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Several RV manufacturers now have their plants operating on four-day work weeks to avoid accumulating excess inventory, but Damon Motor Coach and Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc. are two firms that have been able to maintain five-day work works.
“Our orders have held pretty steady,” said Rich Florea, president of Goshen, Ind.-based Dutchmen, a subsidiary of Thor Industries Inc.
Florea said he needed to close Dutchmen’s factories for only one day during the first quarter so the company’s dealers could lower their inventories. But it was because of bad weather delaying deliveries to retail buyers, not the soft economy or worries about the war in Iraq, he said.
“We’re on our forecast. We’ve had some pretty aggressive growth (plans), and we’re on track,” Florea said. “We won’t adjust our forecast unless we have more 9/11-type events.
“Dealer inventories were a little full (now), but that was weather-related, particularly on the East Coast,” he said.
Gas and diesel-pusher Class A motorhome manufacturer Damon of Elkhart, Ind., President Gary Groom said dealer demand “was stronger than we expected. We were a little surprised. Last week was the best retail week we had in four years.”
It was the quality of Damon’s product offerings, not consumer rebates, that created the demand, Groom believes. “The Damon product is turning real well, so they (dealers) are reordering,” he said. “Dealer inventories are a mixed bag. Dealers are low on our product, so they are reordering,” he said
During January, the most current data available, Damon’s dealers in the 47 states from which Statistical Surveys Inc. was able to gather data, retailed 110 of its Class A motorhomes, a 2.8% increase over the 107 Damon units dealers in the same 47 states were able to sell during January 2002.
In terms of retail market share in January, Damon ranked No. 8 in Class A’s. No. 7 was Tiffin Motor Homes Inc., Red Bay, Ala., whose dealers in the 47 states retailed one more coach than Damon’s dealers in January.
Damon out-performed the total Class A market, which experienced a 5.5% decrease in January to 2,245 units retailed in the 47 states, compared with 2,376 units retailed in the same states in January 2002.
Although Damon has not modified its goals for 2003, Groom said, “I wouldn’t want to say we or the industry are immune to the war. It will have a short term impact on the number of people going to dealers’ lots.”