Fleetwood RV Inc. President and CEO John Draheim told dealers during the company’s Aug. 23-25 National Dealer Meeting at the Grand Wayne Center in Fort Wayne, Ind., that the Decatur, Ind.-based motorhome builder has been taking a close look at the way it’s perceived by its dealer network and end-consumers.
Toward that end, Draheim introduced Fleetwood’s new “marketing partner,” Fort Wayne-based LaBov & Beyond, a niche marketing agency whose clients include automotive, financial service, marine and sports businesses – particularly companies that sell through dealers and distribution networks.
In an effort to “stay connected with what’s going on in the market,” Fleetwood asked LaBov & Beyond to talk to their customers, interview dealers and engage with owners. The agency in the past year interviewed 30 dealers and gathered input from numerous others while sitting down with 100 consumers and surveying 250 others online, and Draheim shared some of the highlights of those interviews.
He said the dealers gave the two-year-old company high marks for product – with some advice on fit and finish – plus kudos for sales and service, organization and its ability to build relationships in the marketplace.
“You told us that we need to help you drive traffic, that it’s a very difficult market and if there’s things that we can do to help you drive traffic that you’ll help us,” said Draheim.
“You also told us in this process two interesting things: One, you’re seeing a lot of first-time buyers and there’s no rhyme or reason to what they buy. They may buy a Class C, a Searcher or Montera. They may come in and buy a (lower priced gas Class A) Storm. They may actually buy a (higher-priced diesel A-body) Revolution. But the point is that there are new buyers coming into the market space, and it’s healthy for our industry.
“You also told us that the percentage of cash buyers has gone way up in the past 18 to 24 months, which is yet another new phenomenon.”
Consumers, he added, are more informed than their predecessors due to the Internet.
“The shopping and buying process that the owners are going through today has changed,” said Draheim. “On average, they’re starting their process three to six months prior to making a purchase. In some cases, it’s much longer. We also found that they tend to keep their coach between 24 and 50 months before they trade. They start their research, their education process, online. They gather their information from websites. They download or request brochures from those websites. Then, they may go to a show or rally.
“We asked them why? Because they feel it (a show or rally) is a more non-threatening environment than a retail dealership. They’re not ready to buy. They’re still researching. They move from the awareness phase of the buying process to the consideration phase, but they’re still not ready for a transaction. And they also told us that the purchase is as much about the relationship as it is the product – just as some of you have told us that our relationship in some cases is more important than the product. The customers feel the same way about you in the buying process.”
Fleetwood, in turn, has been working to integrate some of this input into its corporate and marketing, sales and follow-through strategies.
During the meeting, Fleetwood also honored its top dealers for the year. Awards included:
• Ancira Travel Villa, Alvarado, Texas — Top Dealer for Discovery, Bounder, American Tradition and American Revolution
• Centre Du VR. Victoriaville, Victoriaville, Quebec — Top Dealer for Southwind and Jamboree
• Dixie RV Superstore, Hammond, La. — Top Dealer for Discovery and Tioga
• General RV Center, Wixom, Mich. — Top Dealer for Bounder Classic; Overall Top Motorhome Dealer Multi Location
• Giant RV, Montclair, Calif. — Top Dealer for Southwind and Terra; No. 1 Jamboree Dealer in the Nation; No. 1 Providence Dealer in the Nation
• Harberson RV Pinellas, Clearwater, Fla. — Top Dealer for Southwind
• Holiday World of Houston, Katy, Texas — Top Dealer for Discovery
• Holland Motor Homes, San Diego, Calif. — Top Dealer for Bounder Classic and Jamboree
• La Mesa RV Center, Sanford, Fla. — Top Dealer for Expedition, Jamboree and Storm
• Lazydays RV Center, Seffner, Fla. — Top Dealer for Southwind, Bounder Classic, Storm and Terra; Overall Top Motor Home Dealer Single Location; No. 1 Dealer for Discovery, Bounder, Expedition and Tioga; No. 1 Dealer for American Heritage, American Eagle, American Tradition and American Revolution; Overall Top American Coach Dealer; #1 Dealer for American Heritage, American Eagle, American Tradition and American Revolution.
• McGeorge Camping Center, Ashland, Va. — Top Dealer for Storm
• Mike Thompson’s RV Superstore, Colton, Calif. — Top Dealer for Tioga
• Mike Thompson’s RV Superstore, Fountain Valley, Calif. — Top Dealer for Tioga
• Neil’s Motor Homes, North Hills, Calif. — Top Dealer for Terra
• Northside RV’s, Lexington, Ky. — Top Dealer for Terra
• RV World, Yuma, Ariz. — Top Dealer for American Eagle and Bounder Classic
• Tom Johnson Camping Center, Concord, N.C.– Top Dealer for Southwind, American Heritage, American Eagle, American Tradition and American Revolution
• Tom Raper RV, Richmond, Ind. – Top Dealer for Discovery and Bounder
• Dixie RV Superstore, Hammond, Louisiana — #1 Terra Dealer in the Nation
• Mike Thompson’s RV Super Store, Santa Fe Springs, Calif. — #1 Storm Dealer in the Nation; #1 Tioga Dealer in the Nation
• Niel’s Motor Homes, North Hills, Calif. — #1 Southwind Dealer in the Nation
• Tom Johnson Camping Center, Marion, N.C. — #1 Jamboree Dealer in the Nation
• Woody’s RV World, Calgary, Alberta — #1 Bounder Classic Dealer in the Nation
• El Monte RV, El Monte, Calif. — Overall Top Rental Dealer