The following is a report by the Huntsville Times on the “ultimate tailgating RV” – Red Bay, Ala.-based Tiffin Motor Home’s new Phaeton coach.
He stands in the forward section of the cabin, and with one flick of a switch begins to beam like a proud papa.
“You’re in a ‘Batman’ movie now,” Jerry Williamson says with a smile.
Actually, we’re in a Phaeton, the best-selling vehicle for Tiffin Motor Homes Inc.
And it’s expanding.
When in motion, on highways across the good ol’ US of A, the width of the main area of the 40-foot RV is 8 feet. When parked, it can extend another 6 feet in a matter of moments.
On fall weekends, on campuses across the Southeast, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more comfortable way to take in a football game.
Before, during or after.
It’s like a home on wheels. A “Parade of Homes” kind of home.
Which makes this beast the ultimate tailgating RV.
“There’s always stuff we haven’t thought of,” said Williamson, the company’s director of sales. “We raise that bar every day, every year.”
From the looks of things, it’s already set pretty high.
The Phaeton got its name from president/founder Bob Tiffin, father of Alabama kicking legend Van. The elder Tiffin is a classic car enthusiast, and back in the day – in this case the late 1890s – the Phaeton was the cream of the crop of horseless carriages.
In this $260,000 version, the four horses that powered the original could ride shotgun.
First things first, seeing that it’s a tailgater’s fantasy come to life. There are four flat-screen TVs on or in the vehicle. A 32-incher in the back bedroom, a 32-incher in the dining area, a 32-incher (think miniature drive-in movie) on the outside and a 37-incher in the front overhead above the driver.
There are two optional satellites receivers, meaning four different football games (or perhaps an NL or AL playoff game) can be watched at one time.
Second things second, there’s enough food, drink and accessory space for a Waltons family reunion. A 22-cubic foot residential style refrigerator with a triple-door freezer and icemaker in the bottom has become a mainstay on the Phaeton. There also are 84 drawers, doors and storage areas, the drawers being set in solid wood.
All drawers are built to slide in and all the way out. Shelves are adjustable and can be removed completely.
That helps preserve what’s most valued on any RV.
“The woodwork and the number of drawers we have is really the first impression people get,” Williamson said. “We’re unique in Tiffin has its own mill department, so we build all of our own doors, drawers and cabinetry. Everybody else in the industry is going to be around half (of what we offer).
“Women have a lot to do with the buying process. They see this and they notice the high-end quality. There is so much usable work space, it really does make it the perfect tailgater.”
It doesn’t end there. The tile floor is clean enough to eat that wing you just dropped on it. There’s an extended island counter top for chips, dips and napkins.
In the kitchen, there’s a three-burner gas oven. Above it is a convection microwave.
“You have the ability to bake anything you would in your own kitchen,” Williamson said.
And eat as if you were at your favorite diner, thanks to a four-seat booth. Or, if you want to kick back, try out one of the two ultra leather recliners.
The rotating driver and passenger chairs and a couch – which folds out into a queen bed – offer more comfort if escaping the heat proves necessary.
Inside, the Quiet Air Cooling system with return air has numerous ducts in the ceiling, keeping things quite comfortable on the hottest late summer day.
“That can be important on those early days of the football season,” Williamson said. “Ours is a residential style system. Everything over here is the return air.
“The typical system will have return air (in front) and one in bedroom. It’s trying to pull hot air every 10 feet. We get it every two feet, which makes it feel more like you would at home.”
UV rays are kept to a minimum thanks to the dual shades on every window. Outside, more protection is available with another flick of the switch – and another action-picture moment – bringing an awning over the flat-screen TV.
Below the viewing area, there is pullout storage that can hold multiple canopies.
Talk about having it made in the shade.
“You just hear a lot of oohs and aahs when people see it all,” Williamson said.
Everything, really, has been thought of, dreamed up and considered. There’s a half-bath just past the kitchen for commercial breaks, and a full one in the bedroom suite.
Face painters are in luck, because there is a stand-up shower. If mustard from a hot dog drips on that favorite national championship T-shirt, throw it in the stacked washer and dryer.
A generator powers everything, from the continuous hot water heater to the air conditioning. With its 100-gallon water tank, the Phaeton could be parked in the middle of nowhere and still be fully operational.
“Bob talks to our customers all day long. He has a notepad and is writing down all of these things they’re telling him,” Williamson said. “He wants to make sure when they communicate to us, we do something with it. It doesn’t fall on deaf ears.”
From the looks of things – and there are a lot more things and not enough room to list them – the folks at Tiffin Motor Homes are listening.
KZRV Inc. and Tiffin Motorhomes Inc. will be holding a joint open house at KZRV’s office and factory headquarters in Shipshewana, Ind., from Sept. 20-22 as part of Elkhart County’s 4th Annual RV Open House.
“KZ RV and Tiffin have much in common, from our core beliefs of fairness and honesty in business to many of our valued dealer partners,” Andy Baer, vice president of sales and marketing for KZRV, said in a press release. “This joint product showing is for dealers’ convenience during the Elkhart show while giving them a chance to enjoy some fellowship with both manufacturer representatives and each other.”
A special dealer brunch will kick off the open house at 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 20 in the indoor banquet and visiting area at KZRV. Preview models of Red Bay, Ala.-based Tiffin’s latest motorhomes and KZRV’s travel trailers, fifth-wheels and toy haulers will be on display both indoors and outdoors, all on a hard surface so “dealers won’t have to contend with dust or mud to tour the products.”
“Tiffin has always been known for great customer service and for being a leader in innovation,” said Tim Tiffin. “There are many features that make Tiffin motorhomes stand apart from the rest. We’re excited for our dealers to get this glimpse at what’s new with Tiffin for the upcoming year.”
“We’ve got a towable for everybody, from the families looking for something economical and lightweight to the full-timers who are looking for a home on wheels,” Baer said. “All our new models are well-made with outstanding value; we think the dealers will really like what they see.”
And there will be plenty to see and enjoy outside of the factory, according to Baer. “Our visiting dealer friends can experience the unique pace of our Shipshewana-area Amish community, visit some unique old-country shops or even enjoy a complimentary round of golf at Middlebury’s Meadow Valley Golf Club,” Baer related. “Having them all here together with us is going to be really special. We’re going to have a good time.”
Dealers should RSVP by contacting Rose Yoder at firstname.lastname@example.org or 260-768-4016 ext. 104.
Alex and Jan Alexander were in the 17th week of a tour of the West Coast in their 2006 Country Coach when they pulled into the gates of the Deschutes County Fair and Expo Center in Redmond, Ore., for the Family Motor Coach Association’s (FMCA) 84th International Convention Aug. 11-14. One of more than 2,000 motorhome families to attend the mid-week event in central Oregon, the young couple from St. James City, Fla., intended to spend the four days soaking up information.
“We’re here for several reasons,” Alex noted after exiting the Tiffin Motor Homes manufacturer’s display. “We wanted to see what’s going on in the industry — but, most importantly from an educational standpoint, to visit the displays and see the latest in engines and electronics … it (Redmond) has a little bit of everything.” And, while the first-time visitors to the convention hadn’t considered upgrading their luxury coach prior to the event, Alex did note that “we may change our minds. Right now, we’re looking at an Allegro bus.”
According to Jerry Yeatts, FMCA event director, the Alexanders’ upbeat attitude personified the 84th convention, which also was highlighted by the public debut of the new Vesta motorhome from Monaco RV LLC and the West Coast introduction of the Insignia from Jayco’s Entegra Coach division.
“We had a little over 2,000 families there, and about 200 coaches on display,” he said. “Compared to the last time we were here, it was probably comparable, numbers-wise — but as far as attitude and enthusiasm, it was amazing. The members were probably in their best mood we’ve seen in quite a while. Seems like sales were up, spirits were up, and overall it was a great convention.”
It also apparently was quite successful for a number of exhibitors. “One OEM said that the higher-end coaches they brought were sold,” Yeatts said. “Another dealer who brought in 11 coaches sold six.”
Shannon Nill, general manager of Guaranty RV, Junction City, Ore., echoed Yeatts’ assessment on the overall atmosphere of the program. “We sold 18 RVs at the Redmond rally, about evenly distributed between new and used,” Nill noted, out of about 75 units the dealership supplied to several displays including Monaco, Newmar Corp. and Roadtrek Motorhomes Inc. “Beyond the sales, however, one huge point was that the mood of the customer was really strong compared to last year’s rally. People were eager to RV. The gatherings of this kind after a slowdown are even more important than normal.”
This year marked the fourth time FMCA has held a convention at the Redmond fairgrounds, but was the first time the association kicked off the event with a Wednesday “preview” day. Gates opened at 5 p.m. on “hump day” for touring outdoor manufacturer displays, followed by access only to indoor exhibits Thursday morning. All displays became accessible at noon and thereafter.
“We really didn’t receive any comments concerning shifting the pattern,” Yeatts said. “The gate on Wednesday was greater than normal, but we don’t know if that’s attributable to starting later in the week, or later in the day.”
The Vesta, introduced to dealers two weeks prior to the Redmond convention, immediately attracted quite a bit of attention from rally attendees due to its unique aerodynamic styling.
“We’ve had a lot of customers come up to us that hadn’t really considered a Class A before just because of the size,” said Ryan Lee, marketing director for the Coburg, Ore., manufacturer. “They take a look at this, with the sleek design, and see that it’s really easy from an ergonomic standpoint to sit up there in the driver’s seat and drive that coach.”
Built on a proprietary 26,000-pound GVWR Monaco Roadmaster chassis and designed in conjunction with wind-tunnel testing, the single-slide 32-foot Vesta (a 35-foot floorplan also is planned) features a sloping front fascia, low center of gravity and tapered rear section. MSRP for the 32-foot coach is $195,000-$200,000.
“It’s pretty striking,” Lee said of the styling. “One of the things that we’re trying to do at Monaco is that, when a coach rolls down the road we want people to know it’s a Monaco; we want people to know it’s a Holiday Rambler (Monaco’s sister division). And this type of styling is going to get us there.”
Along with the Vesta, Monaco also brought several models with fresh 2011 floorplans to Redmond. “We’re showing our first 2011 Dynasty and Camalot here at the show,” noted Mike Snell, senior vice president of sales and product development for Monaco. “The Dynasty has a 500hp engine, and we’ve changed the paint scheme and have really upgraded the interiors. On the Camelot, we did the same: changed the front facia, the backsplash, put in a ceiling insert in the living room — we really dressed up the inside. We also have our slide-in-a-slide Diplomat here. We had the slide-in-a-slide in the Dynasty, and we added it to the Diplomat, which is a 43-footer.”
The Entegra Insignia, which debuted almost simultaneously at Affinity Group’s The Rally, July 22-25, at Louisville’s Kentucky Exposition Center and Redmond, is the Jayco division’s “entry-level” coach for the high-end Entegra line. Built on a 32,400-pound GVWR Freightliner XCR chassis powered by a 360-hp Cummins ISB diesel engine, the $265,000 MSRP Insignia features heated-and-enclosed holding tanks, frameless flush-mounted slideout rooms, gel goat fiberglass sidewalls and a steel-reinforced front cap and windshield frame plus interiors sporting glazed maple hardwood cabinets and leather hide-a-bed sofas.
Yet another new unit drawing a crowd was the 2011 model from Newell Coach Corp. Upgrades to the 2011 welded-steel-and-aluminum Newell motorcoaches — the first since the 2006 model year — include upgraded front caps with bright-white “string-of-pearl” LED running lights that outline the outer edges of the headlights, plus rear-body trim and redesigned side moldings. Interiors feature wood windowsill trim bordered with seamed leather, carbon-fiber instrument panels and automated air conditioning and heating.
The upbeat atmosphere at Redmond was, in the view of many dealers staffing the manufacturer exhibits, a reflection of a more optimistic viewpoint already noted at their respective dealerships.
Brian Kehoe, a sales consultant for Sandy, Ore.-based Johnson RV Sales who was manning the Entegra display, noted that the dealership “has experienced four months consecutive of record sales for the company. It’s been fantastic. All the way through, from the B class, C class, Class A gas and diesel units.” The dealership, site of the former Fred’s RV, opened under the Johnson RV Sales umbrella last year and features 12 service bays and three buildings — including an indoor showroom — on seven acres.
At the Tiffin exhibit, Rick Neat, a salesman from RV Corral, Eugene, Ore., one of three dealerships providing coaches for the display, called August “the best month in two years.
“There’s more business out there,” following the shuttering of dealers and OEMs alike during the recession, he said, adding that consumer credit is likewise on an uptick. “On the big money, it’s starting to ease up a bit. A lot of people are going to credit unions now, which are getting a lot more flexible than they were in the past.”
Mike Alverez, with All Seasons RV, Bend, Ore., concurred. “Our banks have loosened up,” he said at the Winnebago Industries Inc. exhibit. “They’ve changed on how they are financing. They are looking at people in a better light, where before it was tough to get financing accomplished. The other thing, too, is that GE, our flooring company, has backed off; they are letting us get product in here, and we’re making the turns we need to make to keep it going.”
Along with new coach designs and features, Redmond also was one of the first consumer shows to feature motorhomes fitted with new 2010 EPA emissions-compliant engines, and several exhibitors — including Gaffney, S.C.-based Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. and Spartan Chassis, Charlotte, Mich. — fielded questions from consumers and dealership personnel somewhat confused about the technical merits of the two competing drive systems developed to meet the EPA criteria. Cummins Inc. utilizes an aftermarket treatment system, while Navistar’s new MaxxForce engines employ Advanced EGR technology.
Retail sales of Class A and C motorhomes totaled 1,018 units in December, a 8.2% decline from December 2008, according to Statistical Surveys Inc. (SSI)
The sales figures reflect a 6.7% sales spurt by Class C motorhomes and a 15.3% dip by the Class A’s.
Sales totals for the two classes were 380 Class C’s, up from 356 in December 2008, and 638 Class A’s, down from 753 in December 2008.
For the entire year, Class A and Class C motorhome sales totaled 18,854, down 34.8% from 28,910 for all of 2008.
Class A retail sales totaled 11,015, down 36.4% from 17,306 sold in all of 2008.
Class C sales totaled 7,839, down 32.4% from 11,604 sold in all of 2008.
Winnebago Industries Inc. ranked first in December, with 192 sales, and for the entire year with 3,620 or a 19.2% market share.
Fleetwood RV Inc. and Thor Industries Inc. were second and third, respectively in December and third and second, respectively, for the entire year.
By class, Tiffin Motor Homes was first in December in Class A sales with 127 units sold. For the entire year, Fleetwood was first with 2,028 units sold, for an 18.4% market shares. Winnebago was second and Monaco RV LLC was third.
In Class C sales, Winnebago was first in December with 90 sales and first for all of 2009 with 1,796 units sold, or a 22.9% market share. Thor was second and Fleetwood was third for the entire year.
As it has for most of 2009, SSI noted that the results were incomplete due to “issues” in the states of Georgia and New Mexico.
The Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) will honor 18 RV brands built by eight manufacturers with its Quality Circle Award just prior to the opening of the National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., on Nov. 30.
These brands/manufacturers received at least 15 dealer responses and scored 80% or above in overall dealer satisfaction in the association’s 16th Annual Dealer Satisfaction Index (DSI) survey, according to a news release.
“Dealers believe the DSI is a tool to help improve communication and the overall relationship with their manufacturers,” said Debbie Brunoforte, RVDA chairman of the board. “The survey measures dealer attitudes in key policy, product, and procedure areas that dealers say are the most important elements in their business partnerships with manufacturers.”
The towable RV brands/manufacturers receiving awards are (in alphabetical order):
- Forest River Inc.– Rockwood/Roo & Rockwood folding camping trailers.
- Jayco Inc. –Designer, Eagle, Jay Feather, Jay Flight, folding camping trailers and SUTs.
- Keystone RV Co. –Fuzion/Passport/Springdale; Montana/Cougar; and Sprinter/Bullet/Outback.
- KZRV LP –Coyote/Spree, Inferno/MXT and Sportsmen.
- Open Range.
- Palomino travel trailers and fifth-wheels.
The three motorized RV brands/manufacturers receiving awards are (in alphabetical order):
- Tiffin Motor Homes Inc.
- Winnebago Industries Inc.
Additionally, two manufacturers of two towable brands, and one motorized brand received DSI Honorable Mention awards for receiving scores of 80% or above in overall dealer satisfaction from 10 to 14 responding dealers. They are (in alphabetical order): Airstream Inc. and EverGreen Recreational Vehicles in the towable category and Itasca in the motorized category.
When rating their brands/manufacturers, RVDA asks dealers to express, confidentially, their level of satisfaction on eight core issues:
- Sales support
- Sales territory
- Vehicle design
- Vehicle reliability/quality
- Competitive price/value
- Parts support
- Dealership warranty support
- Overall dealer communications
The 16th Annual DSI survey was conducted between August and October. Three hundred and twenty-two (322) dealers responded to the DSI this year, and provided 1,644 brand ratings, an average of almost five per dealer.
Stoltzfus RV and Marine in West Chester, Pa., announced its affiliation with Tiffin Motor Homes Inc., maker of Allegro motorhomes.
“We are proud and excited to announce our new product line — Bob Tiffin’s Allegro motorcoach. We have Allegro motorhomes in inventory now and more on order,” said Earl Stoltzfus, president of the dealership, in a news release.
Stoltfus RV and Marine did business with Tiffin from the early 1980s to the late 1990s. Stolftzus explained the reasons behind his return to the Tiffin line.
“Although we had a great relationship, we felt that it was time to offer our customers a more competitive product at that time,” Stoltzfus said. “Over the past 10 years, the RV industry, our dealership and the Tiffin company have gone through many positive changes. Bob Tiffin and his team have done a great job in building a company that manufactures one of the most desirable motorhomes in the country. The Phaeton is the nation’s No. 1 selling Class A diesel motorhome, with the Allegro bus ranking No. 2. The Tiffin company believes in delivering a superior product and in taking care of the customer after the sale, which has always been the goal of Stoltzfus RV & Marine.”
“This is a very desirable line of motorhomes that we are acquiring, to offer the best of the best to our customers. We believe with the well thought out design and excellent performance, along with the premium customer service and factory warranties, that Tiffin is just right for our customer base,” he concluded.
The Pennsylvania Recreation Vehicle and Camping Show drew a record 31,710 visitors Sept. 16-20 at Hersheypark in Hershey, Pa., an increase of 14% over last year.
And by all accounts, manufacturers exhibiting at the East Coast’s biggest annual trade and retail show were pleased with the outcome.
“Traffic was real good,” said Tim Tiffin, general manager of Tiffin Motor Homes, Red Bay, Ala. “It was a good bit over what we had last year. We were very pleased. It concreted our assertion that business has been getting better over the last few months.”
Although space of 440,787 square feet sold before the show was a little more than half of what it was last year, 59 manufacturers represented by 47 dealers displayed about 700 units while 117 suppliers occupied indoor and outdoor booths.
“We weren’t off on the number of manufacturers, but many of them downsized their display a lot,” said Heather Leach, director of education and marketing for the sponsoring Pennsylvania RV and Camping Association (PRVCA). “But people were there to buy. From the dealers and manufacturers that we talked to, they all had an excellent show. Some told us it was the best show they had had in years.”
“It was a fabulous show,” said show Chairman Dan Saltzgiver, owner of Reichart’s Camping Center, Hanover, Pa., who sold all 17 Forest River Rockwood travel trailers Reichart’s brought to Hershey. “Hopefully it’s an indication that the economy and industry is turning around.”
The Chicago area-based Camping World dealership network sold almost 400 units at its nine dealership display in Hershey, said Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO.
“We sold 393 units for the show,” Lemonis said. “The bulk, more than 150, were Keystone (towables). What was most surprising, though, was the number of motorized we did. We did 68, most of them Class A’s.”
“Their displays did very well for us,” said Bob Martin, Keystone RV Co. executive vice president. “We don’t have our tallies in yet, but it looks like we sold more than we did last year.
“It was a sale environment and customers were definitely in a buying mode, which bodes well for the fall buying season and for next spring. The Hershey show always is an indicator. We definitely see this as a positive for our company and the industry.”
While declining to provide specific sales numbers, Roger Martin, Winnebago Industries Inc. vice president of sales and marketing, said that show sales were up 30% compared to last year.
“Traffic was excellent,” Martin said. “We had a very nice mix of products retailed — from Class C’s to Class A gas to Class A diesel. Consumer interest in our new Winnebago Via and Itasca Reyo was stellar — with lines waiting to get inside the units.”
Brian Wilkins, general manager of Wilkins RV in Bath, N.Y., said he was busy Monday sorting out orders. “There seemed to be for everybody very brisk business activity,” Wilkins said, noting that most of consumer’s interest was in fifth-wheels retailing from $30,000 to $70,000.
Recreational park trailer sales apparently also did well. “There were some happy looking manufactures that I talked to who said that things were moving,” said Bill Garpow, president of the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA).
PRVCA’s Leach attributed part of the attendance boost to increased national magazine advertising and radio and TV promotions that reached into New York and Ohio. The weather also cooperated for a change.