Despite a dip in attendance and a few hours of light rain at the outset of the Family Motor Coach Association’s (FMCA) 91st Family Reunion and Motorhome Showcase in Redmond, Ore., Cincinnati-based FMCA spokesmen reported a successful event with packed seminars, crowded social activities and solid sales for both indoor and outdoor exhibitors at the event, which ran Aug. 13-16.
“I can’t say whether the numbers were down a bit because of the distance of travel or whether it’s because of timing as school seems to keep starting earlier and earlier, so those may have been contributing factors,” said FMCA Executive Director Jerry Yeatts. “On the positive side, we had over 25% of the members who were first-timers. The comments I have are overwhelmingly positive.”
The official coach count was 1,876, with 402 of those commercial coaches. This was the fifth time the event had been held at Redmond, the last in 2010 when the coach count was 2,282.
Even though there may have been fewer attendees, however, Yeatts said that several of the reports he heard from dealers and suppliers indicated that sales were brisk.
“While we don’t actively measure sales, the word that we’ve heard from dealers is that it was a very good show for sales,” Yeatts said. “One dealer in particular had at least 18 coaches sold in the first two days and we heard similar stories from other dealers. On the supplier side, we had a couple of suppliers say that they’ve had the best show here that they’ve had in years.”
Along with the manufacturers covered in our previous postings, RVBUSINESS.com also touched bases with several other exhibitors – most of whom spoke well of the Redmond confab, which took place at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center near the Deschutes National Forest in Central Oregon.
Among them was the Allied Recreation Group (ARG), which had a couple of new Class A motorhome floorplans to show rally attendees.
“There were more people in the display (on Friday) than in the first two days, and the weekend was good as well,” said Suzy Fletcher, marketing coordinator for the ARG, parent firm of Fleetwood RV, based in Decatur, Ind. “New floorplans are always a big attraction at the show and the new 34T Bounder has been popular as well as the Discovery 37R.”
The new Bounder layout, sporting a base MSRP of $140,840, features a triple slide and separate bath and water closet at its midpoint, while the Discovery, carrying $281,710 base MSRP, offers four slideouts, a 40-inch LED TV, freestanding dinette and a recliner facing a 78-inch sofa bed in the living area.
Elsewhere, Charlotte, Mich.-based Spartan Chassis partnered with the Jayco Motorhome Group, manufacturer of the Entegra Coach Class A line, in a ride-and-drive program.
“Overall, our ride-and-drives went really well, with very satisfied customers,” said Eric West, business development director for Spartan. West added that one of the goals for the program is not only education, but encouraging consumers who really want a Spartan chassis to make their preferences known to manufacturers.
“There are [manufacturers] today that we are in discussions with, and they’re going to be releasing new platforms with Spartan chassis,” West said. “Foretravel Motorcoach until recently had built all their own chassis, and they’re now using a Spartan chassis. If you look at Newmar, Tiffin, Entegra and Foretravel, they’re all luxury brands, and they all have their flagships on Spartans.”
Also manning a Redmond display, of course, was Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. of Gaffney, S.C., which will be pushing the envelope this year in the resurgent Class A motorhome arena in terms of engine power.
“For the 2015 model year, there will be five coaches on our chassis at 600 horsepower,” said Bob Harbin, CEO and president of FCCC. “That’s up from zero last year. We’ll also have two chassis at 500 horsepower, so, overall, we’re growing a lot. Market share is growing, we’re over 75% in Class A diesels now and we expect that to continue to inch forward.”
Freightliner personnel also unveiled a new 24/7 Direct App to help consumers find service locations, and they had representatives on hand to gather customer input for future generation changes or additions.
The next national-scale FMCA reunion is planned for March 26-29, 2015, at the Fairplex in Pomona, Calif. — the seventh FMCA get-together taking place at that venue.
RVBusiness freelance contributor Ty Adams wrote this story.
Spartan Chassis Inc., a business unit of Spartan Motors, Inc., announced that all RV Owner Training Academy classes have been sold out for the duration of 2014, making it three straight years of 100% attendance. The company also announced that a wait list has begun for 2015 training classes.
“The Spartan Chassis RV Owner Training Academy is the greatest way for a motorhome owner to gain the most valuable information on service, recommended maintenance, specifications, storage, driving and overall user experience,” said Timothy Hamm, vice president of sales and business development for Spartan Chassis. “The desire to participate in our premium class is evident in the fact we are now forced into a wait list for the third-straight year, indicating 2015 will be our fourth-consecutive year with sold-out classes. Our aspiration is that the owner for each and every motorhome equipped with a Spartan chassis is engaged, satisfied and is a brand loyalist.”
Every participant of the Spartan RV Owner Training Academy receives in-depth, hands-on training unavailable elsewhere. The course will take the uncomfortable co-pilot and ease them into the pilot seat of the 40-plus-foot RV. Additionally, every participant will gain detailed insight into their specific motorhome when a qualified Spartan Chassis technician joins them for a walk-around of their motorhome. The weeklong class is guaranteed to enhance the knowledge of both new and long-time Spartan owners.
Classes in the 2015 calendar year will be conducted between May and October. Due to increased demand the past two years, the company said it met the request with an additional two classes in 2014, creating more than a 28% increase in the number of attendees this year versus 2013.
Additionally, all buyers of new Spartan-equipped motorhomes will receive a complimentary set of Spartan Chassis jackets. Ordering instructions will be included with every Spartan Chassis welcome packet sent from Spartan.
Spartan Chassis Inc. announced today (June 18) that it has entered a chassis supply agreement with Foretravel Motorcoach, Nacogdoches, Texas. The company reported in a news release that the agreement calls for Spartan to serve as the sole chassis supplier for Foretravel’s new Realm FS6 motorhome, available exclusively at Motor Home Specialist in Alvarado, Texas.
Spartan, a subsidiary of Spartan Motors Inc., will design, engineer and assemble chassis for integration into Foretravel’s Realm FS6 motorhome. Delivery of the custom chassis to Foretravel is underway.
“Spartan continues to be focused on leveraging its operational and strategic agility, as well as customization in order to meet customer requirements in the RV market,” said Art Ickes, president of the specialty vehicles business unit, Spartan Chassis. “Our proactive business initiatives and strong brand have resulted in an opportunity to continue and expand our valuable business in a core market into a valuable partnership with Foretravel. This agreement is a very positive development for Spartan, Foretravel Motorcoach and the market as a whole.”
Spartan’s K3GT chassis will serve as the foundation for the 2015 Realm FS6. The chassis is equipped with a Cummins ISX 600-hp engine and Allison 4000MH transmission and is paired with Spartan’s new passive steer tag axle, which produces a 7% reduction in curb-to-curb turning radius. Additionally, the K3GT chassis delivers a robust 20,000-pound independent front suspension capacity.
“The Foretravel Realm FS6 combines power, prestige and performance,” added Greg Amys, president of Foretravel. “Beyond beauty and performance, the Foretravel Realm FS6 is built to possess undeniable craftsmanship and superior quality in fit, finish and detail you’ll find throughout the motor coach.”
“The Realm’s cutting edge design sets it apart from every other luxury motor coaches on the market today,” said Donny O’Banion, Motor Home Specialist CEO. “Rivaled only by the premium entries found in the high-end automotive market, the Realm FS6 exudes luxury and refinement.”
Spartan Chassis Inc. will be displaying its K3 and Mountain Master GT chassis along with several innovations during the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) 51st Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky. According to a press release, Spartan Chassis will exhibit at Booth No. 5320 in the West Wing of the Kentucky Exposition Center during the three-day event, which opened today (Dec. 3).
“Since 1985, Spartan Chassis has developed significant technological innovations that have changed the RV industry,” said Art Ickes, president of the Specialty Vehicles business unit. “Throughout the years, the demand for Spartan Chassis has continued to remain strong as owners value the innovations Spartan has and continues to develop. In 2013, we saw a strong increase in the number of prospective Class A diesel motorhome owners requesting a Spartan Chassis.”
Spartan will feature a 24,000-pound drive axle as well as introducing Fogmaker North America into the RV market. The Reyco Granning RD2400 drive axle is designed to take advantage of recent changes in Federal Highway Administration laws that allow the use of a single rear axle rated at 24,000 pounds weight capacity. The RD2400 eliminates torque induced drive line grumble which further extends the product’s life cycle.
Fogmaker North America delivers fire suppression systems for engine compartments and enclosed spaces utilizing a patented water mist technology. This system extinguishes fire by targeting the three components (oxygen, fuel and heat). The system is environmentally friendly and cleanup after activation is simple and fast.
The demand for motorhomes built on a Spartan Chassis has increased 21.5% year-over-year from 2012 to 2013. Spartan Chassis’ unit volume this year outperforms the Class A diesel market by over six percentage points. Spartan custom manufactures chassis to the individual specifications of Entegra Coach, Newmar Corp. and Tiffin Motorhomes Inc.
Alex and Jan Alexander were in the 17th week of a tour of the West Coast in their 2006 Country Coach when they pulled into the gates of the Deschutes County Fair and Expo Center in Redmond, Ore., for the Family Motor Coach Association’s (FMCA) 84th International Convention Aug. 11-14. One of more than 2,000 motorhome families to attend the mid-week event in central Oregon, the young couple from St. James City, Fla., intended to spend the four days soaking up information.
“We’re here for several reasons,” Alex noted after exiting the Tiffin Motor Homes manufacturer’s display. “We wanted to see what’s going on in the industry — but, most importantly from an educational standpoint, to visit the displays and see the latest in engines and electronics … it (Redmond) has a little bit of everything.” And, while the first-time visitors to the convention hadn’t considered upgrading their luxury coach prior to the event, Alex did note that “we may change our minds. Right now, we’re looking at an Allegro bus.”
According to Jerry Yeatts, FMCA event director, the Alexanders’ upbeat attitude personified the 84th convention, which also was highlighted by the public debut of the new Vesta motorhome from Monaco RV LLC and the West Coast introduction of the Insignia from Jayco’s Entegra Coach division.
“We had a little over 2,000 families there, and about 200 coaches on display,” he said. “Compared to the last time we were here, it was probably comparable, numbers-wise — but as far as attitude and enthusiasm, it was amazing. The members were probably in their best mood we’ve seen in quite a while. Seems like sales were up, spirits were up, and overall it was a great convention.”
It also apparently was quite successful for a number of exhibitors. “One OEM said that the higher-end coaches they brought were sold,” Yeatts said. “Another dealer who brought in 11 coaches sold six.”
Shannon Nill, general manager of Guaranty RV, Junction City, Ore., echoed Yeatts’ assessment on the overall atmosphere of the program. “We sold 18 RVs at the Redmond rally, about evenly distributed between new and used,” Nill noted, out of about 75 units the dealership supplied to several displays including Monaco, Newmar Corp. and Roadtrek Motorhomes Inc. “Beyond the sales, however, one huge point was that the mood of the customer was really strong compared to last year’s rally. People were eager to RV. The gatherings of this kind after a slowdown are even more important than normal.”
This year marked the fourth time FMCA has held a convention at the Redmond fairgrounds, but was the first time the association kicked off the event with a Wednesday “preview” day. Gates opened at 5 p.m. on “hump day” for touring outdoor manufacturer displays, followed by access only to indoor exhibits Thursday morning. All displays became accessible at noon and thereafter.
“We really didn’t receive any comments concerning shifting the pattern,” Yeatts said. “The gate on Wednesday was greater than normal, but we don’t know if that’s attributable to starting later in the week, or later in the day.”
The Vesta, introduced to dealers two weeks prior to the Redmond convention, immediately attracted quite a bit of attention from rally attendees due to its unique aerodynamic styling.
“We’ve had a lot of customers come up to us that hadn’t really considered a Class A before just because of the size,” said Ryan Lee, marketing director for the Coburg, Ore., manufacturer. “They take a look at this, with the sleek design, and see that it’s really easy from an ergonomic standpoint to sit up there in the driver’s seat and drive that coach.”
Built on a proprietary 26,000-pound GVWR Monaco Roadmaster chassis and designed in conjunction with wind-tunnel testing, the single-slide 32-foot Vesta (a 35-foot floorplan also is planned) features a sloping front fascia, low center of gravity and tapered rear section. MSRP for the 32-foot coach is $195,000-$200,000.
“It’s pretty striking,” Lee said of the styling. “One of the things that we’re trying to do at Monaco is that, when a coach rolls down the road we want people to know it’s a Monaco; we want people to know it’s a Holiday Rambler (Monaco’s sister division). And this type of styling is going to get us there.”
Along with the Vesta, Monaco also brought several models with fresh 2011 floorplans to Redmond. “We’re showing our first 2011 Dynasty and Camalot here at the show,” noted Mike Snell, senior vice president of sales and product development for Monaco. “The Dynasty has a 500hp engine, and we’ve changed the paint scheme and have really upgraded the interiors. On the Camelot, we did the same: changed the front facia, the backsplash, put in a ceiling insert in the living room — we really dressed up the inside. We also have our slide-in-a-slide Diplomat here. We had the slide-in-a-slide in the Dynasty, and we added it to the Diplomat, which is a 43-footer.”
The Entegra Insignia, which debuted almost simultaneously at Affinity Group’s The Rally, July 22-25, at Louisville’s Kentucky Exposition Center and Redmond, is the Jayco division’s “entry-level” coach for the high-end Entegra line. Built on a 32,400-pound GVWR Freightliner XCR chassis powered by a 360-hp Cummins ISB diesel engine, the $265,000 MSRP Insignia features heated-and-enclosed holding tanks, frameless flush-mounted slideout rooms, gel goat fiberglass sidewalls and a steel-reinforced front cap and windshield frame plus interiors sporting glazed maple hardwood cabinets and leather hide-a-bed sofas.
Yet another new unit drawing a crowd was the 2011 model from Newell Coach Corp. Upgrades to the 2011 welded-steel-and-aluminum Newell motorcoaches — the first since the 2006 model year — include upgraded front caps with bright-white “string-of-pearl” LED running lights that outline the outer edges of the headlights, plus rear-body trim and redesigned side moldings. Interiors feature wood windowsill trim bordered with seamed leather, carbon-fiber instrument panels and automated air conditioning and heating.
The upbeat atmosphere at Redmond was, in the view of many dealers staffing the manufacturer exhibits, a reflection of a more optimistic viewpoint already noted at their respective dealerships.
Brian Kehoe, a sales consultant for Sandy, Ore.-based Johnson RV Sales who was manning the Entegra display, noted that the dealership “has experienced four months consecutive of record sales for the company. It’s been fantastic. All the way through, from the B class, C class, Class A gas and diesel units.” The dealership, site of the former Fred’s RV, opened under the Johnson RV Sales umbrella last year and features 12 service bays and three buildings — including an indoor showroom — on seven acres.
At the Tiffin exhibit, Rick Neat, a salesman from RV Corral, Eugene, Ore., one of three dealerships providing coaches for the display, called August “the best month in two years.
“There’s more business out there,” following the shuttering of dealers and OEMs alike during the recession, he said, adding that consumer credit is likewise on an uptick. “On the big money, it’s starting to ease up a bit. A lot of people are going to credit unions now, which are getting a lot more flexible than they were in the past.”
Mike Alverez, with All Seasons RV, Bend, Ore., concurred. “Our banks have loosened up,” he said at the Winnebago Industries Inc. exhibit. “They’ve changed on how they are financing. They are looking at people in a better light, where before it was tough to get financing accomplished. The other thing, too, is that GE, our flooring company, has backed off; they are letting us get product in here, and we’re making the turns we need to make to keep it going.”
Along with new coach designs and features, Redmond also was one of the first consumer shows to feature motorhomes fitted with new 2010 EPA emissions-compliant engines, and several exhibitors — including Gaffney, S.C.-based Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. and Spartan Chassis, Charlotte, Mich. — fielded questions from consumers and dealership personnel somewhat confused about the technical merits of the two competing drive systems developed to meet the EPA criteria. Cummins Inc. utilizes an aftermarket treatment system, while Navistar’s new MaxxForce engines employ Advanced EGR technology.