Citi, SmartTrend Update Stances on RV Stocks

May 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Wall Street analysts are taking another look at RV stocks as investments.

Citi today (May 21) said it maintains a “Buy” on Thor Industries Inc., but removed it from its Top Picks Live list.

A Citi analyst said, “We continue to rate the stock a Buy with decent stock upside over the next 12 months given decent underlying demand. However, given THO shares are trading near its 2-year high, shares may be pressured in the near-term by a volatile stock market and inclement weather, which may unfavorably impact retail sales and slow down the company’s momentum. Thus we are removing THO from our Top Picks Live! list.”

To see all the upgrades/downgrades on shares of Thor, click here.

Meanwhile, SmartTrend had this to say about some RV stocks:

Below are the top five companies in the Automobile Manufacturers industry as measured by lowest relative performance. Some analysts believe that stocks with lower relative performance are a better bargain.

Winnebago Industries Inc. ranks first with a loss of 13.51%; Thor Industries Inc. ranks second with a loss of 7.76%; and Ford Motor ranks third with a loss of 6.49%.

Daimler  follows with a loss of 6.38% and Honda Motor rounds out the top five with a loss of 4.23%.

SmarTrend is bearish on shares of Winnebago and our subscribers were alerted to Sell on May 06, 2010 at $14.34. The stock has fallen 13.4% since the alert was issued.

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Midwest Leasing: Thor’s New Finance Partner

May 19, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Fran Wickenhauser, president, Midwest Leasing Inc.

Fran Wickenhauser

Midwest Leasing Inc. has joined forces with Thor Industries Inc. on an exclusive basis to provide the RV park and campground industry with financing solutions.

Bryan Wickenhauser

Bryan Wickenhauser

Midwest Leasing Inc. will finance park model rental units for Airstream Inc., Breckenridge, CrossRoads RV and Keystone RV Co., according to a news release from Fran Wickenhauser, president of Midwest Leasing Inc.

Midwest Leasing Inc. originated in Milwaukee in 1985, but is now headquartered in Crested Butte and Gunnison, Colo. Midwest Leasing will provide conventional financing, as well as structured financing to coincide with a campground owner’s seasonal cash flow on terms up to 60 months. “At the end of the financing term your campground owns the park models/rental units. We will finance park model/rental units, including freight, as well as other capital equipment related to your campground, throughout the United States and Canada,” he said.

Advantages of financing with Midwest Leasing Inc:

  • Will finance 100% of total purchase.
  • Allows you to finance other equipment for your campground.
  • Conserves cash resources for other priorities.
  • Allows for structuring of your payments to coincide with seasonal cash flow.
  • Allows you to pay for units as you are receiving revenue from their use.
  • Allows for the same tax benefits as if you had purchased the units.
  • Does not affect your bank line borrowing ability.

“We have been financing capital equipment for 25 years,” Wickenhauser said. “We have looked long and hard at the park model/rental unit marketplace and feel comfortable with the products from Thor Industries Inc. We are excited and optimistic about our ability to help campground owners in the U.S. and Canada who want to acquire park model/rental units, as well as other related equipment, for their campgrounds. Campground owners are finding that park model/rental units are providing two to five times as much income as a traditional RV site, so we think the time is right for us to enter the financing arena to help campground owners acquire these units.”

To learn more specifically about how Midwest Leasing can help your campground call or email: Fran Wickenhauser at (800) 203-8920; Bryan Wickenhauser, vice president, at ( 800) 398-2604;; and

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Stat Surveys: Motorhome Sales Flat in March

May 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Total Class A and C retail motorhome registrations of 1,704 were flat in March compared to 2009, down by just two units, according to Statistical Survey Inc.

First quarter total sales of 3,971 also represented a decline of 6.3% compared to last year.

According to the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company, Class A sales in March fell 1.4% to 922 units, compared to 935 last year, while year-to-date registrations dropped 8.5% to 2,357.

Class C motorhome registrations of 782 coaches, however, were up 1.4%, although first quarter sales showed a 2.9% drop to 1,614 units.

Forest River Inc. was the top seller in March with it’s Coachmen subsidiary capturing 14.5% of the market with sales of 247 units while Forest River’s other brands recorded sales of 172 coaches for a 10.1% market share.

Thor Industries Inc. was second in total sales for March, retailing 307 units for an 18% market share.

Class B sales for the month, which Statistical Survey records separately, increased 53.5% to 109 units compared to March 2009, while total first quarter sales of 341 units represented a 76.7% increase.

Two Canadian firms, Roadtrek Motorhomes Inc., and Pleasure-Way Industries Ltd., were No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in Class B sales for March with Roadtrek capturing 33.9% of the market with the sale of 37 units while Pleasure-Way sold 26 units for 23.9% share of the market.

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Thor Industries Inc. ‘Operating in High Gear’

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Thor logoThe RV market lost speed the past few years as recession-wary consumers put the brakes on buying high-end goods.

RV sales at the retail level dropped, and dealers slashed inventory.

The upshot, according to Investor’s Business Daily:  The RV market was hit hard by the economic downturn, says Richard Riegel, senior group president of Thor Industries Inc., the world’s largest maker of RVs. U.S. shipments to dealers skidded to 166,000 units in 2009 from 237,000 in 2008 and roughly 400,000 units in 2006, he says. Thor’s RV lineup consists of travel trailers, fifth-wheels and motorhomes.

The Airstream International travel trailer is among the brands produced by Thor Industries, which is recovering from a tough recession.

But it’s no one-trick pony show. Besides holding the top spot in RVs, it’s also the No. 1 builder of midsize buses. In March, it entered the ambulance market with the $20 million purchase of SJC Industries, the No. 2 ambulance maker.

Still, with RVs accounting for roughly 80% of Thor’s sales, the RV industry slump packed a mean punch against its business. After five years of solid gains, sales and profit began to decline in 2007. Thor saw the biggest drop in fiscal 2009 ended July 31. Sales sank 42% from the prior year, and profits dipped 81%.

But thanks to improved RV market conditions and cost cuts that created efficiencies, Thor is operating in high gear with sales and profits growing again. In the second quarter, Thor earned 22 cents a share vs. a year-ago loss of 27 cents a share. Sales soared 90% to $430 million.

Preliminary third-quarter sales jumped 64% to $679 million, the company said earlier this month. RV sales climbed 79% to $558 million. Specialty vehicle sales, which include buses and ambulances, rose 17% to $121 million.

The RV market is in the midst of a recovery, and Thor’s business is humming.

“One of the key metrics is our order backlog,” Riegel said. “We entered the third quarter with an all-time record high backlog of any quarter.”

On Jan. 31, the end of the second quarter, total backlog stood at $711 million, up 82% from the prior year.

A hefty $449 million was RV backlog, up 157% from last year. The bus backlog of $262 million rose 21%.

On April 30, the end of the third quarter, the backlog stood at $667 million, up 51% from a year ago, Thor said in reporting preliminary results. RV backlog was $448 million, more than double last year’s $214 million.

Still, Riegel says, Thor has to be judicious about how the backlog is deployed.

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Winnebago, Thor Shares Climb with Upgrade

May 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Thor logoWinnebago logoShares of Winnebago Industries Inc. and Thor Industries Inc. rose on Monday after an analyst upgraded shares of the recreational vehicle manufacturers, citing signs of improvement in the RV market, according to the Associated Press.

Shares of Winnebago soared $1.40, or 10.3%, to $15 in midday trading. Shares of Thor jumped $2.33, or 7.4 %, to $34 amid a rally in the broader market.

Baird analyst Craig Kennison raised his ratings on Winnebago and Thor to “Outperform” from “Neutral” in a note to investors on Monday. He said the RV market is now in “correction mode.”

RV sales have been sluggish in recent years as discretionary spending dropped and the credit markets locked up. But those trends have begun to reverse, Kennison said.

“Our checks confirm low inventory, robust orders, better traffic, easier credit and improved retail — supporting a bullish stance,” Kennison wrote.

In March, Winnebago reported it moved to a profit in its fiscal second quarter as its revenue tripled. Thor reported a return to profitability during the same period, too.

Shares of Winnebago have climbed 11% so far this year. Thor shares are flat but have nearly doubled from a low of $16.65 set last July.

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RV Stocks Survive Wild Day on Wall Street

May 7, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Investors are looking to this morning’s opening on Wall Street to learn whether Thursday’s record plunge was a fluke or something more.

Panicked selling sent the U.S. stock market into a freefall Thursday afternoon, when program trading by high-frequency traders kicked in, according to Market Watch, a service of the Wall Street Journal.

RV stocks felt the wild trading with leading stocks closing lower but not in dramatic fashion.

  • Winnebago Industries Inc. closed at $14.53, down 88 cents or 5.71%. It fell as low as $13.06 a share during the day.
  • Thor Industries Inc. closed at $33.90, down 47 cents or 1.4% on volume of 1,007200, nearly twice its normal trading volume.
  • Drew Industries Inc. closed at $21.65, down 80 cents or 3.7% on volume of 238,400 shares.

At its lows, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 998.50 points, which ranks as its biggest intraday drop in its history, at least on a points basis. It finished down 347.80 points, or 3.2%, at 10520.32 amid declines in all 30 of its components. The drop was the worst in point terms since February 2009 and the worst in percentage terms since April 2010.

The selling accelerated after a sharp drop in shares of Procter & Gamble (PG 61.31, +0.56, +0.92%) and at least one other DJIA stock, 3M Co. (MMM 83.54, -0.70, -0.83%) , market watchers said.

The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission issued a joint statement late Thursday, saying they were working with exchanges and other regulators to review the session’s “unusual trading activity.”

“We will make public the findings of our review along with recommendations for appropriate action,” agency officials said in a statement.

Shares of Procter & Gamble plunged to $39.37 at one point from around $60. The New York Stock Exchange said each stock has its own circuit-breaker level. When these stocks fall below their levels, then they can be traded on any other exchange or platform at any price. When P&G fell below its circuit breaker, a bid came in for the stock at $39.37 from the Nasdaq, the NYSE said.

“You don’t see a blue-chip stock like this go down 20 points with no news,” said Frank Ingarra, co-portfolio manager at Hennessy Funds, a quantitative firm that deals with program traders. “All of the algorithms kicked in from this errant thing.”

The Big Board also saw 3M fell below its circuit-breaker level.

Several market watchers said they heard a major firm may have accidentally released an errant program trade using e-mini contracts, which are traded at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. A spokeswoman for the CME said its markets “functioned properly without issue.”

Traders also noted unusual trades among exchange-traded funds, including the iShares Russell 1000 Value Index Fund (IWD), which dropped from close to $60.00 to 7.5 cents.

“These ETFs traded to lows that are not mathematically correct,” he said.

While most quantitative-driven programs would normally try and take advantage of market aberrations like Thursday’s violent drop, it is murky whether program trades were more involved in driving the market down or helping push it back up.

“It’s very hard to tell whether the initial trades caused others to follow suit and jump in, thinking this was a true market move,” said Adam Allam, managing director at Instinet, which executes program trades on behalf of its clients. “Everyone at this point’s just guessing or trying to justify why that move happened and it’s quite plausible it was an error.”

Traders leaving for the day faced a growing media horde waiting for them. They described the session as “roller-coaster,” “madness” and just plain “crazy.”

One trader who has been on the floor for more than 20 years said he’d never seen it like Thursday.

“We were just watching the trades go through, and nothing was getting down to us on the floor,” he said. “We were blindsided.”

Others said there was an eerie calmness to the ride.

“It was kind of somber,” one said. “It wasn’t as crazy as you’d expect.”

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U.S. Campground Evolution: More ‘Cabins’

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Shane Ott, Thor Industries Inc.

Shane Ott, Thor Industries Inc.

Before joining Thor Industries Inc. as its director of campground relations last year, Shane Ott spent 23 years with Billings, Mont.-based Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), working his way up to president and COO of the company.

But during an address to private park operators attending the ReV up in Reno convention and tradeshow in Sparks, Nev. last month, Ott said the multi-week, long-haul family vacations that many of us grew up with are a thing of the past.ReV up in Reno 2010 logo

And while recent increases in fuel costs certainly encourage families to camp closer to home, that’s not the only factor.

Most families, he said, no longer can afford time off work to take extended vacations of two weeks or more, as they had in years past. In most cases, both parents are working, and many find it difficult to leave work for more than a few days at a time. Their kids may also have sports practices and other extracurricular activities, which further complicate efforts to escape for a lengthy trip.

As a result, he said, people are taking shorter trips, and they’re camping closer to home. And while there will certainly always be some people who have the ability to take long-haul, multi-week RV and camping trips, Ott said the phenomenon of families taking shorter trips closer to home is “a macro trend that is here to stay.”

But while this may seem like an ominous development for private park operators, campground operators have found that they can broaden their guest base by investing in park model rental accommodations, which are perfect not only for people who don’t have a tent or RV, but for time-deprived families who want to have a quick and easy weekend getaway without having to worry about packing tents and sleeping bags, let alone setting up and taking down camp.

Rental accommodations are lucrative, often generating three times as much as a typical RV site. Park models are more lucrative than RV sites not only because they generate more income per night, but because they tend to be booked more often and have higher average occupancy rates than RV sites.

“To some extent,” Ott said, “campgrounds have insulated themselves from dependence on RVs by investing in park models.”

This is one reason why several Thor subsidiaries have partnered with the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) to provide campground operators with special pricing on rental accommodations, including park models manufactured by Breckenridge Division of Damon Corp. and CrossRoads RV as well as travel trailers manufactured by Airstream Inc. and Keystone RV Co.

During an interview with Woodall’s Campground Management, Ott said the park operators were directly involved in helping the Thor companies develop their respective rental products. CrossRoads RV, the latest to join the ARVC-Thor promotion, has several features, including:

  • 5/8-inch pine plank tongue and groove interior paneling instead of ¼ inch paneling or gypsum board.
  • No carpeting. Instead, the floors are covered with Beau Floor linoleum, which is easy to clean and more resistant to furniture scratching and cracking due to cold weather than other floor coverings.
  • No curtains because the materials used in draperies can tear and hold odors. Instead, CrossRoads uses miniblinds, which can be easily cleaned and replaced as needed.
  • Residential-style refrigerators. Guests prefer them over compact RV refrigerators because they hold more and work better. They can also be easily replaced as needed.
  • Custom designed deck plans. CrossRoads has provided Lowe’s with architectural drawings for patio decks that it designed specifically for its rental units. So whenever park operators want to install a patio, they can simply contact Lowe’s, which will provide them with the deck plans as well as the lumber and other supplies they need.

Esther Osborne of Marble Quarry RV Park in Columbia, Calif., in California’s famed gold rush country, told WCM she has seen evidence of the trends Ott described at her park, which her father has owned and operated for 32 years. She said the park has invested in cabins in recent years to broaden its market base and the results have been significant. “It used to be more clubs and older people that came in here,” she said. “But now (with the rental accommodations), we’re getting a huge mix with a lot of families with children.”

In fact, Osborne was so impressed with the CrossRoads RV unit on display at the Cal-ARVC convention that she bought the unit, and hoped to have it ready for occupancy before Memorial Day weekend.

The convention was sponsored by the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC) and the associations of several neighboring states.

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Campgrounds Diversifying with Rentals

May 5, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The campground business has been the most resilient sector of the travel and tourism business throughout the recession. But it’s not just because campgrounds offer the most affordable vacation option, according to The Daily Exchange, Waterloo, Ontario.

“Campgrounds increasingly offer rental accommodations, so they’re no longer solely dependent on tent campers and RV owners,” said Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), adding that roughly a third of America’s campgrounds now offer park model rental accommodations.

But most campgrounds aren’t building their own rental accommodations from scratch. In most cases, they are ordering factory-built cabins and cottages, which are being delivered to their parks just in time for the camping season.

Many of them look like miniature log or cedar-sided cabins. But these 400-square-foot units are actually recreational park trailers or “park models,” and are technically classified as recreational vehicles.

“They’re completely turnkey,” said William Garpow, executive director of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA), which represents park model manufacturers. “All the campground owner has to do is hook each unit up to the utilities and they’re ready to rent.”

And, perhaps best of all, since “park models” are technically classified as recreational vehicles, they do not require building permits in most jurisdictions, so campgrounds can literally order them over the phone and have them delivered to their parks within a matter of weeks.

“Manufacturers construct these units in factories to conform with approximately 500 safety requirements contained in the National Safety Standard for recreational park trailers,” Garpow said.

Industry insiders see the campground industry’s increasing investments in park models and other rental accommodations as a shrewd business move, particularly given rising fuel costs and the dramatic decline in towable and motorized RV sales in recent years as a result of the recession.

“To a certain extent, the campground industry has insulated itself from the economic downturn by installing rental units,” Profaizer said.

Indeed, by providing rental accommodations, campgrounds are drawing not only tenters and RVers, but anyone who would normally stay in a hotel or motel while they travel.

“With park model cabin rentals, we can appeal to families who don’t have to worry about going out and purchasing an RV or having a tow vehicle or whatever the case may be. They can just get in their car and come to one of our parks,” said Rob Schutter, COO of Milford, Ohio-based Leisure Systems Inc., which franchises Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts.

Campgrounds have been gradually investing in park model cabins and other rental accommodations for many years. But the focus on rentals has intensified in recent years.

In fact, the competition for campground business has become so fierce that park model manufacturers are facing increasing competition from RV manufacturers, who are now marketing some of their own products as rental accommodations for campgrounds.

For more than 13 years, in fact, the Breckenridge Division of Damon Corp. in Nappanee, Ind., was the only Thor Industries Inc. subsidiary that produced rental accommodations for campgrounds. Now there are four Thor subsidiaries vying for a piece of the campground rental business, with Topeka, Ind.-based CrossRoads RV, Goshen, Ind.-based Keystone RV Co. and Jackson Center, Ohio-based Airstream Inc. each competing for a piece of the campground accommodations business along with Breckenridge.

Some of the major campground chains, for their part, are busy working out exclusive arrangements with leading park model manufacturers, which are building custom-designed rental units for their parks.

Phoenix, Ariz.-based Cavco Industries Inc., for example, is building units for Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), while CrossRoads RV recently landed an agreement to build custom designed park models for Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts. Another RV resort developer, Memphis, Tenn.-based RVC Outdoor Destinations, is working with Athens Park Homes in Athens, Texas, to furnish its resorts with park models.

But while some see the growing demand for rental units in campgrounds as a result of rising fuel costs and declining RV sales, it also reflects significant sociological changes taking place across the United States, Profaizer said.

“Families are increasingly time deprived and the dynamics of the summer vacation have changed,” she said. “People are camping closer to home because they don’t have as much time off to take extended trips across the country. Oftentimes, both parents are working and their kids are often involved in extracurricular activities, which limit their ability to travel.”

In addition, she said, many families are finding that it’s easier and more convenient to rent a cabin for a weekend getaway than to spend their limited free time packing, setting up and taking down tent camping equipment. For others, she said, having a cabin rental gives them an opportunity to experience camping in the great outdoors even if they don’t have an RV.

Schutter of Leisure Systems said campgrounds are also finding that park model rentals are particularly appealing to women, especially mothers. “In our particular system,” he said, “one of the major decision makers is Mom. And Mom finds all the comforts of home in these units. That’s a big selling point.”

Thomas Heneghan, CEO of Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc., also said park model accommodations have wide market appeal. “In today’s economy,” he said, “the park model extends the outstanding value and experience of the outdoor lifestyle to families who are either unfamiliar with tent camping or RVing or who prefer the conveniences offered by staying in a park model.” He added that park models “allow one to have all of the comforts and conveniences of home with the ability to have a change of scenery and reconnect with family.”

Park model manufacturers, for their part, find it behooves them to pay attention to campgrounds and their growing accommodations needs.

“Many of our manufacturers are literally racing to get these units in place in time for the summer camping season,” said Garpow of RPTIA, adding that the pre-summer rush can be a nail-biter for campgrounds, many of which have already booked the park models they have ordered for this summer.

Such is the case at West Glacier KOA in Glacier, Mont., which just received six park model cabins in late April. “We’re hooking them up to septic and electric utilities right now,” said park co-owner Theresa McClure, adding that five of the six units are already booked May 14, when the park opens for the summer camping season.

“It’s just crazy,” McClure said of consumer demand for park model cabins, which KOA markets as Kamping Lodges. “We could probably put in 12 and they’d all be booked.”

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Baird: Thor’s Backlog Bodes Well for 2010

May 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Baird logoEditor’s Note: Robert W. Baird issued a note to its investor clients following today’s release of third-quarter and nine-month results by Thor Industries Inc. Excerpts from that report follow:


Add to shopping list. Thor reported solid revenue, a healthy backlog and stronger consumer demand – a recipe for better results. Our checks confirm that low inventory, robust orders, better traffic, easier credit and surging retail – supporting our more bullish stance. We harbor some concerns (gas prices, interest rates, tax policy), but remain confident in our above-consensus estimates and would add Thor to our shopping list if the market corrects.


Preliminary sales exceed consensus. Thor reported preliminary sales for the April quarter earlier today, following its customary process. Sales improved 64% to $679 million, slightly above consensus ($666 million) but below our $702 million estimate. RV sales jumped 79% to $558 million versus our $583 million estimate, while Specialty Vehicle sales improved 17% to $121 million (versus our $118 million estimate).

Backlog remains healthy. The backlog remains healthy, improving 51% to $667 million, but the rate of growth has slowed. The RV backlog improved 110% to $448 million, largely consistent with our expectations. The Specialty Vehicle backlog fell 4% to $219. Although the rate of growth has slowed, the value of the backlog – along with favorable retail trends – bodes well for the balance of 2010.

Retail trends hold promise. Thor has posted robust growth without the benefit of better retail trends. After depleting RV inventory to harvest cash, dealers began to replenish inventory at a more normal pace (1:1) – driving a robust wholesale recovery (RV shipments up 100% in the last 6 months). The next phase of growth depends on consumer trends – and early signs are positive. Thor noted “substantial improvement over last year, including the March and April periods,” which is consistent with our bullish dealer survey (April 15). Dealer traffic has improved and credit has eased – a recipe for stronger retail. Dealers tell us towable sales improved 40-50% through March as affluent consumers begin to spend again.



  • We maintained our 2010 and 2011 EPS estimates at $1.85 and $2.40, respectively.

Q3 Preliminary Results

  • Thor reported preliminary Q3 revenue for the April quarter, consistent with normal protocol.
  • Revenue increased 64% to $679M, lower than our $702M forecast (+69%).
  • RV sales increased 79% to $558M, lower than our $583M forecast.
  • Specialty Vehicle sales grew 17% to $121M, above our $118M forecast.
  • The backlog rose 51% versus last year to $667M. The RV backlog increased 110% to $448 million, and the Specialty Vehicle backlog fell 4% to $219 million.
  • Cash & equivalents at the end of the quarter were $155 million.
  • The company did not report EPS or other financial metrics beyond what is described above.

RV Retail and Wholesale

Both towable and motorhome shipment growth has been robust in early 2010, driven by easy comparisons and stronger restocking rates. Retail registrations remain down but declines have moderated and the most recently reported winter months are seasonally insignificant. Early spring retail results are more important to sustain the recovery.

To subscribe to this service, contact Craig R. Kennison at

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Thor Sales Soar 64% in Q3; Sold Canada Biz

May 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Thor Industries announced today (May 4) preliminary sales and backlog for the quarter and nine months ended April 30 and the divestiture of its Canadian RV and park model operations.

Sales in the quarter were $679 million, up 64% from $415 million last year. RV sales were $558 million, up 79% from $312 million last year. Specialty Vehicle sales, which include buses and ambulances, were $121 million, up 17% from $103 million last year.

Sales in the 9 months were $1.61 billion, up 49% from $1.08 billion last year. RV sales were $1.28 billion, up 65% from $777 million last year. Specialty Vehicle sales were $328 million, up 8% from $304 million last year.

Cash, cash equivalents and investments on April 30 were $155 million versus $296 million last year. Backlog on April 30 was $667 million, up 51% from $442 million last year. RV backlog was $448 million, more than double $214 million last year. Specialty vehicle backlog was $219 million versus $228 million last year.

Thor also announced that it had sold its Citair Inc. subsidiary, d.b.a. General Coach Canada, to management, effective April 30.

“The RV industry continues a strong wholesale re-stocking trend, as evidenced by Thor’s large order backlog,” said Peter B. Orthwein, Thor chairman, CEO and president. “Importantly, Thor’s recent internal retail sales results also demonstrate substantial improvement over last year, including the March and April periods. This bodes well for a better balance between retail demand and wholesale replenishment as we move forward.”

Subsequently, Buysiness Week reported that analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters are expecting earnings of 57 cents per share on revenue of $666 million when Thor releases its full financial results on June 7.

Thor shares dropped 59 cents, or 1.6%, to $35.58 in midday trading.

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GMAC Inc. Reports Q1 Profit, Name Change

May 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

GMAC Inc. posted a quarterly profit as U.S. car sales recovered and said it plans to adopt Ally Financial Inc. as its new name, according to Business Week.

First-quarter income was $162 million, compared with a loss of $675 million a year earlier, GMAC said in a statement today. The results represented the Detroit-based company’s first quarterly operating profit since the second quarter of 2007. GMAC doesn’t have publicly traded shares.

GMAC recently became a primary lender for Thor Industries Inc., the nation’s leading RV manufacturer.

Surging U.S. auto sales may give GMAC breathing room as it decides what to do with its loss-plagued home mortgage subsidiary. The auto unit posted its fifth straight profit, including $396 million from continuing operations in North America, and mortgages swung to a $166 million profit.

“The capital markets reopened to GMAC debt, we have reduced expenses and we took several additional steps to contain and reduce risk in the mortgage business,” CEO Michael Carpenter said in the statement.

Carpenter, 63, is trying to make GMAC profitable by renewing its focus on auto financing after losses on mortgages led to three U.S. bailouts totaling $17.3 billion. The government holds a 56% stake. In the last six weeks, GMAC sold its European mortgage operations to funds affiliated with Fortress Investment Group LLC and quit the U.S. factoring business by selling the unit to Wells Fargo & Co.

Ally Bank

GMAC’s new name is derived from the company’s consumer banking unit, which gets deposits from consumers online. The change is effective May 10, the company said. GMAC’s Ally Bank turned a profit and said deposits rose 4.7% to $17.7 billion. The company is relying on low-cost deposits from consumers to help fund new loans. Global automotive operations reported a pre-tax profit from continuing operations of $846 million, including $653 million in the North American unit, the company said.

GMAC reported pre-tax income of $175 million at the overall mortgage operations. ResCap, the legal entity, earned profit of $110 million and increased its tangible net worth to $426 million from $275 million in the fourth quarter.

The lender said it reached a settlement with one of its top three counterparties for representation and warranty claims. Such claims typically include disputes from mortgage buyers who want the lender to take the loans back after they’ve defaulted because the mortgages weren’t properly vetted.

Residential Capital

GMAC is exploring the sale of its Residential Capital mortgage unit. The firm hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Citigroup Inc. to help market the business and arrange an initial public offering for the entire company. An IPO may occur in the next two years, Carpenter has said.

The offering may come sooner as GMAC’s core business benefits from a rebound in auto sales and lending, cost cuts and lower funding costs, CRT Capital Group LLC analyst Kirk Ludtke wrote in an April 22 report. Ludkte assigns a “buy” rating to GMAC and ResCap senior unsecured notes.

“The pressure on GMAC to go public is likely to intensify if the administration comes to the conclusion, as we have, that the U.S. taxpayer may be in a position to break even on the GMAC bailout,” Ludtke wrote in the report. “We believe that a GMAC IPO is possible before” the November elections, he wrote.

GMAC received $3.8 billion from the Obama administration in a third government bailout in December. The company benefited from $12.5 billion in two previous government bailouts and an additional almost $1 billion that was funneled through GM, which used it to invest in GMAC.

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Damon Introduces Retail Rebate Promotion

April 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Damon Motor Coach announced today (April 30) the release of its “Lightning in a Bottle” National Spring Cleaning Event. The retail rebate promotion, which offers rebates up to $10,000 for the purchase of any new, unused, unregistered Damon Motor Coach Daybreak, Challenger or Tuscany model purchased through an authorized, participating Damon dealership, is scheduled to run from May 1 through June 30.

“We are very excited about this promotion,” said Matt Thompson, vice president and general manager of the Elkhart, Ind-based division of Thor Industries Inc. “We worked with several key dealers to help design this event. The biggest difference between this and programs of the past is the effort we’ve put into promoting it to the retail customer. We really want to create a market and drive traffic to participating dealer’s lots.”

Participating dealers were provided point-of-purchase materials to promote the program within their dealerships and a full-color mailer has been sent to qualified retail customers. Additionally, the program will be advertised on the Damon website as well as various social medias including Facebook, Twitter and You Tube.

For more information on the “Lightning in a Bottle” program, visit the Damon Motor Coach website at For a list of authorized, participating dealers call Damon Motor Coach at (800) 860-5658.

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CrossRoads RV Joins ARVC Lodge Program

April 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

CrossRoads RV logoCrossRoads RV, Topeka, Ind., has become the fourth Thor Industries Inc. company to join an exclusive promotion that provides special pricing for recreational park trailers to be used as rental lodges by members of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).

CrossRoads President Mark Lucas and Shane Ott, Thor Industries’ director of campground relations, announced CrossRoads’ entry into the ARVC-Thor promotion last week during the during the California National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds’ (CalARVC) annual convention and trade show in Reno, Nev.

Three other Thor companies participating in the ARVC-Thor promotion include Airstream Inc., Breckenridge and Keystone RV Co.

All four companies offer unique lines of park model cabin and travel trailer units that have been specially designed to meet the durability needs of private park operators who are anxious to expand their offering of rental accommodations.

“CrossRoads is taking a very assertive approach in reaching out to private park operators,” said Ott, who developed Thor’s rental accommodations initiative after previously serving as president and COO of Kampgrounds of America (KOA).

Lucas, for his part, said input from private park operators has enabled CrossRoads to design its rental units to withstand daily wear and tear from campground guests. As a result, its rental units feature:

  • 5/8-inch pine plank tongue-and-groove interior paneling instead of 1/4-inch paneling or gypsum board.
  • No carpeting. Instead, the floors are covered with Beau Floor linoleum, which is easy to clean and more resistant to furniture scratching and cracking due to cold weather than other floor coverings.
  • No curtains because the materials used in draperies can tear and hold odors. Instead, CrossRoads uses miniblinds, which can be easily cleaned and replaced as needed.
  • Residential-style refrigerators. Guests prefer them over compact RV refrigerators because they hold more and work better. They can also be easily replaced as needed.
  • Custom-designed deck plans. CrossRoads has provided Lowe’s with architectural drawings for patio decks that it designed specifically for its rental units. So whenever park operators want to install a patio, they can simply contact Lowe’s, which will provide them with the deck plans as well as the lumber and other supplies they need.

During the Cal-ARVC tradeshow, Lucas and Ott also introduced park operators to Fran Wickenhauser of Midwest Leasing, whose company has been given an exclusive contract to provide financing to park operators who purchase rental accommodation units through the ARVC-Thor promotion.

Other lodging units featured in the ARVC-Thor promotion include four Breckenridge park models ranging from 22- to 36-feet; two Keystone travel trailers, including one 29- and one 37-foot model; and one 25-foot Airstream travel trailer.

The world’s largest RV manufacturer, Thor has a long history of financial stability and annual growth. The Jackson Center, Ohio company and its subsidiaries currently produce 30% of the RVs and park models produced in the United States, which Ott said should assure ARVC members of a mutually beneficial and stable business relationship.

ARVC, for its part, is the largest association of private parks in the world, representing more than 3,600 commercially owned campgrounds, RV parks and resorts across the country. The association is based in Larkspur, Colo.

For more information on the Thor-ARVC accommodations partnership, please contact Shane Ott at (406) 670-7181 or or Linda Profaizer at (303) 681-0401 or

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Wade Thompson Estate Sells 1M Thor Shares

April 23, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The estate of Wade F. B. Thompson, co-founder of Thor Indiustries Inc., continues to dispose of stock in the industry-leading company.

The estate soldf 1 million shares of Thor stock on Tuesday (April 21) at a price of $32.40 per share. The transaction was valued at $32.4 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The buyer was not identified in the SEC filing.

Thompson’s widow and co-executor of the estate, Angela E. Thompson, signed the SEC document.

As of Nov. 10, the day Thompson stepped down as Thor chairman and CEO and a short time before his death, Thompson beneficially owned 15,753,470 shares of the company’s common stock, which represented 28.4% of the issued and outstanding Thor stock.

This latest sale left Thompson’s estate still holding approximately 8.4 million shares of Thor stock, according to the latest SEC filing.

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Thor Exec’s Speech Concludes RV Park Event

April 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Shane ott, Thor Industries Inc.

Shane Ott, Thor Industries Inc.

Shane Ott, director of campground relations for Thor Industries Inc., delivers the closing address today (April 21) on the topic of “RV Industry Trends” at the ReV up In Reno RV Park and Campground Western Convention and Trade Show at John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks, Nev.

The three-day conference drew more than 100 campground owners and operators from California and nearby Western states. It is being sponsored by the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC) and associations from Arizona, Idaho and Oregon.ReV up in Reno 2010 logo

In a keynote address on Monday, Caroline Beteta of the California Commission on Travel & Tourism shared statistics for tourism for the last 18 months on the national and state level.

“There was a slight uptick in tourism activity in January,” relayed Debbie Sipe, CalARVC executive director, in summarizing Beteta’s presentation “but the bad news is — there’s still a long way to go for the general tourism industry to recover all the jobs lost in this economy. But, perceived as afffordable vacation options, RV parks and campgrounds are poised to have a great summer. Caroline’s enthusiasm is contagious and as you know RV parks and campgrounds are uniquely positioned to help families stay connected and vacationing even in a down economy.”

Delegates have been attending engaging seminars, evidenced by the discussions in the hallway about the topics they’ve just heard, Sipe said.

Also this week, attendees took part in a trade show, received a “State of the Industry” from Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) and acquired treasures in the Silent Auction.

Today brings more seminars and conclusion of the trade show.

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