European RV manufacturers are struggling with the same problems that their American counterparts are dealing with — falling sales, a need to reduce fuel emissions and making their units lighter to increase mileage.
That’s the report from Caravaning Industrie Verband (CIVD), Frankfurt, Germany, the European counterpart to our Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
CIVD will sponsor Caravan Salon Dusseldorf 2009 Aug. 29-Sept. 6, which is billed as the world’s largest RV show. Last year, 158,000 people from 38 countries attended Caravan Salon.
”All major motorhome and RV manufacturers have registered as exhibiters — evidence of Caravan Salon’s status as the sector’s leading trade fair,” said Wilhelm Niedergoker, managing director of Messe Dusseldorf (Dusseldorf Fairgrounds). ”Of course, Caravan Salon has also been affected by international financial and market difficulties. These have resulted in smaller booth areas.”
Some 580 companies from 25 countries — 150 that build towable and motorized RVs — will display products and hawk their services in 10 halls and a large outside courtyard encompassing 1.9 million square feet. Registration is roughly the same as it was last year, according to the association.
In total, European RV sales during the first half of the year fell 42% to 32,796 units — 12,101 motorized RVs, a decline of 52.8%; 20,695 towable units, a drop of 33.3% — compared to the first six months of 2008, according to CIVD.
”The low production figures for Germany’s recreational vehicle sector are attributable to more than just the economic crisis,” said CIVD Director General Hans-Karl Sternberg. ”Drastic credit line curtailments by banks forced many dealers throughout Europe to substantially reduce their showroom and warehouse inventories.
”As a result, dealers did not immediately place orders for new vehicles when they sold vehicles from their inventories. This process has now come to an end, for the most part, which means that we can look forward to stabilization of German recreational vehicle production.”
Ralph Binder, CIVD public relations director, told RVBUSINESS.COM that more European motorhome manufacturers are building smaller units weighing less than 7,000 pounds so that consumers can operate them without special licenses. ”They have found some new methods of saving weight to make the interior lighter,” Binder said. ”So we have more units coming in at less than 7,000 pounds.
”Caravan (towable) and motorized manufacturers also are building units that are more aerodynamic to save gasoline. And then, of course, because of the market drop since 2009, they are trying to build more price-worthy caravans and motor caravans to make them more affordable for people to buy.”
At the same time, another 275 exhibitors will present the latest in hiking and trekking gear and provide information about 5,000 European hiking destinations during TourNatur, an outdoor recreation show Sept. 4-6 that will run concurrent with Caravan Salon.
Gulf Stream Coach Inc., Nappanee, Ind., has added a convertible ”XL” wall to the new Matrix SURV travel trailer series that seals off the garage, but swings open to allow the garage to be part of the living area. ”We are labelling the Matrix as a ”cross-over’ because of the versatility of the floorplans,” said A.J. Jones, national sales manager for Gulf Stream’s Enduramax division. The three Matrix floorplans in lengths of 19 to 27 feet also feature a drop down queen bed with cabinets attached to the lower rail that drops down from the ceiling over the bedroom.
”There are a lot of industry firsts in this lineup to maximize space,” Jones said. With dry weights of 4,500 to 6,500 pounds, the fiberglass-and-aluminum Matrix is designed to be towed by half-ton pickups. ”We scrapped everything in the Matrix brand and started over with whole new floorplans,” Jones said, adding that the drop-down bed is similar to those installed in RV garages. ”Instead of having a slideout, Matrix has a ‘slideup’ component.” In addition, Matrix has two drop-down queen beds in the garage along with a gaucho coach that also is suspended from the garage ceiling. Base MSRP: $24,521.
Monaco RV LLC has signed up more than 100 dealer partners to date, and plans to continue to further expand its network of motorized and towable dealer partners, the company announced today (Aug.24) in a news release.
In addition, a number of former Monaco Coach Corp. employees have been put to work at Monaco RV building towable and motorized RV units at the new company’s Oregon and Indiana facilities. These new products are currently shipping to Monaco RV’s dealer partners.
“We’re very pleased with the level of progress we’ve made in getting our manufacturing, sales and support operations up and running both in Oregon and Indiana,” said Kay Toolson, president of Monaco RV. “Building the highest quality recreational vehicles at the most competitive prices in accordance with current market demand is a critical focus for our company. We’re laying the groundwork necessary for Monaco RV to set the highest standard in our industry for dealer partnership, product quality, innovation, and customer care.”
Monaco RV sales teams have been working with potential dealer partners for the last few months. “It was important for us to work diligently to sign dealers that we felt would be a good fit for us and would remain committed long-term,” said Mike Snell, senior vice president of sales and product development. “We are focused on ensuring that our customers have the best buying and servicing experience possible, and we believe the dealers we have signed on so far will do just that.”
One such dealer is Paul Evert’s RV Country in Fresno, Cal., a dealership that had enjoyed a fruitful relationship with the former Monaco Coach Corp. since 1992. “We’ve built a strong clientele of diehard Monaco owners over the years,” said Curt Curtis, partner and vice president of Paul Evert’s RV Country. “We’re comfortable working with the people currently at Monaco RV and we’re a firm believer in the products they build.”
Monaco RV expects to sign additional dealers in the coming months to add to its growing roster.
Monaco RV LLC, headquartered in Coburg, Ore., is a Navistar company.
Recent 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.
Forest River Inc.’s new independent towable division — Lifetime RV — initially will introduce two units, the laminated entry-level LaCrosse travel trailer and fifth-wheel and the ultra-lightweight Tracer.
”We are trying to go as fast we can,” said Lifetime President Jeff Rank. ”We definitely want to be in production by October.”
The first prototypes are in the works and the division expects to show the LaCrosse during the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association’s (RVDA) 2009 RV Dealers International Convention/Expo Oct. 6-9 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.
MSRPs for LaCrosse, which will range in length from 19 to 30 feet, will be $22,000 to $30,000, Rank said.
With the management team in place, Rank reported that Lifetime RV will begin to hire group leaders next week and production employees within the next two or three weeks.
Working with Rank and Vice President Chris Hermon, both of whom formerly worked for Keystone RV Co., are Jeff Abney, manufacturing manager; Bob Thomas, engineering manager; and Bill Nicely, purchasing manager.
By the end of September the division should be employing about 50 people and by the end of the year close to 100. ”Things are coming along pretty quickly,” Ramp said.
Lifetime RV is operating out of the former five-building Travel Supreme complex in Wakarusa, Ind., where Rank expects the division to run three production lines and eventually employ about 200 people when fully ramped up.
”Our intent is to work our way into seven or eight brands,” said Rank. ”At one time or another, Chris (Hermon) and I have been involved in building units at about every price point,” Rank said. ”Out of the gate, we are only going to do laminated product. Stick-and-tin is part of the industry, but it is not going to be one of our initial products.”
Each line will carry its own brand name to a create a separate identity, he said. The company’s third brand is expected by late next spring.
Rank said the division expected to put together a base of about 250 dealers, many of whom will already be selling Forest River products.
”Many of the good dealers in the U.S. are in some form Forest River dealers already,” he said. ”All of the Forest River brands make decisions independently of each other. To be fair, we are going to be competing with other Forest River products, but even if you combine the top three manufacturers, there’s another 60% of the market out there to be had.
”Our hope is that this is ‘plus-business’ for Forest River and not just taking a sale from one division or the other,” he added. ”We are going to be conscious of that.”
Products will be developed with dealers in mind, Rank offered. ”It’s difficult to balance the needs of the manufacturers and the dealers,” he said. ”We are going to be aggressive with product and come up with a business model on the sales side that will make sense to the dealers and help them out a little better.”
The Coast Distribution System Inc., one of North America’s largest aftermarket suppliers of replacement parts, accessories and supplies for the recreational vehicle, boat and outdoor recreation industries, today (Aug. 14) reported its operating results for the second quarter and six months ended June 30.
Morgan Hill, Calif.-based Coast generated net earnings of $1.2 million on net sales of $33.1 million for the second quarter of 2009. For the same period of 2008, Coast reported net earnings of $1.6 million on net sales of $41.2 million.
“Despite some of the most difficult conditions in the recreational vehicle industry since the oil crisis and economic downturns of the 1970s, Coast was profitable in the second quarter and six month period,” said Jim Musbach, Coast CEO. “We achieved this performance because of the proactive and aggressive steps we have taken to control costs since the beginning of the industry downturn. These painful but necessary steps included reducing staffing levels across multiple departments, as well as cutting salaries across the board.”
In the 2009 second quarter, Coast reduced selling, general and administrative expenses by $1.7 million, or 27.8% as compared to the 2008 second quarter. Coast also reduced its borrowings under its bank line of credit by $19.0 million, or 62.6% year-over-year and reduced inventory year-over-year by $16.9 million, or 40.6%. Because Coast’s current line of credit will be expiring in May 2010, borrowings under that credit line are classified as a current liability in the company’s 2009 second quarter financial statements.
Net sales in the 2009 second quarter declined 19.6% year-over-year, a result management attributed to lower retail traffic at RV and marine dealerships.
Musbach continued, “Though our primary markets remain very challenging, we have seen a slight uptick in recent demand, which may indicate our customers are restocking inventory in anticipation of the bottom of the industry slump. We do see this development as a positive sign, though we remain conservative and cautious in our approach.”
“We will continue to reduce costs wherever possible, and are actively working with our product suppliers and our bank lender to ensure we have the proper resources into the future,” said Musbach. “Since the beginning of the economic recession, everyone at Coast has worked very hard to tackle challenges aggressively by taking steps to improve our operations and effectively position ourselves for the future. We continue to seek additional market share through greater penetration of our Coast-branded and partnered distribution products. Because of these efficiency improvements and increased demand for our products, we believe Coast is well positioned to take advantage when the economy eventually rebounds.”
For the six-month period ended June 30, Coast reported net earnings of $274,000 on net sales of $56.3 million, compared with net earnings of $711,000 on net sales of $80.7 million in the same six-month period of 2008.
TriMas Corp. announced Wednesday (Aug. 12) that it will voluntarily transfer its stock exchange listing in the U.S. from the New York Stock Exchange to the NASDAQ Global Market effective Aug. 24.
The company’s stock will continue to trade under the symbol “TRS.”
“We believe that NASDAQ offers TriMas and its shareholders advanced technologies and cost-effective services, as well as efficient and transparent market access and execution,” said David Wathen, TriMas president and CEO of the Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based manufacturer whose Cequent family of towing products serves the RV industry.
“We are delighted that TriMas selected NASDAQ as their market of choice,” said Bruce Aust, executive vice president, NASDAQ OMX. “We look forward to providing them and their shareholders with the best products and services NASDAQ OMX has to offer.”
Keystone RV Co.’s manufacturing site in Pendleton, Ore., was buzzing Saturday (Aug. 8) with job seekers and employees, according to Pendleton’s East Oregonian.
The company, which builds recreational vehicles, advertised that it was looking to hire 100 full-time employees and threw a “job fair” in conjunction with an open house for current employees. The event went from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“At a quarter to nine we had people lined up to get in,” Loren Schmucker, manufacturing manager, said. “Turnout has been very good.”
Schmucker said that employment ads were not working so the decision to do a “media blitz” was made.
“We adjusted accordingly when the economy went south and we want to get back to full-production capacity,” he said.
Keystone has retained a presence in the recreational vehicle manufacturing industry of eastern Oregon. That’s opposed to Fleetwood Travel Trailers, which closed in March, leaving 253 Pendleton workers out of work.
Keystone’s literature for job seekers said that “qualified persons are needed in all departments,” including plumbing, electrical, carpentry, framing, aluminum welding, finishing and material handlers.
Schmucker said the positions in manufacturing have a starting pay rate of $13.25, as well as benefits packages and merit raises.
The pay, $4 more than Oregon’s minimum wage, is a rare opportunity in this economy, job seeker Liz Raiston said.
Raiston, a student at Blue Mountain Community College, said she currently works part-time at Starbucks in Pendleton, and was surprised to hear on the radio that Keystone was hiring.
“I just really need another job,” she said. “It’s kind of hard to find (a job) in Pendleton.”
Greg Hughes, site services manager for Keystone, said he recently transferred from the company’s headquarters in Elkhart, Ind., America’s RV manufacturing capital.
“Back in Indiana it seems a lot of places are going out of business, but we’re staying strong,” he said. “With Fleetwood shut down, there is an opportunity (here in Pendleton).”
A residents group in Venice, Calif., on Monday (Aug. 10) sued the California Coastal Commission over its denial of the city of Los Angeles’ request to create permit parking districts in five areas near Venice Beach where residents have complained for years about the presence of recreational vehicles.
The agency’s staff had recommended that the parking zones be approved, but commissioners in June denied the request, saying they were concerned they were being asked to resolve a social issue rather than a beach access issue, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“The coastal commission has a legal mandate to protect coastal waters,” said Mark Ryavec, a longtime coastal activist and an officer of the Venice Stakesholders Association, which filed the suit. “However, despite hearing of repeated instances of the owners of recreational vehicles leaking and/or dumping their sewage directly into yards, streets and storm drains, which drain directly to the ocean, the commission failed to act to protect the coastal water.”
The suit contends that the commission does not have legal authority over the overnight parking districts and that no coastal development permits are required to restrict overnight parking.
The Venice Stakeholders Association said RVs belong in proper campgrounds with sewer connections, not on residential streets.
Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. today (Aug. 11) announced that Cavco Industries Inc. and an investment partner, Third Avenue Trust Value Fund , through FH Holding Inc., their jointly owned corporation, have been named the highest and best bidder for certain of the company’s manufactured housing assets.
The winning bid was determined through an auction held by the company, in consultation with the Committee of Creditors. A court hearing to approve the sale is scheduled for Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. PST in Riverside, Calif.
Cavco’s final offer of $21.8 million was an increase on a net basis after adjustments of approximately $3.8 million over Cavco’s previously announced offer for the same assets. In addition, Cavco agreed to buy Fleetwood’s idled Woodland, Calif., plant for $4.8 million.
Cavco, headquartered in Phoenix, Ariz., is a leading producer of manufactured housing, park model homes and vacation cabins in the United States. Third Avenue Management, the investment adviser to Third Avenue Value Fund, is a New York-based company with expertise in value and distressed investing.
Cavco opened for business in 1965. Cavco’s factory-built homes are produced under various trade names and in a variety of floor plans and price ranges. The company employs approximately 600 people and operates two manufacturing plants in the Phoenix area and one in Seguin, Texas. Additional information about Cavco can be found at www.cavco.com.
Third Avenue Management manages approximately $13 billion of assets for private and institutional clients. Most or all of Third Avenue’s proposed investment in Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. will be made by Third Avenue Value Fund, the company’s flagship mutual fund.
Founded in 1950, Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., and its various subsidiaries, historically produced, distributed and serviced recreational vehicles and manufactured housing. On March 10, however, the company filed for Chapter 11 protection and the former industry leader has been dismantled. Additional information about the company’s reorganization may be found online in the news section of www.fleetwood.com or www.kccllc.net/fleetwood.