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 firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 289-8787 ext. 5291.
For more information, visit Gulf Stream’s website at www.gulfstreamrvtrailers.com