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.”
Luxury motorhome builder Newmar Corp. honored this year’s Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) Award winners during the company’s recently completed dealer meeting at the Gaylord Texan Hotel in Dallas.
According to a press release, the award is presented to dealers that scored in a pre-determined percentile based on results from customer surveys. Fourteen Newmar dealers earned the distinction by providing excellent customer service to Newmar customers receiving warranty work.
The 2012 award winners include: Ansley RV, Duncansville, Pa.; Buddy Gregg Motorhomes, Knoxville, Tenn.; Coachlight RV Sales Inc., Carthage, Mo.; Dick Gore’s RV World, Jacksonville, Fla.; Freedom RV, Tucson, Ariz.; Harper Camperland, Great Bend, Kan.; Independence RV Sales & Service, Winter Garden, Fla.; Midtown RV LTD, Penticton, B.C.; Midway Motor Homes Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich.; Mount Comfort RV, Greenfield, Ind.; North Trail RV Center, Fort Myers, Fla.; Professional Sales RV, Colleyville, Texas; Steinbring Motorcoach, Garfield, Minn.; Tom Johnson Camping Center, Marion, N.C.
“Newmar values highly our relationship with our dealer partners and mutual customers,” said Matt Utley, vice president of service operations for the Nappanee, Ind.-based builder. “The Newmar Service Excellence Survey is the measuring stick used to verify our customers are receiving the highest level of customer service.
“As confirmed by their customers, the dealers earning the Newmar Service Excellence Award, as well as the prestigious Mahlon Miller Service Excellence Award, possess a strong commitment to customer satisfaction throughout their entire organization. We are proud of their achievements and know our customers appreciate their passion for excellence.”
Four dealers this year also earned the Mahlon Miller Service Excellence Award, including North Trail RV, Independence RV, Dick Gore’s RV and Mount Comfort RV. Miller is the founder of Newmar and the award in his name recognizes those dealerships that most embody the spirit of customer service.
“Newmar is privileged to partner with dealers who are as passionate as we are about providing excellent service to our customers,” said Newmar President Matthew Miller.
A good crowd of current and prospective dealers were on hand Tuesday morning (April 9) at the Gaylord Texan Hotel in the Dallas suburbs for the kick off of Nappanee, Ind.-based Newmar Corp.’s first national dealer meeting since the recession put a damper on the U.S. economy in 2008.
And while the all-motorized RV builder showed an array of new 2014 models, family-held Newmar’s management also displayed an upbeat outlook in its presentations and an aggressive slate of new product and service initiatives unveiled this week in Texas.
“The recession’s a thing of the past,” Newmar President Matt Miller told RVBUSINESS.com, “and we’re focused on leading in product innovation and design. And, of course, we’ve always been a leader in quality and service.”
“That’s our focus to the dealers — that the recession is behind us and the future is bright,” agreed John Sammut, vice president of sales and marketing. “And I think in Tuesday’s business meeting that was a repeated theme throughout, not only in the remarks to dealers, but in many of the things Matt highlighted with regard to changes in product for 2014.
“The bottom line is that we never stopped investing in the product and our company. We fulfilled all our obligations, no matter what. But that’s all behind us, and we really do think Newmar dealers in particular should feel good about their future.”
Newmar, which planned to honor its top performers in terms of customer satisfaction at a Wednesday evening ceremony, showcased an array of new features and floorplans, including several full-wall slide models and the return of the legendary Detroit Diesel engine brand. The company debuted a 500-hp DD13 version that is available on the $750,000 (retail) Essex Class A equipped with Freightliner SLR chassis.
According to Newmar, the coach comes with a steerable tag-axle and a “Virtual Technician” on-board diagnostic system through which drivers can communicate with qualified tech support when experiencing engine trouble. The Essex is also available for the same price on Spartan chassis.
Other new models drawing special attention in Dallas included a new full-wall slide variant of the company’s popular, 39-foot, $188,000 (retail) Canyon Star toy hauler Class A — the company’s top-selling floorplan — and a significant upgrade of the high-end King Aire A-body that, for $902,000 (retail), has been positioned as an affordable option for today’s bus conversion buyer. The builder also showed the Ventana Class A, retailing for $284,000, offering new floorplans and additional length in some models.
The King Aire, like the rest of Newmar’s lines, comes with TRW’s Comfort Drive steering developed for dramatically easier big rig handling — a feature that Newmar’s management is promoting through a series of test drives at rallies and shows around the country.
“One of our approaches with the King Aire is to actually take business away from the bus conversion manufacturers,” said Miller. “It has a bus look, but it’s half the price. We have provided a better drive with Comfort Drive. With its axles and suspension, it’s a better ride than bus conversions. And when you look at the inside and everything that’s on the unit, it’s a tremendous value.”
As expensive as that coach might seem to many potential American motorhome buyers, Sammut said the company has kept a strong hand in more affordable price tiers, with virtually half its coaches still being lower priced, gas-fueled coaches.
“We don’t have a down-and-dirty price point product — and we probably never will because we’re just not that kind of company,” said Sammut. “But we do have at every price point down into our gas products competitively priced and affordable product.”
Among the other key initiatives at Tuesday’s presentations:
• A continued emphasis on improving the company’s 13-year-old customer service index (CSI) program.
• A substantial investment toward a website upgrade to better display product in a more user-friendly manner and facilitate more lead generation.
• Enhanced product branding in the trade and consumer press.
• A closer focus on the value of plant tours as a viable branding and sales tool.
• A retained emphasis on Newmar’s sales and executive management teams working and supporting rallies and shows.
• Opting to continue for a fourth year the “Newmar Product Road Show” through which the company’s senior management and spouses visit selected dealers around the country.
• Stepping up the focus on training dealers and retail sales personnel through the company’s newly launched Newmar Professional Product Institute.
• Revitalizing the company’s Dealer Advisory Board.
Nappanee, Ind.-based based Newmar Corp. has invited its dealers, as well as a number of prospective dealers, to its Partnership Meeting and 2014 product preview slated for April 9-11 at the Gaylord Texan Hotel in Grapevine, Texas.
According to a press release, the theme of Newmar’s gathering will be “Growing Profits through Partnership”, and will focus on ways “the company has supported and continues to support its dealers in all aspects of its business.”
In addition, Newmar will be showing attendees at the convention an exciting preview of its 2014 Newmar motorhome product that dealers in the U.S. and Canada will receive this summer.
“All of us at Newmar are extremely excited to be hosting our dealers at our upcoming event”, said Newmar President Matt Miller. “We have a strong message to share with our business partners, and some great features, floor plans and innovations to share with them in our product display this year.”
The Newmar dealers in attendance will enjoy dinner on Tuesday and Wednesday night, followed by entertainment each evening. Wednesday’s entertainment will be preceded by a Dealer Awards Ceremony, honoring Newmar’s 2012 Service Customer Satisfaction Award earners.
“This is the 13th year we have been measuring CSI at Newmar, and we are committed to continuing to work with our dealers to improve this process” said Newmar Chairman and CEO Richard Parks. “We hope that, by continuing to work with our dealers, together we can achieve excellence in customer satisfaction and grow our mutual business” he added.
Wednesday evening’s highlight will be the presentation of the coveted Mahlon Miller Service Excellence Award at the end of the ceremony. The four dealers achieving the highest CSI scores in four volume categories will earn this honor.
Nappanee, Ind.-based builder Newmar Corp. advanced its giving to the RV Learning Center this week, donating $25,000 for the 2013 annual campaign. To date, Newmar has donated $160,000 toward its overall pledge amount of $260,000.
According to a press release, Newmar’s pledge amount of $260,000 puts it into the “Major Gifts” category of donor, which is the highest level of giving.
“I am proud to be in an industry where dealers and manufacturers alike recognize the importance of supporting and nurturing education,” said RV Learning Center Chairman Jeff Pastore of Hartville RV in Ohio. “The Newmar Corp.’s sizable recent donation and the significance of its pledge amount are a great testament to Newmar’s corporate values. This is a great example of putting belief into action.”
The RV Learning Center kicked off its fundraiser in October. Donations are necessary to fund the Learning Center’s many educational programs designed specifically for RV dealership personnel. Emerging technology has transformed education and training, so donations to the RV Learning Center enable it to utilize leading technologies to maintain high standards while keeping training affordable and relevant for dealers and their staff.
For more information on the RV Learning Center, visit www.rvlearningcenter.com, e-mail email@example.com, or send a fax to (703) 359-0152.
Newmar Corp. announced it will introduce the Newmar Professional Product Institute (NPPI) at the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) National RV Trade Show, Nov. 27-29 in Louisville, Ky. According to a press release, the comprehensive training program will be on display and demonstrated in the Newmar exhibit Booth No. 3501 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky.
The Newmar Professional Product Institute is an online training academy and certification program designed for retail salespersons selling Newmar motorhome brands at dealerships across the U.S. and Canada. NPPI was developed by Newmar in conjunction with CVC Communications based in Fort Wayne, Ind., which has developed online training curriculum for dozens of companies nationwide, including several Fortune 500 companies.
“Newmar’s objective was to develop a new standard in product training in the RV industry that embraces the salesperson new to selling Newmar product, while still challenging the seasoned Newmar sales professional,” said John Sammut, vice president of sales and marketing for the Nappanee, Ind.-based builder. “With the expertise of CVC Communications, we feel we’ve accomplished our goal with the Newmar Professional Product Institute.”
The Newmar on-line training will consist of 14 modules covering many elements of the company, as well as courses on each of its nine motorhome lines. Newmar retail sales personnel completing all 14 modules and passing each course will earn exclusive Newmar apparel. Other premiums for NPPI graduates are also being developed.
Three Newmar Corp. executives and their spouses will depart on the 3rd Annual Product Road Show on Monday (Oct. 29).
According to a press release, motorhomes featured in this year’s caravan include: a 2013 Ventana driven by Vice President of Sales and Marketing John Sammut; a 2013 Dutch Star being driven by Newmar Chairman & CEO Richard Parks: and Newmar President Matt Miller will be driving a 2013 King Aire, Newmar’s top-line luxury brand.
“People year round ask us if and when we are taking another motor home trip”, said Sammut. “They feel that Newmar walks the walk when it comes to using its quality products and engaging in the RV lifestyle during these trips.”
All three motorhomes in the caravan will feature Newmar’s Comfort Drive Steering, an exclusive feature on most Newmar diesel products. The computer-assisted steering column self corrects, making the motorhome easier to steer while assisting the driver in staying on the road in stiff cross winds or on crowned roads.
The Newmar engineering department also installed the Smart RV|ID tracking system on Miller’s King Aire that will track his journey on a virtual map. In addition the motorhomes will feature static decals exhibiting the Go Newmar logo, which will be placed on the exterior rear of the coach.
Departing from the Newmar production facility in Nappanee, Ind., at 8 a.m., the executives will visit dealers in five states, tour the Cummins diesel engine plant in Columbus, Ind., as well as attend the Good Sam’s Rally at the Daytona Motor Speedway Nov. 1-4 .
Their travels can be followed on www.gonewmar.com where videos and pictures will be uploaded daily.
Nappanee, Ind.-based Newmar Corp. will be embarking on its GoNewmar Road Show on Oct. 29., showcasing the company’s new King Aire, Dutch Star and Ventana Class A motorhomes.
According to a press release, the two-week tour will be stopping at Newmar dealers and campgrounds along the East Coast, highlighted by an extended stop for the Good Sam Rally at Daytona Motor Speedway Oct. 31 through Nov. 4.
For the third year, Newmar’s leadership team will be driving the coaches, including President Matt Miller accompanied by his wife Pam, CEO/Chairman Richard Parks accompanied by his wife Candace, and Vice President of Sales and Marketing John Sammut accompanied by his wife Margaret.
The schedule includes:
• Oct. 29 — Knoxville, Tenn.
• Oct. 30 — Campers Inn of North Carolina in Mocksville, N.C.
• Oct. 31 — Daytona Beach, Fla.
• Nov. 1 to 4 — Good Sam Rally at Daytona Motor Speedway
• Nov. 5 — RV Connections in Panama City, Fla.
• Nov. 6 — Berryland RV in Ponchatoula, La., and RV Shop in Baton Rouge, La.
• Nov. 7 — Holiday World of Houston in Katy, Texas
• Nov. 8 — Ancira RV in Bourne, Texas
• Nov. 9 – Ancira Travel Villa in Alvarado, Texas, and Professional Sales in Colleyville, Texas
• Nov. 10 — Texarkana, Texas
• Nov. 11 — Crain RV in Little Rock, Ark.
• Nov. 12 — Franklin, Tenn.
• Nov. 13 — Cummins Inc., in Columbus, Ind.
Newmar Corp. held its 2011 Vendor Appreciation Dinner Thursday night (Oct. 18) at Das Dutchman Essenhaus in Middlebury, Ind., in an unusual family-style dinner at which the Nappanee, Ind.-based motorhome builder took the time to recognize vendors from throughout the country who excel at the fine points of servicing Newmar as an original equipment manufacturer.
It’s something that Newmar, a family-held company, has done for 18 years — with the exception of a couple of years during the recession – hosting a dinner for the top-rated suppliers and presenting awards to a number of them.
“We do a bi-annual evaluation of about 150 vendors,” explains Mike O’Connell, vice president of purchasing for Newmar. “Through that process, we end up with scores, everything from ‘excellent’ to ‘unacceptable,’ and the people that we invite to this Vendor Appreciation dinner received excellent scores.”
Of the 44 suppliers and 140 diners in attendance at this year’s dinner, the top award, the “Virgil Miller Award of Excellence,” went to Industrial Finishes, an Elkhart, Ind.-based exterior paint supplier. On hand to accept the award were President Glenn Duckworth, Eastern Region RV Manager Rich Dotson and Mike Pratt, who’s in charge of business development.
Also honored were Almega Tru-Flex Inc. (Wire Harnesses), Alro Steel Corp. (Structural Steel), Fantastic Vent division of Atwood Mobile Products (Ceiling Vents), Fabritech (Bed Spreads), Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (Chassis), Quality Hardwood Sales (Hardwood Stiles), S & H Metal Products (Galvanized Metal Boxes), Equipment Service/Stressco (Slideout Components), Postle Aluminum Co. (Aluminum Extrusions) and Winegard Co. (Satellite Dishes & Antennas).
Additional awards bestowed at the event included Salesman of the Year: Jim Cramer, Global Link; Inside Sales: Amanda Girten, Positron Corp. and Judy Hafel, Flexsteel Industries Inc.; Truck Driver of the Year: Ross Minanik, YRC, and the Innovation Award, which went to Equipment Service/Stressco.
In looking down the road in his dinner remarks, Newmar President Matt Miller said Newmar has put in place a succession plan that will keep the company in the family of his father, founder Mahlon Miller, for the next generation. And he said the company has been making headway as well in terms of product innovation, despite the limitations of the recent recession.
“We believe the future of our company is very bright,” said Miller. “We have taken the opportunity during the downturn to prepare ourselves for a lot of innovation, which we’ll be introducing in the next 12 to 18 months, and we’re not slowing down on that at all.”
“We have fewer dealers than we did before the downturn, but we have higher quality dealers, and we have initiatives underway to recruit more dealerships. We have fewer brands than we’ve had, but we’re more focused on the brands that we do have. And we feel good about where we’re at right now.”
If Newmar was coming out of “survival” mode at last year’s supplier dinner, added John Sammut, vice president of sales, the company this year “is getting back on the offensive in its approach to selling and marketing its products throughout the U.S. and Canada.”
In fact, Sammut said the last five weeks beginning with the week before the Elkhart’s 5th Annual RV Open House Week through mid-October were “the best five weeks of order writing at Newmar in four years.” For this and other strategic reasons, Sammut said, Newmar is accelerating production schedules to four units a day for the balance of 2012 and for some time into 2013.
Newmar Corp. announced today (Oct. 19) that Donald W. Pipes was recently hired as Comfort Drive Steering test drive manager.
Pipes will lead and coordinate the Nappanee, Ind.-based company’s Comfort Drive Test Drive promotions at 12 major retail events from late 2012 through the end of 2013, according to a news release. Pipes had been an OEM account manager at Spartan Motors Inc. since August 1995. His experience also includes a 26-year career in the U.S. Army and held the rank of colonel upon retirement from the military.
“I am very excited to bring Don Pipes on staff at Newmar to promote our innovative Comfort Drive Steering feature available on most all Newmar diesel products,” stated Matt Miller, Newmar president. “Don’s past experience interacting with customers, as well as his extensive knowledge of diesel chassis, will be extremely valuable in demonstrating the benefits of Comfort Drive Steering to hundreds of visitors at 12 RV events over the next year.”
Retail shows and rallies on the itinerary for test drive promotions include events such as Good Sam’s rallies, 2013 Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) International Rally, the 2013 Tampa Supershow, the 2013 Pennsylvania RV and Camping Association (PRVCA) Show in Hershey, Pa., as well as several FMCA area rallies to be held in 2013. Pipes will manage a team of Newmar personnel using anywhere from two to four coaches at any of these events.
Comfort Drive Steering has been an exclusive Newmar feature available on most of their diesel brands since 2007. To learn more about Comfort Drive Steering, go to www.newmarcorp.com.