Despite a dip in attendance and a few hours of light rain at the outset of the Family Motor Coach Association’s (FMCA) 91st Family Reunion and Motorhome Showcase in Redmond, Ore., Cincinnati-based FMCA spokesmen reported a successful event with packed seminars, crowded social activities and solid sales for both indoor and outdoor exhibitors at the event, which ran Aug. 13-16.
“I can’t say whether the numbers were down a bit because of the distance of travel or whether it’s because of timing as school seems to keep starting earlier and earlier, so those may have been contributing factors,” said FMCA Executive Director Jerry Yeatts. “On the positive side, we had over 25% of the members who were first-timers. The comments I have are overwhelmingly positive.”
The official coach count was 1,876, with 402 of those commercial coaches. This was the fifth time the event had been held at Redmond, the last in 2010 when the coach count was 2,282.
Even though there may have been fewer attendees, however, Yeatts said that several of the reports he heard from dealers and suppliers indicated that sales were brisk.
“While we don’t actively measure sales, the word that we’ve heard from dealers is that it was a very good show for sales,” Yeatts said. “One dealer in particular had at least 18 coaches sold in the first two days and we heard similar stories from other dealers. On the supplier side, we had a couple of suppliers say that they’ve had the best show here that they’ve had in years.”
Along with the manufacturers covered in our previous postings, RVBUSINESS.com also touched bases with several other exhibitors – most of whom spoke well of the Redmond confab, which took place at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center near the Deschutes National Forest in Central Oregon.
Among them was the Allied Recreation Group (ARG), which had a couple of new Class A motorhome floorplans to show rally attendees.
“There were more people in the display (on Friday) than in the first two days, and the weekend was good as well,” said Suzy Fletcher, marketing coordinator for the ARG, parent firm of Fleetwood RV, based in Decatur, Ind. “New floorplans are always a big attraction at the show and the new 34T Bounder has been popular as well as the Discovery 37R.”
The new Bounder layout, sporting a base MSRP of $140,840, features a triple slide and separate bath and water closet at its midpoint, while the Discovery, carrying $281,710 base MSRP, offers four slideouts, a 40-inch LED TV, freestanding dinette and a recliner facing a 78-inch sofa bed in the living area.
Elsewhere, Charlotte, Mich.-based Spartan Chassis partnered with the Jayco Motorhome Group, manufacturer of the Entegra Coach Class A line, in a ride-and-drive program.
“Overall, our ride-and-drives went really well, with very satisfied customers,” said Eric West, business development director for Spartan. West added that one of the goals for the program is not only education, but encouraging consumers who really want a Spartan chassis to make their preferences known to manufacturers.
“There are [manufacturers] today that we are in discussions with, and they’re going to be releasing new platforms with Spartan chassis,” West said. “Foretravel Motorcoach until recently had built all their own chassis, and they’re now using a Spartan chassis. If you look at Newmar, Tiffin, Entegra and Foretravel, they’re all luxury brands, and they all have their flagships on Spartans.”
Also manning a Redmond display, of course, was Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. of Gaffney, S.C., which will be pushing the envelope this year in the resurgent Class A motorhome arena in terms of engine power.
“For the 2015 model year, there will be five coaches on our chassis at 600 horsepower,” said Bob Harbin, CEO and president of FCCC. “That’s up from zero last year. We’ll also have two chassis at 500 horsepower, so, overall, we’re growing a lot. Market share is growing, we’re over 75% in Class A diesels now and we expect that to continue to inch forward.”
Freightliner personnel also unveiled a new 24/7 Direct App to help consumers find service locations, and they had representatives on hand to gather customer input for future generation changes or additions.
The next national-scale FMCA reunion is planned for March 26-29, 2015, at the Fairplex in Pomona, Calif. — the seventh FMCA get-together taking place at that venue.
RVBusiness freelance contributor Ty Adams wrote this story.
According to a press release, the 24/7 Direct app from FCCC made its debut in Apple’s App Store for the iOS mobile operating system this week, joining recently released versions of the app for Android and Windows Phone. The 24/7 Direct app, which is available free of charge, makes FCCC customer service available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The app is designed for customers using an RV, walk-in van or commercial bus chassis.
“We design and build products made for people who love spending time on the road, which means the need to locate and connect with a dealer or service center can happen anywhere,” said Bryan Henke, manager of product marketing for FCCC. “When we say we’re ‘Driven by You,’ we mean it. And a big part of that drive is providing the best and most comprehensive support network we can. The 24/7 Direct app makes that network even more accessible and effective for our customers.”
The location-based app uses GPS coordinates to provide customers with information on the closest dealers within a set distance, from as close as 25 miles up to 250 miles. App users can then connect easily with an individual dealership via phone or email; users can also connect with FCCC directly via phone or email via the app.
The 24/7 Direct app is the first customer-focused app from FCCC, which released a dealer- and service-focused app, SalesHQ, in 2013. To download 24/7 Direct, search for “24/7 Direct” or “FCCC” in the app stores for Apple, Android and Windows Phone.
Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (FCC) is strengthening its product teams with the naming of Gordie Taylor as product manager for RV and commercial bus, effective immediately.
According to a press release, Taylor will lead the development and implementation of sales strategy for both chassis lines, working closely with FCCC teams and OEM build partners for both product groups.
“Gordie is the right person for the responsibilities this role requires and possibilities it presents,” said Tony Sippel, director of sales and marketing for FCCC. “He has certainly proven himself capable at effective leadership, product management and sales success during his time here and throughout his career.”
Taylor has served the past two-plus years as product manager for commercial chassis with FCCC, managing all key sales operations, including budget, product delivery, sales and OEM relationships. Overall, he has more than 25 years of experience in the chassis, commercial bus and automotive sales industries.
“I am grateful for this opportunity and excited to work with the incredible RV and commercial bus chassis product teams here at FCCC,” Taylor said. “Our success is measured in large part on the success of our body builders, so I look forward to helping our teams strengthen our OEM relationships and helping them grow their sales and overall success.”
Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (FCCC) unveiled its V-Ride rear suspension system during this week’s 51st Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.
According to a press release, the V-Ride is the first-ever single-axle rear suspension rated at 24,000 pounds, offering luxury motorhome manufacturers more options for floorplan designs and amenities while giving motorhome owners more towing capacity and flexibility. The V-Ride Rear Suspension System will be available as an option on the XC chassis from FCCC, beginning in model year 2015.
“The V-Ride is designed for today’s luxury motorhome owner who demands the ability to carry more gear and equip their coaches with more luxury amenities,” said J.P. Davis, RV product manager for FCCC. “And it’s more than just increased towing capacity that makes V-Ride unique and innovative – its proven design and engineering provide greater durability and a more stable, comfortable ride. It’s truly luxury without limits.”
The design and engineering of the V-Ride – already proven in heavy-duty applications – bring new features to the market that provide an improved overall driving experience, the company said. The suspension’s “v-rod”-shaped upper control arms help to dissipate suspension forces through the crossmember and frame rails, reducing stress throughout the suspension.
In addition, the V-Ride’s transverse beam is directly integrated with the trailing arm to form a single-piece U-shaped assembly. This unified design, combined with the v-rod control arms, reduces sway and provides a more stable motorcoach ride – especially in those instances when a motorcoach’s tendency is to lean or drift outward, as when traveling around a curve. Combined with its standard volumetric airbags, the V-Ride provides a smooth, stable, comfortable ride.
“The V-Ride maintains superior roll stability and more predictable handling throughout,” added Davis. “This gives motorhome owners a more confident driving experience in all road conditions.”
For additional information, visit www.freightlinerchassis.com.
Nappanee, Ind.-based Newmar Corp. hosted an elite group of suppliers for a sit-down chicken dinner at its Annual Vendor Appreciation Dinner on Oct. 22 at Das Dutchman Essenhaus in Middlebury.
According to a press release, approximately 140 people attended the event. Select vendors were honored in various categories for outstanding performance in supplying Newmar with various components and materials used in production of its high-end motorhomes.
The companies recognized for outstanding performance were based on internal surveys measuring each suppliers’ level of quality and service while interacting with Newmar’s purchasing, manufacturing and engineering departments. A score of 214 of 220 possible points were required for the vendors to earn an invitation to the evening’s festivities.
Virgil Miller Award of Excellence: Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp.
Sales Person of the Year: Cindy Schneider – Ameri-Kart
Customer Service Awards: Will Weed – Robert Weed Plywood; Laura Frizzo – Paramount Plastics
Purchasing Recognition Award: Mike Berzai – Robert Weed Plywood
Delivery Service Award: Jeff Porter – LaSalle Bristol
Innovation Award: Equipment Service/Stresco
Top Ten Vendors
• Industrial Finishing
• Jenkins Automotive
• Medallion Plastics
• Quality Hardwood Sales
• Ramco Engineering
• REM Industries
• S & H Metals
• Winegard Co.
Middlebury, Ind.-based Arboc Specialty Vehicles has grown substantially in roughly four years. And with its latest announcement, the company that began with five men and a dream expects to grow even more.
The South Bend Tribune reported that Arboc Specialty Vehicles, now with 100 employees, recently announced it will expand its product offerings through a partnership with Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (FCCC) out of Gaffney, S.C., on the co-development of a low-floor rear engine custom chassis.
The first vehicle to utilize the new chassis will be Arboc’s new Spirit of Liberty product line. The new line is on display this week at the American Public Transportation Association show in Indianapolis.
The new bus will feature a low floor with no steps inside from front to rear with a ramp entry.
“There will be no steps over the rear axle,” said Don Roberts, president and chief executive officer for Arboc. “It’s the first time there’s ever been a true flat floor from entrance to the back of the bus.”
The company plans to build the new bus in lengths of 28, 30 and 33 feet. The bus will seat as many as 37 passengers, and there also will be space for up to six wheelchairs.
Like the Spirit of Mobility and the Spirit of Freedom, which already have resulted in the production of 1,400 units, the Spirit of Liberty features an entrance that wheelchairs can roll up, rather than utilizing a lift, as some competitors do. That feature, along with a wide door, also allows loading and unloading to take place in a timely fashion.
And like its Arboc counterparts, Roberts expects the Spirit of Liberty to be in demand nationwide and in Canada.
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Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (FCCC) will look to expand into the growing paratransit market through an emerging partnership with ARBOC Specialty Vehicles on the co-development of a low-floor rear-engine custom chassis.
Commerical Carrier Journal reported that through the partnership, which started in fall 2012, FCCC and ARBOC Specialty Vehicles – a custom builder of paratransit vehicles for a variety of applications based in Middlebury, Ind. – are working through a close, collaborative process to develop a customized, dedicated chassis for ARBOC’s Spirit of Liberty product line.
The new product will be powered by an FCCC rear diesel pusher and feature an innovative low-floor design that will eliminate the step-up over the rear axle, and will equip the Spirit of Liberty well for its expected use in a variety of low-floor applications like assisted living facilities, hotel and rental car transport, transit agencies and others. The chassis will offer customers a GVW of up to 25,900 lbs. It features ARBOC’s spacious low-floor interior throughout the passenger area with no steps, and it includes oversized wheelchair zones.
“We’ve seen a strong anticipated demand for the Liberty since introducing it in 2012, and we are excited about the new opportunities this new Liberty concept brings through partnership with FCCC,” said Don Roberts, president and CEO of ARBOC Specialty Vehicles. “Working with FCCC helps us ensure not only that we offer the marketplace a superior, high-quality product, but also one backed by a superior dealer service and factory support infrastructure.”
“This bus will be an innovative, low-floor product built for tomorrow, today,” he added.
Detroit Diesel — a familiar brand name in the motorhome business -– surfaced again at Newmar Corp.’s April 9-11 dealer meeting in the Dallas suburbs where the engine builder’s factory personnel were on hand with a display model of the legendary power plant set up in the middle of the Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. exhibit.
The optional inclusion of a 500-hp variant of the DD13 engine on a Freightliner SLR chassis equipped with a passive tag axle in Newmar’s 2014 Essex Class A actually marks the second time in recent years that a power plant from the Detroit-based Daimler AG subsidiary has made its presence felt in the motorhome business, the first being a 500-hp DD13 available last year in Fleetwood RV Inc.’s upscale 2012 American Eagle Class A.
A standard Newmar Essex, retailing for $750,000, is assembled on a Spartan K2 chassis powered by a 500-hp. Cummins ISX 12L engine.
Detroit Diesel used to be a common brand name in Class A motorhome power plants and has remained a staple in over-the-road motorcoaches, fire trucks and heavy-duty truck markets throughout the recession.
“In prior years, we had a significant market share (in motorhomes), but then in the last probably ten or 15 years that market was somewhat overlooked where competitive product was offered,” reports Pam Esshaki, an assembly quality coordinator for Detroit Diesel. “And our goal is to bring back the Detroit product into the RV business and to get the dealerships and the public aware of the changes that we’ve made to Detroit products from the older year engines – the enhancements and the investment to durability, reliability and extended life that we’ve made on these engines.”
Esshaki, a 40-year Detroit Diesel veteran, says the DD13 was completely redesigned by 2008 to meet 2010 emission standards by the engine manufacturer, which she describes as a leader in producing compliant, fuel-efficient engines.
“Because of these new requirements, it took us back to looking at the blueprint of the product and changing everything in relationship to fuel pressures, oil capacity and extended life,” Esshaki tells RVBUSINESS.com. “And so we have designed an engine on which 97% of the parts sit above the frame so that you have easy accessibility for maintenance and service. We’ve got extended oil interval changes on the application, also extended V&I, which is equivalent to your tune up or valve lash adjustment intervals (setting gaps between the button on the rocker arm and the top of the valve) and, most importantly, the engine’s life, which in this case is 1.2 million miles.”
Doug Weatherly, senior sales manager for Detroit Diesel, says the DD13 is “top of the line” in terms of fuel efficiency.
“We have an innovative component they call ‘Virtual Technician’ that’s available only on the DD13 engine that provides the owner-operator with a very unique and safe feel while driving the coach,” said Weatherly. “If an engine light comes on in the coach, he will be notified within three minutes by our service center that the code was received by our technicians and he will be told that it’s either a ‘service now’ or ‘service later’ condition. This gives him peace of mind while he’s out in the middle of nowhere operating the vehicle.“
When the light comes on, says Weatherly, notification goes to the company’s Detroit call center where technicians analyze the fault, get a snapshot of the engine’s operating parameters and, within three minutes, determine whether or not parts are required. If they are, they identify the nearest distributor to the vehicle and let the customer know by cell phone exactly how to get there.”
He added, “The distributor also gets the e-mail with the troubleshooting guide and the parts list required so that when the customer arrives they’re prepared and ready to repair the vehicle.”
Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (FCCC) has introduced the SL-M modular motorhome chassis, adding “design flexibility to the power and performance of its SL Series motorhome chassis line,” according to a news release.
In designing the SL-M, FCCC engineers created a versatile RV chassis with a fully customizable basement storage space. Designed and engineered with the luxury RV in mind, the SL-M end result allows builders and owners to “maximize their storage capacity and explore a wider range of interior layouts,” the company stated. The SL-M can accommodate a variety of coach lengths and floorplans, opening up new configuration possibilities for coach manufacturers and RV owners.
“We created the SL Series out of our focus on our customers’ chassis needs and commitment to always providing them chassis options engineered to meet and exceed those needs,” said FCCC President Bob Harbin. “We certainly took their insights and input into consideration in designing the SL-M. By adding a modular chassis to the SL Series line, we open up our most advanced, durable and reliable chassis to even more customization possibilities.”
Like the entire SL Series, the SL-M offers the 13-liter, 500-hp DD13 engine from Detroit, which combines the power of 1,650 ft-lb of torque with an Amplified Common Rail System (ACRS) to optimize each injection event and improve fuel economy. The DD13’s BlueTec SCR emissions technology is proven to meet long-term EPA 2010 emissions requirements by dramatically reducing nitrous oxide (NOx), particulate matter and fine particle emissions, while helping maximize fuel efficiency.
The DD13 also includes Virtual Technician, which integrates GPS technology with engine diagnostics. If the “check engine” light comes on in the RV, the data is sent to the Detroit customer support center. The information is then provided to the customer, along with a choice of authorized service outlets and the opportunity to schedule a repair. Virtual Technician also lets the service outlet know which parts are needed, shortening the overall service time.
The FCCC SL Series offers a standard ZF independent front suspension handling a Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) of 14,600, 16,000, 18,000 and 20,000 pounds.
Newmar Corp. held its 2011 Vendor Appreciation Dinner Thursday night (Oct. 18) at Das Dutchman Essenhaus in Middlebury, Ind., in an unusual family-style dinner at which the Nappanee, Ind.-based motorhome builder took the time to recognize vendors from throughout the country who excel at the fine points of servicing Newmar as an original equipment manufacturer.
It’s something that Newmar, a family-held company, has done for 18 years — with the exception of a couple of years during the recession – hosting a dinner for the top-rated suppliers and presenting awards to a number of them.
“We do a bi-annual evaluation of about 150 vendors,” explains Mike O’Connell, vice president of purchasing for Newmar. “Through that process, we end up with scores, everything from ‘excellent’ to ‘unacceptable,’ and the people that we invite to this Vendor Appreciation dinner received excellent scores.”
Of the 44 suppliers and 140 diners in attendance at this year’s dinner, the top award, the “Virgil Miller Award of Excellence,” went to Industrial Finishes, an Elkhart, Ind.-based exterior paint supplier. On hand to accept the award were President Glenn Duckworth, Eastern Region RV Manager Rich Dotson and Mike Pratt, who’s in charge of business development.
Also honored were Almega Tru-Flex Inc. (Wire Harnesses), Alro Steel Corp. (Structural Steel), Fantastic Vent division of Atwood Mobile Products (Ceiling Vents), Fabritech (Bed Spreads), Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (Chassis), Quality Hardwood Sales (Hardwood Stiles), S & H Metal Products (Galvanized Metal Boxes), Equipment Service/Stressco (Slideout Components), Postle Aluminum Co. (Aluminum Extrusions) and Winegard Co. (Satellite Dishes & Antennas).
Additional awards bestowed at the event included Salesman of the Year: Jim Cramer, Global Link; Inside Sales: Amanda Girten, Positron Corp. and Judy Hafel, Flexsteel Industries Inc.; Truck Driver of the Year: Ross Minanik, YRC, and the Innovation Award, which went to Equipment Service/Stressco.
In looking down the road in his dinner remarks, Newmar President Matt Miller said Newmar has put in place a succession plan that will keep the company in the family of his father, founder Mahlon Miller, for the next generation. And he said the company has been making headway as well in terms of product innovation, despite the limitations of the recent recession.
“We believe the future of our company is very bright,” said Miller. “We have taken the opportunity during the downturn to prepare ourselves for a lot of innovation, which we’ll be introducing in the next 12 to 18 months, and we’re not slowing down on that at all.”
“We have fewer dealers than we did before the downturn, but we have higher quality dealers, and we have initiatives underway to recruit more dealerships. We have fewer brands than we’ve had, but we’re more focused on the brands that we do have. And we feel good about where we’re at right now.”
If Newmar was coming out of “survival” mode at last year’s supplier dinner, added John Sammut, vice president of sales, the company this year “is getting back on the offensive in its approach to selling and marketing its products throughout the U.S. and Canada.”
In fact, Sammut said the last five weeks beginning with the week before the Elkhart’s 5th Annual RV Open House Week through mid-October were “the best five weeks of order writing at Newmar in four years.” For this and other strategic reasons, Sammut said, Newmar is accelerating production schedules to four units a day for the balance of 2012 and for some time into 2013.