Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC and Breckenridge today (July 24) announced the formation of a reciprocal partnership between the companies designed to maximize sales and increase market share in the growing park model and destination trailer segments.
The collaboration, set to go into effect Aug. 1, will merge Breckenridge’s reputation as a respected, quality-oriented manufacturer with Heartland’s oversight and management expertise. According to a press release, the firms will continue to operate as stand-alone divisions of Thor Industries Inc.
As part of the move, Heartland President Chris Hermon will also serve as president of Nappanee, Ind.-based Breckenridge. Hermon reported that the companies would build product year-round from dedicated manufacturing and service facilities “that would cater to the destination trailer segment.”
“Dealers will be able to order product any time during the year,” he said, noting that Heartland currently sells two destination trailer brands. “That will set us apart from other manufacturers that only build a few times a year. Dealers will be energized to work with companies committed to this product segment.”
Hermon emphasized that the partnership would be a “very symbiotic” arrangement.
“We have a lot to offer Breckenridge in terms of leadership, support and direction while Breckenridge has a lot to offer in product, manufacturing and a deep loyal customer base,” he said. “By combining forces, Breckenridge will become even stronger and continue to be a leader in the park model and destination trailer markets while Heartland will be able to grow its destination trailer business.”
Breckenridge was founded in 1991 by Tim Howard, who retired in February of 2012. The company has been a forerunner in the industry and currently offers a full complement of products to meet emerging demands.
“Breckenridge has very strong brand recognition with consumers,” said Hermon, who joined Heartland in May of 2012. “Our focus will be to apply our proven business model to build business for Breckenridge and Heartland. We are putting plans and resources in place to double sales and market share in the segment in the upcoming quarters and become the No. 1 producer in Elkhart County of park models and destination trailers.”
Hermon added that Heartland, which is enjoying a record-setting year, has a successful track record for bringing product to market and quickly growing market share.
“Our top priority is giving retail buyers the products they want and giving dealers the credible front- and back-end support they need,” said Hermon. “Our marketing and operational experience will be a perfect fit for Breckenridge.”
Hermon reported that plans are to roll out new products and programs as part of the Elkhart County RV Open House, set to run in mid-September.
Since Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC adopted Lippert Component’s Inc.’s Level Up automatic hydraulic leveling system in January 2013 as an option on its new Sundance travel trailer brand, every unit sold has been built with the Level Up system.
“We were looking for some key features that would set the Sundance trailer apart from other brands, and we felt the automatic hydraulic leveling was one way to do that,” said Heartland Vice President of Sales Coley Brady in a press release. “The response has been outstanding.”
Heartland General Manager Paul Craven noted, “Level Up has played an important part in the launch of the new Sundance travel trailer.”
LCI CEO Jason Lippert points out that “the RV industry is moving more towards automatic leveling for travel trailers and fifth-wheels. We’re finding that OEMs are turning to LCI and Level Up to meet consumer demand.”
LCI’s reported that average weekly sales of Level Up systems have grown 65% in the past year.
“At one time, automatic leveling was something found only on high-end units such as expensive luxury fifth-wheel RVs,” said LCI Vice President of Sales Andy Murray. “But now customers want leveling upgrades on less expensive fifth-wheel and travel trailer RVs. OEMs are looking to our Level Up system to fulfill this demand.”
Level Up is a four-point or six-point automatic hydraulic leveling system designed to quickly and safely level an RV with only the touch of a button and comes with an auto re-hitch memory function that remembers the exact height at which the RV was unhitched.
To watch a video offering a rundown of the features and benefits of the Level Up system click here.
This week’s “RV Capital Talk” segment offers an in-depth look at the Heartland Recreational Vehicle LLC’s National Owners Club Rally held June 18-23 at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds in Goshen, Ind. The company reported that over 250 rigs and more than 600 Heartland owners were in attendance.
Matching distinctive product design with a heightened focus on dealer relations, Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC continues to harness market share in 2013 as two of its key fifth-wheel brands stood as January sales leaders according to data compiled by Statistical Surveys Inc.
Following up on a No. 3 overall ranking for 2012, Heartland’s high-profile Bighorn line for the first time finished as the market leader among all fifth-wheel brands for the month. According to a press release, the company’s Cyclone also posted strong sales, recognized as the top brand in the growing toy hauler segment while holding the No. 5 spot in fifth-wheel retail registrations.
“January’s performance is testament to our team’s ability to combine best-in-class quality with attractive pricing, backed by the strong support from our dealer partners across the U.S.,” said Chris Hermon, president of the Elkhart, Ind.-based builder. “I have charged every area of the company to step up our commitment to working closely with dealers, ensuring that we bring product to market that is firmly in step with consumer trends while representing a true value in the marketplace. We are seeing the results of that partnership with market share gains in some of the most competitive pockets of the industry.”
Bighorn, a consistent sales leader for Heartland, gained serious momentum following the 2012 Elkhart County Open House when two major marketing initiatives were introduced – the rebranding of the line as a fully-laminated, four seasons coach and the launch of the mid-priced Silverado by Bighorn series.
“We made a huge push with Bighorn and Silverado at the show,” said Coley Brady, vice president of sales. “Those moves in product development and increased eye appeal are paying big dividends as we move into spring.”
He added, “Bighorn is targeting the hot-button segments in the marketplace while providing logical, salable step-ups for our dealers. As more Baby Boomers retire, they are looking for the durability, quality and homelike features of an extended stay coach. If cost is a challenge, Silverado meets their needs with upper-end amenities at an aggressive price point.”
Cyclone, which has added five models over the last six months, has seen particular success with these “fresh, innovative floorplans,” according to Brady. Featuring painted front caps, optional washer/dryer and a large shower area in some models, Cyclone represents the shift in the toy hauler market from a no-frills toter for motorcycles and ATVs to one of the industry’s most versatile RVs.
“The Cyclone offers a mix of floorplans that address today’s wide-ranging interests from toy hauler buyers,” Brady said. “Our dealer body has been doing a tremendous job selling the unique features of the Cyclone brand.”
Gateway is Heartland RV’s first new residential fifth-wheel brand in over three years.
Gateway has been designated a “presidential pick,” according to Heartland General Manager Bryan Walczak. “What that means is the Gateway has been hand-designed by the President of Heartland, Chris Hermon,” Walczak stated. “Gateway really takes the price and the eye-appeal to the max,” according to a news release
All the newest prototype and engineering strategies are being used to make Gateway the most refined fifth-wheel on the market.
“As you look forward and you see new market segments emerging you have to be willing to adapt quickly,” says Hermon. “Gateway hits the retail customer with an incredible look and an incredible price. That hasn’t been done for a long time in the High Profile Luxury market.”
Immediately following the fall Open House, Heartland took the first Gateway model to the retail market. Needless to say, customers responded extremely well to the form, features, eye-appeal, and especially the price! “Our dealer was thrilled with the response and the retail sales from the show,”says Walczak.
“What we’re doing is developing a new product for a new market segment, which is that luxury-type taste, but offering it at a lower cost,” he said. “Everything is trimmed out – crown molding, decorative edging throughout – so it’s not just a typical trailer with radius wood.”
The furniture in the Gateway is the prime feature RV dealers will notice, Walczak added. “The furniture is special – it’s leather with top-stitching. The top-stitch fabric is dynamite looking when it’s all put together,” he said. “Also, all the seating areas – whether it’s the couch, the theater seating – recline. With the new airbeds that they have on the market now, you can just put one up and be done with it. The furniture is more functional in the Gateway because everything reclines.”
The Gateway will debut a 32-foot triple slide fifth-wheel that hits an incredible price and look at the Louisville Show. Another three floorplans are planned for production soon including a five-slide bunkhouse.
“We absolutely nailed the Gateway fifth-wheel,” says Coley Brady, vice president of sales. “If you haven’t seen Gateway, you need to get to the Heartland display during the Louisville Show and take a look. We are signing dealers now and you don’t want to miss out.”
Heartland’s Gateway 3200RS will be on display Nov. 27 – 29 at the National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., Thor booth 1300, located in the south hall.
Heartland Recreational Vehicle’s makeover of its Trail Runner brand last fall successfully rejuvenated the conventional-built travel trailer line, spurring retail sales and creating sustained demand with the company’s dealer body.
“Our dealers were very specific in their needs,” said General Manager Nick Eppert in a press release. “Through telephone and face-to-face conversations, the need for lower dry weights and a more aggressive price point came through loud and clear. Accordingly, we made some monumental changes in the product that really paid off.”
The reengineered, sharply priced Trail Runner now boasts “more models designed for the half-ton truck market than ever before,” according to Eppert, who reported that dealers took note of the changes.
Julie Leach, sales manager for Leach Camper Sales in Council Bluffs, Iowa, a respected dealership that is currently marking its 50th year of operation, noted, “We at Leach Camper Sales have truly enjoyed our relationship with Heartland’s Trail Runner edition. We have had excellent support from our sales rep and the warranty department. They have responded to our needs immediately and without hesitation. That has allowed us to achieve a dramatic increase in our sales area. We have currently experienced a 30% increase from 2011 to 2012 with five more months to go. We look forward to our continued success with Heartland.”
Building on the success of the Trail Runner, Heartland launched the Trail Runner Super Lite Edition (SLE) at the 2011 Louisville Show. “This product brings even lower dry weights and price points to the table,” Eppert said. “At Louisville, we showcased two models in our display, and dealer reaction was outstanding. Based on our dealer’s input we quickly expanded the offering.”
The Trail Runner SLE currently offers seven floorplans, available with non-slideouts, traditional slides and galley sliderooms.
Eppert said that several new introductions for both the Trail Runner and SLE are planned at this year’s Open House, adding, “Even though we are coming in at a more aggressive price point, the Trail Runner brand is still loaded with popular features that RVers are looking for.”
Amenities include Beauflor linoleum, real-wood cabinet doors and drawers, full-extension ball bearing drawer guides, pocket-bored screwed cabinets and radial tires with EZ-Lube hubs.
“I am thrilled with Heartland’s passion to be awesome in travel trailers,” said Eppert. “The future is very bright for the Trail Runner brand and its dealers.”
Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC has bolstered its ElkRidge full-profile fifth-wheel lineup with the addition of the five-slide 36FLPS floorplan, designed to address a new market segment while extending the brand’s “value-driven” strategy that has generated strong sales in 2012.
“The ElkRidge is one of the fastest growing fifth-wheels on the market,” said Bryan Walczak, general manager for the Elkhart, Ind.-based builder, in a news release. “Through the first five months, the brand saw a 12.2% increase in market share and a 16.4% rise in units sold. We expect the 36FLPS to have the same success, hitting a mid-profile price point in a full-profile fifth-wheel.”
Walczak said that the 39-foot “PentaSlide” is full-featured, offering refined interior amenities set off by a front living room with theater-style seating that showcases a 40-inch TV, along with two sliderooms. Other key standard features include wireless remote control, washer/dryer prep, freestanding dinette, king bed, ample storage and multiple entrance doors.
Walczak noted that with base MSRP’s starting at $48,749, the aluminum-framed, laminated “Penta-Slide” retails at “thousands less than the competition’s comparably equipped fifth-wheels.”
“We went into production in July and we just sold our first unit at Bent’s RV outside of New Orleans,” said Walczak. “Brian Bent, the owner, told me that customers love the floorplan, especially when they see that it retails for the same price as other mid-profile coaches. We are looking for the 36FLPS to perform in line with our other ElkRidge models, where dealers are able to see an exceptional return on their investment.”
The 36FLPS will make its consumer debut on the show circuit in September at America’s Largest RV Show in Hershey, Pa. It will also be on display for dealers during Elkhart’s Thor All-Star dealer open house, set to run Sept. 17-21 in the industry’s manufacturing hub.
“Judging by early feedback, we think the 36FLPS will really generate sales with our dealers during the Open House event,” Walczak said.
With the addition of the “PentaSlide,” the ElkRidge now features seven floorplans, ranging in length from 29 to 42 feet, with five additional floorplans in the entry-level, ultra-affordable Elkridge Express line.
Built in a dedicated facility, the ElkRidge features integrated remote control systems, full-profile ceiling slideouts, solid-surface countertops, universal docking center, European-style hidden hinges, true slam baggage doors, roller bearing drawer glides and camp kitchens. Packaged with rich, cherry interiors, ElkRidge also offers an 88-degree turning radius designed to accommodate short-bed pickup trucks.
Offering consumers an attractive price point and a variety of functional floorplans, Heartland Recreational Vehicle LLC’s full-profile Bighorn fifth-wheel line continues to build market share, garnering the No. 3 overall brand ranking in the May report from Statistical Surveys Inc.
“Our Bighorn line generated impressive sales during the first five months of 2012,” said Coley Brady, vice president of sales for the Elkhart, Ind.-based builder, noting that Bighorn was the No. 1 selling fifth-wheel through May in the hotbed states of Texas, Florida and Alabama and the top full-profile line in Canada. “It confirms that we are building product that consumers recognize as a discernible value in the high end of the fifth-wheel marketplace with the right combination of residential-style amenities backed by superior fit and finish.”
According to a press release, a key factor driving sales is Heartland’s decision to market the Bighorn as a full-time coach. Eleven models, with base MSRP’s starting at $59,900, feature laminated roof, sidewall and floor construction that reduces noise while providing the structural integrity and thermal insulation required for four-seasons RVing.
“Our use of seamless laminated construction really sets us apart from the competition at the price point that we’re hitting with the Bighorn,” said General Manager Kary Katzenberger. “It meets the demands of a growing full-time demographic, which is mushrooming with the influx of Baby Boomers and people that are using their RV as a mobile office.”
Katzenberger reported that Heartland would be debuting three new configurations in the Bighorn line at this year’s Elkhart County RV Open House set to run Sept. 17-21.
Of equal importance to Bighorn’s early 2012 success was the addition of the Silverado by Bighorn series that was unveiled to dealers during last September’s Open House.
“The Silverado addresses a key segment in the marketplace,” said Katzenberger, noting that base MSRP’s start at $44,900. “It provides the upscale interior amenities of the Bighorn at an aggressive price point while also offering extended stay, three-seasons construction. We are not only selling to seasoned RVers looking to upgrade, but also first-timers that want to enjoy the benefits of a full-profile fifth-wheel.”
Silverado, which includes four couples coaches, also addresses large families with two bunkbed floorplans.
The Bighorn and the Silverado share several key features, including stackable washer/dryer hookups, Heartland’s industry-first 88-degree turning radius and a universal docking center. Lengths for the Bighorn range from 35 to 40 feet while Silverado models run 33 to 40 feet.
Thor Industries Inc. announced today (May 21) the appointment of respected industry veteran Chris Hermon as president of subsidiary Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC, replacing Brian Brady who retired May 1. Hermon will officially step into his new role May 29.
Hermon brings a management history marked by rapid and prolonged success to the Elkhart, Ind.-based towable builder, including a 10-year term overseeing several high-growth brands for Thor affiliate Keystone RV Co. Most recently, Hermon co-founded Forest River Inc.’s Prime Time Manufacturing Inc. division in 2009 while serving as vice president of sales.
“For the last several weeks I spent time with Heartland, talking to people and getting feedback on what was needed,” said Bob Martin, RV group president for Jackson Center, Ohio-based Thor, in a press release. “One of the main things I noted was that Heartland is filled with great talent and needed a strong leader. I interviewed many quality candidates, but in the end I felt that Chris was the right fit for the Heartland team.”
Hermon, who entered the industry with Coachmen Industries Inc. in 1998, said that he viewed the move as a “natural progression” in his career path and was intent on maintaining the company’s reputation for product innovation and market penetration.
“I’ve found that if you are a leader in product development and dealer relationships, exceptional success is the result in this industry,” said Hermon, 42. “It’s apparent that is already in place, as Heartland has a strong track record of bringing great products to market and quickly harnessing market share. My goal is to continue driving product development and strengthening our dealer relationships.”
He added, “Presidential positions in this industry don’t come along very often, particularly with a company of the stature of Heartland. I am definitely looking forward to working with the existing team and steering Heartland to its next chapter of success.”
Heartland management, in turn, sees Hermon’s appointment as a springboard to continuing the growth path engineered under Brady’s guidance. “The entire Heartland team looks forward to working with Chris in our pursuit of intelligently growing our business,” stated Coley Brady, vice president of sales.
An Ohio native, Hermon served in the U.S. Air Force from 1988-1992 and the Air Force Reserves until 1995. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Indiana’s Ball State University. He and his wife of 16 years, Shawn, have two sons and reside in Goshen. During his time with Keystone, Hermon was general manager for the company’s Cougar, Hornet and Hideout travel trailer brands, charged with growing sales in the industry’s most hotly contested segment.
“I actually hired Chris at Keystone, so I know his work ethic and the way he manages,” Martin related. “He established himself as one of the company’s top performers. Heartland has tremendous potential and I am confident that Chris will make the company even stronger. He has the insight, commitment and leadership skills to not only push Heartland to higher levels, but also add depth to Thor’s already solid, aggressive management team.”
Heartland RV, headquartered in Elkhart, has enjoyed innovative industry-leading success for many years, and offers a variety of towables, including travel trailers, toy haulers, fifth-wheels and destination trailers. For more information, visit www.heartlandrvs.com. Hermon can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (574)266-8726.
Underscoring the structural integrity of its flagship Landmark fifth-wheel line built for full-time RVing, Heartland RV has instituted an inclusive 2+5 year warranty on all 2013 models.
The warranty, providing two years bumper-to-bumper and five years structural coverage on the roof, sidewalls and floor, represents “one of the most comprehensive warranties in the industry,” according to General Manager Kary Katzenberger.
“Full-timers consider their RV as their home,” Katzenberger said in a press release. “One of the biggest selling features is peace of mind – knowing that their RV is not only well constructed but also protected in the long-term. The 2+5 warranty represents a set-apart added value in the luxury fifth-wheel marketplace, both for the consumer and our dealer body.”
The Landmark fifth-wheel represents Heartland’s first entry in the RV market when the Elkhart, Ind.-based company was founded in 2004. Built with an integrated system of laminated fiberglass sidewalls, flooring and roof to increase durability while reducing overall weight, the Landmark is tailored to meet the demands of all-weather conditions and the rigors of full-time use.
“In addition to achieving increased strength and a lighter weight, laminated construction affords superior thermal insulation and noise reduction over wood-framed products,” said Katzenberger.
The Landmark is currently available in four floorplans in lengths of 33 to 41 feet, with two new floorplans coming to market in the next 90 days. In addition to a sturdy foundation, the series also offers a residential environment with attractive decors and high-line amenities.
New features in the 2013 line include a “whisper quiet” dual A/C system, optional 6-point leveling system and a new LCD, touch-screen remote that operates the landing gear, awning and sliderooms. MSRP’s start at $74,900.
“The Landmark already offered one of the best values in the luxury, full-time fifth-wheel market,” said Katzenberger. “The 2+5 warranty reinforces Heartland’s standing as a leader in the category, providing the luxury and durability that full-timers require along with the peace of mind that they have made a sound investment.”