Spartan Motors Debuts ‘Next Generation Platform’

December 2, 2009 by · Comments Off on Spartan Motors Debuts ‘Next Generation Platform’ 

A new class of RV — a specialty chassis integrated with a custom cap or cockpit — was unveiled Tuesday (Dec. 1) at the 47th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.

Spartan Chassis Inc., a subsidiary of Spartan Motors Inc., calls the company’s latest innovation, the Next Generation Platform (NGP), a new class in RV platforms and is displaying the invention in Booth No. 2024 – East Hall. Spartan has filed a patent for the first-of-its-kind highline RV cap and chassis design which provides the quality and performance of a premium automotive platform with increased flexibility for fully customizable interiors and exteriors, according to a news release. Spartan said optional Coach-Ready Platforms are also available featuring a variety of OEM options for chassis integration.

The development of the NGP was based on research conducted by Spartan which provided insights into the RV buying process. The research confirmed that the exterior of a vehicle excites the potential buyer and draws them inside the unit, but it is the features of the interior floorplan that typically close the sale. In addition, the primary decision maker for the purchase is the female — like with many premium consumer products — and, not surprisingly, her main focus is on interior styling and features.

The NGP integrates more components into the chassis configuration with an emphasis on functions that are critical to operating the vehicle but that are unimportant to the buyer. This reduces chassis-prep and engineering for RV OEMs and allows them to concentrate on customer-facing priorities such as the exterior design and interior floor plan. By offering OEMs the ability to choose from an extensive menu of available options for the front, middle and rear sections, motorhome makers have the freedom to design a vehicle to their exact specifications, yet still achieve faster model changeovers and increased speed to market for new designs and product features.

“Like every other consumer category, the RV marketplace is constantly evolving as customers look for the latest body styles and new approaches to interior layouts, making it more important than ever to adapt quickly as styles, trends and desires change,” said Tom Gorman,  Spartan Motors COO. “The front driver’s section, everything below the floor and rear-engine sections all require a significant amount of engineering time, but the research has shown these things don’t drive the purchasing decision. The NGP moves the non-floor plan area to the chassis builder, enabling the OEM to focus on the areas important to the customer.”

The final step of the buying process is the test drive, where ride performance and drivability are keys to confirming the buyer’s decision. Inspired by Spartan’s popular Furion fire truck chassis design, the Spartan NGP features a powerful rear diesel engine chassis and independent front suspension. Options including a smart wheel, tilt/telescopic steering column, adjustable pedals and six-way adjustable electric seats ensure a premium cockpit experience. Spartan said it expects to introduce a front engine configuration of the NGP in the fourth quarter of 2010, adding an even greater level of customization.

“In a marketplace where there are more than 100 OEMs, a low cost to enter and the business is hyper-competitive, products must and will change fast,” said Gorman. “With Spartan absorbing a significant amount of responsibility, the NGP enables an OEM to enter and compete within the motorized segment with a minimal time and financial commitment. This new approach even makes it possible for a dealer to partner with an OEM to create their own private-label product, something that previously would have been extremely difficult due to the costs involved.”

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Spartan to Unveil ‘New Class in RV Platforms’

November 25, 2009 by · Comments Off on Spartan to Unveil ‘New Class in RV Platforms’ 

In a move that could revolutionize the motorhome chassis business, Spartan Motors Inc., Charlotte, Mich., will unveil a ”New Class in RV Platforms” Tuesday (Dec. 1) at the 47th National RV Trade Show at the Kentucky Exposition Center In Louisville, Ky.

”The ‘New Class in RV Platforms’ is a concept that can enable any OEM (Class A, Class C, towable, specialized) or dealer to enter the highly profitable motorized market segment or particular ‘niche’ with little time or money involved,” Spartan Chairman John Sztykiel said in an e-mail to RV Business.

Although few details have been released at this point, Spartan says the new chassis allows quicker model changeover and will enable OEMs to ”compete within the motorized segment with minimal time and money involved.”

The chassis apparently features a rear engine as Spartan says that a front-engine configuration will be available in the 4th quarter of 2010.

”The 2016 CAFE standards of 35 mpg will affect the towable market and could increase the motorized market due to the fact that there could be fewer vehicles available to tow something,” says promotional material obtained by

”While 2009 has been a tough year, it is typically under the cloud of adversity when the most productive ideas evolve,” said Sztykiel.

Spartan will unveil the new chassis at 2 p.m. Tuesday in booth No. 2024 at the show.

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Spartan Motors Inc. to Acquire Utilimaster for $45M

November 19, 2009 by · Comments Off on Spartan Motors Inc. to Acquire Utilimaster for $45M 

Utilimaster logoSpartan Motors Inc. today (Nov. 19) announced it has reached an agreement to acquire Utilimaster Corp. from John Hancock Life Insurance Co., a unit of Manulife Financial Corp., a leading Canadian-based financial services group, in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $45 million.

Utilimaster is a dominant manufacturer of specialty vehicles made to customer specifications in the delivery and service market, including walk-in vans and hi-cube vans, as well as truck bodies, according to a news release.

Charlotte, Mich.-based Spartan said the acquisition of Utilimaster is expected to add approximately $105 million in annualized revenues and be slightly dilutive to earnings in the first full year and accretive by year two. Utilimaster has approximately 550 employees and more than 550,000 square feet of manufacturing capacity at its corporate headquarters in Wakarusa, Ind.

“This acquisition represents a major strategic step forward to diversify our revenue stream into new end markets that offer growth potential and are not directly dependent on government funding or consumer spending,” said John Sztykiel, president and CEO of Spartan Motors. “The two companies share similar cultures, a focus on premium products and innovation, and management depth that make this an ideal fit. We also gain entry into the North American delivery and service market, add fabrication and vehicle body expertise, benefit from Utilimaster’s strong brand, market share position and blue-chip customer base, and create opportunities to leverage future Spartan chassis growth.”

The majority of Utilimaster’s revenues are in the delivery and service market, which includes walk-in vans for the package delivery, bakery/snack delivery and linen/uniform rental markets. Its remaining revenues are attributable to commercial truck bodies, along with service, parts and accessories.

Spartan’s CFO Joe Nowicki commented: “This transaction creates the opportunity to leverage our strong balance sheet, while providing opportunities for growth in a business that is very scalable but not capital intensive, much like our current market. We also expect to see immediate operational and financial synergies, including achieving purchasing leverage in raw materials and driving joint R&D and product development efforts.

“We as a Spartan leadership team set out with a purposeful process and criteria in evaluating both organic market entries and acquisitions to diversify our business risk and growth potential. Utilimaster hit our targets for cultural fit, market potential and financial metrics, including sustained profitability and market share gains amidst an industry that has declined by 50 percent due to macro-economic conditions.”

Under the terms of the purchase agreement, Spartan will pay $50 million in cash, less a net working capital adjustment. In addition, Spartan has agreed to pay contingent earn-out payments of up to $7 million based primarily on the Utilimaster operation exceeding revenue milestones. The acquisition will be financed with a combination of cash and debt with an expected closing date for the transaction of Nov. 30, subject to the fulfillment of customary closing conditions.

Spartan had approximately $48 million in cash and cash equivalents and an additional $50 million in availability under its line of credit as of Oct. 30.

“We are pleased to join forces with the Spartan Motors team,” said Mike Kitson, Utilimaster president and CEO. “Spartan and Utilimaster share a similar business model, complementary team culture and financial discipline – focused on return on invested capital – that bode well for our continued momentum in the marketplace. Based on the excellent strategic fit, I am convinced our organizations will be stronger together as we seek to leverage operational best practices and attack new growth markets beyond those we could penetrate individually.”

Spartan Motors will host a conference call for analysts and portfolio managers at 1 p.m. EST today to discuss the acquisition. To listen to a live webcast of the call,  visit, click on “Shareholders,” and then on “Webcasts.”

About Utilimaster

Established in 1973, Utilimaster  is a leading manufacturer of walk-in vans and commercial truck bodies for the delivery and service market place. As one of the most respected and trusted manufacturers of commercial vehicles, Utilimaster designs, develops and manufactures products to customer specifications for use in the package delivery, one-way truck rental, bakery/snack delivery, utility and linen/uniform rental businesses. The company serves a diverse customer base and also sells aftermarket parts and accessories.

About Spartan Motors

Spartan Motors Inc. designs, engineers and manufactures specialty chassis and vehicles for the recreational vehicle, fire truck, ambulance, emergency-rescue and defense/specialty markets. The company’s brand names – Spartan, Crimson Fire, Crimson Fire Aerials and Road Rescue – are known for quality, value, service and being the first to market with innovative products. The company employs approximately 1,000 at facilities in Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas. Spartan reported sales of $844.4 million in 2008 and is focused on becoming a global leader in the manufacture of specialty vehicles and chassis.

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Spartan Motors Reports Third Quarter Results

October 22, 2009 by · Comments Off on Spartan Motors Reports Third Quarter Results 

Spartan Motors Inc. (Nasdaq: SPAR) today (Oct. 22) announced results for its 2009 third quarter highlighted
by continued profitability as a result of the swift actions taken by the company to aggressively realign its cost structure to current volume levels, according to a release. 

Net earnings for the quarter were $0.8 million, or $0.02 per share, which includes pre-tax restructuring charges of $0.9 million.  Excluding these charges, the adjusted earnings per share would have been $0.04 cents.

Consolidated net sales for the quarter were $89.7 million, down 62.2% from the same period last year due to the completion of a large-scale defense contract in the prior year’s quarter, coupled with the weaker macroeconomic
environment.  Despite the lower volume levels, the actions taken by the company allowed it to maintain gross margins at 17.6% of sales and reduce operating expenses by 30.4% from the same quarter of the prior year.

In addition, an increased focus on the balance sheet drove a 115.3% increase in the cash balance over second quarter 2009, to end the quarter at $36.3 million.

“We are very pleased with our progress in the quarter, and in particular, our ability to maintain margins and continue our history of positive earnings in the face of a significant revenue decline following the conclusion of a large defense contract,” said John Sztykiel, Spartan Motors president and CEO. “We moved decisively in the quarter to realign our cost structure with current market demand.

”As a result, we took a significant one-time charge to our financials, which allows us to position the business at the right size and scale to drive continued profitability into the future.  We are also starting to see an increase in order volume, with orders up 28% compared to the 2009 second quarter, which may be an early indication that demand is heading in the right direction.”

Spartan reported net sales of $89.7 million in the 2009 third quarter compared with net sales of $237.5 million in the same quarter of 2008.  The majority of the decline was in other products sales, which includes specialty chassis for defense vehicles as well as service, parts and assemblies (SPA) sales.  The decline was mostly due to the completion of a large-scale defense vehicle contract in 2008.

Spartan’s EVTeam operating unit, consisting of its Crimson Fire, Crimson Fire Aerials and Road Rescue subsidiaries, reported a 5.4% year-over-year increase in sales for the 2009 third quarter.  Sales of fire truck chassis in the quarter also increased 19.9% compared to the same period in 2008.  Spartan’s chassis sales to the Class A diesel motor home market decreased 29.9% year-over-year in the quarter.

Spartan reported consolidated gross margin of 17.6 % of sales in the third quarter of 2009, comparable to 18.1% in the same period in 2008.

Spartan attributed its continued strong gross margins to improved product mix from increased sales of fire trucks and service, parts and accessories and lower commodity costs, offset by $0.2 million in restructuring costs.

Operating expenses for the 2009 third quarter, which include $0.7 million in restructuring charges, declined by $6.4 million, or 30.4 % compared to the same period last year.  Spartan attributed the improvement to the cost reduction activities taken by the company primarily in the third quarter, which include workforce reductions, plant and operation consolidations and overall improved cost management.

Excluding restructuring charges, adjusted operating income was 2.4% of sales and adjusted earnings were $0.04 per share.  Including the restructuring charges of $0.9 million incurred during the quarter, earnings were $0.02 per
share compared to $0.45 per share during the same period last year.

Spartan reported positive operating cash flow of $30.7 million in the nine months ended Sept. 30, 2009, due to reduced working capital requirements.  The company ended the third quarter with $36.3 million in cash and cash
equivalents and $15.2 million in long-term debt, a reduction from $74.3 million at Sept. 30, 2008.  In the 2009 third quarter, Spartan reduced inventory levels by 3.2% and accounts receivable by 36.6% compared to levels at Dec. 31, 2008.

CFO Joe Nowicki added: “The operating results in the quarter are a preview of where we are moving as a company; to a business model where we can maintain solid gross margins and operating income despite volatile demand, while also strengthening our balance sheet along the way. Moving forward, we are taking further steps to lean out our business, including realigning the company to focus on both market-facing activities that drive value to customers, and leverage activities that drive efficiency and process improvements across the organization.”

On a consolidated basis, Spartan posted a year-to-date return on invested capital (ROIC) of 9.1%.  Spartan uses ROIC, defined as operating income less taxes, on an annualized basis, divided by total shareholders’ equity, for
internal performance benchmarking.

Sztykiel concluded: “As society changes, markets are changing and so are the vehicles they use, which creates opportunities for Spartan to enter and grow in micro-niches, transforming them from commercial to custom.  Some of these strategic opportunities are within existing markets with current OEM customers.  Others are in new markets, where we can expand organically, such as our recent orders for custom ambulance chassis, or through strategic acquisitions that fit our business model and have immediate positive bottom-line impact.  Our improved cost structure is not only allowing us to manage through the current economic challenges, but also facilitates aggressive growth into new and emerging markets in line with our strategic plan.”

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Spartan Reports Good Q2; Motorhome Outlook ‘Tough’

July 23, 2009 by · Comments Off on Spartan Reports Good Q2; Motorhome Outlook ‘Tough’ 

Spartan Motors Inc. today (July 23) reported strong second quarter operating results despite difficult macro-economic and market conditions, underscoring the long-term strength and success of the company’s agile and diverse business model, according to a press release.

Spartan’s second quarter performance was highlighted by increased sales of emergency rescue products, increased sales of service, parts and assemblies and improved gross margins compared to the same quarter of 2008.

For the quarter ended June 30, Spartan reported:

  • Net sales of $124.3 million.
  • Gross margin of 20.3% of sales.
  • Return on invested capital of 12.1%.
  • Consolidated backlog of $160.7 million. 

“This was a good quarter, particularly in light of the short-term challenges facing our markets,” said John Sztykiel, president and CEO of Charlotte, Mich.-based Spartan Motors. “Likewise, we’re equally pleased with the consistent performance through the first six months of the year and believe our proven ability to flex the business and align costs with current business trends bode well for the future.”

Meanwhile, Spartan Chassis’ sales to the Class A diesel motorhome market declined 92.3% year-over-year in the quarter, while backlog for RV chassis decreased 46.2% year-over-year to $6.7 million as of June 30.

“The current outlook for motorhomes remains tough, though we have seen a slight increase in demand for motorhome chassis in recent months and have increased our production accordingly,” said Sztykiel. “Spartan continues to position itself for the eventual recovery in the RV industry through product development and innovations to gain market share. More than a half million people continue to enjoy their RVs each day, an indication of how ingrained the RV lifestyle has become in our culture.”

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Spartan Motors Names Gorman to New COO Slot

June 24, 2009 by · Comments Off on Spartan Motors Names Gorman to New COO Slot 

Spartan Motors Inc. announced today (June 24) that it had named former automotive executive Tom Gorman as the company’s new chief operating officer.

In the newly created position, Gorman will oversee Spartan’s four business units while also implementing the company’s strategic growth initiatives.

According to a news release, Spartan Motors said Gorman is responsible for increasing productivity, improving overall business operations and helping Spartan strengthen its position in its market segments. The company manufactures custom chassis and vehicles for the RV, fire truck, ambulance, emergency-rescue and custom vehicle markets.

 “We are very pleased to welcome Tom to our senior management team with his proven track record of success in profitably managing multiple strategic business units and facilities, both domestically and internationally,” said John Sztykiel, president and CEO of Spartan Motors. “Tom brings tremendous experience and knowledge to our management team and much needed depth. He understands the process of delivering highly engineered niche products using lean manufacturing principles and built exactly to customer specifications, and this background will be invaluable as we strive to transform existing and new market niches from commercial to custom.”

Gorman was previously president of business development and engineering at Southfield, Mich.-based Fluid Routing Solutions, where he managed sales, operations and engineering across four divisions. He also served as president and COO of North American operations for ZF Lemforder Corp., where he was responsible for nine manufacturing and assembly plants, and also spent more than 17 years at automotive and systems components maker Dana Corp., rising to business development director of the modules and systems division. Gorman earned a master of business administration degree from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Detroit.

Spartan Motors Inc. reported sales of $844.4 million in 2008, and employs approximately 1,200 at facilities in Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and South Dakota.

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Motley Fool Now Bullish on Spartan Motors Inc.

May 27, 2009 by · Comments Off on Motley Fool Now Bullish on Spartan Motors Inc. 

The Motley Fool, not one to avoid being viciously negative on occasion and sometimes in a flippant sort of way, sounded somewhat bullish recently on Spartan Motors Inc., a chassis supplier to the RV industry.

“More top-performing CAPS (community stock research) members have been feeling bullish about Spartan Motors these days, enough to upgrade it from its long-held four-star rank to a more formidable five stars, though it has since dropped back down to four,” the Fool columnists wrote in their “This Just In” column that examines stocks.

“A total of 492 members have given their opinion on Spartan Motors, with many of them offering analysis and commentary explaining the recent optimism,” the Fool wrote.

The columnists added:

Spartan supplies chassis for RVs and emergency vehicles, and it also supplies parts to builders of military vehicles like Force Protection and General Dynamics. A dismal market for recreational vehicles has slammed Spartan just as it has dealt a severe blow to Winnebago Industries.  But it has also provided others like Navistar International with a chance to pick up RV assets on the cheap.

Demand for fire truck chassis and emergency vehicles have been strong for Spartan, though, with the backlog for each growing in the recent quarter, helping offset slower sales to the RV and defense industries. It increased its gross margin in the quarter by 46% over last year, the fourth consecutive quarterly increase, and grew its cash and equivalents balance to $27.2 million thanks in part to $15.1 million in operating cash flow and only $800,000 in capital expenditures in the quarter. The continued performance and rock-bottom share price have had investors jumping back into the stock recently.

And how can you blame them? With military spending providing solid growth prospects for defense companies like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, Spartan certainly stands to benefit, too. The company’s already working on some new developments in anticipation of a ramp-up in Afghanistan and Pentagon plans of a large order of all-terrain M-ATV vehicles this year.

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Spartan CEO Takes Story to Investment Confab

May 21, 2009 by · Comments Off on Spartan CEO Takes Story to Investment Confab 

John Sztykiel, president and CEO of Spartan Motors Inc., will attend the Barrington Research Industrial Conference today (May 21) at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago and present the Spartan story to institutional investors in a series of one-on-one meetings.

The Charlotte, Mich., firm builds chassis for the RV, fire truck, ambulance, emergency-rescue and custom vehicle markets.

Spartan will also be displaying a Crimson Fire First Response All Call (FRAC) vehicle outside the hotel.  Investors, financial analysts, reporters and members of the public will be able to visit the vehicle for a complete tour of the FRAC’s features and benefits.  

The FRAC is a new concept vehicle that incorporates a broad spectrum of firefighting, emergency-rescue and command capabilities into a single, affordable vehicle.  Fire departments can select any two of the four currently available modules to create a highly maneuverable vehicle designed to meet the duty requirements of their local communities. The current module options include fire suppression, rescue, transport and command.

The company employs approximately 1,200 at facilities in Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and South Dakota.  Spartan reported sales of $844.4 million in 2008.


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Spartan Motors CEO Sees ‘Late ’09’ Growth

April 29, 2009 by · Comments Off on Spartan Motors CEO Sees ‘Late ’09’ Growth 

John E. Sztykiel, CEO of Spartan Motors Inc., a chassis supplier to the RV industry, told investors during a conference call on Tuesday (April 28) that he expects from the company’s RV segment “flat to declining sales, with really the potential growth in late 2009, moving into 2010.”

Sztykiel had these additional observations about the RV business:

“As we looked to the motorhome market or the RV market, it is still in a very, very distressed state.

As mentioned earlier, we have proactively right-sized our RV business model to match demand. And we are currently working on a number of initiatives to take advantage of some of the changes in the marketplace. As we look at the industry from a recovery perspective, there are still opportunities for some recovery in the second half of 2009. However, we do not expect it to be gigantic.

As we look at 2010, obviously, we are more excited about 2010 than we are about 2009. But, for the first time, consumer confidence is starting to stabilize, pick up a little bit. Consumer spending as a whole is starting to stabilize. We’ve seen a large inventory adjustment in a variety of industries, which bodes well for a variety of industries in the second half of 2009. So, as a whole, from a North American perspective, a lot of positive things are happening within the current markets or economic conditions, to honestly provide some growth in the second half of 2009 into 2010. And we expect to take advantage of that.

On a very positive side, despite the bad economy, people still intend to drive or use RVs. What’s interesting is a recent RVI survey in March of 2009, indicated that 55% of the respondents intend to use their RVs more this spring in summer than last year. And 45% are considering another RV purchase. Only 4% say they will use their RV less.

And after being in the business 23 to 24 years, this does not surprise me, really for two reasons. One, the biggest economic indicator I’ve seen that drives the RV business is consumer confidence. As consumer confidence stabilize and start to pick up, people will start to buy RV units. Most RVs are still bought for cash, not financed over 50%, which means as consumer confidence starts to move in the right direction, RV purchases will start to move up.

Another positive is there has been a significant inventory correction over the last basically nine to 12 months, which bodes well for a potential significant uptick just from a wholesale perspective.

The third, and this just gets back to the use and the confidence with fuel prices significantly lower this year than last year at this time, we are singing — seeing increase attendance at shows. We’re seeing increased number of units on the road. So, as people travel, as people move, and as their attitude move in the right direction, right now we’re cautiously optimistic that the second half of 2009, will be positive from an RV perspective versus the first half. And last, and not least, there is 8.2 million RV owners in our nation, and the market is there…

There is no guarantee for the future. I believe as Fleetwood, Newmar, Tiffin and Travel Supreme, which is now a part of Jayco, which is the Entegra Group.

As we looked to the future, we still see us being a very viable chassis partner with those four respective companies. As we move into the future though, there’s a huge benefit to the situation in the RV business today. And that is the business model is basically broken about zero for lack of a better term, which means that you can’t get much worse really what you’ve got is upside opportunity.

You have a chance not just to participate as the model rebounds, but also to help create a much more effective business model. And as we looked to the future, we believe that we will be a partner on an increasing number of platforms, and whatever we provide to the marketplace, in addition to have an increasing customer base i.e. size. We’re selling to more customers. Whatever we sell, the dollar content will be higher.

So, from an attitude perspective, I will be the first one to admit, I would love it, if the RV business was similar to the numbers of 2006 or ’05. But, the reality is, it’s not. So, the beauty of it is it can’t really get any worse when you are at zero. You can’t go negative in this business.

So, how do you make the best? And the good news is, it will come up at something different, speed, agility, innovation will be all be tenants of that. And we’re excited about the initiatives in which we have ongoing. Now, it doesn’t guarantee we’re going to have a great future. But, we were at zero at 1985. And it became a great business model for us. So, we’ve done it more than once. The challenge is now for us to do it again. And we have absolute confidence we can make that happen.”

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Spartan’s Class A Chassis Sales Off 91.7%

April 28, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Charlotte, Mich.-based Spartan Motors Inc. reported today (April 28) that sales for its Spartan Chassis Inc. subsidiary, the company’s largest subsidiary and operating unit, decreased 60% year-over-year to $98.2 million for the quarter ending March 31.

Spartan Chassis represented 85% of Spartan Motors’ total consolidated sales in the quarter.

Spartan Chassis’ sales to the Class A diesel motorhome market decreased 91.7% year-over-year in the quarter, while backlog for RV chassis decreased 75% year-over-year to $4.4 million as of March 31, the company reported.

“As expected, the outlook for motorhomes remains difficult,” said John Sztykiel, president and CEO of Spartan Motors. “We already have appropriately scaled our operations to match demand in the second half of 2009. We believe we have positioned ourselves to weather the storm until the industry eventually recovers. Spartan is continuing new product development and engineering innovations for motorhome chassis, some of which we plan to debut at the RVIA trade show later in 2009.”

Overall, the company, which also makes emergency rescue and military vehicles, reported first quarter net earnings of $6.1 million on net sales of $115.5 million, compared with net earnings of $14.8 million on net sales of $264.1 million in the same quarter of 2008. The decline in revenue is a result of lower sales of vehicles to the defense industry and a sharp decline in the RV market.

Spartan reported consolidated gross margin of 22.6%  of sales in the first quarter, a 46.8% increase over the same period in 2008, and a 7.1% increase over its gross margin in the fourth quarter of 2008. Spartan attributed the gross margin increase to improved product mix that includes more sales related to service, parts and assemblies. Gross margins as a percentage of sales have consistently risen for four quarters in a row, a result of the company’s adherence to lean initiatives across its subsidiary companies and product mix diversification.

“The first quarter was another representation of how our diversified multiple-market strategy, along with our market, operational and strategic agility, will enable Spartan to profitably weather tough economic conditions while positioning the company for future growth,” said Sztykiel. “From a consolidated perspective, the recreational vehicle business continues to be difficult and the next large-scale mine-protected defense vehicle ramp-up is still several months away. Yet, sales of fire truck chassis increased year-over-year, the EVTeam as a whole was profitable in the quarter and consolidated gross margin as a percentage of sales continues to increase. Emergency-rescue remains Spartan’s largest, most stable market, and we expect continuous growth based on increased market share and new product and innovation initiatives.”

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RV Stocks Soar in Massive Wall Street Rally

March 23, 2009 by · Comments Off on RV Stocks Soar in Massive Wall Street Rally 

Wall Street is soaring, propelling the Dow Jones industrials up nearly 500 points, as investors get the good news they want on the economy’s biggest problems: banks and housing. 

Investors have reignited a two-week rally, cheering the government’s plan to help banks remove bad assets from their books. They’re also pleased with a report showing a surprising increase in existing home sales last month, according to Associated Press

The stocks of public companies engaged in the RV industry that are traded on major markets rode the rally, enjoying their best day in months. 

Winnebago Industries Inc. rose 15.9%, Thor Industries Inc. rose 13.5%, Drew Industries Inc. rose 16.9%, Skyline Corp. rose 10%, Patrick Industries Inc. rose 5.5%, Spartan Motors Inc. rose 8.3% and Flexsteel Industries Inc. rose 1.4%. 

Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc., a real estate investment trust that serves the campground industry, rose a whopping $5.50 a share to close up 14.9%. 

The Dow closed up more than 497 points, its best day in more than four months. 

The Treasury Department’s bad asset cleanup program would tap money from the government’s $700 billion financial rescue fund and also involve help from the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the participation of private investors. The housing report, meanwhile, is overwhelmingly positive because it’s a sign that the glut in homes for sale may be easing.

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