Convinced that America needs a smaller, higher mileage, rear-engine diesel motorhome that retains plenty of amenities, Tiffin Motor Homes Inc. President Bob Tiffin personally set out last year to develop the Allegro Breeze Class A. Now, months after unveiling the prototype at last winter’s National RV Trade Show, Tiffin’s Alabama company is nearing the end of an arduous series of durability, safety and handling tests and is preparing to roll out production on an initial 28-foot, single-slide Breeze on a proprietary 21,000-pound GVWR PowerGlide chassis powered by a 215-hp Navistar MaxxForce 7 engine. Tiffin, which replaced the prototype’s spring suspension with full air-ride, plans to add a 32-footer with two slideouts later this year. “We do have our first (production) prototype on the line,” reports Jerry Williamson, national sales manager. “We’ll do two to three per week after that for three or four weeks and makes sure everything is running smoothly. Then, we expect in June that we’ll be in regular production.” Tiffin, hasn’t released any retail pricing to date on the Allegro Breeze, which is anticipated to get 13-16 mpg and was named RVBusiness magazine’s “Best of Show” at December’s Louisville Show. As for Bob Tiffin, Williamson says he’s pleased with the outcome. “I’ve not seen him this excited about a new motorhome,” he said. “It’s his baby.”
Everybody gives massive Alabama nose tackle Terrence Cody credit for saving the Crimson Tide’s undefeated season when he blocked two field goals in the fourth quarter of a 12-10 win against Tennessee.
Cody credits Leigh Tiffin, according to USA Today.
And why not? Tiffin, the Tide’s senior All-America placekicker, had all of Alabama’s points that day on field goals from 38, 50, 22 and 49 yards.
Tiffin has had a handful of days like that in his career, even a career-high five field goals against Mississippi this season, scoring 16 of Alabama’s 22 points.
But he has never had a signature, legend-making kick the likes of the 46-yarder Hunter Lawrence, his Texas counterpart in Thursday’s BCS title game, booted as time expired to give the Longhorns a 13-12 victory against Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game.
Heck, he hasn’t even made the most famous kick in his family.
That would belong to his father, Van Tiffin, an All-America kicker at Alabama in the mid-1980s who will forever live in Tide lore for his last-second 52-yard field goal that beat archrival Auburn 25-23 in 1985. Van is the son of Bob Tiffin, founder of Tiffin Motor Homes Inc., Red Bay, Ala.
Tiffin hopes for a similar experience Thursday night in the Rose Bowl. It’s not that he doesn’t want quarterback Greg McElroy and running back Mark Ingram to convert third downs. But there’s a part of him that roots for fourth down.
“I think you’re in a bad situation if you want the offense to convert every time,” Tiffin says. “If you don’t want to go out there, you’ve already lost.”
Alabama hasn’t lost this season, and Tiffin has rarely missed. He’s made 29 of 33 field goals. He’s Alabama’s career leader in field goals (82) and points (378). With two field goals against Texas, he could tie the Bowl Subdivision season record of 31. The FBS career record is 87.
Tiffin was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award for best placekicker, losing out to UCLA’s Kai Forbath, and he talked to Forbath recently about kicking in the Rose Bowl, UCLA’s home stadium.
“He says it’s a great place to kick,” Tiffin says.
If a long kick in the waning seconds is to determine the national title, Tiffin says he’s ready. He takes his mind-set from Nick Saban, Alabama’s famously focused coach.
“He talks about blocking out the clutter,” Tiffin says. “You can’t be worried about what some fan is going to say if you miss it.”
But he knows there are few fans like Alabama fans. They still idolize his father. They don’t forget heroes — or goats.
Tiffin has been more hero than goat, but few ‘Bama fans have forgotten his freshman meltdown in 2006, when he was subbing for injured kicker Jamie Christensen and, in a game against Arkansas, missed three field goals and an extra point in a 24-23 loss.
“That (stunk),” he says. “But that’s all a part of it.”
That game shook the freshman’s confidence. Three years later, he’s rock solid.
“Coach Saban says to approach my job like an assassin, and I like that analogy,” he says. “You might only get one chance. You might wait all game to get it.”
Tiffin Motor Home Inc.’s 28-foot Allegro Breeze, chosen as ”Best of Show” by the RVBusiness staff during the 47th Annual National RV Trade Show, breaks new ground with regard to diesel-pusher length due to its relative short dimensions.
In fact, the Breeze, built on the Red Bay, Ala. manufacturer’s own 21,500-pound GVWR chassis equipped with a 215-hp Navistar MaxxForce 7 V-8 engine, may point to the future direction of motorized RVs.
As the Allegro Breeze is a concept vehicle that is expected to be available in March, Tiffin in late December hadn’t set an MSRP nor determined fuel mileage, although it’s expected to get miles-per-gallon in the mid-teens.
The mid-priced Breeze has a single streetside slideout, one-piece windshield, antique white interior, booth dinette, queen bed, separate toilet and shower and plenty of interior and exterior storage for a coach its size and as such, may be a glimpse of things to come.
Runners-up in the “Best of Show” category include Roadtrek Motor Home Inc.’s unique 20-foot Class B coach on an imported 8,550-pound GVWR Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis equipped with a slideout that extends through the Sprinter’s rear double doors.
Also in the runner-up category was Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC’s diminutive retro-looking MPG travel trailer with four 19- and 20-foot floorplans, fenders and front and rear pass-through storage that was a real eye-catcher.
While the Roadtrek slide-out van camper unit is the first in its class, the MPG is an example of a trend toward smaller travel trailers that include the Keystone Passport, Forest River R-Pod, the new Gulf Stream Visa, Micro-Lite Trailer Manufacturing Inc.’s Vymeron and Cikira RV LLC’s Retro-Lite, among others. All have are characterized by shorter lengths, lighter weights, a somewhat retro look and most have sloping aerodynamic front ends that provide better towing.
All of them also are positioned to appeal to a more cost-sensitive buyer.
For innovation in the 2010 model year — along with Roadtrek’s Class B slideout — RVBusiness recognizes the Chalet RV Inc. triple-slide truck camper that provides the feel of a Class C motorhome; Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc.’s Grand Junction fifth-wheel that incorporates a large cedar-line closet into the front cap; and Pacific Coachworks Inc.’s outdoor kitchen contained in a powered rear slideout.
Editor’s Note: The investment firm Robert W. Baird & Co. hosted an investor field trip to the National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., this week. Here are excerpts from the company’s report contained in a current client newsletter:
Low dealer inventory and strong OEM backlogs have insiders optimistic, supporting our robust (wholesale) recovery scenario. We remain bullish on wholesale fundamentals, but prefer a margin of safety until the magnitude of the retail recovery becomes clearer.
Light attendance. Attendance was light, by our estimation. Our sources indicate attendance was flat after falling 40% in 2008 as dealers conserve resources. Investor interest was up.
Don’t worry. Be happy. We sensed relief and contrived optimism at the show. The “bottom” we and others identified earlier this year – which is evident in low dealer inventories and robust OEM backlogs – has nearly everyone focused on a better 2010. We continue to believe the return to a “normal” inventory replenishment rate will drive a robust recovery in 2010 – but retail demand must recover if the recovery is to be sustainable.
The bank is boss. More than ever, bank decisions about consumer credit and wholesale lending control the fate of the RV industry. By enforcing more disciplined inventory management and demanding that consumers/dealers have more “skin in the game,” banks will influence industry growth and determine the winners and losers. Having been caught holding distressed collateral from weaker OEMs, banks want better partners. In an industry with few barriers to entry – access to capital provides an opportunity for well-managed businesses. Among the winners, one banker listed Thor Industries Inc., Forest River Inc., Tiffin Motor Homes Inc., Jayco Inc., Winnebago Industries Inc. and Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC.
Conservative RVIA forecast. Richard Curtin revised his 2010 shipment forecast – but remains overly conservative in our view, especially in motorhomes. He sees 2010 towable shipments up 30% (up from 29%) and motorhome shipments up 25% (down from 27%). For perspective, we expect motorhome shipments to be up 108% at Winnebago.
Outlook. We remain bullish on fundamentals as a robust wholesale recovery unfolds, but prefer a better margin of safety.
Tiffin Motor Homes Inc. today (Dec. 1) unveiled a concept model of the high-end, compact-sized Allegro Breeze diesel pusher at the 47th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky. At 28 feet, the 21,500-pound GVWR Allegro Breeze is 17 feet shorter than Tiffin’s to Navistar Maxxforce 215-horsepower but only 9 1/2 feet longer than a Chevrolet Suburban. “The Breeze is responsive to our customers, dealers and others in the RV market,” says Bob Tiffin, CEO of the family-owned, Red Bay, Ala., Class A manufacturer founded in 1972. “This coach is wonderfully maneuverable and easy to park, and we’ve included many of the high-end touches of our much-larger diesel pushers.” Powered by a Navistar Maxxforce 215-hp diesel pusher manufactured in Huntsville, Ala., near the Tiffin plant, the Allegro Breeze is built on Tiffin’s own PowerGlide chassis. “This new motorhome enables us to reach out to new markets, including younger families seeking an alternative to more costly vacation arrangements and veteran RV folks who no longer want to drive, set up or maintain a 40-foot-plus diesel pusher,” explained Tim Tiffin, general manager. “While we don’t have specific numbers yet, we expect the Allegro Breeze will have good fuel economy – somewhere in the mid-teens of MPG — as a smaller, lighter coach with the Navistar engine. We will learn more in road-testing.” The Allegro Breeze will begin appearing at Tiffin’s network of dealerships in the U.S. and Canada in March. Pricing has not been established.
Strings of lights adorned with hanging lanterns connected an array of new 2010 Tiffin motorhomes – and when combined with the November starlit sky – formed a luminous canopy over 260 RV lovers gathered for a three-day block party held by Lazydays RV Center Inc. in Seffner, Fla., to launch the newest Tiffin Motor Homes Inc. models that recently arrived at the dealership, according to a news release.
Guests kicked off the event mingling and sharing the love of the RV lifestyle with one another over dinner – continuing the evening with festivities such as copious spirits, an exploration of new motorhomes and marshmallow roasting for the making of s’mores.
There was a splendid decor of Americana, but perhaps no icon was more anticipated and revered than Bob Tiffin, the founder of Tiffin Motor Homes, who personally met with each and every guest. Knowing that those who love RVing can never get enough technical information, a panel of seasoned RV experts was assembled to conduct several Q&A seminars. This group of Lazydays most experienced sales consultants and master certified technicians, alongside several Tiffin experts, left no question unanswered.
Lazydays was founded in 1976 with two travel trailers and $500. Today, the company’s continued focus on unparalleled customer service has not only made it the largest single-site RV dealership in North America but also a place that many RVers refer to as their home away from home.
Event photos are attached. For more information on Lazydays, visit www.Lazydays.com.
Tiffin Motor Homes Inc. has weathered the rocky market conditions well, positioning Tiffin as an even stronger competitor among the remaining top Class A manufacturers.
“Tiffin Motor Homes will not be the same company coming out of the economic downturn as it was a year ago,” said General Manager Tim Tiffin in a press release. “We have taken advantage of the market picture and continued to pay very close attention to our customers. You will see more dynamic product development, even closer working relationships with our dealers and an unrivaled commitment to customer service.”
With adjustments for some former options that are now standard features, Tiffin’s MSRPs remain at 2009 model levels.
Tiffin received one of only four coveted Quality Circle Awards presented by the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) to Class A manufacturers in 2008 for design, reliability, quality, value and competitive price.
Tiffin has earned the Quality Circle Award 10 of the 13 years it has been presented by the RVDA in connection with its Dealer Satisfaction Index. The 2008 survey included 2,547 brand ratings from 468 dealers.
In addition to the consumer-related categories of the survey, Tiffin also was recognized with the Quality Circle Award for exemplary warranty, parts, sales and communications support to dealerships.
The energy management system, standard on Tiffin Motor Homes’ Allegro Bus and Zephyr for 2010, is billed as a “revolutionary new concept” for RVs by Precision Circuits Inc., which developed the feature.
Previously, coaches operated either on shore power or generator. The new energy management system harnesses additional available power from the coach’s batteries for a short time and automatically sheds non-critical loads if power demand increases beyond capacity, according to a news release from the Red Bay, Ala.-based RV manufacturer.
The all-electric coach option becomes even more attractive for Allegro Bus and Zephyr models with the advent of the energy management system. An electric stove top, multiple AC units and electronics can severely tax the available power on conventional rigs. An added benefit: Since the all-electric coach does not need or have a propane tank, an additional storage space is available.
Lazydays RV Center Inc., Seffner, Fla., was recently recognized by Tiffin Motor Homes Inc. as its No. 1 dealer for 2009, marking the fourth consecutive year for this achievement, according to a news release.
Additionally, all of Tiffin’s Top 10 salesperson awards were awarded to Lazydays sales consultants.
“Lazydays has been a valued partner of ours for more than 20 years,” said Tim Tiffin, general manager for Tiffin, Red Bay, Ala. “Their entire team does a great job representing all of our products and taking wonderful care of our mutual customers. We congratulate them once again on another terrific Tiffin year.”
Dominic Calabro, general sales manager for Lazydays, commented, “For the past 20 years Tiffin has played an integral role in our ability to provide quality motorhomes to our customers. This coupled with our shared commitment to providing customers with a better RVing experience has been the principal factor for our continued successes.”
Lazydays was founded in 1976 with two travel trailers and $500. Today, the company is the largest single-site RV dealership in North America.
Hope and Bruce Terrell represent two sides of Red Bay, Ala.
Bruce is one of hundreds of workers laid off in this small Alabama-Mississippi border town. He lost his job at Tiffin Motor Homes Inc., makers of high-end luxury coaches, in October and has been unable to find work. He keeps busy as a youth pastor at his church. His unemployment benefits, extended once, run out in July, according to the Florence, Ala., Times Daily.
On the other hand, Hope has been able to keep her job at pet food maker, Sunshine Mills, another key employer in Red Bay.
“If we can make it with what I make, we’re hoping he can stay on,” Hope said.
Red Bay lost nearly a third of its jobs in the past year, by some estimates, because of the recession that dragged down the RV and mobile home markets, which make up the bulk of employment in this town of 3,256 residents.
Since mid-2007, the RV industry nationwide has shed more than half of its work force, and since 2001, shipments of mobile homes decreased by more than half, according to industry data.
Red Bay’s main employer is Tiffin. Other major employers are Sunshine Homes, a mobile home manufacturer, Sunshine Mills and Gates Rubber Co.
“The whole RV industry is in the worst depression it’s been in,” Tim Tiffin, general manager and son of founder, Bob Tiffin, said at his office in the Tiffin complex.
Tiffin’s work force decreased 50% from its peak, he estimated. Production has decreased 70% from its peak.
At its peak two years ago, the factory produced 13 coaches per day. Now, that number is four, up from the three per day this winter and spring.
Still, Tiffin sees the mild upswing as a “bounce from the bottom – three weeks, it could be different.”
“At four per day, it’s not conducive to what we need to do,” Tiffin said.
Ray Forester, general manager at Sunshine Homes, said though there was a greater demand for mobile homes, frozen credit has slowed the industry.
In the past year, shift work declined to four homes a day four days a week from a peak of six homes per day during a five-day work week.
The 2008 federal Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, was supposed to loosen credit, but “financing has not loosened up at all,” Forester said.
The plant laid off 35% of its work force – about 60 positions within the past year – something he said he was uncomfortable with discussing.
“If the Feds do something to fix the housing, it would fix the whole economy because housing drives the economy,” Forester said. “They’re not pursuing the right things.”
Sunshine Mills bypassed the current recession and tainted dog food scandals of 2007 and has not laid off any workers. “We’ve been able to maintain volume even with the slowing domestic economy,” said company President Alan Bostic through a spokesman. About 350 people are employed and, since 2008, the company has been able to hire a few more people, the spokesman said.
Sunshine Homes and Sunshine Mills are owned by the same stockholders, but are run independently. Representatives for Gates Rubber Co. did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Many Red Bay residents say they know someone who was laid off – a brother who went back to school and now works across the valley for a satellite TV company, a father who took retirement after working for a year and who now collects Social Security.
Many unemployed find their way to Weatherfod Library, where librarian Linda Ezzell estimates up to a dozen individuals per day use the computers to work on resumes, search for jobs or follow up on leads. When the layoffs first started, there was a rush of patrons, replaced by a steady stream now, she said.
“People are seeing just a little glimmer of hope that maybe the economy is swinging back,” said Red Bay Mayor Bobby Forsythe. “Even though it may be minute.”
During the winter and spring, monthly sales tax collection fell as much as 18% over the previous year. Recent sales tax collections are nearly on par with 2008.
Even with the uptick in sales tax and RV production, Forsythe said, “There are still many people hurting here in Red Bay that have lost their jobs. I don’t want to paint a rosy picture that people are employed here and making plenty of money,”
Tiffin’s downsizing has had a trickle-down effect with dealers going under and suppliers struggling.
“It’s taken a year to get to this level,” he said. “I don’t see it getting a whole lot better for another year.”
Tiffin estimated 15 to 20 local suppliers also are affected through the trickle-down effect. He declined to name the suppliers.
Progress, however, has been made. “Much of the distressed merchandise has been sold off,” Tiffin said. Distressed refers to coaches left over when a dealership goes out of business.
Until dealers get wholesale financing, Tiffin said financing will remain the same: difficult for consumers at best.
Like the auto industry, tightened credit markets mean greater restrictions for the borrowing public. Down payments of up to 20% can be difficult when buying a car, but when the vehicle can cost as much as a home, that adds to the difficulty.
Fuel prices that tick upwards during the summer also affect the business.
“People who could buy a coach two years ago cannot buy one now,” Tiffin said. “If fuel prices run back up, that’s just going to throw us back down on the mat again.”