Electric fireplaces are standard in KZRV LP’s new 2011 StoneRidge fifth-wheel series, including one floorplan with back-to-back fireplaces that divide the livingroom and the kitchen. ”Our market is the more mature RVer — someone who is at or near retirement,” said Andy Baer, vice president of sales and marketing. Introduced with four 34- to 38-foot floorplans at the 2009 Louisville Show, KZ will debut two new layouts during the company’s dealer open house May 17-18 at its Shipshewana, Ind., factory. The fiberglass-and-aluminum widebody StoneRidge, with three or four slideouts, features front and rear fiberglass caps, gel coat exteriors and Corian countertops for a $55,000 base MSRP. Also at the open house, KZ will reintroduce the high-end Escalade fifth-wheel which has been in hiatus and a redesigned version of the Durango fifth-wheel series.
The Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) will honor 18 RV brands built by eight manufacturers with its Quality Circle Award just prior to the opening of the National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., on Nov. 30.
These brands/manufacturers received at least 15 dealer responses and scored 80% or above in overall dealer satisfaction in the association’s 16th Annual Dealer Satisfaction Index (DSI) survey, according to a news release.
“Dealers believe the DSI is a tool to help improve communication and the overall relationship with their manufacturers,” said Debbie Brunoforte, RVDA chairman of the board. “The survey measures dealer attitudes in key policy, product, and procedure areas that dealers say are the most important elements in their business partnerships with manufacturers.”
The towable RV brands/manufacturers receiving awards are (in alphabetical order):
- Forest River Inc.– Rockwood/Roo & Rockwood folding camping trailers.
- Jayco Inc. –Designer, Eagle, Jay Feather, Jay Flight, folding camping trailers and SUTs.
- Keystone RV Co. –Fuzion/Passport/Springdale; Montana/Cougar; and Sprinter/Bullet/Outback.
- KZRV LP –Coyote/Spree, Inferno/MXT and Sportsmen.
- Open Range.
- Palomino travel trailers and fifth-wheels.
The three motorized RV brands/manufacturers receiving awards are (in alphabetical order):
- Tiffin Motor Homes Inc.
- Winnebago Industries Inc.
Additionally, two manufacturers of two towable brands, and one motorized brand received DSI Honorable Mention awards for receiving scores of 80% or above in overall dealer satisfaction from 10 to 14 responding dealers. They are (in alphabetical order): Airstream Inc. and EverGreen Recreational Vehicles in the towable category and Itasca in the motorized category.
When rating their brands/manufacturers, RVDA asks dealers to express, confidentially, their level of satisfaction on eight core issues:
- Sales support
- Sales territory
- Vehicle design
- Vehicle reliability/quality
- Competitive price/value
- Parts support
- Dealership warranty support
- Overall dealer communications
The 16th Annual DSI survey was conducted between August and October. Three hundred and twenty-two (322) dealers responded to the DSI this year, and provided 1,644 brand ratings, an average of almost five per dealer.
Daryl Zook, founder, chairman, CEO and majority shareholder of KZRV LP, is moving back into the roles of chief operating officer and president, according to a release from the Shipshewana, Ind.-based RV maker
He will fill the role previously held by Nick Nicholas.
Effective immediately, Zook will be in charge of the day-to-day operations and also oversee all product development and product aspects of KZRV LP, the operating entity and subsidiary of KZ Inc.
“This move will enhance KZRV’s ability to compete in the current marketplace,” the statement concluded.
Towables manufacturer KZRV LP will be hosting its 23rd annual dealer open house June 17-18 at its corporate office in Shipshewana, Ind. The combined product review and brief dealer meeting also will include a reception and awards dinner at Das Dutchman Essenhaus, an inn and conference center in nearby Middlebury.
“Having experienced several years of growth, we are now revisiting our history to guide what is the core of KZ and our brands,” said Andy Baer, vice president of sales and marketing, in a company press release. “With strong brands like Durango, Spree, Sportsmen, Coyote and Inferno, we have a solid foundation for the key market segments that are the strongest today.”
According to Baer, new products and floorplans scheduled for unveiling include the Durango 1500, a mid-profile fifth-wheel targeted to owners of half-ton trucks, and the Inferno SST, which Baer called a “value-focused edition of the successful Inferno.”
“Both products are within existing brand to avoid the confusion of adding any additional product lines,” he added.
KZ recently announced to its dealer body that the company is exiting the park model business and is placing a “hold” on the high-end Escalade and near-high-end Montego Bay fifth-wheel lines.
“While we have had tremendous success with both of these products, and have developed a sincere and supportive owner group, we feel that it is time to evaluate both market segments to ensure both ours and our dealers’ mutual success.” Baer added that KZ has a new product in development “that will address these segments and more accurately reflect the consumer’s needs and address the affordability question.”
KZ RV manufacturers fifth-wheel products under the Sportsmen, Spree and Durango brands, and travel trailers bearing the marquees Coyote, Coyote Lite, Sportsmen, Spree and Durango. Toy Hauler brands include Inferno, Inferno SST, Sportsmen Sportster, Coyote Rock Climber and MXT.
With unit sales for motorized and towable RVs experiencing sharp declines for 2008 – down 41.6% and 23%, respectively – manufacturers are engaged in a battle for market share that could determine their viability once sales recover.
Tom Walworth, president of Statistical Surveys Inc., maintains that line of strategy requires manufacturers to look past current conditions and concentrate almost solely on market penetration.
“Significant unit growth will be hard to find in this type of market,” said Walworth, whose Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company regularly tracks retail registrations. “Market share is the area where manufacturers need to focus this year. When sales are down, the companies that can effectively increase market share will see higher unit sales once the market comes back – and it will come back.”
Walworth said that improving market penetration had to be accomplished through “granular steps” – working from the bottom up to improve the bottom line.
“OEMs have to be judging and assessing their companies right now,” he said. “They need to take another tack with this market, although the same principles still hold up – gain market penetration and shelf space on dealer lots.
“Builders have to fight for market share on a national level, but that has to be approached by going dealer by dealer, state by state and then region by region. It requires getting your entire company moving in the same direction while constantly monitoring progress to make sure what you are doing is making impact. That’s how the war will be won.”
Walworth offered specific examples of companies that were able to aggressively capture market share during last year’s contracting market.
Among motorized manufacturers, market share leader Winnebago Industries Inc. posted a 41.7% drop in unit sales for the year – comparable to the industry average – but only lost one-tenth of a percentage point in market share. “Basically, they were able to stay even with the market,” Walworth said.
Other manufacturers making notable market share gains in the motorized sector were: Thor Industries Inc. (10.5%), Tiffin Motorhomes Inc. (11.8%) and Jayco Inc. (12.2%).
On the towable side, unit leader Thor showed a 3.9% market share gain. Other companies showing noted improvement included: Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC (89.3%), Jayco (4.7%,), KZRV LP (27.8%) and Palomino RV (17.1%).
“Just staying in business in this environment is an accomplishment,” Walworth said. “But the companies that are really doing things right are outperforming the market.”
Walworth noted that in addition to tactical adjustments, navigating in the down market also requires the proper attitude.
“I talk to so many people that have their heads down and are zoned in on all the negative news,” he said. “People have to live in this market, and the only way to do that is to keep moving forward and not give up.”