The 2012 White Hawk is Jayco Inc.’s newest entry in the ultra-light travel trailer market. According to a press release, the White Hawk offers all the features and amenities of a traditional travel trailer, but can be towed by most half-ton pickups and mid-size SUV’s.
“We recognize the lightweight market is more competitive today than ever before,” said Ben Johnson, brand manager for the White Hawk products. “The goal was to provide a unit that could be towed by most family vehicles but offers standard amenities and features not traditionally found on units in this price range. We wanted to make the entire camping experience even more enjoyable for the owner, from towing to set up to take down.”
Jayco said that the 2012 White Hawk has a more spacious living area than other ultra-lightweight units because of a 36-inch deep slideroom, adding twice the amount of expandable space.
Standard features include the Chill ‘N Store outdoor baggage compartment with a 1.5 cubic foot exterior refrigerator; MaxView dinette window for extra light and comfort; Wide-Stance Tracker Axles for more stable towing; extra exterior lights for added safety and convenience; a thermal package with a heated and enclosed underbelly; and a standard premium exterior paint package. Other standard amenities include radial tires; four-inch crowned, fully-walkable roof; marine grade exterior speakers; residential style furniture and carpeting; high efficiency furnace and water heater; and central air conditioning with directional and closeable vents.
In addition, the White Hawk’s “Elite Kitchen” includes recessed halogen lights; designer-inspired kitchen cabinetry; large rounded countertops; deep 60/40 acrylic sink with sink covers; decorative backsplash; 6.3 cubic foot Norcold refrigerator with external temperature adjustments and black metal door inserts; and an Atwood high-efficiency oven.
The White Hawk also carries Jayco’s industry-leading Co-Pilot Warranty offering the original purchaser a two-year warranty against defects in materials and workmanship. In addition, all Jayco products have been Green Certified by TRA Certification Inc., an independent third- party certification agency. Jayco products have earned top-level certification through the use of sustainable materials, environmentally-friendly production methods, energy-efficient components and reduction of waste.
Today’s video comes from Jayco Inc. offering a rundown of the Middlebury, Ind.-based builder’s 2012 lines of folding camping trailers.
Jayco Inc. has been awarded the prestigious Quality Circle DSI Award for the fifth consecutive year by the national Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA). The awards were received for the company’s motorhomes, folding camping trailers and the Eagle, Jay Feather, Jay Flight, and Pinnacle towable brands.
The annual RVDA Quality Circle award is presented each year to RV manufacturers who achieve top scores in dealer surveys in the areas of product design and quality, sales support, warranty/parts support and communication. The awards will be presented to Jayco on Oct. 5 at a Gala Awards Dinner during the RVDA’s National Convention and Expo in Las Vegas.
“Over the years, our partnership with our dealers has played a major role in our overall mission and strategy,” said Derald Bontrager, Jayco’s president. “They are our ambassadors in the marketplace. For them to honor us in this way is a source of pride and confidence in our future success.”
Jayco Inc. announced that it will hold its 10th annual Marketing and Skills Training for Excellence in RV Sales (MASTERS) Sept. 19–23 and Oct. 3–6 for dealership retail sales personnel at its corporate offices in Middlebury, Ind.
In conjunction with the first week of MASTERS, Jayco is also hosting an Open House for all dealers, to showcase its model year 2012 lineup. The Open House will run Sept. 20 – 22 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Jayco’s campus. The dates coincide with Elkhart County’s 4th Annual RV Open House Week, set to take place Sept. 19-23.
During the two training sessions, more than 500 sales personnel from Jayco’s dealerships from the U.S. and Canada will receive intensive training on Jayco’s 2012 model year lineup and see firsthand how Jayco operates and builds its RVs, according to a press release.
The dealer sales representatives will attend classes, led by the regional sales managers, that cover each of Jayco’s product lines. Each class will provide important product features and benefits to help retail sales personnel increase sales penetration for their dealership.
“MASTERS is designed to provide our dealers’ retail sales personnel with the knowledge and tools needed to successfully sell Jayco’s extensive lines of RVs,” said Derald Bontrager, Jayco president. “The positive feedback we continue to receive from our dealers about MASTERS, and our subsequent increase in market share over the past several years, makes this training program an important part of our overall selling effort.”
Regarding the Open House, Bontrager noted: “Since we already host our dealers’ retail sales personnel around this time of the year and have for several years, incorporating an Open House for dealer management teams into the mix is a logical extension of our plans. We’re excited to display our new 2012 models to the Open House visitors and draw on the fact that many of our dealerships will already have representatives in town for MASTERS.”
Jayco plans on displaying more than 40 models from the 2012 lineup and will provide lunch for Open House attendees throughout the week from 1-2 p.m.
Today’s video is from Middlebury, Ind.-based Jayco Inc. offering a detailed look at the new features and options on the 2012 line of Jay Flight travel trailers and destination trailers.
Jayco Inc. paid tribute to its top dealers as part of the opening evening’s proceedings during the June 20-22 Annual Dealer Homecoming held at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.
Highlighting the ceremony, Jayco’s Founders Award was presented to Chris Brown, owner of Aberdeen RV Center, Aberdeen, Miss.
Marking the ninth year for the Founder’s Award, which “exemplifies the spirit and values of the founders of Jayco,” President Derald Bontrager noted that Aberdeen RV Center has been affiliated with Jayco since the dealership’s founding 17 years ago.
Other presentations included:
Top performers for 2011
• Largest Jayco dealer: Richardson’s RV Centers, with California locations in Riverside, Sun City and Temecula
• Top camping trailer dealer: Hilltop Trailer Sales Inc., Minneapolis, Minn.
• Top travel trailer dealer: Crestview RV Center, with Texas locations in Buda, Selma and Georgetown.
• Top fifth wheel dealer: Happy Trails RV, with British Columbia locations in Grande Prairie, Alberta, and Prince George.
• Top motorhome dealers (starting with No. 1) : Richardsons RV Center; K&C RV Centers, Longmont, Colo.; Terry Town RV Center, Grand Rapids, Mich.; Camping World RV Sales, Albuquerque, N.M.; Albany RV, Albany, N.Y.
• Top combined towable dealers (starting with No. 1): Crestview RV Center; Happy Trails RV, Grand Prairie, Alberta; Albany RV; Powersports and RV Canada, Ottowa, Ont.; CRC RV Center, Moncton and Frederickton, New Brunswick
Gold Circle Dealers
• 1st year: GNR Camping World, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; Campers Barn of Kingston, Kingston, N.Y.; Haylett’s North Country, Coldwater, Mich.
• 5th year: C.S.R.A Camperland, Martinez, Ga.; Dunlap RV Center, Dunlap, Tenn.
• 10th year: Traveland Rv Superstore, Langley, B.C.
• 15th year: Link Ford and RV
• 20th year: Big Sky RV, Bozeman, Mont.; Harper Camperland LLC, Harper and Great Bend, Kan.; Lee’s Camper, Mason City, Iowa; Manteca Trailer and Camper, Manteca, Calif.
• 25th year: Camperland of Oklahoma, Tulsa, Okla.; Jack’s Campers, Mitchell, S.D.; Lone Star RV Sales, Houston; Thompson’s RV Family, Davenport, Iowa; Willies RV Center, Bloomer, Wisc.
• 30th year: Burlington RV Superstore, Sturtevant, Wisc.; FMB Limited, Holmen, Wisc.
• Gold Circle members since inception: Seven O’s Inc., Kirkville, N.Y.; Youngblood’s RV Center Inc., Mayfield, Ky.
While paying tribute to a venerable 43-year run in the RV industry, Jayco Inc. also outlined an agile and fluid business plan to meet future challenges as the builder hosted its Annual Homecoming & 2012 New Product Introduction.
“The old way of doing things is no longer the most effective plan. We need to be smarter, more innovative and bolder than ever before,” said Jayco President Derald Bontrager, addressing 455 attendees representing 165 dealerships during the June 20-22 gathering at The Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.
He added, “Staying ahead of the competition and delivering the highest quality of products and service that meet the needs of our customers is our highest priority. This requires us to continually evaluate product-development programs and business practices for effectiveness and efficiency.”
Bontrager said that Jayco had redoubled efforts to streamline and redefine efficiencies at its sprawling campus in Middlebury, Ind. — including a continued emphasis on green manufacturing practices — that would affect “every level of the company.” He noted the initiative would extend to Jayco’s manufacturing operations in Twin Falls, Idaho.
“We are focused on efficiency and part of that includes our continued commitment to the success and growth of the Twin Falls facility,” he said. “Our team in Twin Falls is doing an outstanding job in improving both efficiency and effectiveness of the operations. We recognize that Jayco is at the point where we need to expand our offerings out of our western facilities. And that is a front-burner item as we plan for the future.”
Bontrager reported that Jayco had also restored operations at its Starcraft facility in Topeka, Ind., during the past year. “At this time, production of more than 90% of the Starcraft models has been moved back to the Topeka complex,” he said.
But the focus, as always, remains on product. Bontrager said Jayco was diligently tracking the habits of a mercurial consumer base and delivering units that cornered hot buttons in the marketplace — most notably “a shift towards smaller, economical, lighter-weight RVs” led by the company’s eco-friendly Skylark travel trailer.
“The 2012 product lineup you see here this week is a down payment on our new strategy aimed at meeting the demands of the various customer groups and giving you a stellar inventory of appealing products,” he said, adding that the new line included a reduction in floorplans and the addition of product packages offering “value-packed, lighter-weight options.”
Bontrager noted that, coupled with an emphasis on research and development, Jayco also made key organizational changes to “help differentiate our products.”
“The three brands — Jayco, Starcraft and Entegra Coach — now have separate management, sales, product development, engineering, accounting and production teams,” stated Bontrager. “These changes will allow the divisional management teams to get laser-focused on their specific brands, and help us navigate our way through this challenging marketplace.”
Highlights from the new product rollout included:
• The Eagle SL HT, the newest addition to Jayco’s Eagle Super Lite lineup of travel trailers and fifth-wheels. Designed for today’s smaller trucks, the Eagle SL HT is lighter than other fifth-wheels on the market while still boasting more convenient amenities and features in its price level. Standard features for the Eagle SL HT include a new full-body gray fiberglass exterior, suite-style closet slide in bedroom, dual pots-and-pans drawers, 60/40 deep-bowl kitchen sinks and a 26-inch LCD HDTV with 180-degree viewing angle. In addition, the Eagle SL HT features Concord cherry cabinetry, pleated night shades, residential furniture designed and made by Jayco, and ball-bearing drawer guides throughout with a 50-pound capacity and full-drawer extensions.
• A new model was introduced to the popular Jay Flight travel trailer lineup. The Jay Flight Swift SLX offers “all the essentials of a family-focused travel trailer at a price that makes camping in style even more affordable.” Available in three floorplans, the 145RB, 154BH, and 184 BH range from 16 to 20 feet in length. Standard interior amenities include two-burner range with range hood and exhaust fan; Concord cherry-stained hardwood cabinet doors; pleated shades throughout; large safety-glass windows; metal alloy plumbing fittings in kitchen and bath sinks; microwave oven; and a multi-media Sound System with iPod hookup. Standard construction features include 4-inch cambered steel box tube frame, aerodynamic front profile and integrated A-frame.
• For 2012, Jayco “reinvented” its Seneca Class C coach, offering a Freightliner chassis and Cummins ISB 6.7L 340HP engine with 750-watt block heater. Standard chassis equipment includes 6-speed automatic Allison 2500 TRV Series transmission with overdrive; 160-amp alternator; a 10,000-pound hitch with 7-pin plug; Accuride aluminum rims; auxiliary start switch; Cummins exhaust brake; and deluxe, heated, remote-control side-view mirrors. Currently offered in two floorplans, the 36FK and the 37 FS, the Seneca also features Amish-crafted Washington glazed-maple hardwood cabinetry, high-gloss, solid-surface kitchen countertops, a king-sized bed and a well-appointed kitchen.
• The 2012 Greyhawk Class C motorhome is equipped with an adjustable-pitch patio awning and optional power-up/power-down four-point automatic hydraulic leveling system. On the interior a ladder for easy access to the cab sleeping area was added along with a motorized swing arm for the cab-over TV. Other new features include an aluminum rim option, Sirius Satellite radio with six-month paid subscription and a tankless water heater.
In the midst of the recession, Jayco Inc. held its annual dealer meeting closer to home – at its home plant in Middlebury, Ind., in 2009 and in the Chicago suburbs in 2010. Perhaps reflecting a market that continues to work it’s way back to health, Jayco this week (June 20-22) took a more traditional approach by hosting its Annual Homecoming & 2012 New Product Introduction at The Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.
“This year marks the 43rd year since Lloyd Bontrager founded our company,” Jayco Chairman Wilbur Bontrager told the assembled dealers during the company’s general session on Tuesday (June 21) morning. “I don’t have with me a list of all the RV companies that were in business that year. Suffice to say that there were dozens and that very few of them remain today. I think you can count them on one hand.
“We believe that the reason for our success over those years is that we have set the example for the RV industry when it comes to building products packed with value, standing behind those products and developing a true and trusting relationship with our dealer organization. If you consider the fact that we have built nearly 800,000 RVs over the last 43 years, it is a tribute to the men and women in this room that we have remained so strong for so long.”
Behind that kind of long-term survival are both people and values, said Bontrager, on behalf of the management team of the family-held company. However, he added, living by the Golden Rule is not enough in itself to sustain oneself in the business arena today.
“We think we have a pretty good idea of who we are,” Bontrager noted in his opening remarks, “and we plan to reinforce that identity in your minds this week. At the same time, we understand that the world and the RV market are constantly changing, becoming more dynamic with increasingly aggressive competition. The challenge facing us is to remember who we are, take stock of where we stand today and prepare to move on.
“In order to grow and flourish, we must go to new places and make new plans. We’re stronger now than ever before but we also know that what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow.”
In his turn at the podium, Jayco President Derald Bontrager reflected on the state of the economy and when he had told dealers in Schaumburg, Ill., last year about how the company had weathered the bulk of the economic storms and that all signs pointed to a solid recovery. At that time, he observed, optimism was pretty prevalent in the industry.
“Today,” he noted, “the economy is still expanding but that optimism is tempered by a certain amount of anxiety and uncertainty. While the economy is showing steady improvement, the RV industry is going through a period marked by revolutionary changes in the way our products are built and marketed, forcing everyone in this room to reevaluate our current business models.”
In making his point, Bontrager said he’d had the opportunity early in June during RVIA Committee Week to listen to “some fairly sobering words” from University of Michigan economist Richard Curtin, a forecaster for the national trade association, regarding the fundamental changes in the economy prompted by the Great Recession.
“He said our market and the economy will not return to the pre-recession normal,” Bontrager explained. “There is a new normal and those companies that adapt will survive, and those that don’t, won’t. Disposable income and the labor market will vary across population groups and full recovery is some time in the future. The wealth factor, including housing equity, will slowly recover over years.
“Credit will be more widely available, but under stricter terms, and we will likely be doing business amid conditions of continuing volatility in domestic and global markets.
But Curtin was also emphatic in stating that the appeal of the RV lifestyle will overcome any economic barriers and will continue to transform the industry to meet RVers needs, Bontrager added.
“So as we meet here this week,” he told the dealers, “it is clear that our business is more challenged and more competitive than ever before. The old way of doing things is no longer the most effective plan. We need to be smarter, more innovative and bolder than ever before. But it is equally as clear that for a company like Jayco there are opportunities like never before.”
Middlebury, Ind.-based Jayco Inc. recently entered into an agreement with TCF Inventory Finance Inc. (TCFIF) making TCFIF the preferred inventory finance source for dealers of Jayco’s three recreation vehicles divisions.
Derald Bontrager, Jayco’s president and COO, said that TCFIF will provide Jayco, Starcraft and Entegra Coach dealers with floorplan financing at competitive rates with innovative inventory management tools.
“Over the past few years, it has become increasingly apparent that reliable, effective wholesale financing is critical to the success of both Jayco and its dealers,” he said. “We’re pleased to partner with an organization like TCFIF that will provide aggressive, practical financial services solutions to our dealers,” he said.
Jayco’s agreement marks TCFIF’s entry into the recreation vehicle industry in the U.S. and Canada.
“The launch of this aggressive new program with Jayco clearly supports our entrance into the RV business,” said Ross Perrelli, president and chief executive officer of TCFIF. “We are truly excited about partnering with Jayco and believe the relationship is an excellent fit for Jayco, its dealers and TCFIF.”
TCFIF, headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., is a subsidiary of Wayzata, MN based TCF National Bank, and offers a full range of inventory financing programs to manufacturers and their dealers throughout the United States and Canada. TCFIF is extensively involved in the lawn and garden industry, the power sports industry, and the consumer electronics and household appliance industry.
Editor’s Note: The following story comes from AFP, the global news agency.
Once idle factories are ringing again with the welcome sounds of motor homes being built, but Elkhart, Ind., seen as a bellwether for the US economy is still hurting nearly two years after the recession officially ended.
“We are just crawling out of this recession — I mean crawling. It seems like our finger nails are just down to the skin here,” said Elkhart County Commissioner Mike Yoder.
Elkhart is known as the recreational vehicle capital of the world and more than half the jobs in the area are in manufacturing — four times the national average.
That used to be a blessing for generations of workers who could land a reliable job at a decent wage with a steady hand, strong work ethic and an eighth grade education.
It became a curse when the RV industry was hit with the double whammy of a spike in gasoline prices and the credit crunch.
After fluctuating between 2% and 5% for most of the past 20 years, the unemployment rate in the Elkhart-Goshen area jumped to 9.4% in July 2008.
By March 2009 unemployment here hit a peak of 20.1% — double the national average and one of the highest in the country — as RV orders dried up amid the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
President Barack Obama visited this Midwestern town of 52,000 four times — twice as a candidate and twice as president — to highlight his economic policies.
Stimulus dollars poured into the area — to fix roads, sewers, an airport runway, the local theater — and Norwegian electric car company Think garnered national headlines when it picked Elkhart for a new plant.
Most importantly, RV orders started to pick up again.
After bottoming out at 166,000 units in 2009 with a retail value of $5.2 billion — less than half of the number sold in 2007 for $14.5 billion — RV shipments rose 46% to 242,300 in 2010 as dealers began to restock their lots.
Shipments are forecast to rise 8.6% this year to 263,100, but only if rising oil prices don’t once again put the brakes on demand for the gasoline-guzzling vacation homes and trailers.
If sales don’t pick up, dealers will send those shiny new RVs right back to the factories, leaving manufacturers on the hook for everything but what amounts to a restocking fee.
The frantic pace of work at Jayco Inc. — one of the biggest manufacturers left standing after an intense period of bankruptcies and consolidation — speaks to the company and the industry’s optimism.
Clinton Lehman slides a cabinet base into a small trailer and quickly drills it into place while a co-worker works on the roof.
Lehman, 30, was out of work for nine months before he was called back to Jayco.
“It was scary at first, but it was not so bad because I knew there were lots of other people in the same boat,” he said.
Things are worlds better now. The shop floor is busy. Most of the people he knows are working again. He doesn’t have to worry any more about how he’ll pay for his daughter’s clothes, or books, or dinner.
There’s a good future in the RV world, said Dave Eash, vice president for sales and marketing at Jayco.
Attendance has been great at recent trade shows and there’s a lot of pent-up demand in the market.
Millions of Baby Boomers are retiring and RVs are also attracting a growing number of younger people.
And the industry has slimmed down with leaner and more efficient operations.
“We’re very confident of where the industry is going,” Eash told AFP.
“People are looking for an affordable way to take a vacation, spend time with family and have a lot of fun.”
It’s not clear if there’s a good future for everyone in Elkhart.
The receptionist at the local unemployment office greeted most people who walked in on a recent sunny afternoon by name. Unlike the dilapidated shopping mall, the parking lot here was full.
While the unemployment rate here may be looking better these days — it was down to 11% in March — only about 6,000 of the 24,000 jobs lost in the downturn have come back.
Meanwhile, the official labor force has shrunk by 13,000 people — or about 13% of the 2007 average — because so many people have left town or simply given up.
Fred Clair, 38, has been out of work for more than 2 1/2 years. He lost his house to foreclosure and had to move in with his parents. He has no idea what he’d do without their help.
“They say everything’s getting better, but I don’t see it,” Clair told AFP after yet another visit to the unemployment office. “Most of the people I know are still looking.”
Clair’s unemployment benefits ran out in September. He managed to find a job in February, but was laid off 2 1/2 weeks later when that section of the RV plant closed. Since then, it’s just been one disappointment after another.
Getting Clair and the thousands of others like him back to work is going to be “really, really difficult,” warned county commissioner Yoder.
Employers are wary of hiring people who’ve been out of work for so long, especially if they’re over 50.
Despite a major retraining effort, Elkhart’s workforce is still not educated enough to attract employers in industries other than manufacturing. Yoder’s hope lies in the entrepreneurial spirit which led to Elkhart’s past prosperity.
“I know the dreams are out there and I know that in the last two years from an economic development standpoint we’ve planted a lot of seeds,” he said.
“We’re just waiting to see what grows.”
Aimed at helping families gear up for the camping season and spend quality time together in the outdoors, Jayco Inc. has announced its annual Blue Tag National Sales Event.
Jayco dealers throughout the U.S. and Canada are participating in the sale, promoting the event across three different media (tabloids, TV and radio), according to a news release.
The event marks the fourth consecutive year dealers have united in a large-scale promotional effort to boost sales, reduce 2011 inventory and promote Jayco’s industry-leading two-year warranty and high average resale value. The event will start on April 1 and run through May 31 at participating dealers.
Jayco increased promotional efforts this year by adding a new system which allowed dealers to customize direct mail tabloids, newspaper inserts, 30-second television commercials or 30-second radio spots. The dealers had the opportunity to play an even bigger role in helping deliver the Blue Tag message by taking advantage of email marketing campaigns, point-of-purchase materials and Internet banner ads.
“We’re gratified to have dealers who share in Jayco’s success, and who understand what makes this type of event a success,” said Sid Johnson, Jayco’s director of marketing. “With an increased arsenal of marketing tools, we think the timing is particularly appropriate for our dealers to make a huge impact across North America”.
Building on the successful formula of the past events, a customer sweepstakes was added to create event awareness and drive traffic during the sales event months. The sweepstakes features 25 giveaway prizes — five camping adventure packages and 20 Flip video cameras.
The adventure packages, valued at $2,000, includes a $500 gas card, a $500 grocery card, $700 in Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park stays, a Flip video camera and a prize pack of goodies for on-the-road fun. Customers are directed to register online and then visit their local Jayco dealer to check their lucky number.
“As a family-owned company, we think we have an understanding of what drives our customers to our products,” Johnson said. “Making sure our RVs are affordable, liveable and well-built are just a few of the ways we can fulfill that commitment, and the sweepstakes this year offers us the chance to help make those family trips even more memorable.”
Repeat top-selling brands included the Keystone Montana fifth-wheel, Jayco’s Jay Flight travel trailer, Tiffin’s Phaeton diesel-powered Class A motorhome, Forest River’s Georgetown gas Class A and Winnebago View’s diesel minimotorhome. The only two first-time leaders were the Coachmen gas Class C motorhome and the Forest River Rockwood folding camping trailer.
The Montana led the pack for the 10th consecutive year with 9.4% of retail fifth-wheel sales while Jayco Inc.’s Jay Flight snagged 6.4% of the travel trailer market, according to Statistical Surveys Inc., the Grand Rapids, Mich., company that tracks RV industry retail sales.
In the motorized market, Tiffin Motor Home Inc.’s Phaeton was the best-selling diesel motorhome with 13.2% share, Forest River Inc.’s Georgetown was the top-selling gas Class A, with 13.9% share, and Winnebago Industries Inc.’s View was the No. 1 Class C diesel on the market with 21.9% share.
Other 2010 market share leaders were Class B, Winnebago’s ERA (16.6%; Class C gas, Forest River Inc.’s Coachmen (17.6%); folding camping trailers, Forest River’s Rockwood (7.3%); and park models, Breckenridge (17.6%).
Keystone President Bob Martin said the Montana has staying power for several reasons with customer loyalty being high on the list.
”Loyalty is important,” said Martin, whose Goshen, Ind., company hosts about 100 Montana owners at a rally each fall at the nearby Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds. Many of them have bought five or six Montanas over the years.
”Members of the Montana Owners Club are incredibly loyal,” he added. ”After they buy a Montana, they just won’t buy anything else. Montana is user friendly and loaded with features with quality that no one else can match.”
Jerry Williamson, Tiffin national sales manager, said that while the Paeton was developed as an entry-level motorhome, over the years it has evolved into a mid-priced coach in the ”sweet spot” of the diesel market.
”We improved the product as far as amenities and styling every year,” said Williamson, who noted that most RVs creep up in price as consumers ask for more features and amenities. ”We ‘mother-hen’ the Phaeton very closely. We have the best feature package that is offered in the mid-range price point.”
Roger Martin, Winnebago Industries Inc. vice president of sales and marketing, said we worked closely with Daimler AG, Mercedes Benz’ parent company, and invested the time and money to develop the Winnebago View along with sister-brand Itasca Navion on the high mileage Sprinter cab chassis, previously offered only in a B-van configuration. These efforts provided Winnebago Industries with a head start in developing these products over other manufacturers.
”That’s the primary reason that the product has been so successful,” Martin said. ” It was unique in the industry for two or three years before folks starting copying the idea.
”The View essentially created the segment of the fuel-efficient, stylish units based on the Sprinter,” noted Martin. ” I also credit the dealer organization we have. They really grasped this concept and did an excellent job selling it.”
Sid Johnson, Jayco Inc. marketing director, noted that the Jay Flight has changed during the six years it has led the travel trailer market.
”Initially, Jay Flight was positioned as a lower-end entry-level product that offered a great deal of value for the price,” Johnson said. ”It’s still somewhat that today, except that it has been steadily improved over the years from the standpoint of features.”
That, he said, appeals to younger buyers with families who have come to expect more than their Baby Boomer parents. ”It’s a heavy number from first-time buyers with a heavier than normal incidence of college education,” Johnson said. ”I’m not sure what all that says, except in terms of Jayco’s strategy, that product has become not only our bread-and-butter, but provides the foundation of our entire travel trailer strategy.”
Admirers of all things RV can fill that particular thrill in Elkhart County, Ind., where more than 20 RV manufacturers offer factory tours.
Elkhart County is the recreational vehicle capital of the world with one of every two RVs being made in that county, according to amishcountry.org.
Fascinated by how things are made, I love factory tours, so I chose three for Best-Ever Friend Dave and me to visit. Dave owned a Winnebago 30 years ago so he was interested to see how things had changed.
First stop: Renegade RV, 52216 State Road 15 in Bristol, a 14-year-old company founded by Chuck McKibbin for the auto racing industry. Here, sales manager Danny Lagunas ushered us onto the factory floor where employees were working on several custom units. The smallest unit they build is about 32 feet, Danny said. Most of their vehicles are made for people who have owned several RVs and now want to design one to their own specifications.
We climbed up into these huge RVs to see the work in progress. We saw granite countertops, flat-screen TVs ready for installation — even one on the outside of the vehicle — granite floors, space-efficient layouts and unique storage solutions. Impressive!
Second stop: Jayco, 903 S. Main St. in Middlebury. You can’t miss Jayco because you’ll see hundreds of white travel-trailers in the factory lot.
But watch carefully for the Visitors Center sign. Inside the center, a renovated 1880s farmhouse, John MacDonald, marketing services manager, invited us to look around the center or to go outside and look at the vehicles on display while we waited for our noon tour. We did both.
A video told us about founders Lloyd and Bertha Bontrager, who started the company in a chicken coop in 1968. They quickly outgrew that and are now the largest privately owned RV manufacturer.
Judy Swihart, visitors center coordinator, took us in a trolley back to the building where they make about 11 fifth-wheels per day.
Then we went to the cavernous and fascinating sewing room. We watched a machine quilting two yards of material every 45 seconds. The material is used for bedspreads and pillow shams.
We watched as employee Deb Lafary filled a pillow cover with a foam cushion. If you’ve done that, you know it can be challenging. But not at Jayco.
Deb placed the foam cushion on a vacuum machine, covered it with plastic, turned the machine on and, instantly, it shrank. She popped it inside the covering and, in a nano-second, it re-inflated and filled the covering.
After Jayco, we had lunch at Village Inn, 107 S. Main St. in Middlebury. This is where locals gather to talk about the weather, a hot topic this winter. So we chose comfort food: cups of sweet, tomatoey chili; creamy and tender chicken and noodles; and homemade pie for dessert, pecan for me, cherry for Dave.
Our final stop was SunnyBrook RV, 201 14th St., Middlebury, which just last December became Winnebago of Indiana LLC. Jeff Baker, sales representative, took us and a group of insurance agents on the tour, explaining the manufacturing process from the naked chassis stage to the finished product, whether a fifth-wheel or a travel-trailer.
With the insurance agents asking questions, Jeff told us all the things RV manufacturers do to avoid problems for the consumers. We learned about glues, insulation, windows, awnings and the craftsmanship.
Most impressive for me was the outdoor kitchen on one of the vehicles. You pop up the cover to find a tiny sink, refrigerator and stove.
This day of “RVs Unwrapped” is a great way to learn about RVs before purchasing one or just to be impressed with manufacturing innovations. It also answered my ever-present question: “How do they do that?”
John Ganyard has been named director of human resources at Jayco Inc.
In making the announcement, Derald Bontrager, Jayco president and COO, said Ganyard will have corporatewide responsibility for employment, employee relations, occupational safety and health and environmental affairs.
Prior to joining Middlebury, Ind.-based Jayco, Ganyard has more than 25 years experience in human resources and manufacturing management. He has held management level positions with RCA, Johnson Controls, Teepak, RR Donnelly, Welch Packaging and Keystone RV. He is a graduate of Indiana University – Bloomington and holds a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certification. Ganyard and his family reside in Middlebury.
The 2011 Octane ZX and Octane ZX Super Lite toy haulers by Jayco Inc. are geared toward an active lifestyle.
The 2011 Octane ZX Super Lite gives many of the same amenities as the Octane ZX but as much as 3,500 pounds lighter, according to a news release. Easily towable by most half-ton trucks, crossovers or SUVs, the Octane ZX Super Lite is one of the lightest toy haulers on the market. This unit features a Customer Value Package that includes a 13,500-BTU A/C, bathroom power vent, Carefree patio awning, convection microwave, 6-gallon gas/electric DSI water heater, stabilizer jacks, 5-cubic-foot refrigerator and a Sony AM/FM/CD stereo system.
The 2011 Octane ZX is available in four floorplans and features a full-feature kitchen with deep double-bowl sink, overhead microwave and Concord cherry cabinetry. The in-ramp toolbox helps to keep your tools safe and out of the way, while the garage includes tie-down D-rings rated for 2,500 pounds to keep your toys safe and stationary during travel. The Octane features many notable amenities such as a Sony AM/FM/CD/DVD stereo system, 6-cubic-foot, double-door refrigerator, 102-gallon fresh water capacity and an insulated and laminated aluminum framed floor.
Both the Octane ZX and Super Lite units feature a 102-inch wide body, 8-foot- wide ramp door opening, welded tubular-aluminum floor frame, Dexter Nev-R-Adjust brakes, marine toilet with foot flush and tinted safety-glass windows.
The industry-leading, Jayco Co-Pilot Warranty offers the original purchaser a two-year warranty against defects in materials and workmanship. In addition, all Jayco products have been Green Certified by TRA Certification Inc, an independent, third-party certification agency. The Octane ZX and Octane ZX Super Lite earned Gold Certification through the use of sustainable materials, environmentally-friendly production methods, energy-efficient components and reduction of waste.
For more information on Jayco Octane ZX toy haulers and other Jayco products, call 800-RV-JAYCO, visit www.jayco.com or write Jayco Inc., 903 S. Main, Middlebury, Ind., 46540.