The Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. executive in charge of its RV Group said he has “a little bit of concern about the diesel (motorhome) market at this point.”
However, Chuck Wilkinson, Fleetwood’s executive vice president-operations, said, during a conference call with investment analysts last week, that the gas engine motorhome market “is still pretty strong.”
Fleetwood was the retail market share leader in Class A’s for many years until it was passed in 2001 by Monaco Coach Corp., which is best-known as a builder of diesel pusher Class A’s. But Fleetwood has regained the No. 1 position in Class A’s and Wilkinson, in response to a question during the conference call, said that most of Fleetwood’s market share gain has come at the expense of Monaco.
During the first five months of this year, the most current data available, Fleetwood was the leader in the combined gas and diesel engine Class A category with a 20.3% retail market share, followed by Winnebago Industries Inc. with 19% and Monaco at 17.4%, according to Statistical Surveys Inc., an independent market research firm.
“We (Fleetwood) are No. 2 in gas,” Wilkinson said. “We’re No. 1 overall in Class A’s, but not in diesels. Winnebago is No. 1 in gas.”
During the February-through-April period of this year, the number of Class A and Class C motorhome units that Fleetwood sold to its dealers increased 30%. The number of travel trailers and fifth-wheels it sold to its dealers was up 1% and its folding camper deliveries were up 10% during the three months ended April 28.
However, despite the unit volume increases, Fleetwood’s RV Group still was not profitable. It posted a $442,000 operating loss during the February-through-April period, but Wilkinson said that’s a vast improvement over the $29.9 million operating loss the RV group reported during the same portion of 2001.
Since the end of April, the demand for diesel pushers weakened. “In fact, May had only an increase of 0.6%” for diesel engine motorhomes, Wilkinson said. However, he added that the diesel market has shown some improvement this month.
Fleetwood’s dealers had a total inventory of 3,912 units of the company’s Class A’s as of last week, while its Class A dealer inventory amounted to 3,190 units as of mid-July 2001. Wilkinson believes the company’s larger Class A inventory represents “significant improvement” because “it follows where the market’s going. Our (dealer inventory) growth is actually a little bit bigger than the (overall) market, but it can go up some more.
“You have to be careful with motorhomes, you can put too much on the (dealer body’s) shelf,” Wilkinson added. “But we’re not at that point yet.”