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The double-feature nightmare of high fuel prices and tight credit has hurt recreational vehicle sales and contributed to Tucson, Ariz.’s biggest RV dealer losing one of its top lines.
As a result, more than 100 Fleetwood RVs were taken from Beaudry RV’s lot and locked up at a Tucson Electric Park lot this week, according to the Arizona Daily Star.
Beaudry RV is no longer a Fleetwood dealer, Beaudry RV CEO Thomas Sylvester confirmed. Sylvester said the Fleetwood products “were moved to a neutral site.”
He later acknowledged that the company that is storing the RVs at TEP is the one that financed the Fleetwood stock.
Sylvester wouldn’t talk about the details of Beaudry’s split with Fleetwood, including who initiated the change. He called the situation part of “a perfect storm of economic factors.”
“We had to make difficult decisions,” he said. “Our main focus will be on the Monaco, Keystone and other affiliations that we already have and we’ll be expanding.”
Sylvester said Beaudry RV would continue to operate as an authorized Fleetwood service center and concentrate on selling recreational vehicle lines by other manufacturers.
Sylvester said he anticipated no other changes at Beaudry RV’s Tucson and Chandler sites.
A Fleetwood official at corporate headquarters in Riverside, Calif., confirmed that the dealership relationship with Beaudry had been severed and that Beaudry would remain an authorized service center, but declined to discuss details of the break with Beaudry, a longtime Fleetwood dealer.
Beaudry RV’s website continued to list Fleetwood’s logo on its home page Wednesday, but Fleetwood’s corporate home page showed Earnhardt RV Center in Mesa as Tucson’s nearest dealer for Fleetwood’s large RV lines.
On Wednesday, about 100 Fleetwood motorhomes and trailers were parked in the fenced player parking lots at Tucson Electric Park. A Pima County official said his department had a contract with GE Commercial Distribution Finance Corp. to store the RVs for up to a month, with GE picking up the tab for round-the-clock security.
GE Commercial Distribution Finance is a leading provider of “flooring,” or dealer financing for vehicles until they are sold.
Sylvester confirmed that GE was Beaudry’s flooring provider for the Fleetwood products.
Meanwhile, as the RV industry struggles, at least one local dealer is trying to get the message out that it’s not all doom and gloom.
South Side dealer Freedom RV sent a press release out this week through a public-relations firm, announcing that its employees would be guaranteed jobs through the remainder of the year.
Devin Murphy, owner of Freedom RV, said he took the unusual step because of rumors about Beaudry RV’s problems and the news of some layoffs at Jim Click’s local auto dealerships, both of which he said rocked his employees’ confidence.
Murphy said he told his manager this week that not only would he not cut workers, but he would keep paying his staff through the end of the year, based on an average of nine months’ pay.
“We’re in the business of customer service,” Murphy said. If they’re worrying about whether they’re going to have a job, they’re not going to be worried about my customers.”
“It’s really picked up the morale here,” said Murphy. “They’ve sold 12 RVs in the four days since I’ve done it,” said Murphy.
Murphy said the promise of job and pay security until the end of the year should take them through to the snowbird season, when business generally picks up.
At that point, Murphy said, he’s hoping the decrease in fuel prices and recovering credit market will revive sales.
“Sales did pick up once fuel prices started going back down,” Murphy said. “You know, fuel prices slowed it down a little bit, but not a lot. They’re (RVers) still traveling, but they stay longer in the places they were going.”