Donati Getting Back in the Motorhome Biz

July 30, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

Claude Donati

Claude Donati

Newly formed motorhome manufacturer Nexus RV announced it has temporarily located its corporate offices in Innovation Park at the University of Notre Dame in Northern Indiana.

The company plans to produce motorhomes in Northern Indiana or Southern Michigan, according to a news release.

“As we finalize many of the details in our initial phase, Innovation Park offers many great resources,” said Claude Donati, president.  “The environment here is conducive for a thorough and professional approach to make many of the important decisions a new company has to make.”

Donati, formerly vice president of the motorized division at Gulf Stream Coach Inc., in nearby Nappanee, Ind, added,  “It is our plan to determine the location of our production campus within the next 60 days. We are analyzing several facilities to assure our needs will be met not only for our initial phase but as we grow. Many traditional sites are being reviewed but we are also looking at those areas where the community is eager to create tax revenue.”

Donati announced his resignation from Gulf Stream in mid-June.

“It is with great excitement and ambition I resign my post as the vice president of the motorized division of Gulf Stream Coach,” Donati said in response to’s inquiry. “I appreciate the 15 years that I worked at Gulf Stream and will miss the many employees that I worked with over the years. I would like to especially thank (Motorized Division President) Brian Shea for the many years of opportunity he provided for me and my family.

“As for my future,” Donati continued, “it is my hope and expectation to be part of a company in the RV industry. I will rely on my many years in manufacturing and my vast knowledge of the business as well as the many relationships I was fortunate enough to establish to create a business that will allow me to contribute to the local economy and to remain an active member of the RV community.”

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British Security Firm to Employ UK RV Owners

July 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Here’s an unusual story out of the United Kingdom. The UK’s leading outside broadcast security company, Octavian Security, is looking for motorhome owners to guard film sets and TV outside broadcasts for the likes of the BBC and others.

In addition to looking after some of the most exciting sporting and TV events on the calendar and being able to meet celebrities, Octavian Security is even offering successful applicants free training, according to a posting on

The security roles are ad hoc and require the security team to live on-site 24 hours a day to ensure total event security, which is why they are mostly undertaken by husband and wife teams with their own motorhomes — combining business with pleasure.

Tony Mellor, commercial director of Octavian, commented: “We have a great team of security professionals who happen to enjoy the caravanning life, but the growth of our Outside Broadcast Division means that we need even more.”

“Our officers are there to keep unwanted intruders out of restricted areas, guarding the production teams and their equipment. They also have the chance to watch the sporting events, see TV programs and films being made, and even sometimes meet the stars.”

Octavian provides security for innumerable high profile events, such as the Boat Race, Royal Ascot, Springwatch and the Glastonbury Festival and is the sole provider of outside broadcast security services to the BBC.

The starting pay is around 7.5 pounds ($11.50 U.S.) per hour.

Octavian began U.S. operations last fall. Its U.S. headquarters are in Berwyn, Pa., with regional offices in Tulsa, Okla., and Richmond, Va. No official word whether the firm plans to institute this work plan in the U.S.

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Winnebago Q3 Sales Up 165%; Net Income $6M

June 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Winnebago logoWinnebago Industries Inc. today (June 17) reported continued improvement in financial results during the company’s third quarter ending May 29.

Revenues for the quarter were $134.8 million, an increase of 165.1%, versus $50.8 million for the third quarter of fiscal 2009, according to a news release. The company reported an operating profit of $3.4 million for the quarter, versus an operating loss of $14.8 million for the third quarter of fiscal 2009. Net income for the third quarter was $6.0 million versus a net loss of $8.6 million for the third quarter of fiscal 2009.

On a diluted per share basis, the company had net income of 21 cents for the third quarter of fiscal 2010 versus a net loss of 29 cents for the third quarter of fiscal 2009. The third quarter of fiscal 2010 was benefited from increased motorhome unit deliveries, particularly in the Class A category. The net income for the third quarter also reflected the positive effect of $2.4 million in tax benefits associated with resolution of tax audits and various tax planning initiatives.

Revenues for the first nine months of fiscal 2010 were $326.4 million, an increase of 114.6%, versus revenues of $152.1 million for the first nine months of fiscal 2009. The company reported an operating loss of $4.4 million for the first nine months of fiscal 2010, versus an operating loss of $50.3 million for the first nine months of fiscal 2009. Net income for the first nine months of fiscal of 2010 was $5.4 million, or $0.18 per diluted share, versus a loss of $28.5 million, or $.98 per diluted share for the first nine months of fiscal 2009. No tax benefits have yet been recorded on the first nine months of fiscal 2010 pre-tax losses.

To the extent that future pre-tax income is generated, these unrecorded tax benefits will offset tax expense until fully utilized. The $9.5 million of tax benefit recorded in the first nine months of fiscal 2010 primarily relates to tax benefits associated with the carryback of fiscal year 2009 net operating losses permitted by tax law changes and tax benefits associated with various tax planning initiatives and tax settlements.

“We are extremely pleased to report our results for the third quarter of fiscal 2010 which show profitability at the operating level for the first time since our second quarter of 2008,” said Winnebago Industries’ Chairman, CEO and President Bob Olson. “We are also encouraged by continued sequential improvement in revenues and gross profit. The main driver for this improvement was increased motorhome shipments which increased 120.3%over the third quarter of fiscal 2009 and 23.2%sequentially over the second quarter ended Feb. 27, 2010. The increased volume resulted in greater efficiencies and higher utilization of our manufacturing facilities.”

Dealer inventory was relatively flat with 2,000 Class A, B and C motorhomes as of May 29, compared to the 2,022 at the end of the second quarter of fiscal 2010; and down 13.9% from dealer inventory of 2,324 on May 30, 2009.

Olson continued, “Dealer inventory has leveled off, which we believe is appropriate in today’s market environment. Dealers and their lending institutions are keeping a close eye on inventories to ensure that supply is consistent with retail demand. We have also seen dramatic improvement within the last year in the age of the product in dealer inventory, with much less older inventory on their lots.”

Winnebago Industries’ sales order backlog was 935 motorhomes at May 29, an increase of 144.8% compared to the end of the third quarter of fiscal 2009. “While our sales order backlog increased considerably since the third quarter of fiscal 2009, it has declined 19.3% sequentially from the end of the second quarter of fiscal 2010,” said Olson. “We are launching our new 2011 products to our dealers this month. As dealers are able to see these exciting new products, we anticipate the sales order backlog will rise accordingly.”

According to Statistical Surveys Inc., the retail reporting service for the RV industry, Winnebago Industries continues to lead the industry in retail sales of Class A and Class C motorhomes combined with 19.5% for the first four months of calendar 2010, compared to 18.4% for the same period of calendar 2009.

Olson continued, “Dr. Richard Curtin, the economist for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, recently increased his forecast for the motorhome market, estimating 22,600 Class A, B and C motorhomes will be shipped to dealers in calendar 2010, a 71% increase over 2009. We remain cautious, however, until we see prolonged improvement in retail sales. We continue to believe that retail sales will be the key driver to sustain our recovery and for continued growth going forward.”

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Bayh, Donnelly Legislation Backs RV Industry

February 26, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Sen. Evan Bayh and U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, both Democrats representing Indiana, have introduced two pieces of legislation supporting the RV industry.

Donnelly and Bayh were successful in including a tax deduction for new motorhomes in last year’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but the benefit expired at the end of 2009. To continue to protect jobs throughout Indiana’s important RV industry, Thursday (Feb. 25) they introduced legislation that would renew for two more years the tax benefit for new motorhomes and also expand it to include new towable RVs and truck campers, according to a joint release by the officials.

The legislation would make amounts paid on state sales and excise taxes deductible and could be claimed on up to $49,500 of the price of a new purchase. The tax relief could be claimed by both itemizers and non-itemizers, and they could save up to $1,100.

“Making new RVs more affordable for two additional years will assist the RV industry in bouncing back from this recession,” said Donnelly, whose congressional district includes Elkhart County. “We are seeing positive results from last year’s tax benefit, but we’re not out of the woods yet. By continuing to provide tax relief to new customers, we will protect and create jobs in north central Indiana.”

“With the RV industry adding jobs and showing signs of recovery, now is the time to ensure the momentum continues,” Bayh said. “Elkhart County is the ‘RV capital of the world,’ and Congress must do more to nurture the industry’s recovery. This legislation builds on last year’s important tax relief to protect and grow RV sales and create jobs for the hard-working Hoosiers who keep this industry moving forward.”

“Continuing the sales and excise tax deductions for motorhomes and expanding this provision to include travel trailers and truck campers are exactly what the RV industry needs,” said Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) President Richard Coon. “It will improve the economic environment in our industry, stimulate RV sales and help speed the RV market’s recovery.”

Bayh and Donnelly also introduced HR 1073/SR 410, a resolution honoring the 100th anniversary of RVs.

“I’m proud to represent the ‘RV capital of the world,’ which has benefited the north central Indiana economy for years,” said Donnelly. “I am pleased to recognize the 100th anniversary of a vehicle that has brought both jobs and recreation to our area.”

“The RV industry is an important driver of Indiana’s economy and an important source of recreation for families across the country,” Bayh said. “I congratulate the RV industry on its first 100 years, and I look forward to even more success in the years to come.”

In 2009, Bayh received the National Legislative Award from the RVIA.

Donnelly is seeking re-election this year. Bayh announced earlier he will not seek re-election.

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September 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Another sign that the worst days of the recession may be behind us comes from the latest sales figures from, a pioneer in online RV listings for both new and used RVs.

Total site visits to the site for July were up to 201,404, or 26,000 more than June, according to Genevieve Branco, operating manager for That’s a 57% increase over July 2008 totals. Unique visitors and page views were also up from last year, 61% and 24%, respectively.

But the category that catches Branco’s eye the most is “dealer referrals,” and she’s not releasing those impressive proprietary numbers just yet. “The last time we had dealer referrals this high was February 2007,” she said.

“Our traffic is up, but it’s been up for six to eight months,” she reported, adding that the dealer referral data “shows me people are interested in buying RVs.”

“They’ve started clicking that ‘Contact Seller’ button again, which tells me they’re doing more than just browsing,” said Branco. “They’re interested in buying.”

Branco also noted that some dealers who stopped advertising on the site during the recent downturn have come back in recent months. “It’s really a good economic indicator that times are getting better,” she said.

RVSearch has been providing an online RV buying and selling service since 1996 and today lists 30,000 vehicles – some 25,000 of which are at RV dealerships.

What sets RV Search apart from other online listing services, said Branco, is that listings also appear on Good Sam Club, Trailer Life Directory and websites. RV Search also is endorsed by MotorHome and Trailer Life Magazine, the RV Buyers Guide and Woodall’s North American Campground Directory.

“On RV Search, your motorhome, travel trailer or fifth-wheel will be seen by a thousands of RVers every day,” Branco maintains. “If you’re looking to buy an RV, you’ve come to the right place.”

“We make it easy for you to connect with the seller by offering a simple, short ‘contact seller’ form for each listing,” she explained. “This no-obligation contract form allows you to inquire about as many RVs as you like with no risk or obligation to buy. Or, if you’re tired of searching for your dream RV, choose Find My RV For Me . Let us put our network of reputable RV dealers to work for you, to find you the perfect RV.”

RVBusiness and RVBUSINESS.COM are published by Affinity Group Inc., parent company of

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Winnebago Looks to Wider Customer ‘Sweet Spot’

August 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

A high school graduate who learned everything he knows about motorhomes from “the university of Winnebago” has navigated one of the industry’s leading manufacturers over very bumpy terrain in the past year, according to the Associated Press.

Robert Olson, 58, took a job installing motorhome windows at Winnebago Industries Inc. at age 18 in hopes of saving money for college. He never left, foregoing a college education for on-the-job training that led him to where he is now, 40 years later, sitting in the CEO seat.

Actually, the seat he chose for a recent interview was a tan plush leather sectional sofa in the company’s newly unveiled $300,000 Itasca Ellipse.

The 42-foot home on wheels — the company’s largest motorhome ever – was parked outside Winnebago corporate headquarters in Forest City, Iowa, a small farming community of 4,500 people near the Iowa/Minnesota state line.

Production takes place in a campus of several factory buildings encompassing 2.5 million square feet. Components aren’t just assembled here, but seat covers, dashboards, water tanks and cabinets — more than half of the motorhome parts — are manufactured here.

Olson proudly discusses the Ellipse’s amenities: ceramic floor tile, granite countertops and cherry wood cabinetry. There’s a gas fireplace in the living room beneath a large flat-screen television. A second TV faces the king-sized bed in the back of the RV, which you reach after passing a bathroom, and a washer and dryer enclosed in a hallway closet.

“This is what our customers who like to go camping are asking for,” Olson said with a smile.

Going camping these days, it seems, isn’t what it used to be.

Q: It’s been a torturous couple of years for your industry, a 55% decline in shipments in the past year alone. Tight credit, high fuel prices and job losses hit you and your competitors hard. What has it been like?

A: I think you’re going to be hard-pressed to look at any recession this industry has had where you’ve had 10 manufacturers go out of business. They’ve physically shut their doors, sold their assets and they’re done. You’ve also got four other manufacturers who have filed for bankruptcy protection. Some of those are really big names in this industry.

Q: You’ve had to cut total number of workers by nearly 50% to around 1,700, close factories, make other cuts. Is that what enabled you to get through it?

A: We learned a long time ago that you always carry a war chest of cash in reserve and we did that again. We’re still at a point, even being in this recession for about 24 months, where we have no debt. We think that’s a very important part of our success.

Q: If the economy is beginning to recover, are you able to capture some of the customers who might have bought from former competitors?

A: We think we are. Those 10 manufacturers made up only 4-5% of the market, so there’s not a lot there you’ll gain. Some of those in bankruptcy — Monaco Coach Corp. and Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. — made up nearly a third of the market. One of the things that’s a little disheartening to us is that you can file for bankruptcy and get a clean slate. You get to start over. So, now we’ve got two competitors we thought were about down and out who get to come back, and will probably be stronger than ever.

Right now we’re just about 19% of the market and we’ve picked up some.

Q: Describe your average buyer?

A: They are typically in the 62- to 65-year range, although that range is starting to widen. I think one of the reasons why it’s so important for us to doll up our models a little bit more is to go after that younger customer. Next year when we talk, maybe that range will be 60 to 65. That’s the reason why we are looking at something other than just a conservative type RV.

You can’t lose sight of the fact that projections are that until 2030 you’re going to have 350,000 Baby Boomers per month joining our potential customer base.

You also have people living longer. We’ve got customers out there like at last year’s annual rally of Winnebago motorhome owners, a guy was 87 years old and he was dickering on a coach.

Q: Any other factors that might have an impact on sales?

A: What I’m really excited about is that 2004 was one of the biggest years this industry has seen in volume. Our average trade-in cycle is four to six years. So we’re right in the heart of those people wanting to trade their used coaches off for something new.

The whole market is starting to grow. Three years ago we had an African American RV club camped here and the Hispanic demographic is starting to grow.

One thing about it is, you’ve got my generation and even my kids’ generation, their parents took them camping, they took them to the lake and they sat around a campfire. A lot of people now look to gain a simpler life. They’re looking at wanting to share those types of memories with their kids.

Q: Tell me about your background. Where did you grow up?

A: I grew up in Osage. I was born and raised there. I went to school there, graduated from Osage High School. I’m very proud of my Iowa roots. My wife and I raised two children in Forest City, my daughter is 37 and my son is 34. As for my parents, my dad was a mechanic and worked at a Chevrolet garage in Osage when he was younger. He became a gas transport truck driver for a local oil company. My mom was a nurse’s aide and a cook at Osage Community Hospital.

Q: How did your career path an Winnebago Industries lead you to the CEO’s office?

A: I started working here Aug. 6, 1969. I was going to work for three to four months to earn money to go to college. I remember it like it was yesterday. The first day I started I was scared to death. My job was to install windows in our motorhomes. One thing led to another. You can switch jobs within Winnebago and it’s like being in a different factory and I’ve taken advantage of that.

My education was at the university of Winnebago. I’ve taken a lot of extra courses targeted toward the individual field I was in at the time. I’m a certified practitioner in production inventory control, for example. I got my break in the materials side of the business. It allowed me not only to see the material side but to interact with much of the manufacturing side. I then got the opportunity to move into manufacturing. I ran both the fabrications support areas and the assembly side of it, so I’ve seen all sides of the business and now I’m getting an education in sales, engineering and planning.

It’s gone extremely well.

Q: Do you have a motorhome?

A: Not yet. I will say I’m in the process of building a shed right now and it was built around having a motorhome. That is the plan, when I do retire. You can’t be in this industry and tout the beliefs of it and the memory-making part of it and not do it when you’re done. Both my wife and I are looking forward to the day we get to do that.

Also, one reason I don’t have one is because I can use one anytime I want.
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Newmar Motorhomes Post Big Market Share Gains

August 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

newmar-logoRecent data released by Statistical Surveys Inc. confirmed that the strong gains in Class A motorhome market share posted by Newmar Corp. through March 2009 continued through June, according to a news release.

Newmar, the Nappanee, Ind.-based manufacturer of Class A motorhomes and fifth-wheels, posted a 22.5% market share gain in Class A motorhome registrations during the first six months of 2009 when compared with the same time period in the 2008 calendar year. This was the largest gain in market share among the Top 10 Class A motorhome manufacturers.

“By purchasing Newmar motorhomes in stronger numbers during the first six months of this year, the RV buying public appears to be giving our products their stamp of approval,” stated John Sammut, Newmar’s vice president of sales and marketing.

The two Newmar products most responsible for these market share gains were the Ventana diesel pusher and Canyon Star gas motorhomes. The Ventana brand earned a market share increase of 92.9% during the first six months of 2009 as compared to June 2008 year to date. Newmar’s Canyon Star displayed a 54.5% increase in market share for that same period.

“The dramatic changes that we made to the interior designs and the innovative floorplans we created in all our products for the 2009 model year were instrumental in helping Newmar earn the market share gains we’ve seen so far this year,” said Pat Terveer, Newmar director of sales.

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Newmar Corp.’s 2010 Lineup Mirrors ’09 Offerings

August 11, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Newmar Corp.’s 2010 model lineup will duplicate its 2009 offerings, the company’s senior management  told members of the ”Newmar Kountry Klub,” the Nappanee, Ind., manufacturer’s owners’ club during a rally Aug. 3-7 at the Elkhart (Ind.) Fairgrounds.

”Because of the positive reponse to our 2009 model year lineup, our dealers said the product looked great and that our interiors were much improved over previous years … dealers told us that they hadn’t had a good enough market to be truly successful with that 2009 product, so they were recommending to us that we make no changes,” Vice President of Sales and Marketing John Sammut told club members during closing ceremonies Friday (Aug. 7).

”We also realized we wouldn’t have to have a dealer meeting to see new product because this is new product,” he added. ”The more and more we looked at it, that’s exactly what we did.”

Sammut, Newmar Chairman Matt Miller and U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., were among those speaking at closing ceremonies to a majority of the 968 people who registered 458 coaches for the rally.

”We think that business will come back and come back strong, and we think that Newmar will be situated in very good spot,” said Miller, who described last winter as ”trying times” for the company. 

Miller said that Newmar will continue to provide service at its headquarters factory for owners of Newmar and other RVs. ”We plan to keep offering that to you as our customers if you want service done in the factory,” he said. 

Sammut reported that sales of the company’s gas motorhomes have increased 10% this year.

”Traditionally, we’ve not been known as a gas manufacturer,” he said. ”Our diesels have been our long suit. But if we are going to grow our owner base and if we have any opportunity to grow the club, we’ve got to start these people out in a gas motorhome and someday get them into the diesel products. What’s hot right now are our Canyon Star toy hauler and 29-foot Bay Star.”

Donnelly told club members, who contributed food to the Nappanee Open Door agency, that Congress is working to keep fuel prices stable, ”so you don’t have to worry about jumps in price,” according to the Goshen News.

Donnelly reported that despite the recession, 17 new companies, including RV manufacturers, have opened in Elkhart County in the past few months. ”We’re working harder than ever to make the economy strong,” Donnelly said.

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30 Vehicles in Hilton Head ‘Life on the Road’ Display

August 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

concours_delegance_logo1The Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance & Motoring Festival plans to introduce an interactive display of more than 30 vehicles called “Life on the Road” at its Motoring Midway show field from Oct. 31 to Nov. 1.

The display will depict a century of camping and living along the highway in recreational vehicles, trailers, motorhomes and off-road vehicles, according to the Hilton Head Island Packet.

The exhibit will include several contemporary and antique motorhomes, including a 1927 Auto Kamp Trailer featuring a portable gramophone for campsite entertainment, a 1936 Curtis Aero trailer attached to a custom 1938 International truck, a vintage 1962 Airstream with its 1955 GMC tow vehicle, the amphibious TerraWind coach and a 1929 Studebaker RV.

The exhibit will also include off-road safari and military vehicles.

Details and tickets:

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Country Coach LLC Elaborates on New Partnership

July 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

country-coach-logo2Country Coach LLC today (July 31) released additional details regarding its corporate partnerships and company events.

Junction City, Ore.-based Country Coach announced that Recreation Live LLC is completing the immediate purchase of new Country Coach motorcoaches with a wholesale value in excess of $3 million to bolster its inventory, while the Country Coach partnership is finalized. Once the partnership is approved by the court, Recreation Live expects to own approximately half of the new Country Coach, according to a news release.

Country Coach also announced a new agreement with Lee Joint Ventures, lessor of a large portion of Country Coach’s campus in Junction City. Lee Joint Ventures is owned by Ron, Bob and Terry Lee, pioneers of Country Coach. The two companies have agreed on the preparation and execution of a new five-year lease on the Junction City campus property and facilities, subject to court approval.

“We are pleased to have reached these agreements with Recreation Live and Lee Joint Ventures, and are excited about what they mean for Country Coach’s future,” said Jay Howard, Country Coach president and CEO. “With our new customer parts support now operational and our upcoming Class Reunion Rally in Oregon in three weeks, Country Coach is gaining momentum.”

Howard noted that the company’s West Coast Class Reunion Rally is nearly closed for registration, and more than 300 Country Coach owners are currently scheduled to join the Country Coach management team in Albany, Ore., for five days of food, entertainment, fellowship and RV lifestyle learning opportunities.

Howard added, “It has been very gratifying to see the many stakeholders in Country Coach’s future be to supportive and work so hard to contribute toward the company’s recovery. I want to thank each and every one for their continuing contributions to our future success.”

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Ohio Laws Stifle Sales at FMCA’s Latest Convention

July 30, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

fmca-logo2When the final tally was in, a total of 2,426 family coaches registered for the Family Motor Coach Association’s 82nd (FMCA) Annual International Convention in Bowling Green, Ohio,  where Fleetwood RV Inc. and Monaco RV LLC made their respective debuts after their predecessor companies succumbed to bankruptcy earlier this year.

”Fleetwood and Monaco both were there, but in reduced number,” said Jerry Yeatts, FMCA director of conventions and commercial services. ”We were happy to see them.”

And although FMCA was generally pleased with the venue at Bowling Green State University and Wood County Fairgrounds about 25 miles south of Toledo, this will be the Cincinnati, Ohio-based organization’s last convention in its home state unless laws are changed to allow retail sales at such events.

”We worked for two years to get the state of Ohio to change their laws regarding sales at events like ours,” Yeatts said. ”The unfortunate situation is that we were working with commitments and promises from legislators that never developed. If the laws change, we would consider going back to Bowling Green, but they are going to have to change first.”

Not only do RVers attending the event look forward to seeing the latest motorhomes, offering them for sale is an integral park of the event, Yeatts noted.

”Sales are extremely important for our commercial members, and it’s also vital to our families to be able to select new motorhomes at the conventions,” he said. 

While 18 motorhome manufacturers and five Ohio dealers displayed coaches during the event, the inability to close sales apparently was partly responsible for fewer display coaches at the convention — 153 versus 491 at FMCA’s 2008 summer convention in St. Paul, Minn.

In a large display up front, Fleetwood unveiled its new Bounder Classic, a back-to-basics, gas-powered motorhome designed for value pricing and optimal functionality, according to Fleetwood President John Draheim.

More than 300 vendors selling products and services occupied 75,000 square feet of space in  the Charles Perry Field House on the university campus. 

Yeatts emphasized that even in the midst of a severe recession gatherings such as the FMCA convention in Bowling Green are important. 

”We know there still is a traveling public and once you get involved in this lifestyle, it’s addictive,” Yeatts said. ”There’s still a need for an association like FMCA to promote the lifestyle and the comraderie that goes along with it.”

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Texas Lemon Law Gave $7.6M in Relief in 2008

July 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Consumers purchasing or leasing defective new vehicles received $7.6 million in relief through the Texas Lemon Law in 2008 and more than $101.6 million in relief since 1993, according to a news release.

The Texas Lemon Law covers new or leased vehicles, including cars, trucks, vans, motorcycles, mopeds, all-terrain vehicles, motorhomes and towable recreational vehicles.

The report tallied 30 complaints on motorized RVs and 30 on towable RVs. The 60 cases led to settlements on 21 units manufactured by 15 different manufacturers.

The 2008 Lemon Law report, released by the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) Motor Vehicle Division (MVD), lists number of complaints filed, defects reported and complaint disposition. Since consumers usually have owned a motor vehicle at least one year prior to filing a Lemon Law complaint, the downturn in new motor vehicle sales in Texas, which many agree started in mid to late 2008, did not significantly impact the 2008 report.

Of the 629 complaints closed last year:

  • 57.7% of consumers received some form of relief for defective vehicles.
  • 29.6% had their vehicles repurchased, replaced or traded by the manufacturer.
  • 28.1% received repairs, extended service contracts or other remedies. 

Consumers complained most frequently about engine performance and emissions or the electrical system.

“The numbers indicate the Lemon Law continues to do what it is intended to do — help consumers with defective vehicles get relief,” said Brett Bray, director of TxDOT’s Motor Vehicle Division.

Under the Lemon Law, TxDOT’s Motor Vehicle Division can order a vehicle replaced, repurchased or repaired by the manufacturer. Some manufacturers choose to settle complaints rather than contesting them at a formal hearing. The report shows Chrysler LLC and General Motors Corp. continued a trend of resolving more complaints prior to hearing.

The Lemon Law Rules require that a manufacturer, distributor or converter re-title a reacquired vehicle. The re-titling requirement facilitates enforcement of disclosure requirements and hinders what is known as “lemon laundering” or “title washing.” In the near future, the title will include a notice sufficient to inform a prospective purchaser that the vehicle was reacquired by the manufacturer under the Lemon Law.

State law also requires manufacturers to issue a disclosure statement and hang the disclosure label from the view mirror and in the event that the vehicle does not have a rear view mirror the disclosure label must be affixed in a conspicuous location on vehicles ordered repurchased, replaced or reacquired to settle a Lemon Law complaint. The disclosure requirements are also mandatory for vehicles reacquired under another state’s Lemon Law and transferred to Texas for resale.

To obtain a copy of the 2008 Lemon Law Report or a consumer handbook on the Texas Lemon Law, contact TxDOT’s Motor Vehicle Division at (512) 416-4800, (800) 622-8682 or go to

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Draheim Upbeat as Fleetwood RV Sets New Course

July 21, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The new Fleetwood RV Inc. expects to build 2,500 Class A and C motorhomes within the next year, resulting in about $275 million in sales while “returning the company to its roots” with an emphasis on value-priced motorhomes, according to John Draheim, president of the new company owned by American Industrial Partners Capital Fund IV (AIP), a New York City-based investment firm which bought some of the assets of bankrupt Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.

”A lot depends on the market,” Draheim said during a break Tuesday at Fleetwood’s exhibit during the Family Motor Coach Association’s 82nd International Convention in Bowling Green, Ohio.  ”If we are able to build more diesel (units) than gas, it would be higher on the dollar side.”

Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., Riverside, Calif., filed for bankruptcy in March just days after announcing that it would no longer compete in the towable marketplace.

The new motorized RV builder’s headquarters will be in Decatur, Ind., where it purchased two of Fleetwood Enterprises’ manufacturing factories, two RV service plants and Fleetwood’s Gold Shield fiberglass facility along with some equipment in Riverside.

Three production lines are expected to be up and running by Labor Day, according to Draheim.

Fleetwood RV intends to hire about 650 employees to work in Decatur and will engage a temporary work force in Riverside to continue to build motorhomes while the Decatur plant starts up. ”We will be able to utilize the California operation on a temporary basis to produce product for a four- or five-month period,” Draheim said.

While continuing to build higher-priced diesel products, the company’s first new motorhome — unveiled at Bowling Green — is a gas-powered Bounder Classic targeted at value-priced buyers. The new Bounder, a brand that was once Fleetwood’s popular flagship — is intended to begin a return to the days when Fleetwood founder John Crean Sr. placed a premium on practicality, functionality and price sensitivity.

“It will have a lot more drawers, cabinets, cubby holes and shelves behind the sofa where you can put your bedding during the day,” Draheim said.

The Bounder Classic — initially available in three 30- to 34-foot floorplans on Ford chassis — will retail for between $100,000 and $105,000 Draheim reported. “Bounder had migrated to too high in price,” he said. “We felt we needed to get our Bounder to be the most powerful gas brand name and back in the heart of the market.”

Additionally, it’s likely that some Fleetwood brands will be dropped by the new company. “We are right-sizing the company to be break-even at our current revenues,” Draheim said. “Looking at the current industry volume, we have too many brands for that size of market.”

At one time, Fleetwood Enterprises employed more than 1,000 people in Decatur, but eliminated 550 jobs last December. On Friday (July 17), Fleetwood Enterprises’ 700 remaining employees nationwide were terminated and Fleetwood RV began taking employment applications from former Fleetwood Enterprises employees and others. Those rehired in Decatur will have to take a 10% across-the-board pay cut and their benefits will be adjusted, Draheim said.

He said the company was “overwhelmed” when 1,500 people applied for the jobs late last week when word spread around Adams County, just south of Fort Wayne, that Fleetwood was hiring.

In addition to paying $32.2 million for Fleetwood Enterprises’ assets, Fleetwood RV also assumed an estimated $20 million in warranty responsibilities for Fleetwood Enterprises’ motorized products.

”In the acquisition the new company will honor warranties for those customers who had a unit in their possession that still has adequate warranty period left as well as the unsold units on dealers’ lots,” Draheim said.

Fleetwood RV’s dealer base will consist of former Fleetwood Enterprises’ dealers as well as others.

”We are going to be looking for well-capitalized dealers who are the best option in each market,” Draheim said. ”We feel like the old organization had a very strong distribution channel. That was one of its best assets, albeit the channel has been under pressure for the last 18 months based on volume.”

Draheim said Fleetwood RV already has signed a floorplan agreement with one of the nation’s largest wholesale financing lenders and is in negotiations with another.

“We are very optimistic that we will have repurchase agreements with both of them very shortly and I think we will have adequate availability of wholesale funds,” Draheim said. “I don’t see that as an issue.”

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Altmans Winnebago Marks 38th Anniversary This Month

July 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

4879-38thAnnBut.epsAltmans Winnebago is celebrating its 38th year in the RV business this month.

“We opened our doors 38 years ago this July in the Los Angeles area and are celebrating with free gifts for everyone,” Joe Altman, the company’s president, said in a news release. “We’re serving food and beverages on the weekends, and during this sale new and used motorhomes can be purchased at prices up to 40% off original prices. 

“The current financial crisis has made it difficult for everyone, but by tightening our belt and focusing our efforts on retailing the finest products available, we are surviving this storm.” 

Over the last 38 years, Altmans Winnebago has grown to become one of the largest RV dealers in Southern California with locations in Carson and Colton, and provides a full range of services from new and used Winnebago sales as well as other brands such as Fleetwood, Damon, Monaco, Thor, Gulfstream, Jayco and Newmar .

Altmans is also well known for its fleet of RV rentals consisting of 2009 Winnebago motorhomes. 

Altmans Winnebago is now a member of the Priority RV Network, which consists of dealers from coast to coast (50+ RV dealerships representing over 100 locations in 36 states) dedicated to providing customers with the best value available motorhome repair, RV accessories and RV sales in the RV industry.

“As we move forward into the next 38 years,” said Altman, “the future looks very promising as we continue with great prices and excellent customer service.”

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Fleetwood Rally Brings Motorhomes Back ‘Home’

July 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

An RV rally in Decatur, Ind., is raising support to keep Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.’s operations there. It comes just weeks after a New York company bought the bankrupt RV maker. Now, the future of Decatur’s plant is up in the air.

This week, nearly one hundred RVs in town for a special rally could help turn things around, according to WANE-TV, Fort Wayne.

The motorhomes come from all over, in different sizes and colors but with one very important thing in common: they were all made by Fleetwood.

“This is where all the motorhomes that people have purchased were built at, here at Plant 44 in Decatur, Ind.,” explained Randy Hendricks, Fleetwood rally coordinator.

And, in the parking lot of Bellmont High School is where you’ll find all those American Coaches.

Ninety-seven have come to town for a special “Coming Back Home Rally.” It’s one of the annual events held by the American Coach Chapter of the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA).

Every year dozens of RV owners take part in event just like the rally for a little fun and fellowship, but this year, the rally in Decatur also has a special purpose.

“We want Fleetwood to stay and we want to show Decatur how much they mean to us,” Marcia Bratsburg, eastern director of the American Coach Chapter told NewsChannel 15.

After a turbulent year of layoffs and filing for bankruptcy for the company, rally organizers hope the event is also a lifeline for Fleetwood.

Last year, Fleetwood cut 550 of its 600 workers. In March, it filed for bankruptcy.

The struggling RV maker was recently bought by a New York company, American Industrial Partners, and it’s not clear how the purchase will affect the Decatur plant.

Decatur Mayor John Schultz is optimistic the showing of support might convince the new buyers to keep Fleetwood operations right where they are.

“I hope that will have an impact; hopefully, it give us a heads up on any other competition that we’re up against,” explained Schultz.

The RVs will be gone when the rally ends on Saturday (July 18); but just a few days after that, Schultz is hoping for an announcement that Fleetwood won’t be leaving.

City leaders also recently granted Fleetwood a tax abatement to further encourage the company to keep its operations in Decatur.

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