Fleetwood RV reported that orders generated from the company’s 2006 National Dealer Meeting, held Aug. 27-29 at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, “exceeded expectations” while giving the Riverside, Calif.-based company a chance to assure its dealer body that Fleetwood remains focused on an aggressive turnaround strategy.
“It was important for us to make sure our dealers knew that while we have been making internal adjustments over the last 18 months, we have continued to maintain our focus on them and the innovative products they need for lasting success in the RV industry” said Chris Braun, executive vice president, in a post-show press release.
More than 950 dealers, suppliers and Fleetwood associates attended the Vegas meeting at which general session speeches from Braun, Motor Home Vice President Paul Eskritt, Travel Trailer Vice President Jim Croxton, Fleetwood Folding Trailer General Manager John Green and Group Marketing Manager Amy Coleman focused on telling dealers how listening to them had produced tangible results.
These results, Fleetwood’s management indicates, are evident in the company’s new product lines and in improved efficiencies, including quicker turnaround times for existing product changes and new product rollouts, enhanced service features like electronic Fleetwood Dealer Network (eFDN) and improved marketing collateral such as brochures and brand DVDs.
Fleetwood’s management said overall sales goals during the national dealer confab were exceeded by 88%, and post-facto surveys indicated that 97% of attending dealers felt the event – the company’s first national dealer meeting in several years – met or exceeded their expectations.
That positive dealer response to Fleetwood’s product introductions is being closely monitored in various locations around the country at which the company operates manufacturing facilities, including northeastern Indiana where Fleetwood employs 1,200 in the community of Decatur.
The Decatur facility, among other things, builds Fleetwood’s higher priced motorhomes under the American Heritage, American Eagle and American Tradition brand names. In a nearby Edgerton, Ohio, plant Fleetwood employs 150 in one of five factories that make the Pegasus and Orbit Ultralight travel trailers. All of those products were part of Fleetwood’s redesign for 2007.
In a Sunday (Sept. 10) article by Greater Fort Wayne Business Week (FWBW) addressing Fleetwood’s prospects, FWBW points out that for the first four months of 2006, motorhome sales were down 15.1% for the industry and 20.4% for Fleetwood. The American Coach upgrade is part of the plan to reverse the slight market share erosion. The company has similar expectations for its travel trailer business.
“Essentially, we are trying to establish our American Coach line as the best motorhome on the market,” said Heather Everett, public relations and advertising manager for Fleetwood.
With its highest-priced models selling for more than $700,000, Everett noted, “it’s a niche market that is for a select customer group, but we want to make the customers we have happy and bring in new customers. We always hope to pick up sales.”
Everett pointed out that the company has introduced 400 product changes for its three American Coach lines. “The biggest thing for American Coach is two of its brands (Eagle and Tradition) have full-wall slides now. A portion of the right side – almost the entire right side, from driver’s seat all the way back into the bedroom – all of that pulls out,” Everett said.
Also new for 2007 on all three brands is the return of the Cummins engine, with a range of 400 to 600 horsepower. Caterpillar engines remain an available option on select floorplans.
Fleetwood said efforts to reverse market share erosion in the travel trailer business are to be boosted by a redesign of Fleetwood’s Pegasus and Orbit Ultralight, which resulted in an average weight reduction of 20%. “With gas prices (rising), consumers are getting cars that are more fuel-efficient, and yet they want to go out camping,” Everett said. “Ultralight is the fastest-growing segment in the travel-trailer business.”
But dealers and customers weren’t satisfied with the ultralight travel trailers Fleetwood launched in 2005, she said, and “gave us feedback that it was too heavy.”
Industry travel-trailer sales rose 1% during the first four months of this year, but Fleetwood’s share of that business declined by 2 percentage points to a 6.7% market share. So, the company came back with an aluminum frame, lightweight floor and new chassis construction to reduce weight in its 2007 ultralight travel trailers.
Juan Ortega, product development manager for Pegasus and Orbit Ultralight, said Fleetwood did this without sacrificing quality. “We took our groups and thought outside of the box as far as material usage, engineering and product development, to hit those weight reductions,” he said.
The 2007 Pegasus and Orbit Ultralights boast spacious interiors, with 80-inch ceiling height and 8-foot width, and laminated sidewalls. Lower overall height, an available enclosed underbelly and an aerodynamic front cap round out features in what the company promotes as an “easy-to-tow camping companion.”
Other 2007 model year introductions included the value-priced RedLine toy hauler and Terra LX/Fiesta LX Class A gas motorhomes.