Suncoast RV, one of the premier dealerships for the new Yellowstone RV product line, reported large numbers of orders following the Florida RV SuperShow in Tampa with the new Canyon Trail and RidgeLine fifth-wheel lineup.
“We are absolutely thrilled with the retail acceptance of the new Yellowstone products, the response has been phenomenal,” Pat Overby, vice president of operations at Suncoast RV, stated in a news release. “The quality and features are impeccable. Tampa show attendees reported that retail customers were impressed with what they saw in Yellowstone’s Canyon Trail and RidgeLine products. Customers looked all over the show and came back and gave Suncoast one of the best shows ever in total number of retail orders we received in Tampa.”
“The Canyon Trail and RidgeLine are priced to fit points between where other brands fit, with more value added features included,” said Overby. “We were able to raise customers up from some lower priced ‘me too’ products or down form other mainstream name products. So many manufacturers build multiple name products with the same price points. When we have needed factory support, the Yellowstone staff has been incredibly responsive.”
Mark Dunithan, director of engineering for Nappanee, Ind.-based Yellowstone RV, said, “The RidgeLine storage is unbelievable and we are confident it is the largest exterior storage ever offered in any towable product except for a toy hauler.” Dunithan said the company employed engineering normally found only on a motorized chassis with a “fully boxed, raised rail” system, rather than the basic dropped I-beam design.
For more information on Yellowstone RV, Ridgeline or Canyon Trail products call (800) 811-0302, visit www.yellowstonervs.com or e-mail email@example.com.
EnduraMAX “created a sensation” with its redesigned luxury crossover toy hauler fifth-wheel display at the recent Florida RV SuperShow in Tampa, the Nappanee, Ind.-based company reports in a news release.
“The reaction was overwhelming,” said Patrick White, sales manager for Suncoast RV’s Jacksonville location, who was representing the EnduraMAX product. “It felt like all 50,000 attendees went through the display.”
“The new EnduraMAX was designed to have the look and feel of a luxury diesel pusher motor home,” said Jerry Sell, national sales manager for the company. “It even has the rope lighting and ceiling medallion. Our patent-pending XL-Vapor Wall opens up to give you full living space when the toys are out. This huge open living area was very attractive to the extended stay camper – a natural fit for the Florida snowbirds. I know we wrote up well in to double digits.”
Interested dealers may contact EnduraMAX at (800) 289-8787 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dealerships specializing in recreational vehicles turned a corner in the second quarter of 2010, and the dealers expect the uptick in sales to continue well into the new year, The Florida Times Union, Jacksonville, reported.
“I anticipate 2011 will be an extremely good year for us,” said Scottie Manson, general manager of Camping World RV Sales in St. Augustine. “Our inventories are in line with what our customers are wanting today. The manufacturers are responding to the market, and are actually building more RVs that are available for less money.”
Beyond the RV industry as a whole, Manson’s dealership has experienced a record year in sales compared to the other 47 Camping World locations nationwide. His St. Augustine location ranked No. 1 in sales in November.
General sales manager Alan Dulberger gives much of the credit to the team Manson has put in place at the store, with many of its 11 salespeople boasting years of experience in automotive sales. Manson attributes part of the success to the dealership’s competitive pricing – which has brought customers from as far away as Pennsylvania to the dealership, located next to the Prime Outlet Mall at State Road 16 and Interstate 95.
“Unlike some of our competitors, we also get a great deal because we buy in bulk,” Manson said. “We buy 10 to 40 [RVs] at a time and can pass those savings on to our customers. The savings are significant enough that they result in a widespread customer base.”
Compared to the automobile industry, RV manufacturers responded more quickly to customer demand, retooling their factories to turn out more lower-priced and small-to-midsized RVs.
Consumers have responded. According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), RV shipments in the third quarter of 2010 were 20% higher than in 2009. The association expects total shipments in 2010 to reach around 236,700. That’s a 43% increase over the 165,700 units sold in 2009 — the most anemic sales recorded by the industry over the last decade.
University of Michigan economist Richard Curtin projects further growth in 2011 with shipments rising by 4% to 246,000. Curtin anticipates growth in every vehicle type.
The resurgence in RV sales led Suncoast RV, located at Beach and Southside boulevards in Jacksonville, to reopen its location up the street at Beach Boulevard and Forest Street two months ago, which was shuttered when the recession began. The company has added salespeople and technicians to support the growth in both sales and service.
Suncoast General Manager Matt Bateh credits the nimble actions of the manufacturers, along with an easing of financial hurdles, for the comeback.
“I have to give some credit to the banks, because the rates that are available now are phenomenally low,” Bateh said. “While it’s not like it was three years ago, when a customer with a 600 credit score could get a loan with no money down — which got us into this mess in the first place — it’s gotten a lot better.”
Bateh notes that RV buyers with a credit score of 700 or better, who will put at least 10% down, can capture a great financing rate.
Just as Suncoast is expanding, so is General RV in Clay County with the addition of another five acres to its dealership on Wells Road.
“We’ll basically be doubling the size of our lot, in addition to expanding our service bays,” said Operations Manager John Dyer. “From the corporate side, we have a total of 37 stores and will be adding another 10 nationwide over the next few months. We’re gearing up for a very big year.”
Unlike previous years, most RV dealers say the growth in sales in 2011 will be in the areas of towable and smaller RVs and not the large 42-foot motorhomes that supported the industry in the early 2000s.
“The trend actually began about eight years ago, well before the recession started,” said Dulberger. “Because of the economy, owning a big motorhome is out of the range of most camping families. The cost difference is significant. You’re looking at $100,000 for a large motor home compared with $30,000 for a travel trailer or towable, which also makes it much easier to finance.”
Also, Dulberger said that many families now own either a sport utility vehicle or crossover SUV, which allows them the flexibility of transporting towables and travel trailers with their own vehicles. This trend has been further aided by RV manufacturers, who are churning out lighter campers that are easier to pull.
“For the novice or part-time camper or camping family, who may go out six to 10 times a year, by far the travel trailer makes the most sense and is the least expensive to own,” Dulberger said.
Depending on the size and amenities, travel trailers range in price from $12,000 to $35,000, with pop-up campers available for even less, ranging from $4,500 to $10,000.
Dulberger and many in the RV industry expect travel trailers will lead the way in sales next year, followed by fifth-wheel trailers, and the three classes of motorhomes and other RV types bringing in the smallest percentage.
“The large RVs are a luxury item, similar to yachts in the boating industry,” Dulberger said. “And it’s going to be awhile before that market rebounds.”
Recreational vehicles have become synonymous with the three-day weekend celebrating the efforts of working Americans and the end of summer. That means RV dealerships are gearing up for this week’s influx of customers, who are preparing for next weekend’s festivities, wherever the road leads them, the Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, reported.
General RV in Orange Park is preparing for the expansion of its Wells Road dealership. Operations Manager John Dyer said that this is a perfect time to rearrange the facility and get ready for the holiday weekend, as well. He has ordered American flags for decoration and is working on reassembling the lot.
General RV has marked down all 2010 products and will have specials on folding camping trailers, fifth-wheels, travel trailers and motorhomes.
“Because of our size and buying power, we are able to put together phenomenal deals,” Dyer said. “Our customers benefit from our buying power.”
General RV is a family-owned business that has been in existence for 50 years. There are six locations in Michigan, one in Ohio and the one in Orange Park. They sell parts and service all RVs.
Dyer, who has been with the company for 10 years, said the summer months were excellent for General RV, especially the servicing of air-conditioning systems.
The same can be said for another Jacksonville-area dealership.
Matt Bateh, general manager of Suncoast RV on Beach Boulevard, said he’s seen an increase in business now that summer is ending.
“With school starting, we are seeing a lot of boat trade-ins for RVs,” Bateh said. “We have fewer [customers] interested in pull-behinds, and we have a lot more Northern folks with motorhomes.”
Suncoast RV, also a family-owned business, has been in business 28 years. Bateh, who has been with the company for 12 years, said that being family owned and run allows customers to call the owner directly if they have a problem.
For Labor Day, Suncoast RV will have deals on motorhomes and special financing with no payments for three months with 10% down.
“The bank is allowing us to work with customers, so you can get an RV with finance options with a relatively cheap monthly payment, if you qualify,” Bateh said.
South on Interstate 95, Camping World RV on Prime Outlets Boulevard in St. Augustine is simply bringing in a large amount of inventory, said General Manager Scottie Manson.
“We are having an open house to promote our excess inventory,” Manson said.
Camping World has 47 stores nationwide and has been in business for 40 years. Labor Day is one of the biggest weekends of the year for Camping World, as far as sales go.
“There is nothing that won’t be on sale,” Manson said of the Labor Day weekend. “We treat customers right; nobody beats our deals.”
Camping World also will have special financing with a bank representative on-site at the open house. Appraisers will be on-site, as well, for trade-ins, and the dealership welcomes motorcycles, boats and more.
Alan Dulberger, Camping World RV’s general sales manager, is now serving as president of the Florida RV Trade Association, which has been around since 1979. Its purpose is to promote the general welfare of the recreational vehicle and camping industries throughout the state of Florida. Dulberger served as the organization’s vice president for the last three years.
“I have been able to bring great customer satisfaction skills [to Camping World RV] from my knowledge [gained] from the association,” Dulberger said.
The summer has been outstanding for Dulberger’s dealership. Manson said sales are up 50% and not all of them are from motorhome sales and service. Customers are purchasing items like blankets, barbecue grills, motorcycle accessories and picnic accessories.
“The mood is soft in some locations in the industry. It’s all doom and gloom,” Dulberger said. “But the traffic has been unbelievable here and the mood has been up.”
It’s been just three weeks since the new Campers Inn RV dealership opened on Cassopolis Street in Elkhart, Ind., but already Tom Dewalt, location manager, likes what he sees.
“I am happy with the traffic we’ve been getting. (Even) In great years, this would have been good,” he told RVBUSINESS.com.
The store, owned by East Coast dealer Jeff Hirsch, exclusively carries Forest River Inc. products — both Forest River and Coachmen RV towables and motorized brands. New inventory is arriving daily.
Dewalt also is selling a decent number of FEMA trailers Hirsch picked up at auction, some of them, especially the early units sold directly through RV dealers in 2005, in pretty good condition, he said.
The property is located on Cassopolis Street on the north side of Elkhart, the main point of entry into Elkhart from the Indiana Toll Road (Interstate 80/90) and was formerly occupied by Michiana RV, a former Coachmen company store. It covers seven acres and features a 15,000-square-foot enclosed showroom and 16 service bays.
Dewalt concedes that he is starting slowly, having rehired some of the former Michiana RV employees, including certified service techs who were laid off when the dealership closed.
“We already have most of our lines settled,” said Dewalt. “It will be business as usual for the most part. Right now our focus is on getting our processes and systems in place, people trained and Internet up and running. I’m looking to actively buy some used.”
He expects to do a significant amount of business over the Internet.
Hirsch is leasing the site from Forest River, which obtained the former Michiana RV dealership property when it bought the RV segment of Coachmen Industries Inc. late in 2008.
The property sat idle for the past year and a half until Hirsch and Forest River hooked up. Hirsch also owns stores in Kingston and Merrimack, N.H., Leesburg, Fla., Raynham, Mass., and Macon, Ga.
“We’re not standing alone in this,” Dewalt stressed. “We’re part of the Campers Inn operation.”
Like Hirsch, Dewalt grew up in the RV business. His parents started Dewalt’s RV in Easton, Pa., in 1966, the same year Hirsch’s father started his first dealership in New Hampshire.
Dewalt and the younger Hirsch participated in the same Spader 20 Group and became good friends after Dewalt left the family business, which subsequently closed, and joined Coachmen. Dewalt was working on a special project for Coachmen when the RV segment was sold to Forest River.
That job went away, but Dewalt took on a Coachmen territory in the Southeast selling Catalina travel trailers. With retail selling in his blood, however, Dewalt welcomed the opportunity to join Hirsch when the Elkhart store post opened up. “Jeff and I share a lot of the same philosophies in business. It’s a nice fit for me,” he said. “For me, retail is what I know and wanted to get back into that.”
Hirsch is the third out-of-state dealer to try the Elkhart County market in the past five years. Two earlier attempts, by Florida-based Suncoast RV and Pleasanton, Calif.-based DeMartini RV, both failed during the recent recession.
Why will this be any different?
“The market here is difficult but there has been a terrific amount of attrition.,” said Dewalt. “There used to be 15 dealerships in Elkhart. Now, counting us, there are five. This is a tremendous opportunity. We have low overhead, despite this facility. We don’t need a lot of business to make this work.”
And in Dewalt’s view, there’s still magic to selling RVs in Elkhart, Ind. “A tremendous amount of people come through here from out of the area who want to see if they can make a deal in the ‘RV Capital of the World,’ so that’s driving some traffic,” he said.
GE Capital Commercial Distribution Finance today (Jan. 19) announced it has been selected as the exclusive wholesale floorplan financing lender for Suncoast RV Center Inc., Jacksonville, Fla., according to a news release.
The program will allow Suncoast RV to finance up to $25 million in new and used RV inventory for its six dealerships across the Southeastern U.S.
“Suncoast is pleased to be working with GE Capital on this program,” said Fred Hassan, Suncoast RV chairman. “During the current market environment of increased focus on lending and risk, we are confident that we have the backing of a strong financial provider like GE Capital.”
GE Capital’s Commercial Distribution Finance division provides financing options that include inventory financing, purchase order financing, accounts-receivable working capital loans and other programs for recreational vehicles and other industries.
“CDF is pleased to be selected by Suncoast to provide their inventory financing program,” said Peter Lannon, managing director – RV for GE Capital’s CDF business. “We look forward to providing them with funding, business intelligence and services to enable them to grow.”
Family-owned Suncoast RV operates dealerships in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. Established in 1982, Suncoast RV has grown to become a top 10 Winnebago Industries Inc. dealer, a top 5 Keystone RV Co. dealer and also represents more than a half-dozen additional RV manufacturers covering the complete spectrum of motorized and towable RVs types. Suncoast RV, a recipient of the Winnebago Circle of Excellence Award, also provides RV service, parts and accessories sales and RV body shop service, as well as being a regional leader in the sale of new and used RVs.
With America’s Baby Boomers hitting their golden years, recreational vehicle manufacturers and sellers expected a skyrocket in sales.
But then came the financial meltdown of 2008, and the boom went bust as money in peoples’ 401(k) accounts dried up with the stock market, and banks tightened their lending requirements. Because of that, buyers didn’t get loans to make purchases, and retailers couldn’t get financing to put new RVs on their lots, according to Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, Fla.
“It was not only devastating for RV dealers, it was devastating for RV manufacturers,” said Dan Ball, owner of D.P. Ball Advertising, a marketing firm that represents RV dealers, including Dick Gore’s RV World, which has locations in Jacksonville and Savannah, Ga.
But that hasn’t put a damper on people’s desire to have a recreational vehicle, said Maher “Matt” Bateh, general manager of Suncoast RV in Jacksonville.
“Shocking as this may sound, customers are still coming in like they were two years ago,” Bateh said. “The biggest thing that’s held us back is the banking end.”
Banks now require higher credit scores than they did two years ago to approve financing, he said. And in some cases, that’s excluded fixed incomes typical of those of people who are retired, he said.
“You’re taking a very large segment of the population out of the market,” he said. “They (banks) look at these as luxury items, not necessities,” he said.
“The demand has always been there,” said Ball. “What’s happened is last year, in September, the bottom almost fell out of the country. The portfolios of the majority of people getting ready to retire were seeing half their worth.”
The turn in the economy happened on the eve of the 100-year anniversary of the RV, which has allowed Americans to get away from it all while bringing it with them. From the smallish early vehicles to those the size of buses, RV ownership has allowed travelers to explore the countryside bringing bedrooms, kitchens, dining and play areas with them and bypassing the need to stay in hotels.
According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), shipments of RVs larger than vans fell by 44% nationwide between August 2008 and August 2009. But amid low consumer confidence, recent trade show attendance has been strong and dealer inventories have been reduced by recent sales, the association reported.
And the RVIA reported that it expects things to turn around within the next year.
Salem Hassan, president and co-owner of Jacksonville-based myrvlink.com, said business for the 2-year-old company, which sends Web-based business referrals to RV dealers nationwide, has been steady since it started in 2007. He said referrals fell by about 30% from 2008 to 2009, which he attributes to people’s reaction to the economy and his company’s transition from start-up.
“There were a lot of people who decided to wait,” he said. But the business created by RV “enthusiasts” — people who regularly trade up their vehicles on a three- to five-year cycle — remained constant, he said.
Already, improvement for financing in the RV market is beginning to show, Ball and Bateh said.
Some six months ago, Ball said, sellers were seeing about 40-50% of customers being rejected for financing. Today, that number has dropped to about 25%, he said.
“One of the saving graces are the local credit unions and banks,” he said.
And Dick Gore’s RV World is opening a new dealership in St. Augustine around Jan. 1, Ball said.
Bateh said the average sale on his lot is from $35,000 to $40,000.
“This isn’t an impulse buy, by any means,” he said. “But the demand’s here. There’s people walking through the door.”