The iconic American vacation machine, the motorhome, is experiencing an uptick in popularity.
As reported by the Goshen (Ind.) News, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) tracks manufacturer shipments of motorhomes to dealers and reported this week that those shipments are up 36.2% compared to 2012. RVIA’s numbers show 28,198 motorized RVs were shipped in 2012 and 38,100 will be shipped by the end of this year. And the industry’s projections expect 41,900 motorhomes will be shipped in 2014.
“The last two years was the beginning of a recovery,” said Winnebago Industries President and CEO Randy Potts, who was busy greeting dealers at the company’s display at this week’s 51st Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky. “The four years before that was a tremendous struggle.”
He said of the RVIA’s projection of growth in the motorhome segment, “I think it’s reasonable, but of course only time will tell. I think it is a safe estimation.”
The Goshen News reported that 90% of Winnebago’s business is motorized RVs, and those are built in Iowa. The company builds its much smaller line of towable products in Middlebury, Ind. Like the job growth Elkhart County has experienced from the comeback in the RV industry, the rising RV sales are benefiting the economy in Iowa. Forest City-based Winnebago is expanding its Class B van line by leasing a vacant factory in Lake Mills, Iowa.
“We have promised to bring some jobs up there. We are going to assemble our B van products up there,” Potts said.Those vans are currently being assembled in Charles City, Iowa.
“We just outgrew that,” Potts said. “Our product line is expanding and volume is picking up, so we needed more capacity and this opportunity came up. It is going to work out well for everybody.”
Any expansion in motorized products is a positive change after the recession drastically shrunk that segment of the RV industry. While towable recreational vehicle sales and shipments have picked up quickly and account for the bulk of the 300,000 plus units that will be made this year, motorized units have not bounced back as fast.
“The motorhome business is more closely aligned with the housing market and housing dropped off dramatically,” Potts said. “There was the whole crisis over the mortgage industry and all that. I think motorhomes got pulled into that. In the same note, as the housing market started to come back, so did the motorhome business.”
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Oregon’s Coos Bay area is starting to reap the rewards of the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) rally that took place in 2012.
The Coos Bay World reported that the Oregon Coast RV Jamboree, a new event at The Mill Casino-Hotel sponsored by Guaranty RV Super Centers is set to conclude today (July 19). The event saw dozens of vehicles visiting, and included a Menasha forest tour and traditional tribal salmon bake.
Ray Doering, communications manager for the Mill, says the Bay Area can expect more of these rallies in the future coming off the success of last year’s FMCA Northwest Rally.
“There has been so much interest created from last year, it kind of built on itself,” Doering said Wednesday. “It’s nice that we made a good impression.”
Over 1,200 people attended the Northwest Rally, which was that event’s first venture to the coast. The rally’s success spawned five smaller events at the Mill, one of which was this week’s Jamboree. FMCA is planning to return its Northwest Rally here in 2015.
Increased RV traffic in and out of the Mill has given a shot in the arm to the local economy. Doering says the vehicles may pull into the casino’s property, but attendees travel out into the community regularly.
“We thought that since we have an RV Park, let’s get a rally together. Let’s do something really special for folks. And it really caught on,” Doering said.
There are two more events scheduled this year that can trace their origin back to the FMCA rally. One is similar in size to the Jamboree and takes place in August. The second event will be a joint GMC Cascaders, GMC 49ers and GMC Western States Fall 2013 Rally. That event takes place in October and over 100 vehicles are anticipated.
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If you got trapped on the highway behind any pokey motorhomes or recreational vehicles over the holiday weekend, take solace in this: You were being inconvenienced by an American industry on the rebound.
MarketWatch reported that the most recent sales figures from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) show that RV and motorhome shipments to dealers for the year through May topped 144,000, a 13% increase over the previous year, keeping the industry on track for its best year since the recession started, The mega-camper business all but collapsed during the last recession, thanks to the combination of economic upheaval and high gas prices, with sales falling 58% from 2006 to 2009. Shriveling credit markets played a role, too, with many lenders unwilling to finance RV and motorhome purchases even as they freed up money for car loans in general.
Indeed, some analysts say looser lending policies are a major factor behind the current rebound. A spokesman for Thor Industries Inc., the company that makes Airstream and other popular RV brands, recently told Kyle Stock of Bloomberg BusinessWeek that buyers can now “get financing pretty easily up to about $150,000.”
A quick search online suggests that interest rates on RVs start at around 4.4%, compared with under 3% for the typical auto loan.
RV salespeople say that retiring “snowbird” Boomers are their biggest customers; the trade group doesn’t publish specific age breakdowns, but its literature suggests that ownership rates are highest among those between age 55 and 75.
Speaking of snowbird stereotypes, the archetypal motorhome, in which the driver’s cabin and the living quarters are all on the same chassis — Jack Nicholson’s Winnebago in the movie “About Schmidt,” for example — accounts for only about 12% of RV sales. Travel trailers that get towed behind another vehicle, like the Airstream, make up the majority of the market. Some of those are quite modest, but price tags on the most luxurious models can top $90,000.
Lichtsinn Motors is building a stand-alone RV facility that will house RV sales, service and parts at its Forest City, Iowa, location, according to a report by the Mason City Globe Gazette.
“We are excited to embark on this next step in our commitment to the growth of the RV industry,” said Ron Lichtsinn. “This new facility will provide our RV customers with a more cohesive, best-of-class experience. It will also benefit our automotive customers, offering them a focused automotive experience not only in sales, but in parts and service where the two businesses have previously been combined.
“This expansion will benefit our customers, and also facilitate the need for additional employment within Lichtsinn Motors.”
Lichtsinn has been recognized as the No. 1 dealer of motorhomes in Iowa for 12 consecutive years by Statistical Surveys Inc. Lichtsinn was also recognized in 2012 by Winnebago Industries Inc., also based in Forest City, as the second-largest Winnebago and Itasca dealer in the Eastern Division.
The new facility will include additional service bays, an indoor parts store, spacious service check-in areas, a state-of-the-art photo and video area, and indoor delivery for its customers as well as a technology-focused customer lounge. The automotive General Motors facility will gain a customer lounge, additional service bays, an enlarged detailing area and a focused photo/video area.
The estimated completion date for this project is fall 2013.
Decatur, Ind.-based motorhome builder Fleetwood RV Inc. announced that John McKibben will join the company as director of operations.
McKibben’s responsibilities will include management of on-line and off-line production, lean manufacturing processes and operational resource planning. With 17-plus years in production management, he offers wide-ranging experience applying advanced lean manufacturing strategies in plant environments.
Most recently serving as plant manager at Bluffton Motor Works, McKibbon also has prior management experience at Nestle and General Motors Co. As a certified Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) coach, he also trains teams in TPS and TPM tools to improve safety, quality and productivity.
“John’s broad management background and lean manufacturing expertise is a great match for our organization,” stated John Draheim, president & CEO of Fleetwood RV. “He has a proven track record of consistently attaining production schedules, meeting quality expectations, solving process challenges and improving safety, all of which are extremely important to our work here at Fleetwood RV.”
McKibben, a Fort Wayne, Ind., native, replaces Luis Ortiz. A Six Sigma black-belt and lean expert, Ortiz advances to a new consulting role for Fleetwood RV stakeholder, American Industrial Partners (AIP).
“Luis played a critical role in the development of our lean manufacturing journey and we’re incredibly grateful to have had him on our team,” said Draheim. “He has accepted a position with AIP as a lean sensei where he will get to extend his expertise to an expanding portfolio of companies.”
With the big-boy RVs stretching nearly 50 feet, many pulling trailers full of toys, turning and parking in campgrounds can be a problem.
The Billings (Mont.) Gazette reported that people no longer back into campsites, they want drive-throughs. That change and the demand for more modern amenities helped create more work for Doug Mulvaney at Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA).
“Probably the biggest challenge in the industry in the last 15 to 20 years is addressing the size of the RVs being manufactured,” said Mulvaney, KOA’s manager of facilities development.
While working for the former Montana Power Co., Mulvaney handled underground electrical utilities. He uses that experience to help modernize some of KOA’s 550 campgrounds, many designed decades ago.
“The biggest thing I do, year in and out, is upgrading electric service, usually to 50 amps,” he said.
Campground owners also must respond to RV manufacturers moving the location of utility hookups on the RV. They may have to offer plug-ins on both sides or install front and back sewer hookups, Mulvaney said.
Redesigning curves to allow a wider turning radius for the big rigs and consolidating and angling camp sites for drive-through access are his other duties.
“There are several campground layouts where you kind of look at it and scratch your head,” Mulvaney said.
Decatur, Ind.-based motorhome builder Fleetwood RV Inc. recently announced a series of key organizational changes and additions to the Fleetwood RV and American Coach sales and product teams. According to a press release, these changes “support Fleetwood’s continued market expansion and product development.”
Kyle McCrary has been appointed to senior vice president of product planning and design. He will oversee all current and future product design for both Fleetwood RV and American Coach brands. This move formalizes the role of influence which McCrary already plays with the American Coach brand as it continues its resurgence in the marketplace. Product design will “play an increasingly vital role as the brand continues to expand and enhance its model lineup and offer some of the most luxurious motorhomes in the industry,” according to Fleetwood.
“Kyle has been instrumental in the success of the redesign and branding of the iconic American Coach brand,” stated John Draheim, president and CEO of Fleetwood RV. “His forward-thinking coupled with his 27 years of RV experience make him a great asset to our company. Kyle will be very influential in the ongoing product design innovations for all Fleetwood RV products.”
Additionally, Matt McQuown joins the company as director of sourcing, bringing over 20 years of procurement experience to the Fleetwood team. McQuown will apply his extensive supply chain and commodity expertise as he leads the strategic sourcing team and establishes processes. He will be based out of the Decatur manufacturing facility.
Other appointments include:
• Dave Denarola has been appointed director of sales, Western region and Lenny Razo is now director of sales for the Eastern region, equally focusing on Fleetwood RV and American Coach product lines. Both will report directly to Draheim and will handle strategic sales planning and management of all sales operations and activities for their respective sales regions.
• Tim Schulyer joins the American Coach sales team as a district sales manager, Eastern region, reporting directly to Razo. He will be responsible for the sales activities of the American Coach product line in all areas of the United States east of the Mississippi River and Eastern Canada. Schuyler brings a wealth of knowledge to his position with more than 15 years of RV industry experience, which includes holding positions at the retail level in sales and management.
• Jeff Gibson comes to Fleetwood RV as district manager to its Western region sales team. He brings a wealth of knowledge to his position with more than 20 years in the RV industry, including both wholesale and retail experience and in the rental segment. Gibson will be responsible for the sales activities in the key California and Mountain states area.
Draheim noted, “These organizational changes more closely align Fleetwood RV’s structure with our strategy and commitment to innovation, design and to provide a strong value proposition to our dealer network and retail customers.”
Fleetwood RV Inc. recently received the “Large Business of the Year” Award from the Chamber of Commerce in Decatur, Ind., where the motorhome manufacturer is headquartered.
According to a press release, the award is presented annually to a business that has more than 25 employees and has demonstrated “apparent, consistent success as well as good corporate citizenry.” The business must show a concern for the well-being of the community and have management and personnel who actively participate in civic organizations or community activities.
“We are very much honored to have received this distinguished award from the Decatur Chamber of Commerce,” said John Draheim, president and CEO of Fleetwood RV. “The Decatur community and its local businesses have been an essential part of our success, and we sincerely thank them for that.”
Draheim said that Fleetwood RV has experienced a major transformation over the last few years, today employing 950 people. The local work force as well as the community played a critical role in the company’s decision to locate in Decatur.
Winnebago Industries Inc. unveiled a number of new floorplans at the 50th Annual Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., Nov. 27-29.
“Our motorized and towable lineups at this year’s RVIA National Trade Show were phenomenal,” said Winnebago Industries Chairman, CEO and President Randy Potts in a press release. “Not only did we show some of our hottest floorplans, but also a number of concepts were shown in order to gauge dealer response. What we heard was positive and armed with this information – we are going to continue to take Winnebago Industries in exciting new directions that will meet and exceed the needs and demands of today’s RVers.”
Highlights of the company’s motorized division included:
• Winnebago Minnie Winnie 25B: The iconic Winnebago Minnie Winnie unveiled a new 25B floorplan at the show. This value-priced coach is perfect for consumers just entering the RV lifestyle or experienced RVer’s seeking a great value. Despite its shorter length, this 25-foot coach offers tons of sleeping accommodations. With a rear corner bed and bath, the front of the coach offers a dinette with opposing sofa/sleeper. An overhead bunk provides yet another place to sleep at night, while the galley is mid-coach.
• Winnebago Via 25P: Built on the Mercedes-Benz F50 cowl chassis, the new 25P features a rear corner bed and bath. A front slideout room provides great space including an extremely roomy wardrobe and either a standard dinette or optional sofa/sleeper. The fully equipped galley is located on the passenger side of the coach.
• Winnebago Sightseer 35G: The Winnebago Sightseer introduces a new floorplan, the 35G, features the new InTable. The InTable functions as an end table, dining table, island, countertop extension and desk. Plus, it offers built in storage and is moveable. Combined with the extendable sectional sofa sleeper, Euro recliner and innovative TV location, the InTable helps make the 35G incredibly functional and comfortable.
Innovative exteriors were also highlighted at the show with concept paint and graphics packages on display. Luxury Class A gas motor omes, the Winnebago Adventurer and Itasca Suncruiser, also unveiled new front-end styling.
“Not to be outdone, the towables line really turned heads,” said Potts. “At the forefront is the new Cherry Red Minnie. It is a truly striking trailer that is feature packed and fun. The new Winnebago Ultralite line was well received, and the full body paint Raven fifth-wheel is definitely appealing for consumers looking for a high-end trailer.”
• Winnebago Minnie: The new Cherry Red exterior and a new bunk model, the 2301BH, were the highlights in the Minnie trailer lineup. The 2301GH is compact in size and weight, and packed with features usually found in much larger units. Features include a sofa, full sized dinette, queen bed, twin bunks, pantry, tremendous wardrobe and counter space – all in a compact 26-foot length.
• Winnebago Ultralite: The company’s newest towable entry is the Winnebago Ultralite travel trailer. The sleek exterior offers color-infused tan gel coat, poured fiberglass walls, eye-catching graphics and frameless windows. The designer interior features radius ceiling featuring LED lights, the new Ultralite features 80-inch beds, an island galley and mega bathroom. The trailer weighs less than 6,000 pounds allowing it to be towed with most of today’s smaller tow vehicles.
• SunnyBrook Remington: On the value side, the new Remington 2750BHS Ultralite was on display. Sporting a new cool grey high-gloss exterior fiberglass, new countertops and a low entry-level price point, the new Remington Ultralite provides a high quality, value-priced unit for those consumers that are more budget minded.
• SunnyBrook Raven: The 3300CK floorplan featuring full body paint was showcased in Louisville, offering an island kitchen with solid surface countertop and a swing-out cabinet end. Other features include a rear entertainment center, full sized sofa, residential swivel rocker recliners, and dining table and chairs.
Other notables include the Winnebago One travel trailers and Live Five fifth-wheels that have been gaining market share with unique floorplans, curved ceilings and exterior highlights like innovative paint packages and frameless windows, and the value-priced Sunset Creek Sport that offers new interior paneling and black cabinet hardware.
Decatur, Ind.-based motorhome builder Fleetwood RV Inc. will highlight six new floorplans during the National RV Trade Show, Nov. 27-29 in Louisville, Ky.
“Our focus continues to be on our relentless commitment to innovation, quality and value,” said John Draheim, president and CEO of Fleetwood RV, in a press release.
The new models extend the company’s product expansion this year as 13 new floorplans have been introduced throughout 2012. In addition to the new floorplans, Fleetwood will showcase its Platinum Edition paint schemes in Louisville.
“The combination of Fleetwood’s quality engineering and new floorplan selections make these products a ‘must see’ at this year’s show,” said Draheim. “These new products offer dealers the value and opportunities they’re looking for to be prepared for a successful spring selling season.”
For more information on dealer opportunities, contact Lenny Razo, national director of sales, at (800) 854-1344 or email Lenny.Razo@Fleetwoodrv.com.