Gulf Stream Coach Inc. officially completed an extended open house Wednesday (June 23) with about 75 dealers stopping by the company’s Nappanee, Ind., complex during the last two weeks to view new 2011 towable products.
Dealers got their first look at the recently released Aztec fifth-wheel series and the lightweight Visa travel trailer that Gulf Stream debuted quietly during last year’s Louisville Show, along with new floorplans in other Gulf Stream towable brands.
”The main days were Tuesday and Wednesday, but people came in whenever they could be here,” said Mindy Brooks, director of marketing.
About 50 dealers had dinner Tuesday night at the company’s Margaret Ann Shea Pavilion, named for the wife of Gulf Stream founder James Shea. The pavilion is located on the grounds of an outdoor recreation center for employees that features an executive golf course, swimming pool and tennis courts.
Although the focus of the displays clearly was towable RVs, Executive Vice President Phil Sarvari reported that the company continues to build 35 to 40 motorhomes a month — 80% of them Class C’s.
Sarvari said that Gulf Stream has overcome transportation problems that plagued the industry earlier this year as wholesale shipments increased.
”The last couple of years have been tough on the entire industry,” Sarvari told RVBUSINESS.COM. ”What we are seeing is that the strong dealers have cut back on their inventories and have gotten prepared for a rebound.
”You can pack a lot of product on a dealer’s lot but until it turns, they are not going to have success.”
The market signals at Gulf Stream were indeed encouranging. Some dealers attending the show reported that sales have increased in the last few months, some dramatically.
”Our market is up a lot,” said Michael Harlan, owner of Alum Creek RV and Marine in the Columbus, Ohio, suburb of Delaware. ”We need to sell two or three more units by the end of June and we’ll be at what we were all of last year.”
The upswing has been shared by both towable and motorized RVs, Harlan reported.
”The towables we are selling are mostly all lightweight,” he said. ”The luxury fifth-wheel is selling well for us right now. Entry-level fifth-wheels aren’t selling well at all. People who put off buying last year when it was already time for them to trade up or trade in are buying this year as the economy is recovering.”
Leo Rousseau, owner of Rouseeau’s RV Center, a towable RV dealership in Lakeville, Mass., reported his sales are better than they were in 2009.
”Last year, we hardly sold anything,” he said. ”This year, we’re selling better than 30 a month, mostly lightweight travel trailers. Fifth-wheels are not selling. Nor are truck campers, although there’s a little bit of interest developing in them again.”
Rousseau said that with unemployment ranging to 15% in Massachusetts, high-priced units don’t appeal to many buyers. ”Extra funds are not around for people to spend,” he said, although he noted that people are fixing up older units.
”We can’t keep up with the people want to buy parts and supplies,” he said.
Gulf Stream’s new Aztec luxury fifth-wheel is a departure for the company in that it is the first line with a gray exterior
”It gives you a high-end look,” said Mike Spencer, luxury towable division manager. ”People equate it with full body paint, but at a fraction of the cost.”
Available in seven floorplans in 32- to 36 1/2-foot lengths, the high-profile Aztec can be equipped with Corian countertops, two-tone ivory and chestnut cabinets and drawers, fireplaces, leather recliners, front-cap docking lights, felt basement liners, low-mount exterior speakers, outside showers, wall monitor panels, queen beds with padded headboards, cedar-lined closets, jackknife sofas, 44-inch booth dinettes and swivel rockers.
With a base MSRP of $32,000, said Spencer, ”We’ve trying to provide luxury for an affordable price.”
The new lightweight Visa travel trailer series offers three 22-feet 11-inch floorplans with dry weights ranging from 2,762 pounds to 2,802 pounds and a 25-foot 11-inch layout with a dry weight of 3,502 pounds. Gulf Stream makes extensive use of CosmoLite and SymaLITE composites from TekModo LLC, both in the basic construction of the unit and in its interior amenities including walls, vinyl-wrapped cabinets and bed bases.
”Visa is a cross between a retro and European-style trailer,” said Steven Jacobs, Gulf Streams’ national ultralight sales manager. ”If a dealer brings this on, it’s super light and the (smaller ones) can be towed by just about anything.”
In the entry-level wood-and-aluminum category, Gulf Stream has added six new floorplans for a total of 11 to its Ameri-Lite travel trailer lineup with retail prices ranging from just under $10,000 to $14,900.
”Where our strength has been with the Ameri-Lite is that we build what the dealers ask us to build,” said John Stringer, towable division national sales manager. ”Essentially, the Ameri-Lite gives our dealers the opportunity to buy a new unit at a used unit price.”
Among the more unusual of Gulf Stream’s floorplans for 2011 is an upper-deck kitchen in the EnduraMax fifth-wheel SURV. ”The appeal is that it takes the kitchen out of the living space,” said Chris Krull, EnduraMax regional sales manager.
EnduraMax features Gulf Stream’s two-inch thick ”XL Wall” that swings shut to seal off the garage from the living area.
Available in seven 35- to 41-foot, 102-inch wide floorplans, the EnduraMax fifth-wheel base MSRP is $54,000.