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Industry Upturn Evident at National RV Trade Show

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Tiffin's Allegro Breeze

Tiffin's Allegro Breeze

Recreational Vehicle manufacturers generally reported good sales, encouraging new dealer signups and overall optimism with regard to the market outlook for 2010, based on their experiences at RVIA’s 47th Annual National RV Trade Show, Dec. 1-3 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky. And that’s a pretty big switch from the outlook with which many of them returned from the 2008 Louisville Show.

Having said that, there still seems to be an element of restraint within the industry due to continued soft spots in the U.S. economy. And there’s still a sense among many who attended the most recent Louisville show that the motorized segment will require extra time to recover.

“We thought the show was very positive, much better than last year,” reported Richard Coon, president of the sponsoring Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), a manufacturer-dominated trade association. “Most manufacturers have felt the increase in business since the first part of the summer, and business has continued to move upward.”

“The wholesale side started selling more in September than last year,” he added. “That continued into October and November. So people came to the show thinking and hoping for a better year, and continued on with a lot of buying.”

Final 2009 show attendance numbers of 8,323 were nearly the same as last year’s 8,427), which was “very good, considering how many dealers have gone out of business since last year,” said Coon. When all was said and done, there were 72 manufacturers and 210 supplier exhibitors at the show occupying 604,247 square feet of exhibit space, according to Mary “Mike” Hutya, vice president of meetings and shows for RVIA.

That compares to just over 800,000 square feet of space in 2008 and RVIA’s decision this year to cut back the show’s square footage at the Kentucky Exposition Center due to industry cutbacks amid the recent recessionary downturn.

RVIA’s updated forecast from Richard Curtin of the University of Michigan calls for 203,500 unit shipments in 2010, up 27% from 2009. That’s a step up from Curtin’s previous 2010 prognostication of 185,800 units and, before that, 169,500 units – the last of which was issued back at RVIA Committee Week in June.

“Dr. Curtin’s last three forecasts were way conservative – much lower than what actually turned out, and that could turn out to be the case again,” said Coon. “A lot depends on the jobs situation. That’s what it takes to get the bankers cranking. We need people to get back to work, stop defaulting on loans. And, if job losses continue to lessen, hopefully it will turn positive shortly, and Dr. Curtin may be too low on his forecasts again.”

Elkhart, Ind.-based Forest River Inc. had a record turn-out on all three nights it hosted dealers and others at its hospitality suite, including more than 1,300 people on Monday evening alone. “For the show being half the size of years past, the traffic on the showroom floor was also very good,” said Jeff Babcock, head of sales and marketing.

With dealers low on inventory, said Babcock, “the appetite for product was strong.” And so were new-dealer applications. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we had 100-150 (dealer) applications” from the show, Babcock noted, adding that “the first sales in January and February will probably dictate how the rest of 2010 goes.”

“It was a great show,” reported Keystone RV Co. Executive Vice President Bob Martin. “The dealers seemed very happy and have a very positive outlook.”

Keystone also signed new dealers for its all-new, higher end product lines, the Alpine and Avalanche, which, along with a new lightweight Premier by Bullet line, were “unbelievably well received.”

“We’re glad the dealers are still excited about the innovation and new products at Keystone,” said Martin, who said Keystone has been optimistic about the market’s upturn since late last spring when it first began bumping up production, resulting in the start-up of four additional production lines. “We had a very good summer season and look for 2010 to be definitely potentially stronger,” said Martin, anticipating further production increases.

“Dealers this year seem to have their floorplanning in line,” he added. “The major lending institutions show no signs of pulling in, as long as dealers are operating within the new parameters. It helps the business overall.”

Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC, Elkhart, also regarded this year’s Louisville event as “an exceptionally good show,” according to President Brian Brady. “The response to all our products displayed was just terrific,” he said. “We wrote three times as many orders this year as last, and last year was a surprisingly good show for Heartland. But the opportunity to spend quality time with our customers at this show was equally important.

“By any objective measure, the climate has improved,” he added. “On the other hand, we were very explicit with our dealers, encouraging them to remain disciplined in the sense of responsible increases in their inventory levels. We want to see them continue to run a disciplined operation and focus on primary product points. In our view, 2010 is not the time for dealers to be looking at niche-type products” or getting into new areas of the market, Brady added.

Heartland has steadily increased production at all its plants in the second half of 2009, and had further hikes slated throughout January and February. He said Heartland only builds sold orders and that the towable-only firm has “the orders to support the production increases.” By the same token, he noted, Heartland will stay focused on the travel trailer segment, having rolled out a number of new travel trailers at Louisville. “Our travel trailer lineup is very robust, and we’re going to be relentless in growing that segment of the business,” Brady concluded.

In much the same vein, Jayco Inc., Middlebury, Ind., thinks the industry is on its way back, but that the recovery will be slower than it was in previous downturns, said President Derald Bontrager. “We had great (dealer) attendance” at the Louisville show, he said, “and dealer attitudes were very positive. They’re very optimistic about the future and placing orders.”

Jayco was not looking to add a lot of dealers for its Jayco brand, but signed a number of new dealers for its Starcraft and Integra Coach (Class A diesel) divisions. “We set targets for both brands and exceeded our targets,” said Bontrager.

Like others, Jayco has been gradually ramping up its production since summer and, “based on the show, it appears we’ll continue to increase output as we move toward spring.”

Roger Martin, vice president of sales and marketing for Winnebago Industries Inc., noted that, from a “dealer mood, interest and ordering standpoint,” this year’s show was “better than last year’s.” But considering how bad the 2008 show was for motorized manufacturers, he thinks it may be several years before that segment gets back to previous levels.

“Things are moving up,” said Martin, noting that dealer orders for his company’s products at Louisville increased 150% over a year ago. “But we’re (motorized segment) not anywhere near what we used to be. There’s still a lot of room before the (motorized) market gets back.” Meanwhile, he expected growth to be “slow and steady.”

For Monaco RV LLC, the successor to Monaco Coach Corp., Coburg, Ore., the 2009 show was “Our first chance to show off our new (Navistar) owners,” reported Mike Snell, vice president of sales and marketing. But even though Monaco displayed some Navistar commercial products and debuted its new Holiday Rambler Neptune and Monaco Cayman coaches, part of its central focus to a great extent right now is on growing its towable business.

“As everyone has been saying for the last several months, it’s a towable-dominated market,” said Snell. “Class A’s are not as strong. And it’s not to our advantage to put the majority of company resources behind them. We did sign some motorized dealers, but the majority of those we added were in towables. We’re now doing better in towables and growing towables and putting more resources behind them.”

By the same token, motorized RV builder Four Winds International, a Thor division in Elkhart, is still “optimistic” about the outlook for 2010. “We had a good show and good interest across the board on gas and diesel,” said Dana Simon, vice president of sales and marketing. “It wasn’t just specific brands or price points. We had good dealer reception, and fresh, new product out there. A benefit of being a division of Thor is that even these times it can still be aggressive putting a lot of R&D and design effort into new product lines.”

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Heartland RV Tops 2008 Louisville Sales by 300%

December 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Heartland RV logoTowable builder Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC reported “exceptionally strong” sales during the recently completed 47th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., eclipsing last year’s totals during the first three hours of the event, according to a news release.

“We were covered up when the show opened at 9 a.m. Tuesday and by noon we had written more orders than we did at the entire show last year which, quite frankly, was a very good show for Heartland,” said Tim Hoffman, co-owner and vice president of sales for the Elkhart, Ind.-based manufacturer. “We were still writing orders until almost 7 p.m., a half-hour after the doors closed.”

Hoffman attributed dealer interest to Heartland’s debut of five all-new brands at the Dec. 1-3 Louisville Show, as well as Heartland’s disciplined, yet pronounced growth that has “earned the confidence of our dealers.”

“Our five new brands all received high marks from dealers, and they were also excited about the changes we made to the current brands,” said Hoffman, noting that Heartland posted a 300% increase in sales compared to the ’08 Louisville Show. “We found that many dealers came to Heartland looking for a change from their current manufacturer. They kept telling us that the other companies ‘just don’t get it’ like Heartland.”
New product additions to the Heartland lineup – four boasting the company’s new high-gloss, platinum fiberglass exterior – include:

  • MPG teardrop travel trailer: The MPG represents Heartland’s first entry in the popular lightweight, teardrop market.
  • Cyclone HD: The fifth-wheel is the latest addition to Heartland’s strong-selling line of Cyclone toy haulers.
  • Caliber: The brand offers a full-featured travel trailer in the growing ultra-lightweight fiberglass travel trailer sector.
  • Greystone: The Greystone lineup hits a new price point for Heartland in the popular mid-profile fifth-wheel market.
  • Focus: An entry-level, lightweight laminated travel trailer line with five 7 1/2-foot-wide floorplans and three hybrid tent-end models.

During the show, Heartland Finance also rolled out a comprehensive 90-day, interest-free reimbursement program for its dealer base. Hoffman reported that the initiative, in conjunction with GE Capital Commercial Distribution, was well received by retailers.

“We continue to look for ways to help our dealers increase sales and improve profit margins,” Hoffman said.  “The new finance plan provides a much-needed boost for dealers, considering the current credit environment.”

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Heartland Holds Job Fair to Fill 200 Positions

December 7, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

On Saturday (Dec. 5), Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC in Elkhart, Ind., held a job fair to fill 200 positions that are opening up at the beginning of 2010.

This is just the beginning of the hirings: 200 more jobs will be filled in March.

The company announced last month that sales were up.

After a rough year for Heartland, with falling sales and a lawsuit settled out of court with Jayco, Heartland says these new hirings will bring the company’s work force total to 1,200 employees.

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Indiana RV Companies Reflect Industry Upturn

December 7, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Analysts are projecting a 25-30% increase in recreational vehicle sales in 2010, and that is starting to translate into more jobs for Indiana, including Elkhart County, where an estimated two-thirds of the nation’s RVs are produced.

Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC, Jayco Inc. and Thor Industries Inc. are among companies planning to expand. That’s a lift to a still down-in-the-dumps industry that is recovering as credit loosens a bit and showroom dealers reorder to meet demand, according to the Indianapolis Star.

“We’re not seeing this as an indication of greener pastures, but demand will come up higher in the next year,” said David Hefty, CEO and founder of Cornerstone Wealth Management in Auburn, Ind., who tracks the industry.

Making motorhomes, travel trailers and towable RVs has been big business in northern Indiana for years, peaking at 390,500 RV units shipped in 2006. As the recession began, total shipments fell to 353,500 in 2007 and to 237,000 last year, with just 150,000 units produced this year — and unemployment swelled as factories of RV titans closed or halted production.

Shipments should rise to 190,000 by 2010, said Kevin Broom, spokesman for the Reston, Va.-based Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), as several companies take advantage of the bankruptcies of larger rivals like Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. and Monaco Coach Inc. In Indiana, that means:

  • Middlebury-based Jayco is increasing production rates as a result of more RV orders than expected. It said its order backlog is the largest in more than two years and that it has recalled or hired more than 200 production workers.
  • The Goshen area expects to add two factories before year’s end for Ohio-based Thor Industries. It owns Airstream Inc., Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc., Four Winds International and seven other units that sell nearly 50 brands. Its officials didn’t return calls, but Chief Operating Officer Richard Riegel told The Wall Street Journal: “The nadir in this industry is definitely behind us.”
  • Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC of Elkhart, which makes towable RVs, is hiring about 200 production workers, with 200 more by March. Heartland says orders have increased since Oct. 1 and that it revamped its whole line to help improve market share. “(Ongoing research and development is) why we have been able to grow so quickly in just 51/2 years,” said Coley Brady, director of fifth-wheel sales.

Gains like this helped lower Elkhart County’s unemployment rate to 14.9% in October from 18.8% in March. Kyle Hannon, vice president of public policy for the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce, said Elkhart is trying to become more diverse, but the RV is still king.

“As the RV companies turn around and start hiring — and because they hire in large numbers — that will be where the turnaround comes from.”

What’s also good is that other parts of the state are seeing some sparks of interest in RV products. About 75 miles south of Elkhart, in Miami County, a startup towable RV maker plans to add 100 jobs by 2011.

Riverside Travel Trailer Inc., a company formed in Peru in June inside the former home of RV maker Adventure Manufacturing, will invest more than $1.1 million to purchase new equipment and make upgrades to the 130,000-square-foot building, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. said in a news release. Riverside employs more than 30 former Adventure workers. It will double staff by the second quarter of 2010 and keep hiring manufacturing and assembly workers as market conditions allow.

“The RV business is entering into a recovery phase, and it is here to stay. Indiana is the heart of the RV industry, and as such, it is the place to be,” said Mark Gerber, vice president of sales and finance at Riverside Travel Trailer

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Baird: Curtin 2010 Forecast Too Conservative

December 4, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

baird_new_logoEditor’s Note: The investment firm Robert W. Baird & Co. hosted an investor field trip to the National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.,  this week. Here are excerpts from the company’s report contained in a current client newsletter:

Action

Low dealer inventory and strong OEM backlogs have insiders optimistic, supporting our robust (wholesale) recovery scenario. We remain bullish on wholesale fundamentals, but prefer a margin of safety until the magnitude of the retail recovery becomes clearer.

Summary

Light attendance. Attendance was light, by our estimation. Our sources indicate attendance was flat after falling 40% in 2008 as dealers conserve resources. Investor interest was up.

Don’t worry. Be happy. We sensed relief and contrived optimism at the show. The “bottom” we and others identified earlier this year – which is evident in low dealer inventories and robust OEM backlogs – has nearly everyone focused on a better 2010. We continue to believe the return to a “normal” inventory replenishment rate will drive a robust recovery in 2010 – but retail demand must recover if the recovery is to be sustainable.

The bank is boss. More than ever, bank decisions about consumer credit and wholesale lending control the fate of the RV industry. By enforcing more disciplined inventory management and demanding that consumers/dealers have more “skin in the game,” banks will influence industry growth and determine the winners and losers. Having been caught holding distressed collateral from weaker OEMs, banks want better partners. In an industry with few barriers to entry – access to capital provides an opportunity for well-managed businesses. Among the winners, one banker listed Thor Industries Inc., Forest River Inc., Tiffin Motor Homes Inc., Jayco Inc., Winnebago Industries Inc. and Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC.

Conservative RVIA forecast.  Richard Curtin revised his 2010 shipment forecast – but remains overly conservative in our view, especially in motorhomes. He sees 2010 towable shipments up 30% (up from 29%) and motorhome shipments up 25% (down from 27%). For perspective, we expect motorhome shipments to be up 108% at Winnebago.

Outlook. We remain bullish on fundamentals as a robust wholesale recovery unfolds, but prefer a better margin of safety.

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Heartland RV’s Job Fair Aims to Fill 200 Jobs

November 30, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Heartland logoOne of the more recent recreational vehicle companies outlining expansion and hiring plans, Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC in Elkhart, Ind., is planning a Dec. 5 job fair to fill 200 jobs with experienced workers during the first three months of 2010.

In mid-November, Heartland announced sales are up and workers are needed to build RVs. The company needs workers experienced in towable RV production, according to the South Bend Tribune.

The job fair will be from 8 a.m. to noon at 1140 All Pro Drive in Elkhart.

Before the job fair, applicants can apply online at www.heartlandrvs.com under the “Company” tab.

Heartland’s ads say supervisors will screen applicants at the job fair. One-on-one interviews for qualified applicants will be available with production managers, human resources staff and customer service managers.

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Heartland RV’s Focus Eyes Hybrid TT Market

November 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Heartland FocusOffering a mix of 7 ½-foot wide and hybrid tent-end models, Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC targets the entry-level segment of the lightweight laminated travel trailer market with its all-new Focus line. “The Focus addresses a new product sector for Heartland, adding another piece to becoming a full-line towable manufacturer,” said Brad Whitehead, national director of travel trailer sales for the Elkhart, Ind.-based builder. “With the Focus, we’re catering to smaller families or couples looking for a trailer that is lightweight and cost-conscious, that still gives them the strength and finish of laminated fiberglass construction.” Initially, the Focus lineup will offer five 7 ½-foot wide floorplans and three units with tented ends, ranging in lengths from 13 to 22 feet. Several units will be equipped with single slideouts and most can be towed by crossovers and smaller SUVs. MSRP’s start at $13,000 for the 7 ½-wide line and $22,000 for the hybrids. All models in the Focus series are constructed with six-sided aluminum framing, 2-inch-thick fiberglass walls and a laminated crowned roof. Other features include electric-powered awnings, dual-ducted A/C along with heated and enclosed underbelly and gate valves. Standard appointments include hand-rubbed, antique-glazed maple cabinets throughout the interior, night shades, porcelain toilets and fully extendable drawers with ball-bearing guides.

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Heartland’s MPG Line Enters Teardrop Market

November 27, 2009 by · 8 Comments 

2011_MPG_Ext03Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC enters the lightweight teardrop travel trailer market with the retro-styled MPG line set to debut at the 47th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky. The MPG will initially include four floorplans, available in 18- and 20-foot lengths, featuring two tent-end models and two units equipped with single slideouts, according to a news release. The teardrop line is one of four brands to be introduced in Louisville that will showcase Heartland’s all-new high-gloss platinum fiberglass exterior. “The MPG blends a very contemporary look, created by the platinum exterior, with a distinctly retro design that is one of the draws for teardrop trailers with consumers,” said Brad Whitehead, national director of travel trailer sales for the Elkhart, Ind.-based manufacturer. The eco-friendly MPG is available in four colorful exterior graphics packages, each sporting individual icons depicting the active lifestyle of the youthful target demographic. MSRP’s start at around $14,000. Typical of teardrop trailers, all MPG models have a dry weight of less than 2,700 pounds, allowing the units to be towed by most crossover vehicles and smaller SUV’s. Heartland achieves the lightweight status without sacrificing structural integrity, employing aluminum-cage-construction and fully laminated sidewalls and floor. Key features for the MPG include a two-tone interior, chestnut maple kitchen cabinetry with a mocha maple accent, along with an AM/FM radio with CD and DVD players. 

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Heartland RV to Roll Out 90-Day Finance Plan

November 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Heartland Finance, a division of Elkhart, Ind.-based towable builder Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC, will be rolling out a comprehensive 90-day interest-free wholesale reimbursement program for its dealer base during the upcoming 47th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.

The ongoing initiative, in conjunction with GE Capital Commercial Distribution, will “help lower dealer operation costs while virtually eliminating interest charges,” according to Heartland. Under terms of the program, dealers will still pay interest to the bank, but will be reimbursed by Heartland if product is moved in 90 days or less.

“In the current lending environment, this is a real shot in the arm for our dealers as the 90-day program will allow them to stock more inventory, make more sales and increase profits,” said Tim Hoffman, vice president of sales for Heartland.

In addition to the 90-day finance program, Heartland will be debuting five all-new brands at the Louisville Show.

“We are looking for a big year in 2010,” Hoffman noted. “By providing new, innovative product, and now a well-timed credit program, we feel our dealers will have a huge advantage over the competition.”

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Heartland RV Considering Expansion to West Coast

November 24, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Heartland RV logoElkhart, Ind.-based Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC is considering its options to expand manufacturing operations to the West Coast.

According to the fifth-wheel and travel trailer builder, the potential move comes in response to growing market share for Heartland in the competitive West Coast market, according to a news release.

“Heartland has elected to move up the timetable on a planned West Coast expansion due to increased market share, particularly in the Western region, and the continued support from our Canadian and U.S. dealers in that area,” said Tim Hoffman, vice president of sales.

Hoffman noted that the benefits from the move would be two-fold for its dealer body: lower shipping costs and improved delivery time.

“Such an expansion, should it occur, would enable Heartland to better service our dealers in terms of on-time delivery,” Hoffman said. “Heartland has always maintained a four- to six-week delivery time, which is one of the best in the industry, but being in closer proximity to our dealers will give them even quicker response.”

Hoffman said that Idaho, Oregon and Washington would be “the areas of focus” in beginning the process of expanding into the West Coast market by the middle of next year.

The news comes on the heels of last week’s announcement that Heartland would be adding 400 production workers to its Elkhart operations by the end of the first quarter in 2010, raising its total to 1,200 employees.

“With the market coming back, and Heartland well-positioned to continue to gain market share, we are taking the appropriate steps to make sure our dealers are taken care of,” Hoffman said.

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Heartland Unveils Greystone Mid-Pro Fiver Line

November 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

GreystoneBolstering its presence in the growing mid-profile fifth-wheel market, Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC has introduced the Greystone series. The Greystone line, available in seven floorplans with triple- or quad-slideouts, is one of four Heartland brands set to debut at the 47th Annual National RV Trade Show Dec. 1-3 in Louisville, Ky., that feature the company’s new high-gloss, platinum fiberglass exterior, according to a news release. The distinct finish creates a full-body paint appearance near the cost of conventional white fiberglass with MSRP’s starting at $34,999. Built on an all-aluminum cage and supported by 6,000-pound capacity axles, the Greystone is equipped with an ABS platinum hitch-cover, LED marker lights, standard electric awning and bus-style, slam-baggage storage doors. Heartland’s proprietary aerodynamic front cap design allows for a turning radius of 88 degrees, a feature that distinguished Heartland in the fifth-wheel market when it began production in 2004. Other exterior standards in the Greystone lineup include a universal docking center along with a heated and enclosed underbelly. Greystone’s interior includes a three-tone hide-a-bed sofa with optional memory foam mattress, two leather Euro chairs and the new Beauflor simulated hardwood floor. The kitchen features hand-rubbed, antique-glazed cherry cabinetry with a mocha accent, and solid-surface countertops set off by a bull-nose edge and cream-colored accent stripe. Spring-loaded hidden hinges are used throughout the interior cabinetry for an upscale, residential look while the living area offers a 32-inch Sharp Aquos HD TV with external speaker package and DVD player.

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Heartland Adds Cyclone HD to Toy Hauler Line

November 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Heartland HD CycloneHeartland Recreational Vehicles LLC has expanded its Cyclone fifth-wheel toy hauler line with the Cyclone HD (Heartland Design) Edition, outfitted with several innovative upgrades and set off by the builder’s all-new high-gloss platinum fiberglass exterior, according to a news release. “Our Cyclone line, which was introduced four years ago, was ranked as the No. 12 selling fifth-wheel nationally in the latest Statistical Surveys report,” said Coley Brady, director of fifth-wheel sales for the Elkhart, Ind.-based manufacturer. “The new HD lineup continues to offer the same values and versatility that Heartland built into the Cyclone, but with some added pop, starting with the eye-catching platinum exterior.” The distinctive look, lending the Cyclone HD a full-body paint appearance without the cost, offers ease of maintenance and is complemented by a high-end graphics package. The fiberglass-and-aluminum toy hauler is offered in four floorplans ranging from 33 to 40 feet and available with double- or triple-slideouts. A key upgrade in the Cyclone HD is a residential-style garage equipped with a heat duct for extended season operation. The on-board garage, in lengths of 10 to 14 feet, also features a flush-mount sub-floor storage area, electric-powered beds that convert to seating and a removable table. For maximum exterior storage, Heartland introduces a 1-inch-thick, bus-style, slam-baggage door on the Cyclone HD. Other features include Dexter Axle’s EZ-Flex rubberized suspension system for an improved ride, along with optional hydraulic front landing gear that operates up to 14 times faster than electric and allows for a higher payload. On the interior, the kitchen is furnished with hand-rubbed, antique-glazed cherry kitchen cabinetry that features a mocha maple accent, while new spring-loaded, hidden hinges are used throughout the interior. The bathroom is outfitted with a vessel bowl sink and a high-rise, oil-rubbed, bronze residential custom faucet. Other appointments include a 32-inch Sharp Aquos HD TV in the living area, four-zone switchable interior speakers with two external speakers and a proprietary Country Rest memory foam, pillow top mattress. MSRP’s start at $61,999.

 

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Heartland RV to Debut Caliber Towables in Louisville

November 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Heartland-Caliber

The Caliber, a new line of ultra-lightweight, laminated travel trailers, will be one of five new brands from Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC that will be unveiled by the Elkhart, Ind., manufacturer during the 47th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky. — four of which will feature Heartland’s distinctive two-tone platinum exterior. “The Caliber carves out its own unique place in the product segment,” said Brad Whitehead, Heartland’s national director of travel trailer sales. “It is a full-featured trailer, offering a host of upscale amenities, and still priced near the cost of conventional white fiberglass products.” In addition to its high-gloss platinum fiberglass exterior — which, Whitehead noted, “creates a full-body paint look without the up-charge” — the aluminum-cage-constructed Caliber is designed with fully laminated roof, floor and sidewalls for strength and durability. A high-end graphics package and a Euro-sculpted, aerodynamic fiberglass front cap accentuate the design. Interior accouterments include solid-surface countertops, hand-rubbed, antique-glazed cherry cabinetry, LCD HD TV with DVD player and a hide-a-bed air mattress sofa. A pull-out bike rack/bumper extension, electric awning and Wide-Trax suspension also are standard. The Caliber will be offered in lengths from 22 to 32 feet, with MSRPs starting at $23,900.

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Elkhart’s Idled Workforce Drawn to Heartland RV

November 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

With the announcement of 400 more jobs coming to Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC, it didn’t take long for people to head out to apply at the Elkhart, Ind., RV maker.

Many say every time they hear a job opportunity, they jump at the chance to apply, according to Fox 28 TV, South Bend/Elkhart.

Todd Zilm has been unemployed for almost a year and says, “You have to get there ahead of time, beat the crowds, beat the rush, and hopefully you get called,” he said.

That’s why Zilm rushed down to Heartland RV to apply Tuesday morning (Nov. 17), minutes after the company announced its hiring plan.

With 400 new jobs coming to the area, James Hill didn’t waste time.

Hill has been laid off for a year and says, “As soon as I hear somewhere’s hiring, I try to get there. It don’t matter if it’s RVs or what, I try to get there and put an application in.”

Both have worked in the RV industry for years.

Since then, they’re doing what they can to find a job.

Zilm says, “It’s very hard, I ain’t had a paycheck in over a month and I’m just running on fumes, you know.”

George Lealiifano understands, especially with the holidays coming up.

He’s trying to support his five kids and can only find part-time work.

Lealiifano says, “It is pretty tough you know what I’m saying. I’m pretty much bouncing on the weekend at the club to maintain and keep my head above water.”

When hopeful applicants arrived Tuesday morning resumes in hand, they didn’t get too far.

Lealiifano says, “They said too many came by, it was so much chaos or something like that, but they gave us this note here and hopefully I’ll come back on December 5th.”

As for Zilm, he plans to continue his search, “We don’t know, we don’t know. Go try somewhere else I guess now.”

Heartland RV will not be accepting applications until Nov. 30.

They plan to have a job fair Dec. 5 from 8 a.m. to noon at their headquarters in Elkhart.

The company currently employs 800 people.

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Heartland RV Hiring 400-Plus Workers by Q1 2010

November 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Heartland RV logoHeartland Recreational Vehicles LLC has begun the first phase of an aggressive hiring initiative at its headquarters in Elkhart, Ind., as management announced today (Nov. 17) the addition of more than 400 workers by the end of the first quarter in 2010.

The builder, which launched production in 2004, said the expansion was mandated by a spike in unit sales – particularly during the fourth quarter – that has produced a healthy backlog in dealer orders. Heartland said it is in the process of hiring around 200 production workers and projects another 200 will be added by March of next year, bringing the company’s total work force to 1,200 employees.

“We’re looking for a big year in 2010 and Heartland is already preparing by beefing up our production work force,” said Brian Brady, president and CEO of privately-held Heartland.

Brady noted that another key for Heartland to successfully keep pace with demand was applying a “flexible assembly model” that allowed similar models to run down the same production lines.

“Similar products running down the same assembly lines gives Heartland the ability to ‘accordion’ our production in response to current demand,” he said, adding that the company’s sprawling complex on the north side of Elkhart has grown to include over a half-million square feet of manufacturing space. “We believe that production model gives Heartland a sustainable advantage over our competition. Production capacity has not, and will not, present a problem for Heartland and our dealers as we grow sales.”

Brady said that as part of the hiring initiative, Heartland also addressed an increase in volume for its customer service, parts and warranty operations with the addition of 13 workers in October.

The hiring phase comes as the builder readies for the 47th Annual National RV Trade Show, hosted by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) Dec. 1-3 in Louisville, Ky. In addition to displaying its full line of travel trailer and fifth-wheel products, the company will unveil five all-new brands at the trade-only show, upping its total to 15 separate brands. Product debuts at Louisville, four of which sport Heartland’s new high-gloss, platinum fiberglass exteriors, include:

  • MPG teardrop travel trailer: The MPG represents Heartland’s first entry in the popular lightweight, teardrop market.
  • Cyclone HD: The fifth-wheel is the latest addition to Heartland’s strong-selling line of Cyclone toy haulers.
  • Caliber: The brand offers a full-featured travel trailer in the growing ultra-lightweight fiberglass travel trailer sector.
  • Greystone: The Greystone lineup hits a new price point for Heartland in the popular mid-profile fifth-wheel market.
  • Focus: An entry-level, lightweight laminated travel trailer line with five 7 1/2-wide floorplans and three hybrid tent-end models.

In addition to the all-new lines, Heartland has “revamped nearly every brand with over 30 industry-first features and innovations,” according to Coley Brady, director of fifth-wheel sales.

“Heartland has never slowed when it comes to R&D, even when the market was down,” he said. “That’s why we have been able to grow so quickly in just 5 1/2 years.”

According to the latest report from Statistical Surveys Inc., Heartland rapidly established itself in the fifth-wheel market with incremental jumps in market share, and ranked No. 3 among fifth-wheel builders in terms of retail sales through August. In May 2008, the company entered the high-volume travel trailer market with its ultra-lightweight North Trail line and has continued to gain ground in that sector with several new offerings.

“We are focused on being a full-line towable manufacturer,” said Coley Brady, “and we are starting to see the same type of gains in the travel trailer market that we saw after we came into the marketplace as a fifth-wheel builder. I think dealers are recognizing that we are one of the fastest growing RV companies, and they are also recognizing the reasons why we have had so much success.”

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