It’s going to be a good year for recreational vehicle sales, say RV dealers and manufacturers and the RV trade organization.
“We had an excellent year in RV sales in 2010. We feel that 2011 is going to be the best year we have ever seen in the RV industry,” Gary Miller, owner of Wana RV in Shipshewana, Ind., told The Goshen (Ind.) News.
Miller’s expectations are for his growing RV sales business. As a whole, the industry is expecting an increase of 3.9%. That number is based on a consumer survey by Richard Curtain of the University of Michigan. Curtain has been an analyst from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) for many years.
After three years of declines, the RV industry rebounded in 2010 with a 47.7% gain in shipments. As of November, the year’s total shipments reached 224,000 units.
This month, retail shows are beginning across the country and manufacturers and dealers are trying to gauge if Curtain’s prediction for another year of gains will come true.
“… If I can go by my two days of sales, we are up compared to last year,” said Joe Weider, operations manager for General RV Center in North Canton, Ohio. Weider’s sales staff was at the RV show in Cleveland, the biggest indoor sales event in the country. “My crystal ball says we should have a pretty good year.”
Weider said his sales center is the largest motorhome dealership in Ohio and also sells fifth-wheels and travel trailers. They have added some new manufacturers and products this year. But Weider said the sales year is too young to gauge if there will be any trends this year.
Phil Sarvari, executive vice president of Gulf Stream Coach Inc. in Nappanee, Ind., said the year’s sales will depend on consumers’s attitudes.
“As long as people feel good and they know they are going to have jobs, they will be willing to spend,” Sarvari said.
Americans have embraced RVs, he said, and want to continue camping and using that outdoor experience to bond with their family and friends. “It is a way of life. It is relaxing. They support each other, they tell stories and play games. You know, that is important,” Sarvari said.
At Jayco Inc. in Middlebury, the storage lots have many newly made units ready to be shipped.
“We’ve garnered a lot of momentum with the introduction of new products,” said Jim Jacobs, a vice president at Jayco.
Jacobs said the company has added new products and new price points to generate business. “That is what is going to carry our momentum. You have to be innovative to survive in this industry,” he said.
Motorhome sales dipped drastically when the recession began, and since it has ended the RV segment has continued to struggle. In 2010, Class A luxury motorcoaches averaged around 1,000 units shipped each month. The Class C motorhomes averaged even less.
But if manufacturers offer a quality product, Jacobs said there are buyers wanting them.
“In the Class A line, we have been extremely happy with the performance of the Entegra line,” Jacobs said. “Not only from the response from the dealer network, but the response from the consumer network. There are a lot of consumers out there still buying high-end diesel products. That customer is still there.”
To the east of Jayco’s Middlebury complex, Miller is getting ready for the upcoming RV show at the Century Center in South Bend. He plans to take 24 units and his son Justin will help with sales.
Miller has added units from Forest River Inc.’s Rockwood line made in Millersburg. He also has Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc. and CrossRoads RV products.
He expects a good show in South Bend as financing is more available for buyers this year.
“As far as retail financing RVs, it definitely has gotten better than it was a year ago,” Miller said. But financing has changed. He said two years ago buyers could make a purchase without a down payment. Now a 10% down payment is standard practice.
“It really is a good thing because people will pay that 10% so when they are ready to sell it or trade it in they are not upside down on the unit. They don’t feel like they are taking such a loss,” Miller said.
The Kingsport Division of Gulf Stream Coach Inc. has announced it will introduce the SKY & SKY XT brand of travel trailers at the 48th Annual National RV Trade Show Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 in Louisville, Ky.
The SKY offers a unique combination of wide-body platform (99 3/4 inches) and radius profile (front to back). SKY provides aluminum-framed fiberglass sidewalls, while the SKY XT employs a conventional “stick and tin” construction method, according to a news release. Lengths range from 24 feet to 34 feet.
According to Matt Buckman, national sales manager for the Kingsport Division, “The SKY product offers the dealer and consumer a unique, value-conscious alternative to the traditional 8-foot rectangular box. Besides being ‘not so traditional,’ the SKY is packed with unique features such as solar-glazed mirrored windows, ‘BIG BOX’ dinette storage, steel beam slide construction, ‘max’ pass through storage and 87 to 90 inches of head room. Both The SKY and SKY XT offer high value features such as an enclosed heated underbelly, lumbercore solid wood cabinet frames, full extension ball bearing drawer glides, ducted air, (4) scissor jacks, XL grab handle, 30-pound bottles and the ability to install a 42-inch LCD TV. The SKY also includes aluminum rims, ‘E’ Stone countertops, slam latch luggage doors, hide-a-bed air mattress sofa, dual scare lights and crown molding.”
The SKY product line can be seen at the Gulf Stream Coach display, North Wing Booth 3000 at the show. For more information contact the SKY sales team at (800) 289-8787.
Gulf Stream Coach Inc., Nappanee, Ind., has reintroduced the lightweight Capri travel trailer and will show the first of four planned floorplans at the 48th National RV Trade Show Nov. 30-Dec. 2 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky. ”It’s basically positioned to be a higher-end product than we usually retail in our lightweight tables,” said Jeff Terhune, Gulf Stream lightweight division product manager. The Capri features a radius front end and is designed with a sloping crowned roof made of 3/8-inch Meranti, a lightweight wood that weighs about half as much as 0riented strand board (OSB). The composite sidewalls are laminated to a five-sided aluminum frame. The Capri for which an MSRP has yet to be established, will be available in four 30- to 34-foot lengths with up to two slideouts.
Gulf Stream Towable division is hosting approximately 100 dealer service technicians during the first two weeks of November, representing 42 dealers from across the U.S. and Canada. In its 6th year, Dealer Service Training is held at the Gulf Stream Country Club with three days of intensive training in each session, according to a news release.
Technicians tour manufacturing facilities, get in-depth training on common service issues and have an opportunity to spend time with factory service specialists. Suppliers also add to the class with presentations on their products and service training. In class, technicians use detailed training books and receive DVDs that can be used to refresh and teach others in their shop what they learned. Each attending technician is presented with a certificate upon completing the class
”Technicians receive traditional presentations, factory tours and hands-on training right on the production line.” said John Smith, Gulf Stream director of service. ”They get to see how the unit is built and this allows for a lot of discussion and sharing of experiences.”
“The sessions are designed to be a win-win-win solution for our dealer, retail customers and Gulf Stream. After training, the time it takes to repair or service a unit is greatly reduced, which is a benefit to the dealer and retail customer. We learn from the technicians too – how to improve our products and make them more trouble free. In addition, Gulf Stream’s warranty costs have been reduced each year since we’ve started technician training,” Smith said.
Dan Kussow, general service manager at Van Boxtel RV Supermart, commented, “Thanks for the excellent time at your school. The hospitality you and your crew showed us was second to none. We came away with a wealth of information and contacts that will pay dividends for us for years to come. The opportunity to interact with the plant managers at the different plants and their willingness to take the time with us was very impressive to say the least. It was much appreciated from our end.”
“Based on the positive response we have received this year, we are planning to offer classes again in 2011 after evaluating the dates that work best for our dealers,” Smith added.
For more information, contact Gulf Stream Coach at (800) 289-8787 or visit www.gulfstreamrvtrailers.com.
Former CrossRoads RV President Mark Lucas is establishing a new company under the revered 62-year-old Yellowstone RV brand name to build travel trailers and fifth-wheels.
Yellowstone — a name dating back to 1948 — will unveil its first products during the 48th Annual National RV Trade Show, Nov. 30-Dec. 2 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky.
Lucas says the company, an outgrowth of Gulf Stream Coach Inc., is a stand-alone firm with its own staff and manufacturing facilities located on Gulf Stream’s Nappanee, Ind., manufacturing campus.
”I thought this would be an opportunity to try some things and test the waters without upsetting the apple cart of a company like Gulf Stream that has such a long history,” said Lucas, who left CrossRoads in September and went to work for Gulf Stream two weeks later.
Lucas said Yellowstone will have the full backing of Gulf Stream and that he will report directly to Dan Shea, Gulf Stream’s towable president and a co-owner of the family-held business. In that sense, he says, the Yellowstone startup is not unlike the divisional approach employed in recent years by industry market share leaders Thor Industries Inc.and Forest River Inc.
”Yellowstone is a company that really has the ability to be nimble and try some things that other companies aren’t willing to try,” Lucas said. ”We have the purchasing power and the ability to floor with all the major institutions and we have a debt-free company with strong financial backing. Beyond that, we are doing things our way.”
Yellowstone, at least initially, will market the existing Canyon Trail line, which will include Canyon Trail XLT travel trailers and fifth-wheels, Canyon Trail ”Advanced Profile” fifth-wheels, Canyon Trail Aztec Edition fifth-wheels, full-profile RidgeLine fifth-wheels and a yet-to-be named smaller fifth-wheel for towing behind pickups with beds as short as 4 1/2 feet.
”The plan is to take on the Canyon Trail brand from the Gulf Stream family, but everything else will be new brands,” Lucas said.
Lucas, for his part, says he sees an opening in the market for a startup like Yellowstone.
”All these big major brands are starting to look alike,” he told RVBUSINESS.com. “They are being constructed the same way. They are being marketed the same way. They pretty much all have the same look and feel. My goal is to be a viable alternative to the big box stores, not being a niche player or an also-brand. We want to be something different than that.”
Yellowstone sales will be led by National Sales Manager Mike Spencer, while design and manufacturing are being led by Engineer Mark Dunithan and Plant Managers Bill Warrick and Chris Shaeffer.
”Yellowstone has all the right pieces,” Lucas said. ”It has the people in place, it has the financial backing in place and it has the purchasing power in place. It absolutely fits in what’s going on in the modern marketplace right now.”
For more information, call (800) 811-0302 or email: yellowstonervs.com.
There was a time in the 1970s until the mid-‘80s when the RV industry would gather annually each August in the sweltering heat of northern Indiana for what was then known as the South Bend Show. Dealers would come from near and far to be wined and dined by manufacturers and to see some new model year lineups.
New models would also be shown at subsequent private dealer meetings and then at the annual all-industry Louisville Show.
Now, the North American RV industry is headed back to the future to an extent this week as a host of companies — spurred by a budget-minded atmosphere in the wake of The Great Recession and by the success of Forest River Inc.‘s own big Elkhart dealer meetings over the past two years – beckon dealers to the flatlands of
Elkhart County for a series of “dealer open houses.”
Although it’s a bit later than the South Bend Show, which was held outside the Notre Dame Stadium, these new open houses should benefit the region’s hotels, restaurants, lounges and shuttle bus drivers in much the same way.
Forest River, a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary that again sets up shop this week next to its corporate headquarters on the west side of Elkhart, is expecting 2,800 people and reportedly had registered more than 700 dealerships by the beginning of this week. Along with a series of dealer displays that will include everything from conventional RV’s to commercial trailers, boats and mobile latrines, dealers can expect lavish buffets and a bustling Wednesday night cocktail party that should rival the best of those good ‘ole days at South Bend.
“I assume it’s going to be as good as last year,” Forest River President and CEO Pete Liegl told RVBUSINESS.com.
Much the same can be expected across town on the east side of Elkhart at the RV/MH Hall of Fame as three Thor Industries Inc. divisions set up shop for the first time this year on the grounds around the RV/MH Heritage Foundation Inc.’s museum, library and hall near the Indiana Toll Road. This is the first year that Thor, another market leader, has hosted dealers for a September open house and, in the process, did not manage to station all of its divisions in one place like Forest River did.
So, Thor Motor Coach, Keystone RV Co. Inc. and Breckenridge will be manning displays – Keystone itself is setting up about 200 units on the hall’s periphery – on Wednesday and Thursday. Also on tap at the hall: Seminars sponsored by Freightliner Custom Chassis Inc., GE Capital, Ally Financial and Statistical Surveys Inc. plus a Wednesday night cocktail party – scheduled, perhaps coincidentally, at the exact same time as chief competitor Forest River’s. Tunes are being provided by the popular John Kirkwood band.
Keystone President Bob Martin, who tells RVBUSINESS.com that he’s expecting somewhere between 700 and a thousand dealer personnel to stop by, says Keystone has always brought dealers in during the fall for a look at new product. And while they’re stepping it up this year, his Goshen, Ind.-based firm is still planning an aggressive display with additional new product at RVIA’s 48th Annual National RV Trade Show, Nov. 30-Dec. 2 in Louisville.
‘It’s a good opportunity to get in front of your dealers in the fall,” says Martin, whose company will also host vendor booths and meetings with customer service representatives and retail and wholesale financing sources.
Just down the street a few minutes to the west at a temporary rented facility at the corner of Marina Drive and County Road 6, Thor’s Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc. division will launch an open house of its own tonight (Sept. 27) with cocktails provided by the Thor division and entertainment supplied by a group called Blammo. Displays, complete with continental breakfast, are open all day Tuesday and Thursday, closing out Thursday at noon.
Also kicking off the festivities tonight down in Nappanee – with a tailgate party, casino night and poker tournament — is Gulf Stream Coach Inc., which will be featuring a favorite of the company’s founder, the late Jim Shea Sr.: Daily lunch consisting of Stanley’s famous steak, shrimp and eggroll. Gulf Stream’s event runs through Thursday
“We believe recent developments in the RV industry will create great opportunities for the independent manufacturers,” says Gulf Stream Co-President Dan Shea. “We developed many new dealer relationships this year and we look forward to showing our new innovative, value-packed models.“
Also opening their doors to dealers this week:
Carriage Inc.: Tuesday through Thursday at the towable manufacturer’s Millersburg, Ind., plant.
Dynamax Corp.: Monday through Thursday at the company’s north side Elkhart plant at the corner of Northland Dr. and County Road 6.
Earthbound RV: Monday through Friday at the Spring Meadow Farm Golf Club east of Elkhart in Middlebury, as well as at the firm’s new main plant 70 miles to the south in Marion, Ind.
Evergreen Recreational Vehicles: Monday through Thursday at the company’s plant in Middlebury.
Livin’ Lite Recreational Vehicles: Monday through Thursday at the firm’s Wakarusa facility a few miles south of Elkhart off of Indiana 19.
Monaco RV LLC: Tuesday through Thursday at the Navistar division’s Wakarusa plant.
Open Range RV: Tuesday through Thursday at the company’s facilities east of Elkhart in Shipshewana.
Sunnybrook RV: Tuesday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the company’s plant in Middlebury.
Meanwhile, adding to the week’s industry activities, Jayco Inc. will have about 250 retail personnel on hand for intensive sales training at its complex in Middlebury, Ind. Jayco’s second Master RV Product Training Session runs Monday through Thursday, with a graduation ceremony Wednesday at the Marriott in South Bend.
Gulf Stream Coach Inc. has announced that it will be holding a dealer open house Sept. 27-30 at its Country Club in Nappanee, Ind.
Gulf Stream will have new models on display from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with Stanley’s famous steak, shrimp and egg roll lunch served daily. A special event on Monday includes a tailgate party and casino night.
“We believe recent developments in the RV industry will create great opportunities for the independent manufacturers. We developed many new dealer relationships this year and we look forward to showing our new innovative, value-packed models,” Dan Shea, co-president, stated in a press release.
One of the products driving Gulf Stream’s growth this year has been the Visa Travel Trailer. Visa is an ultra-lightweight trailer that can be towed easily by smaller SUVs and minivans. Visa features European styling and is constructed from environmentally friendly, lightweight components and materials.
The all-new fifth-wheel lineup provides a high-end appearance and features at multiple price points. Luxurious interiors are combined with practical additions like an interior covered switch panel with individual slide room controls, message board and cell phone charging station. Gulf Stream’s available Extreme Weather Insulation also provides superior roof, floor and wall insulation, including basement compartment insulation.
For more information, contact Gulf Stream Coach at (800) 289-8787.
Mirroring reports from show exhibitors of strong traffic and sales, the 42nd Pennsylvania RV and Camping Show at Hersheypark in Hershey, Pa., that ended Sunday (Sept. 19) posted record attendance of 35,020 — 9.% higher than 2009, the sponsoring Pennsylvania Recreation Vehicle and Camping Association (PRVCA) reported.
”People have been putting off their purchases for a while and now is the time they want to buy,” Heather Leach, PRVCA director of marketing and education,” told RVBUSINESS.com.
Reports from the FreedomRoads/Camping World dealership chain, Thor Motor Coach, Tiffin Motors Home Inc. and Carriage Inc. and other exhibitors consistently confirmed the strong sales trend.
Thor Motor Coach, formed by the recent merger of Damon Motor Coach and Four Winds International Corp., reported the show was possibly ”the best ever.”
”We nearly doubled our diesel numbers from last year, and last year was a good year,” said Matt Thompson, Thor Motor Coach vice president for diesels.
”We did excellent,” observed Phil Sarvari, executive vice president of Gulf Stream Coach Inc. ”We sold 38 pieces. People were buying, and our products were very well received.”
”Traffic was incredible,” added Don Clark, president of Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc. ”We did more than 2 1/2 times the volume of retail than we did last year. The customers were very upbeat. It was reassuring to see that kind of traffic.”
As Forest River Inc. marks its best sales year since being founded in 1995 by Peter J. Liegl, the multi-divisional company anticipates hosting 2,800 people at its third annual dealer meeting, Sept. 29-30, at its corporate headquarters in Elkhart, Ind.
”I guess we are going to have a 40% increase this year in attendance,” Liegl told RVBUSINESS.com. ”The response has been phenomenally good.”
The show will feature Forest River, Coachmen, Palomino and Prime Time recreation vehicles along with buses, cargo trailers, manufactured homes, commercial vehicles, ice houses, pontoon boats and bathroom units manufactured by other divisions.
In an exclusive interview with RVBUSINESS.com, Liegl estimates that Forest River’s sales for 2010 will be in the range of $2.5 billion, up 74.2% compared to last year.
”We’ve never had a better year in our whole history,” Liegl said. ”We’re happy with that. But by the same token, we picked up a lot of pieces of the pie (market share) where other people went out of business.”
Soon to join Forest River’s lineup is the reincarnation of the Shasta brand in a new division under the direction of industry veteran Brad Whitehead that will build stick-and-tin travel trailers, minimotorhomes and laminated trailers and fifth-wheels. Shasta’s new lineup will make their debut Nov. 30-Dec. 2 at the 48th National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.
”We won’t have anything from Shasta at our dealer showing, but there’s a need for a Shasta-type product and we’ll have it at Louisville,” Liegl said.
Although the recent proliferation of northern Indiana dealer meetings has raised some concerns within the industry regarding the ultimate impact on the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) Louisville Show, Liegl said that Forest River’s dealer show is meant to compliment the Louisville Show, rather than replace it.
”I think we need both,” Liegl said. ”No 1, Louisville is limited to RVs. By the same token, space is extremely costly there. I’ve got my show here in a field next to corporate headquarters. I can display more at no cost.”
Liegl, at the same time, said the Louisville Show by itself isn’t long enough to spend the time necessary with Forest River’s dealers. ”Our show just gives us more time to spend with our dealers communicating,” he said. ”That’s all Louisville is, communicating. But with our own show, we’ve got more time to do that.”
The Berkshire Hathaway Inc. subsidiary’s foray into staging its initial dealer meeting in 2008 with the theme ”Pick Your Partner” was spurred by the desire to ”let dealers know that financially, unquestionably, we were the strongest (RV manufacturer),” Liegl said.
”We wanted to make it known that they should make sure that their ‘partner’ was going to be here through thick and thin,” Liegl added. ”And obviously, it worked very successfully for us.
”In effect we were saying to dealers that they needed to know who they were doing business with because if your manufacturer goes out of business, you’ve got a problem, not only a problem getting your warranty, but a problem selling them and getting them financed.
“Every dealer out there understands that very well today when they look at the manufacturers that went out of business and the problems they had with the product that they had on their lots.”
Liegl said the theme for this year’s gathering will involve a ”thank you” to dealers for making Forest River the success it has become.
in the big picture, Liegl said a host of RV manufacturers holding dealer open houses and shows the same week in September is, in reality, boosting attendance at Forest River’s gathering.
Those other companies hosting dealers include Gulf Stream Coach Inc.; Thor Industries Inc. subsidiaries Keystone RV Co., Thor Motor Coach (recently created from the consolidation of Four Winds International Corp. and Damon Motor Coach), Breckenridge and Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc.; Monaco RV LLC; Livin’ Lite Recreational Vehicles; Dynamax Corp,; EverGreen Recreational Vehicles LLC; Sunnybrook RV; and Carriage Inc. Meanwhile, Jayco Inc.’s annual Master Sales Training Session for dealers’ sales staffs is partly slotted in the same time frame.
”Having the competition have their (dealer shows) at the same time has boosted our numbers,” Liegl said. ”We’re getting commitments (from competitors’) dealers that they are coming to ours too.”
Gulf Stream Coach Inc. has announced that Matt Buckman has joined the company as national sales manager for the Kingsport and Trailmaster product lines.
Buckman, a 22-year industry veteran, has held key management positions and built several successful sales organizations. Besides his sales acumen, he has a strong history of product planning, creating and introducing new ideas, products and features, according to a news release.
Buckman replaces Randy Baskerville, who was promoted to national sales manager for Conquest, Innsbruck and Amerilite products earlier this month.
Buckman stated, “I am excited to join Gulf Stream and carry forward the Kingsport and Trailmaster tradition of Value, Quality and Aesthetics. The products have received exceptional consumer and dealer acceptance with the recently implemented interior updates. Combined with the floorplan offering and value equation these products hold, Gulf Stream is experiencing outstanding summer retail activity. Moving forward, in the markets where we compete, our goal is to provide ‘Best Of” merchandising and manufacturing strategy with respect to value, floorplans, feature content and quality. ”
Buckman can be contacted at email@example.com or (800) 289-8787 ext. 5291.
For more information, visit Gulf Stream’s website at www.gulfstreamrvtrailers.com
Thousands of recreational vehicle retail personnel will be converging in late September on the RV-building center of Elkhart County, Ind., as more manufacturers turn to local 2011 product displays in the wake of the Great Recession and a prevailing cost-cutting atmosphere throughout the business world.
What’s even more interesting is that they’re doing it in unison – at the end of September in synch with Forest River Inc.’s big Sept. 29-30 dealer gathering, now in its third year. In fact, it appears that Forest River has reinvented the wheel to an extent by bringing in hundreds of RV, cargo and commercial trailer retailers to its home plant in late September for a closed gathering at which dealers are wined and dined and treated to expansive new model product displays.
The Berkshire Hathaway Inc. subsidiary’s second annual 2009 “Pick Your Partner” open house last year drew 600 to 700 dealers — a total of 2,000 people – to the grounds outside the Elkhart-based company’s headquarters where retailers were treated to a display of about 350 units plus live music and staff-delivered beer.
Although Forest River’s management hasn’t said much publicly about its plans yet this year, it’s a safe bet that they’re expecting more of the same at this year’s dealer meeting. “I assume it’s going to be as good as last year,” Forest River President and CEO Pete Liegl told RVBusiness. “We’re getting a good response so far. We just started sending out the invites last week.”
The trend toward Elkhart County dealer open houses took a big step forward earlier this month when four Thor Industries Inc. subsidiaries, Keystone RV Co., Damon Motor Coach, Four Winds International Corp. and Breckenridge, announced plans for a combined dealer open house Sept. 28-30 at the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum in Elkhart, Ind., for which they’re expecting 500 dealers. As many as 100 2011 models will be on display on the grounds surrounding the Hall of Fame.
Now, the latest to join the fray is Thor’s Goshen-based Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc., which has notified its dealers of its first-ever Sept. 27-30 open house at the former Azure boat manufacturing facility at the corner of C.R. 6 and Marina Drive not far from the Indiana Toll Road and the RV/MH Hall of Fame.
Dutchmen President Don Clark says his company’s open house will take place both inside and outside the facility, and will be highlighted by a Sept. 27 dealer party featuring live entertainment and some eye-catching 2011 product displays.
“We’re going to have some surprises that have yet to be viewed by any dealer,” Clark told RVBusiness. “We’re going to have not just one new brand, but several new brands that we will be selling at our open house. And it will be a good precursor for what the dealers will be seeing at Louisville (RVIA’s annual National RV Trade Show, Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 in Louisville, Ky.). We’re going to have our new sales management staff on hand, and it gives dealers an unharied time to get to know them better.”
Other companies are expected to announce their own “open houses” and “showcases” in the near future. Although details were still being worked out, Carriage Inc. Vice President of Sales Ed Kinney says his Millersburg, Ind., firm will hold a Sept. 28-30 open house in Millersburg. “We’ll have a nice display, show some new things we will show at Louisville, give some plant tours and have a good casual time,” he said.
Gulf Stream Coach Inc. also is joining in the September rush with an event scheduled for Sept. 27-30 at which the Nappanee firm will show 45 towable and motorized units.
Meanwhile, Jayco Inc.’s own annual Master Sales Training Sessions for dealers’ sales staffs is partly slotted in the same time frame.
Jayco, headquartered in nearby Middlebury, plans to bring in approximately 500 people for intensive sales training at its complex in Middlebury, Ind. The sessions run Sept. 20-23 and Sept. 27-30 and will involve sales training and extensive factory tours, reports Marketing Director Sid Johnson.
Jayco did not sponsor these sessions last year due to the economy, but traditionally holds the event at the end of September every year, Johnson reports. “Dealers pay for transportation. We pay for everything once they get here,” said Johnson, noting that the cost to Jayco is in the neighborhood of $200,000.
The whole emerging sequence of events, in turn, is beginning to prompt questions about just how many hotel rooms there are in the region to house an influx of business people of this magnitude. Elkhart County, in itself, has 2,591. And while it’s got to translate into a positive in terms of facilities use at the Hall of Fame, located along the Indiana Toll Road east of Elkhart, it’s also posing questions among some industry observers about how this emerging trend might ultimately affect the viability of the Louisville Show.
That said, some of the players in this emerging scenario like Clark and Keystone President Bob Martin seem to be keeping their focus on Louisville as well. Martin called Keystone’s September product display “a little preview of Louisville” that would include some – but not all – of the products his company would unveil at the national show in late November.
‘It’s a good opportunity to get in front of your dealers in the fall,” said Martin, whose agenda will include seminars and training, vendor booths and meetings with customer service representatives and retail and wholesale financing sources. ”It a good draw for Keystone with a couple of motorhome lines and Breckenridge (which builds park trailers). All the divisions are working on plans together. There will be a lot to see.”
“This is an absolutely exciting event,” said Tim Howard, president of Breckenridge,“ whose Nappanee-based firm participated several years ago in a Thor-only dealer show in Elkhart County, “because the way we did it before, it was far-flung. The companies who did it in unison did so at their own locations. This will be at one location.”
Howard said the Thor event was not specifically designed to coincide with Forest River’s “Pick Your Partner” event, but it makes sense. “I don’t think it was discussed as that,” he said, “but it is logical, It makes perfect sense for a dealer to have the efficiency of killing two birds with one stone.”
Dan Shea, Gulf Stream towables president, said the September event makes a lot of sense, giving dealers, especially Canadians, a chance to place their orders early.
“It’s a good opportunity for dealers who need product quicker,” said Shea. “There is a lot of reason for dealers to step up and buy product this October, November and December.”
Although late September dealer shows take some of the luster off Louisville for Gulf Stream and others, Shea added, “Louisville will still be a big show for us.”
Randy Baskerville, a 25-year RV industry veteran, has been promoted to product manager for Gulf Stream Coach Inc.’s Conquest, Innsbruck and Amerilite division.
Baskerville has been with Gulf Stream for eight years and is excited to continue the great success of these products, according to a news release. Baskerville replaces John Stringer, who resigned to pursue other interests.
“I am thrilled to be leading the sales and marketing efforts of one of the best product lines in the industry,” Baskerville said.
Noting that June retail sales were the second best month for towables in the company’s history, Gulf Stream reported that it continues to see strong retail demand for its products.
Gulf Stream has added 18 new dealers since its June dealer open house where the company introduced several innovative new models that retailed very successfully in July.
“Gulf Stream continues to grow and has one of the strongest balance sheets in the industry,” said Phil Sarvari, executive vice president. ”Additionally, the company has substantial cash balances, an unused line of credit and no debt. Gulf Stream is well positioned to help its dealers take maximum advantage of the rapidly expanding market by continued emphasis on quality, value and innovation.”
Gulf Stream Coach Inc. officially completed an extended open house Wednesday (June 23) with about 75 dealers stopping by the company’s Nappanee, Ind., complex during the last two weeks to view new 2011 towable products.
Dealers got their first look at the recently released Aztec fifth-wheel series and the lightweight Visa travel trailer that Gulf Stream debuted quietly during last year’s Louisville Show, along with new floorplans in other Gulf Stream towable brands.
”The main days were Tuesday and Wednesday, but people came in whenever they could be here,” said Mindy Brooks, director of marketing.
About 50 dealers had dinner Tuesday night at the company’s Margaret Ann Shea Pavilion, named for the wife of Gulf Stream founder James Shea. The pavilion is located on the grounds of an outdoor recreation center for employees that features an executive golf course, swimming pool and tennis courts.
Although the focus of the displays clearly was towable RVs, Executive Vice President Phil Sarvari reported that the company continues to build 35 to 40 motorhomes a month — 80% of them Class C’s.
Sarvari said that Gulf Stream has overcome transportation problems that plagued the industry earlier this year as wholesale shipments increased.
”The last couple of years have been tough on the entire industry,” Sarvari told RVBUSINESS.COM. ”What we are seeing is that the strong dealers have cut back on their inventories and have gotten prepared for a rebound.
”You can pack a lot of product on a dealer’s lot but until it turns, they are not going to have success.”
The market signals at Gulf Stream were indeed encouranging. Some dealers attending the show reported that sales have increased in the last few months, some dramatically.
”Our market is up a lot,” said Michael Harlan, owner of Alum Creek RV and Marine in the Columbus, Ohio, suburb of Delaware. ”We need to sell two or three more units by the end of June and we’ll be at what we were all of last year.”
The upswing has been shared by both towable and motorized RVs, Harlan reported.
”The towables we are selling are mostly all lightweight,” he said. ”The luxury fifth-wheel is selling well for us right now. Entry-level fifth-wheels aren’t selling well at all. People who put off buying last year when it was already time for them to trade up or trade in are buying this year as the economy is recovering.”
Leo Rousseau, owner of Rouseeau’s RV Center, a towable RV dealership in Lakeville, Mass., reported his sales are better than they were in 2009.
”Last year, we hardly sold anything,” he said. ”This year, we’re selling better than 30 a month, mostly lightweight travel trailers. Fifth-wheels are not selling. Nor are truck campers, although there’s a little bit of interest developing in them again.”
Rousseau said that with unemployment ranging to 15% in Massachusetts, high-priced units don’t appeal to many buyers. ”Extra funds are not around for people to spend,” he said, although he noted that people are fixing up older units.
”We can’t keep up with the people want to buy parts and supplies,” he said.
Gulf Stream’s new Aztec luxury fifth-wheel is a departure for the company in that it is the first line with a gray exterior
”It gives you a high-end look,” said Mike Spencer, luxury towable division manager. ”People equate it with full body paint, but at a fraction of the cost.”
Available in seven floorplans in 32- to 36 1/2-foot lengths, the high-profile Aztec can be equipped with Corian countertops, two-tone ivory and chestnut cabinets and drawers, fireplaces, leather recliners, front-cap docking lights, felt basement liners, low-mount exterior speakers, outside showers, wall monitor panels, queen beds with padded headboards, cedar-lined closets, jackknife sofas, 44-inch booth dinettes and swivel rockers.
With a base MSRP of $32,000, said Spencer, ”We’ve trying to provide luxury for an affordable price.”
The new lightweight Visa travel trailer series offers three 22-feet 11-inch floorplans with dry weights ranging from 2,762 pounds to 2,802 pounds and a 25-foot 11-inch layout with a dry weight of 3,502 pounds. Gulf Stream makes extensive use of CosmoLite and SymaLITE composites from TekModo LLC, both in the basic construction of the unit and in its interior amenities including walls, vinyl-wrapped cabinets and bed bases.
”Visa is a cross between a retro and European-style trailer,” said Steven Jacobs, Gulf Streams’ national ultralight sales manager. ”If a dealer brings this on, it’s super light and the (smaller ones) can be towed by just about anything.”
In the entry-level wood-and-aluminum category, Gulf Stream has added six new floorplans for a total of 11 to its Ameri-Lite travel trailer lineup with retail prices ranging from just under $10,000 to $14,900.
”Where our strength has been with the Ameri-Lite is that we build what the dealers ask us to build,” said John Stringer, towable division national sales manager. ”Essentially, the Ameri-Lite gives our dealers the opportunity to buy a new unit at a used unit price.”
Among the more unusual of Gulf Stream’s floorplans for 2011 is an upper-deck kitchen in the EnduraMax fifth-wheel SURV. ”The appeal is that it takes the kitchen out of the living space,” said Chris Krull, EnduraMax regional sales manager.
EnduraMax features Gulf Stream’s two-inch thick ”XL Wall” that swings shut to seal off the garage from the living area.
Available in seven 35- to 41-foot, 102-inch wide floorplans, the EnduraMax fifth-wheel base MSRP is $54,000.
Veteran Gulf Stream Coach Inc. executive Claude Donati has resigned his position at the Nappanee, Ind., towable and motorized RV builder.
And while the well known motorized RV specialist isn’t saying much about where he’s headed, it’s fairly evident from comments issued in an email to RVBUSINESS.com that he plans to remain in the RV industry.
“It is with great excitement and ambition I resign my post as the vice president of the Motorized Division of Gulf Stream Coach,” Donati said in response to RVBUSINESS.com’s inquiry. “I appreciate the 15 years that I worked at Gulf Stream and will miss the many employees that I worked with over the years. I would like to especially thank (Motorized Division President) Brian Shea for the many years of opportunity he provided for me and my family.
“As for my future,” Donati continued, “it is my hope and expectation to be part of a company in the RV industry. I will rely on my many years in manufacturing and my vast knowledge of the business as well as the many relationships I was fortunate enough to establish to create a business that will allow me to contribute to the local economy and to remain an active member of the RV community.”
Gulf Stream Coach Inc. is expanding the number of floorplans and features offered in its destination trailers in response to market growth.
According to Randy Baskerville, national sales manager for the Kingsport and Trailmaster divisions, “We released the new wide-body destination trailers at the Louisville show and have signed more than 40 dealers with the product. They are hitting dealers’ lots and retailing immediately.”
The Kingsport Destination Series is offering a new 401 TB floorplan with a side aisle bath that features an extra entry from the master bedroom. This unit offers a standard residential oven and an 18-cubic-foot black refrigerator. The newly designed half bath floorplan includes bunks and standard washer/dryer prep and closet. This unit also features the “King” u-dinette, which can seat up to eight family members. This unit comes with three entry doors and three slideouts. The MSRP for the Kingsport 401 TB is $27,980.
Another new model in the Kingsport Destination Series is the 39 FE standard 8 ½-foot-wide unit with an L-curved sofa Hide-A-Bed standard. This mega-slide room is 20 feet long and has 8-foot-tall ceilings with crown molding. This model has optional two-tone cabinetry in Deer Field cherry oak and contrasting white oak. This unit has a standard front fiberglass cap w with recessed LED lighting. The MSRP for the Kingsport 39 FE is $32,975.
The Lodge series by Conquest and Innsbruck features black- and gray-water holding tanks to make them acceptable at any campground plus a patio door and a detachable front hitch for a cottage look. The 408 TBS model features three slide rooms, a rear master suite, front guest room with a large bay window, private bath and has washer/dryer prep available. The kitchen features a 16-cubic-foot refrigerator and a two-tier countertop with a serving bar. The main ceiling height is almost 8 feet and a ceiling fan and fireplace are available options. MSRP for a well-equipped Conquest or Innsbruck 408 TBS is $27,448.
For more information, contact Gulf Stream Coach, 503 S. Oakland Ave., Nappanee, IN 46550, (800) 289-8787, www.gulfstreamrvtrailers.com