Judging by the activity level at Newmar Corp.’s dealer meeting, April 9-11 at the Gaylord Texan Hotel in the Dallas suburb of Grapevine, the recreational vehicle industry’s gradual recovery appears to be continuing in a big way.
Beyond all of the glitz and glitter of the new 2014 models on display, the big news for family-held Newmar’s management team at its first dealer meeting since 2008 had to do with the upbeat attitudes and, more importantly, the product-ordering inclinations of the Nappanee, Ind., company’s dealer body.
So strong was the pace of business, reports John Sammut, vice president of sales and marketing, that Newmar’s senior management started bulking up its plant staff to accelerate production immediately upon its return from the Lone Star State.
“I think everybody in Newmar management had their expectations exceeded,” said Sammut. “I don’t know that we had a formal target that we wanted to hit (in orders). We definitely wanted to feel that the dealers appreciated the message during the business meeting and then were wowed by the product. And the comments that we’ve fielded and the orders we’ve received since the meeting were their stamp of approval that we’ve done the right things with the product and that we’ve had the right message.”
The dealers stepped up to an extent that Newmar hadn’t seen for some time in an array of product lines from the company’s least expensive $122,000 retail Bay Star Sport Class A to its totally upgraded King Aire, an upscale A-body that at $902,000 retail is positioned to compete in the high-line bus conversion market.
“Yes, they did,” said Sammut. “So, when you look at chassis we need to build these units, the demand is there at almost every price point – 50% gas, 50% diesel, and the diesel was well mixed among the Ventana, Ventana LE, the Dutch Star, the Mountain Aire and then, of course, our high-end lineup.”
The strong sales were also an affirmation, Sammut noted, of the market’s continued upswing. “I think there’s an improved level of confidence among the dealer network with the banks maybe getting a little more reasonable on financing – both retail financing as well as wholesale financing,” Sammut said. “And seeing their inventory turns on Newmar product go up, they now have a confidence level that they haven’t had in a long time not only to stock inventory, but to put Newmar product on the lot.”
The dealers’ response, of course, was well received by the company’s production staff for whom a meeting was held right after the Dallas confab with Sammut, Newmar President Matt Miller and Vice President of Manufacturing Kevin Bogan, addressing Newmar’s work force in the plant amid an array of work in progress.
“We brought them up to speed and addressed the fact that we are making plans, ordering chassis and other materials, and hiring to get to 25 units a week production, five a day, in about six weeks time,” said Sammut. “And should the excitement and the business conditions persist, we have the capability, provided we can hire the right people, to possibly see 30 units a week sometime this summer.”
Miller, son of founder Mahlon Miller who appeared on tape during the dealer meeting from his retirement home in Phoenix, couldn’t have agreed more. “We are in a better financial position than we have been in many, many years,” said Miller, “and we are managing our business for continued great profitability because the 2008-2009 downturn helped us to manage our business better, and we’ve had some very good years the last couple of years. So, we’re reinvesting in innovation and having people focused on improving products, and we’re poised to really make a mark on the industry.”