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Heartland RV Unveils Cutting-Edge Website

September 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Heartland logoHeartland Recreational Vehicles LLC announced it has introduced an all-new website.

The website features a modern Web 2.0 look and feel utilizing cutting-edge programming technology to deliver product and company information, photography and video in a user-friendly and organized manner, according to a news release from the Elkhart, Ind.-based company.

The new product selector and buyers guide puts the power of the web into the hands of shoppers to virtually take them by the hand through hundreds of available RVs directly to those models that fit their personal criteria. Once there, shoppers receive all the information and tools necessary to finalize their buying decision. Then they can find a dealer near them and go to the dealership educated about and ready to buy Heartland products.

“Our focus throughout the development process was to enhance our viewers’ experience through ease-of-use, performance, brand awareness and product education,” said Steve Lidy, director of marketing.

Heartland’s 17 brands and 210 RV models, along with more than 2,000 product images and 127 pages of company and product information — plus dozens of virtual tours — all reside on a dedicated server ready to deliver a robust RV Internet experience to Heartland customers.

For more information visit the website at www.heartlandrvs.com.

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Thor Files SEC 8-K on Heartland RV Purchase

September 23, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Thor Industries Inc. filed on Wednesday (Sept. 22) its 8-K registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)on its purchase of Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC.

Among the highlights:

  • The consideration paid by Thor consisted of $100 million in cash (less the amount of Heartland’s capital lease obligations of approximately $438,000) and 4.3 million shares of the company’s stock. Though not stated in the filing, the purchase price has been estimated at about $209 million.
  • The cash portion of the consideration was funded entirely from the Thor’s cash on hand.
  • As part of the transaction, senior management of Heartland entered into non-competition agreements with the company and its subsidiaries.

To view the 8-K filing, click here.

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Baird: Top Five OEMs Expand Market Share

September 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Baird logoEditor’s Note: Robert W. Baird & Co. issued a client newsletter following release of the July towable sales by Statistical Surveys Inc. Excerpts of the Baird newsletter follow.

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Towable registrations increased 5% in July. Dealer sales of towable units increased in July, but growth continued to moderate. Total U.S. towable retail increased 5% (travel trailers up 8%; fifth-wheels down 4%). Slower growth is consistent with weaker consumer trends that persisted through the summer. Looking to the back half of 2010, we expect wholesale growth to slow as dealers manage inventory and order in line with retail sales.

Summary

Towable retail up 5%. Towable demand improved in July, but growth is moderating – providing further evidence of a flatter RV recovery. Travel trailer registrations grew 8% while fifth-wheel demand fell 4%.

Leaders gaining share. Thor continues to take share with retail registrations up 11% in the month. We also note that Heartland RV (No.4 market share and acquired by Thor last week) saw registrations increase 33% in July. Altogether the top five manufacturers have seen retail grow 19% YTD versus 6% YTD industry growth.

Inventory. Towable shipments have exceeded retail sales by roughly 10K units YTD. We believe that dealer inventory is fairly balanced at current levels and future shipments should track in line with retail demand.

Retail SAAR. We calculate a seasonally adjusted rate of retail registrations. The SAAR of towable demand increased to 150.1K units in July from 144.2K units in June.

To subscribe to this or other Baird newsletters, contact Craig Kennison, CFA, at (414) 765-3870.


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Heartland CEO Brady’s in for the Long Haul

September 17, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Brian Brady

Brian Brady

Upon seeing the news this morning (Sept. 17) of the $200 million acquisition of Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC by Thor Industries Inc., industry insiders have been speculating as to whether Heartland President and CEO Brian Brady will stick around for the long haul.

You know, they speculate, why should he?

A veteran of Coachmen Industries Inc., Holiday Rambler Corp., Damon Corp. and Heartland, Brady’s been through the business wars – and economic cycles – for years. He’s cashed out well from his latest venture, a company that’s been generating sales of about $400 million a year.

Besides, he’s now being called upon to operate Heartland as a unit of a company with which he and Heartland’s 1,000 employees had intensely competed in the towable RV arena.

But Brian Brady isn’t going anywhere. Nor, for the record, does he mind doing business with a company that until recently was viewed as a formidable rival.

“We have always viewed Keystone as the class of the industry – you know, Thor in general terms and Keystone being the crown jewel in their portfolio,” Brady told RVBUSINESS.com. “We at Heartland have had an immense respect for the Keystone team, and in many respects we admired their significant accomplishments.

“You know, with that said, I think we were able to demonstrate that we could compete effectively with them, and we did. And I would imagine, with the way Thor manages, that we’re going to continue to compete with Keystone. But, you know, for me personally and the other initial investors in Heartland, we’re essentially owners of Thor now. So whether Heartland wins or Dutchmen wins or Keystone wins, we all win.”

As for his own personal career moves, again, Brady says he’s staying put rather than fleeing the day-to-day stress of the business world. “Yes, I am staying for the foreseeable future,” he said. “I have no plans at this point to disengage from Heartland and Thor. And I’ve made that commitment to Ron Fenech and Peter Orthwein.

“To be honest with you,” he added, “I feel really reinvigorated. I’m looking forward to getting this week behind us and going back to work on Monday.”

Fact is, Brady still enjoys the game.

“I do, and I enjoy the game because of the people with whom I work. We’ve really got such terrific people at Heartland. You know, Heartland is no different than any other successful enterprise in any industry. At the end of the day, it comes down to the team – the men and women around whom you build your business.”

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Baird: Heartland Buy to Boost Thor’s EPS 10%

September 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Baird logoEditor’s Note: Robert W. Baird & Co. issued a client newsletter following today’s announcement that Thor Industries Inc. had purchased Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC. Excerpts of that newsletter follow. To subscribe to this and other Baird reports, contact Craig R. Kennison, CFA, at ckennison@rwbaird.com or call him at (414)765-3870.

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Thor acquired Heartland RV, the fourth largest towable manufacturer. We expect the deal to add $0.21 to F2011 EPS, a 10% boost. Heartland is among the fastest growing RV manufacturers with comparable margins to Thor. We like the deal and believe shares discount a weak economic recovery – but we remain cautious on RV fundamentals as the economic recovery stalls.

Summary

Acquires Heartland RV. Thor has acquired Heartland RV in a cash/stock deal valued near $209 million (including $100 million in cash and 4.3 million Thor shares valued at $109 million based on the Thursday close). Heartland generated $400 million in revenue in the last 12 months.

Fastest growing RV company. Heartland is the fourth largest towable company in the U.S. with 6.7% of the market, bringing Thor’s combined share to 46.6%. So far this year, Thor has added nearly 3 percentage points (pp) to its share, and Heartland has added near 2pp – consistent with our dealer surveys in which Heartland was listed as the most likely towable manufacturer to gain share in the next six months.

Accretive to EPS. Management expects the deal to be accretive. We see the deal adding $0.21 to EPS in F2011 ($0.24 on an annualized basis), based on our view that Heartland operates with a similar margin profile to Thor’s RV business.

Outlook. Thor is executing well and the Heartland deal makes sense, in our view. However, we maintain a cautious outlook for the RV sector as consumer confidence falls, unemployment festers, consumers reduce debt, and tax policy targets discretionary wealth. We believe shares discount this cautious outlook and may benefit from political change brought about by the election cycle or a change in tax policy, supporting our Outperform rating despite our cautious outlook.

Details

Market share. Thor controls nearly 40% of the towable market, and has gained nearly 3pp so far in 2010. Heartland has quickly risen to become the fourth largest towable manufacturer with nearly 7% of the market, adding nearly 2pp so far in 2010 (see chart below).

Market share

Heartland share gains. Heartland outpaced the industry through the downturn and continues to gain share. Dealers expect this trend to continue. According to our most recent RV survey, dealers expect Heartland to gain more share in towables than any other manufacturer over the next 12 months.

Market share 2

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Heartland News Heating Up ‘Two-Horse Race’

September 17, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Thor logoThe pursuit of sales leadership in the RV industry has often been referred to in recent years as a “two-horse race” between Jackson Center, Ohio-based Thor Industries Inc. and Elkhart, Ind.-based Forest River Inc., both of which specialize in the manufacture of towable recreational vehicles.

And the stakes in that ongoing race were raised today (Sept. 17) with the surprise announcement that Thor Industries Inc. has purchased competitor Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC for $100 million in cash and 4.3 million shares of Thor stock. The purchase was valued at approximately $209 million, based on Thor’s closing price on Thursday.

It was news in which Wall Street took great interest, as Thor stock rose sharply at today’s opening and was $2.20 higher at $27.65 in early-afternoon trading. When this story was posted, Thor’s stock had climbed to over a one-month high and had also recrossed its 50-day moving average, the RTT Service noted. Thor stock rose 9.9% by day’s end, closing at $27.95 per share, the fifth highest percentage gainer of the day, on volume of 1.32 million shares.

“Heartland’s strong growth has been driven by a culture of innovation, competitive products, and attention to the retail customer,” said Peter B. Orthwein, chairman, CEO and president of Thor, which posted $2.3 billion in revenues ($1.85 billion in RVs) for the fiscal year, ended July 31. “Thor’s new relationship with Heartland will bring many operational synergies to all Thor companies including purchasing and lean production processes, among others.”

Thor’s purchase of Heartland, the No. 3 builder of fifth-wheels and No. 6 assembler of travel trailers, creates some daylight between Thor and Forest River, which had been closing rapidly on Thor’s once-thought insurmountable lead in the RV market – at least for now.

Heartland produced in excess of $400 million in sales over the last 12 months. Its year-to-date unit production through June 30 was 5,003 units, according to Statistical Surveys Inc. (SSI).

When the Heartland numbers are factored in with Thor’s, the combined company sold 32,123 towable and motorized units through the first half of the year for a 35.1% market share compared to Forest River’s 26,144 units, or 28.6%.

Without the Heartland acquisition, Thor’s year-to-date lead over Forest River was a marginal 876 units.

Looking strictly at towables, the gap widens further. With Heartland, Thor’s towable sales total 30,343 units vs. Forest River’s 20,233. The Forest River numbers in all circumstances include its Coachmen and Prime Time divisions.

“We’ve been No. 1, and this kind of extends our lead,” Ron Fenech, Thor’s RV group president, told RVBUSINESS.com today following his publicly held company’s blockbuster announcement. “But, really, for me, I like being No. 1. But I just want to be great. The numbers will take care of themselves.”

“Over the past five years, Heartland has been a tough competitor,” Fenech continued. “They’re very innovative in their designs, and I’m excited to have them as part of our team.”

RVBUSINESS.com pointed out that no company has absorbed as much market share as Thor now does, certainly since the heyday in the 1980s and ‘90s of California-based Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. But Fenech, for his part, drew a distinction between Thor and Fleetwood of old.

“Fleetwood over the years had very large market share when they were in their prime,” he said. “How Thor is different from Fleetwood is that Fleetwood was a very centralized organization and I think over time they lost touch with the customer because they became so centralized in their thinking that they couldn’t respond to what was going on in the marketplace.

“With Thor, our market share is broken up into many different companies, each doing their own designs, each having their own culture, each finding their way in the marketplace. Our goal is to be very responsive while still benefiting from some of the purchasing advantages you have by buying the quantities of material that we do.”

Thor, according to Fenech, plans to continue that same kind of a management approach. “Very much so,” he said. “Heartland’s going to remain independent, just like our other companies, and the entire management team is being held in play.”

By the same token, Fenech noted,  Heartland’s culture will meld well with Thor’s, despite several years of intense competition.

“Well, there’s always a transition that takes place, and what made Heartland great is what makes all good companies great, and that’s that feeling of ownership, that feeling that ‘we control our own destiny,’ and that very much fits with the culture within Thor,” he said. “You know, Keystone tripled in size after its acquisition by Thor, and we were allowed to run our own game, and that’s very much a philosophy that we’ve had within Thor and that Heartland will operate under.”

Heartland has been the fastest growing RV manufacturer in recent years, percentagewise. Its brands include Bighorn, Sundance, Cyclone, North Country, and North Trail, sold through a nationwide network of dealers.

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Thor Acquires Heartland RV Stake for $200M

September 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Thor logoThor Industries Inc. has bought a controlling interest in Elkhart, Ind.-based Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC. The purchase price is $200 million.Heartland logo

The acquisition, Thor’s first major purchase since 2005 and just two weeks after its 30th anniversary, has been rumored for several days.

Catterton Partners, a leading consumer-focused private equity firm in North America, today (Sept. 17) announced that it sold its controlling stake in Heartland for cash and stock.

Heartland recorded sales the last 12 months in excess of $400 million.

Under Thor’s ownership, Heartland RV will continue to operate under the Heartland name and will maintain its current brand portfolio. Heartland will remain headquartered in Elkhart and will continue to be led by the company’s current management team under CEO Brian Brady.

“We are proud of the dramatic growth that Heartland has experienced, and we believe that the transaction with Thor will further accelerate Heartland’s growth,” said Scott Dahnke, managing partner of Catterton Partners. “This transaction pairs Heartland with the most successful RV company in the world; we are confident that it will be a winning combination for Heartland dealers and consumers. Industry fundamentals remain strong, and with Thor’s breadth, scale and financial resources, Heartland can continue to offer its dealers and consumers the highest quality products for great value, while continuing its record of product innovation and outstanding service. We are excited to be Thor shareholders and look forward to the substantial upside inherent in the combined company.”

“We are very excited about this transaction as it clearly benefits our dealers, our employees, our customers, and the entire Heartland family. Under Thor’s ownership, we will have access to increased financial and operational resources which will enable us to continue our strong momentum in the marketplace,” said Brady. “I want to thank our employees for their hard work and dedication to Heartland; their efforts have been a critical part of our success. We are pleased to bring Heartland’s creative energy and relentless commitment to excellence to the Thor family. The entire Heartland organization looks forward with great anticipation to continuing to offer our dealers and consumers the same best-in-class products and innovations that they have come to expect from Heartland.”

Since partnering with the Heartland founders in early 2007, Catterton has worked with the Heartland management team to enable the company to become the fourth largest manufacturer of towable RVs in the U.S., up from the 12th position at the time of its investment. Over this period, Heartland has quadrupled its sales, earnings and market share by expanding its geographic reach, introducing innovative new product lines, and enhancing the overall customer experience, all while maintaining strong relationships with its loyal dealers. Recently, with Catterton’s support, Heartland also enhanced its brand portfolio through its acquisition of Fleetwood Enterprises’ towable brand portfolio.

Heartland is a leading manufacturer of towable recreational vehicles in the U.S. The company markets over 15 brands of fifth-wheel and travel trailer RVs and has captured the No. 3 market share in the fifth-wheel category. Heartland’s towable RVs are sold through an independent network of dealers throughout the United States and Canada. The company has over 1,000 employees.

About Heartland

Heartland was founded in January 2005 by Brian Brady and four others, Tim Hoffman, Doug Lantz, Jon Rhymer and Scott Tuttle. Lantz and Tuttle have since sold their interest in the company. Jack Culbertson subsequently became a minority owner.

In 2007, Catterton Partners, a private equity firm, made a significant investment in Heartland, which allowed the company to go forward on a major expansion and new product introductions beyond its fifth-wheel product lines.

In sharp contrast to an industrywide downturn in 2009 towable sales, Heartland showed pronounced year-over-year gains punctuated by a 43.3% increase in overall market share growth, according to a news release.

According to Statistical Surveys Inc., the Elkhart, Ind.-based builder posted a 6.1% increase in unit sales, while moving to the No. 4 spot among all towable builders for the year. Conversely, towable sales dropped 25.9% industrywide with the majority of builders incurring a decline in unit sales from 2008.

In particular:

  • For the full year, Heartland ranked as the No. 3 fifth-wheel manufacturer with 11.3% of the overall market share – buoyed by a 19.2% jump from 2008 – while its luxury BigHorn line ranked No. 3 among all brands with 9.8% market share growth. During December, the company increased fifth-wheel market share from 12.3% to 13.2%. Industrywide, year-over-year sales in the sector dropped 29.9% in 2009.
  • After entering the travel trailer sector in May 2008 with its lightweight North Trail line, Heartland made significant strides last year to move into the upper tier of manufacturers with a 152% gain in market share and a No. 10 ranking. For December, the builder upped travel trailer unit sales by nearly 46% and improved market share from 2.5% to 3.4%. Industrywide, travel trailer sales fell 23.5% for the 12 months.

Heartland announced in February that it purchased the remaining trademarks of the towable brands of Fleetwood Enterprises and intended to build the product in Elkhart County.

That plan has been delayed in recent weeks as the deal with Thor was being struck.

About Thor

Thor Industries, Inc., was founded on Aug. 29, 1980, when Wade F. B. Thompson and Peter B. Orthwein acquired Airstream Inc., Jackson Center, Ohio, the most recognized name in the industry. Despite its venerable image, Airstream had not fared well during the economic downturn of the late 1970s. By focusing on improving quality while reducing costs, Airstream had returned to profitability in its very first year under the new Thor management.

By 1982 Thor was strong enough to purchase the Canadian company General Coach, which manufactures travel trailers and fifth-wheels in Hensall, Ontario, and Okanagan, British Columbia. (Thor subsequently sold this company earlier this year.)

In 1984 Thor became a public company and in 1986 was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. That same year, Forbes Magazine ranked Thor No. 6 out of the “200 best small companies in America.”

In 1988, Thor entered the small and mid-size bus industry with the acquisition of ElDorado Bus. In 1991, National Coach was purchased and the two companies operated under the ElDorado National trademark, with plants in California and Kansas.

Also in 1991 Thor acquired Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc., now one of the leading brands of travel trailers and fifth-wheels. Four Winds International Corp., manufacturer of Class A and Class C motorhomes, was acquired in 1992. Komfort Corp., builder of trailers and fifth-wheels, became part of the growing Thor family in 1995. 1996 saw the start-up of Thor California, which became one of the most successful RV start-ups.

In 1998, Thor solidified its leadership in the bus industry with the acquisition of Champion Bus.

When Thor joined forces with Keystone RV in 2001, the company achieved an unprecedented dominance within the RV industry. With the acquisition in 2003 of Damon Corp., manufacturer of Class A motorhomes, and Breckenridge, builder of park trailers, and the addition of Crossroads RV in 2004, this dominance was complete.

Finally, in 2005, Thor acquired Goshen Coach to round out its holdings in the small and mid-sized bus industry.

Over the years Thor has received many honors for its growth and management success. In January 2000, Forbes included Thor in its Platinum 400 list, and in April, 2004, Thor was added to Standard & Poor’s Mid-Cap 400. Also in 2004, Forbes declared Thor to be one of the “Best Managed Companies in America.”

In 2005, Fortune called Thor one of “America’s Most Admired Companies,” and Industry Week ranked Thor as one of the 50 best U. S. manufacturers. Thor has become one of the most admired and respected companies, not only in the RV and bus industries, but in American business as well.

Wade Thompson died in November 2009 after a long battle with cancer. Orthwein was named chairman and CEO.

About Catterton Partners

With more than $2.5 billion under management, Catterton Partners is the leading consumer-focused private equity firm in North America. Since its founding in 1989, Catterton has leveraged its investment capital, strategic and operating skills, and network of industry contacts to establish one of the strongest private equity investment track records in the middle market consumer industry.

Catterton Partners invests in all major consumer segments, including food and beverage, retail and restaurants, consumer products and services, and media and marketing services. Representative investments that Catterton Partners has led include Breyers Yogurt, Cheddar’s Restaurants, O.N.E. (One Natural Experience) beverages, Nature’s Variety Pet Food and Restoration Hardware. Representative realized investments include Baja Fresh Mexican Grill, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Frederic Fekkai, Kettle Foods, Odwalla, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro and Wellness Pet Food.

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Heartland Names Creech to Head Trailer Ops

August 25, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

Mike Creech

Mike Creech

Elkhart, Ind.-based Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC today (Aug. 25) announced the promotion of industry veteran Mike Creech to director of travel trailer sales.

Creech, 39, has logged 12 years in the industry, the past four with Heartland as brand manager for the company’s North Trail, Edge, Focus and MPG lightweight travel trailer lines. Prior to joining Heartland, he served as national sales manager for Monaco Coach Corp.’s McKenzie travel trailer division.

“Heartland is a very fast growing, aggressive company,” said Creech. “My goal is to continue moving forward and pushing our market share higher in this highly competitive sector of the marketplace.”

Creech noted that Heartland entered the travel trailer market around three years ago and currently builds eight separate brands. “We cover the gamut, from stick-and-tin to lightweight laminated units along with extended stay/park model trailers,” he said.

Creech, a native of Osceola, Ind., earned his bachelor’s degree from Indiana University and a master’s from the University of Texas in sociology/criminal justice.

Heartland currently markets more than 15 brands of fifth-wheels and travel trailers and has captured the No. 3 market share in the fifth-wheel category. Heartland’s towable RVs are sold through an independent network of dealers throughout the United States and Canada. The company has more than 1,100 employees.

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Heartland RV to Review Growth at Conference

June 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC will be one of the presenting companies at Imperial Capital LLC’s  second annual Consumer Summit on June 10 at The SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Over 30 leading private and public branded consumer companies will discuss their growth strategies, consumer trends and brand positioning in the current market environment.

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Heartland Names Katzenberger Manager

May 7, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Kary Katzenberger

Kary Katzenberger

Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC has announced the promotion of Kary Katzenberger to brand manager for the company’s Bighorn and Landmark luxury fifth-wheel lines, effective May 10.

Katzenberger, 41, joined Heartland in August of 2007, serving as regional sales manager for the builder’s Greystone and Sundance fifth-wheel brands in the East Coast territory. Previously, the Elkhart native managed a Honda retail outlet in Illinois after logging several years in the wholesale conversion van sector.

“During his time at Heartland, Kary has been a top producer,” said Coley Brady, Heartland director of fifth-wheel sales. “His dedication, commitment to hard work and travel, and his ability to sell have earned him the respect of his co-workers and our dealers and, as a result, this promotion.”

The Landmark and Bighorn represent Heartland’s first two entries into the high-end fifth-wheel sector after the company launched production in early 2004. Both lines have consistently gained market share since introduction and currently rank among the industry’s best-selling fifth-wheel brands.

“My main responsibility will be to continue to grow brand recognition and capture market share for Heartland’s flagship division,” Katzenberger said, noting that the Bighorn line earned the No. 3 ranking among all fifth-wheel lines in February, according to Statistical Surveys Inc. “I am working with a dedicated, experienced team, and our shared goal is to increase sales for both brands. I also look forward to working with our strong network of dealers.”

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Jeff Kime Named Heartland’s 1st President

May 3, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Heartland RV logoHeartland Recreational Vehicles today (May 3) announced that it has expanded its management team with the appointment of 25-year industry veteran Jeffery Kime to the newly created position of president, effective May 10.

In this capacity  Kime will help oversee Heartland’s operational, sales and marketing activities, reporting to Heartland CEO Brian Brady.

“As Heartland’s founders and senior management team, Tim Hoffman, John Rhymer, Jack Culbertson and I are extremely proud of the exceptional growth Heartland has achieved,” Brady said in a news release.  “The expansion of our management team reflects this growth as well as the significant upside opportunities that remain ahead.

“Heartland has established itself as the fastest-growing company in our industry, counter to the trends that many of our peers have faced. We are differentiated by our innovation, solid dealer relationships and strong market position. We believe Jeff’s industry experience and record of execution will help us capitalize on our strengths to further extend Heartland’s leadership. Heartland’s management style has always been collaborative and collegial. Jeff will be part of this collaborative effort and will work closely with the founding partners to achieve long-term sustainable growth.”

“I am pleased to join the Heartland team at such an exciting time of growth and opportunity for the company,” said Kime. “I look forward to partnering with Tim, John, Jack and Brian as well as the entire management team as we work to drive the company’s continued success.”

Prior to joining Elkhart, Ind.-based Heartland. Kime worked for 19 years at Four Winds International Corp., a subsidiary of Thor Industries Inc., including serving most recently as Four Winds’ president for almost 15 years. Over this period, Kime helped position Four Winds’ Hurricane brand as the market leader in Class A motorhomes and helped establish the company as the No. 2 market share leader in Class C motorhomes.

Heartland markets over 15 brands of fifth-wheel and travel trailer RVs and has captured the No. 3 market share in the fifth-wheel category. Heartland’s towable RVs are sold through an independent network of dealers throughout the United States and Canada. The company has over 1,000 employees.

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Expanding Heartland Has ‘Weathered the Storm’

April 1, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Battered by the recession, there’s more news that Elkhart, Ind., is on the mend, according to the South Bend Tribune.

Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC, a manufacturer of RVs and travel trailers, said late Monday (March 28) it will expand its operations in Elkhart, creating up to 265 new jobs by 2013.

The announcement came in a press release from the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

Heartland Recreational Vehicles, which manufactures fifth-wheel, lightweight and extended-stay RVs, will invest more than $2.6 million to purchase and equip a 125,000-square-foot manufacturing plant, according to the release.

Heartland announced in February that it purchased the remaining trademarks of the towable brands of Fleetwood Enterprises, which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009.

Heartland Recreational Vehicles, which employs 1,050 people in Elkhart County, plans to begin hiring additional manufacturing and supervisory personnel immediately as the new product lines are phased in.

The acquisition of the former Fleetwood brands will allow Heartland to expand into markets in the western United States.

“Our ability to gain ground in a down market has clearly positioned Heartland to make tremendous market share gains and further grow our dealer body in 2010,” Brian Brady, president and CEO of Heartland Recreational Vehicles, said in the release. “This is shaping up to be the best year in our history.”

Founded in 2003 as a manufacturer of high-end fifth wheel recreational vehicles, Heartland RV has expanded into the mid-profile, lightweight and travel trailer markets. In 2006, the company broke ground on its current 110,000 square-foot Elkhart headquarters.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Heartland RV up to $885,000 in performance-based tax credits based on the company’s job creation plans.

The city of Elkhart will provide additional property tax abatement at the request of the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County.

The abatement amounts to a five-year property tax phase-in, for real and personal property, said Barkley Garrett, economic development manager for the city of Elkhart.

With the phase-in, they will not pay 100% taxes on real and personal property until year six, Garrett said.

The company has committed the 265 additional jobs by mid-2013.

It is not known if those are part of the 400 additional jobs announced in November. Company officials did not return calls to the Tribune.

“It’s a company that has weathered the storm very well,” said Garrett. “They have not been around very long but considering how long they have been around, they are a significant employer.

“They have 1,050 jobs here in Elkhart County, so they are a major player in the city and Elkhart County and also in the RV industry.

“They are a company we certainly want to see stay here and grow here.”

The tax phase-in is expected to get final formal approval at the April 19 city council meeting, Garrett said.

“It’s a good step for Elkhart and Elkhart County,” Garrett added. “We need to take care of our existing companies.”

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Heartland Adding Facilities and Jobs in Elkhart

March 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Heartland logoHeartland Recreational Vehicles LLC announced Monday I(March 29)  that it will expand its operations in Elkhart, Ind., creating up to 265 new jobs by 2013, according to a state government news release.

The company, which manufactures fifth-wheel, lightweight and extended stay RVs, will invest more than $2.6 million to purchase and equip a 125,000-square-foot manufacturing facility formerly used by Damon Corp. Heartland announced in February that it has purchased the remaining trademarks of the towable brands of Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009.

“Elkhart’s recreational vehicle industry continues to show resilience in the face of a tough national economy,” said Mitch Roob, Indiana’s secretary of commerce and CEO of the Indiana Economic Development Corp. “Heartland’s investment further proves that Elkhart’s traditional industries will play an equal part with emerging sectors in bringing new opportunities to this region.”

Heartland Recreational Vehicles, which employs more than 900 workers, plans to begin hiring additional manufacturing and supervisory associates immediately as the new product lines are phased in. The acquisition of the former Fleetwood brands will allow Heartland to expand into markets in the Western United States.

“Our ability to gain ground in a down market has clearly positioned Heartland to make tremendous market share gains and further grow our dealer body in 2010,” said Brian Brady, Heartland president and CEO. “Accordingly, we have been proactive to make sure that we are in step with demand, growing our workforce, expanding our Elkhart complex and making sure we continue delivering product at industry-best standards. This is shaping up to be the best year in our history.”

Founded in 2003 as a manufacturer of high-end fifth-wheels, Heartland RV has expanded into the mid-profile, lightweight and travel trailer markets. In 2006, the company broke ground on its current 110,000 square-foot Elkhart headquarters.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Heartland RV up to $885,000 in performance-based tax credits based on the company’s job creation plans. The city of Elkhart will provide additional property tax abatement at the request of the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County.

“We’re excited about Heartland RV’s announcement to expand their operations in Elkhart,” said Mayor Dick Moore. “This shows the resiliency of the RV industry. Elkhart has been and will continue to be the RV Capital of the World.”

Heartland is a leading manufacturer of towable recreational vehicles in the U.S. The company markets over 15 brands of superior fifth-wheel and travel trailer RVs and has captured the No. 3 market share in the fifth-wheel category. Heartland’s towable RVs are sold through an independent network of dealers throughout the United States and Canada. The company has over 900 employees. For more information about Heartland, visit www.heartlandrvs.com.

Created by Gov. Mitch Daniels in 2005 to replace the former Department of Commerce, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. is governed by a 12-member board chaired by  Daniels. Mitch Roob serves as the chief executive officer of the IEDC. For more information about IEDC, visit www.iedc.in.gov.

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Heartland Hits 2010 Running, January Sales Soar

March 23, 2010 by · 12 Comments 

Heartland RV logoBuilding on last year’s momentum, Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC turned strong sales numbers in January with a 45% year-over-year gain in market share spurred by a 29.8% increase in unit sales, according to a news release.

According to Statistical Surveys Inc. (SSI), the Elkhart, Ind.-based builder notched pronounced growth in both travel trailer and fifth-wheel sales vs. a 10.6% decline in towable registrations industrywide. Highlighting the January report, three Heartland fifth-wheel brands were ranked in the top 10 in terms of overall market share.

Bryan Brady

Bryan Brady

“January’s sales performance was confirmation that Heartland is primed to make some very significant advances in market penetration this year,” said Brian Brady, president and CEO of privately held Heartland, which launched production in 2004. “Our showing in the fifth-wheel market was exceptional, and we are starting to see the seeds for the same type of growth on the travel trailer side. We view January as a springboard for growth throughout the year.”

A sector breakdown from the Statistical Surveys report showed:

  • Among all towable builders, Heartland held a solid No. 4 ranking for January. For the month, overall market share increased from 4.7% in 2009 to 6.8% while unit sales rose nearly 30% from 265 to 344.
  • Heartland ranked as the No. 3 fifth-wheel builder for January based on 42.4% growth in market share and a 26.4% jump in unit sales. The company’s Bighorn luxury fifth-wheel was the second best-selling brand with a 6.6% market share – up 19.2% from 2009 – and ended the month 76 units shy of the industry’s sales leader. The lightweight Sundance line earned a No. 4 ranking, boasting a 73.7% improvement in market share and 54.2% gain in unit sales. Heartland’s Cyclone series was the industry’s top-selling toy hauler brand in January, positioned in the No. 6 spot with an 89% jump in market share and 67.6% rise in the number of units sold.
  • After entering the travel trailer market in May 2008 with its North Trail brand, Heartland moved to the No. 7 spot in January among all builders. Market share increased from 2.1% to 3.2%, representing a 51.3% gain from 2009. Unit sales for the month were up 38.9%, led by the North Trail line which grew market share 55.3% from the previous year.
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Heartland Marks Production of 12,000th Bighorn

March 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Shown in the photo are: (L-R) Coley Brady, director of fifth-wheel sales; Dave Jones, director of manufacturing; Scott Tusing, plant manager; and Scott Lytle, director of engineering.

Shown in the photo of the 12,000th Bighorn fifth-wheel built by Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC are: (from left) Coley Brady, director of fifth-wheel sales; Dave Jones, director of manufacturing; Scott Tusing, plant manager; and Scott Lytle, director of engineering.

Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC recently marked a milestone for its luxury line of Bighorn fifth-wheel travel trailers, rolling the 12,000th unit off the assembly line at its production facility in Elkhart, Ind.

The towable builder recognized the event with a brief ceremony attended by management and 147 production workers – many having worked at the Bighorn plant since the brand’s introduction in December of 2004 at the Louisville Show.

The Bighorn line has grown to be one of the industry’s top-selling fifth-wheels, according to the latest data from Statistical Surveys Inc. The brand finished 2009 as the industry’s No. 3 best-selling fifth-wheel, boasting a 9.8% market share gain in a contracting market.

“Since its launch, the Bighorn has consistently grown both sales and market share,” said Coley Brady, director of fifth-wheel sales. “The reason behind its success is twofold – pricing that offers more for less compared to the competition and Heartland’s ongoing research and development that brings innovative, salable features to market. Our dealer body recognizes the Bighorn’s value, and has done a great job of conveying that message to consumers.”

In response to demand for the Bighorn, Heartland announced last December a ramp-up in production along with several new features designed to stay in step with the marketplace. Upgrades and enhancements include:

  • Standard hydraulic front landing gear, operating 15% faster than typical electric systems.
  • New exterior graphics; a “welcome back” light that activates when the entry door is opened; and a keyless entry system featuring an illuminated keyboard for nighttime access.
  • Spring-loaded, hidden hinges are used throughout the interior while the kitchen is outfitted with 4-inch recessed halogen ceiling lights and a “boutique” pull-out kitchen faucet.
  • The bedroom area offers a standard, proprietary king-sized memory foam pillow-top mattress and pull-out storage drawers that are built into the entry steps. Hand-rubbed, antique-glazed cherry hardwood cabinet doors are optional.

The Bighorn line is offered in 12 floorplans, available with two to five slideouts, and MSRPs starting at $49,900.

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