 3,769 units vs. Thor with a 25% market share on 3,747 retails — a margin of only 22 units.
The rather respectable — yet heated — competition between these two hard-hitting industry leaders, occupying together more than 70% of the U.S. towable marketplace, has been going on for a good while. But the numbers haven’t been quite this close, keeping in mind that, as Stat Surveys President Tom Walworth points out, “you still have to take into account the fact that Forest River’s towable RV product lines include some lower-priced folding camping trailers, a market in which Thor isn’t involved.”
But the real news here is to what extent Forest River is pressing its case in both towable and motorized RVs, even while both companies continue to post impressive growth during the current economic recovery. Thor, for its part, recently posted its first $2 billion quarter, and revenues for Forest River, a Berkshire Hathaway Inc. subsidiary, were running at least 22% ahead of last year through June, Forest River President and CEO Pete Liegl confirms.
“I think that Forest River has been narrowing the gap,” said Walworth. “Both Forest River and Thor have aggressively gone after the market and they’ve put out a bunch of new product that has allowed them both to maintain their leadership in the market.”
Behind Forest River and Thor on the motorized side is Winnebago Industries Inc., with an 18.1% share of the market. In third place in tow-type RV retail sales is Middlebury, Ind.-based Jayco Inc., which occupied 11.2% of the market through June.
“Think about that,” said Walworth. “The top two (towable builders) are 70% of the market. Jayco brings it up to 81% of the market and the next five players take it up to 90% of the market. I mean, it’s a very top-heavy industry and more so all the time. The two big players have gained market share in an up market. The only thing to consider is that if the market becomes really hot, that usually opens the doors for the smaller startups to come in.
He added, “You know, through this, we’ll probably introduce one or two new manufacturers here who could someday end up being major ones. That’s usually because the majors and the other competitors can’t meet the dealers’ supply times, opening the door for some of the startups to get involved.”
The first half of 2013 was a very good period for the recreational vehicle industry as a whole, but it was even better for Elkhart, Ind.-based Forest River Inc., as the company reported that sales were up 22% in the first half of the year.
According to The Elkhart Truth, that’s one of the scant details made public about its operations when parent company Berkshire Hathaway filed its quarterly financial report with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
“Over the first six months of 2013, Forest River generated a 22% increase in revenues due to increased volume and average sales prices,” the company reported in the filing.
Forest River and Berkshire Hathaway’s building products businesses generated higher earnings in the first half of this year than last year.
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Prime Time Manufacturing, a division of Forest River Inc., recently surpassed a significant company milestone with the shipment of the 10,000th travel trailer produced by its Tracer/LaCrosse manufacturing group.
To mark the occasion, company leaders were on hand to serve lunch and thank over 160 employees for their efforts, according to a press release.
“Division 48 was the very first Prime Time plant we started in 2009. That small group of employees had a commitment to build innovative, high-quality products that customers would love to own,” said Prime Time President Jeff Rank. “Now, that very same commitment to quality has become the foundation with which all of our employees and all of our manufacturing facilities operate. Building 10,000 units is a great accomplishment, but Plant 48’s positive contributions to the culture of Prime Time will always be appreciated.”
The Tracer/LaCrosse division has been a recipient of the prestigious Quality Circle Award from the Recreation Vehicle Dealer Association (RVDA) for three consecutive years. May retail statistics list Prime Time Manufacturing as the No. 7 retailing towable manufacturer in the United States with a year-to-date sales increase of 48%.
Elkhart, Ind.-based Forest River Inc. today (July 18) announced position changes at its Sierra and Sandpiper towable divisions.
According to a press release, Frank Crum will be the regional sales rep for Sandpiper in the Southeast covering Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama. Crum brings a wealth of retail knowledge to the wholesale side with 31 years of RV retail experience.
He has held numerous positions including sales manager, general manager and regional vice president overseeing multiple dealerships while also serving as chairman of the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA).
Crum will be based out of his home office in Winter Haven, Fla.
Other moves include:
• Curtis Gunter has been promoted from sales manager to general manager for the Sierra and Sandpiper divisions. During Gunter’s tenure as sales manager, both lines grew sales nearly 20% over the past two years while the brand offering expanded to offer luxury destination trailers and mid-priced travel trailers and fifth-Wheels. Forest River said that he has been instrumental in getting Sierra and Sandpiper production levels up to where they are at today.
• Ryan Conrad will be shifting territories from the Southeast to the Midwest covering Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota and will be representing the Sierra products. Forest River noted that Conrad has been with Forest River for nine years, building strong relationships with the company’s dealer body and enjoying great success in the Southeast.
Priority One Financial Services Inc. announced a new promotion added to its Forest River Credit Card program that offers 5.90% APR on 60 months equal payments.
According to a press release, the credit card program is available exclusively to Forest River dealers to provide more finance options. Consumers can use the card to purchase products such as new and used utility/cargo trailers, non-motorized RVs, boat engines, parts, accessories, winterization and service repair bills.
Greg Hauenstein, Forest River Credit Card program representative, noted, “This program change will give Forest River dealers a tool that no one else has. This is the only option for customers with an unsecured rate this low in the industry. It is such a huge benefit for Forest River dealers because they have an exclusive program that their competitors can’t beat, and will help close many more sales.”
For additional information go to www.forestrivercard.com.
Based on strong consumer demand, the Wildcat division of Forest River Inc., recently announced the introduction of a new fifth-wheel bunkhouse floorplan. According to a press release, the 303BHX is the shortest and lightest bunkhouse floorplan in the Wildcat fifth-wheel lineup, specifically designed to be paired with the fast-growing half-ton truck market.
The new Wildcat 303BHX features a distinctive island kitchen with solid-surface breakfast bar, built-in trashcan storage and hardwood bar stools. The bedroom offers single-level flush floors with over 6-foot 4-inch ceiling heights, private bathroom with skylight and a bedroom wardrobe slide room including a window for cross ventilation. With an available outside kitchen and party couch (giant dinette/sofa sleeper), custom options further extend this floorplan’s versatility.
“Forest River’s Wildcat brand has a long history of creating successful, best-selling bunk house floorplans. The new Wildcat 303BHX follows that tradition by offering a shorter length, lighter weight, price-point sensitive fifth-wheel bunkhouse without sacrificing features and livability,” said Chris Barth, Wildcat division sales manager. “Our dealers have had great success with Wildcat’s shorter and lighter offerings. This combination, along with competitive pricing, delivers fantastic opportunities for our customers.”
In addition to lighter weights and competitive pricing, the 2014 Wildcat has standardized a number of features not being offered by their competition. “After months of development, we’ve achieved smaller sizes without any loss of content or appeal. Further, we created a half-ton towable fifth-wheel that will match or beat our competitor’s price,” Barth added. “With a standard feature set unmatched in our market segment, Wildcat remains our customer’s best value for their investment.”
Many brand name amenities are Wildcat standards instead of options, such as a 40-inch Toshiba HD TV, Corian solid-surface countertops, a Jensen 975 DVD audio/video system with digital iPod dock connector and HMDI connectivity, residential name-brand flooring (Congoleum linoleum and Shaw carpeting with R2X stain guard), the MOR/ryde CRE 3000 equalizer suspension and Dexter axles with E-Z Lube hubs. Custom 16-inch aluminum rims with 10-ply load range ‘E’ radial tires, 5-inch arched aluminum roof rafters, R+HEATSHIELD radiant barrier insulation, 2-inch thick AlumaCat vacuum-bonded sidewall construction, and fully-laminated floors on both levels with a Climatech heated underbelly further round out Wildcat’s standard build.
Wildcat, a division of Forest River, Inc., was introduced in 2000 and has been a top 10 retailing fifth-wheel brand for the last 12 consecutive years according to Statistical Surveys Inc. of Grand Rapids, Mich. Based in Elkhart, Ind., Forest River offers a complete line of motorized and towable recreational vehicles, utility trailers, buses, boats and commercial vehicles.
More information is available at www.forestriverinc.com/wildcat.
There’s no formal organization that oversees the annual Elkhart RV Open House because that’s not the way things work with this wildcat industry trade show that’s taken the industry by storm ever since September of 2009 when Elkhart, Ind.-based Forest River Inc. President and CEO Pete Liegl called dealers together for new model year product debuts and some morale-boosting social time with the company’s management team and fellow retailers.
The Elkhart RV Open House since then has become an annual must-see trade event, drawing an estimated 4,000 dealer personnel to Elkhart’s RV-building zone from around the U.S. and Canada to see the unveiling of new model year product lines from a wide variety of OEM’s at displays located in various locations around Elkhart and LaGrange counties — particularly along County Road 6 on the northeast side of the Elkhart.
Of course, setting a date for the Open House is typically left to the senior management teams of Forest River and Thor Industries Inc., the world’s largest RV builder, also based in Elkhart. Both companies confirmed with RVBUSINESS.com that this year’s Elkhart RV Open House will be held a bit earlier this time around, slated for Tuesday through Thursday, Sept. 17-19.
A new economic development area, including a property owned by Forest River Inc., could generate enough money to improve water service and fund other projects on the north side of Millersburg, Ind.
As reported by the Elkhart Truth, the town has formed a redevelopment commission that is planning to create a new tax increment financing district (TIF) at the southwest corner of C.R. 40 and S.R. 13.
The new TIF district is expected to include land owned by Forest River, one of Elkhart County’s largest recreational vehicle companies. The district would not include any residential land.
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Editor’s Note: The following is a press release from Elkhart, Ind.-based RV builder Forest River Inc. responding to recent reports on two industry websites regarding the company’s ownership of property in Texas that was leased to two entities, including dealer Fun Town RV.
Forest River Inc. announced today (Feb. 18) that the three land parcels the company had purchased Oct. 30, 2012, in Johnson County, Texas, are now sold.
According to the release, there is a signed contract with earnest money securely in place for the two parcels leased to Fun Town RV and a verbal commitment to exercise the option to purchase from the portable building manufacturer on the third parcel.
“These are the same two lessees that have continuously occupied and improved the parcels for some time,” the statement read. “Until the three parcels were sold, these two lessees had been leasing the properties, with an option to buy, from Forest River at the same lease amounts that existed under the prior bank ownership arrangements. Lease amounts will continue to be in effect until such time as the property closings are final.”
The property recently was the subject of reports on both the RV Pro and RV Daily Report websites, citing Texas RV Association Executive Director Clark McEwen. Forest River claimed that “contrary to McEwen’s speculation, the land purchase was not a direct challenge to the (Texas) statutes.”
The release further stated that Forest River “wasn’t even notified there was a complaint until last week and, despite our request, we have yet to receive a copy of the complaint reportedly filed by the Texas RV Association with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. A courtesy call would have been nice and probably sped up the resolution of any dispute.”
In the reports, McEwen also said that “Forest River has for years been the most outspoken critic of the Transportation Code, the DMV and the Texas RV Association.”
With over 8500 employees operating out of over 60 different plants, Forest River said that “to our knowledge, we have never publicly criticized the Transportation Code, the DMV, or the Texas RV Association. On the contrary, when a potentially harmful tax issue surfaced and the Texas RV Association requested funding to help correct it, Forest River was one of the first to step up and write a check for $10,000 to help correct it. Further, when the Texas RV Association and McEwen himself wanted to bolster their tech training program by adding a fifth-wheel toy hauler for mobile training, Forest River stepped up again and sold the Texas RV Association a fifth-wheel toy hauler for $1 because we believed in the effort and wanted to fully support it.”
Forest River added, “Our support to the industry and our dealers in Texas has been, and will continue to be, unwavering. We apologize for any consternation this land purchase might have caused. We appreciate our dealers’ business and friendships, and look forward to experiencing an outstanding 2013 with everyone.”
Forest River Inc. announced the appointment of Gary Duncan as general manager of the company’s park model division, effective Feb. 1.
According to a press release, former General Manager Jim Foltz will continue with the division, assuming other responsibilities.
Duncan joined Forest River’s park model sales team in November of 2011 and has been instrumental in the redesign of the entire product line, as well as executing new initiatives for product enhancements and the marketing of park models.
Duncan has a bachelor’s in engineering from the University of Michigan, with 15 years of varied experiences in the RV industry. Prior to the RV Industry, he served in a variety of sales and engineering capacities with Tier 1 automotive suppliers.
Duncan can be reached at (574) 264-2513 (office), or via e-mail at email@example.com .