Fleetwood Industries Inc. this spring will roll out the first national shared-ownership program for motorhomes supported by a national network of franchised dealerships. The Riverside, Calif., company announced plans for the program on Jan. 17.
“The notion of shared ownership is not new,” said Michael J. Puntoriero, president of Fleetwood Vacation Club Inc. (FVC). A former managing partner with Arthur Anderson LLP, Puntoriero was hired by Fleetwood to set up the club.
“It will be similar in concept and price to a shared-real estate vacation club,” he said. “We anticipate a consumer launch this spring.”
The goal of the Fleetwood Vacation Club is to introduce new consumers to the RV lifestyle who may eventually buy Fleetwood motorhomes.
“We started from the perspective of the consumer and tried to find a way to broaden the use of luxury, high end motorhomes,” Puntoriero said. “We looked at the barriers to ownership and they involved storage, maintenance and lack of use, particularly for younger consumers. A membership in the vacation club solves those problems.”
The cost of membership will depend on the time of year, where members plan to travel, and whether they want a diesel pusher or minimotorhome.
A 10-year membership will cost the consumer between $15,000 and $25,000, with an additional $650 annual membership fee.
For that, members will receive between one and three weeks use of a triple-slide 35-foot Discovery diesel pusher motorhome or a double-slide Tioga Class C. Each vehicle sleeps four adults and two children.
“We want this to appeal to a young family with children so the number of sleeping accommodations was important,” Puntoriero said.
The consumer is responsible for paying for gasoline, campsites and other use expenses.
Additionally, Fleetwood Vacation Club signed a five-year agreement with Resort Condominiums International (RCI), a vacation exchange company affiliated with 3,500 resorts.
“When buying a membership in Fleetwood Vacation Club you get a certain number of points that will have a value as RCI points,” Puntoriero said. “If you chose one year not to take an RV out and instead want to get a condominium in Hawaii, you can do that. We want to give the consumer as much flexibility as possible.”
Through this highly flexible approach, points also can be exchanged for airfare, car rental, cruises and tickets to theme parks within RCI’s international network.
FVC memberships will be sold by people or companies holding franchises at three different levels, with top-level Gold franchisees selling memberships, providing hospitality and servicing and stocking vehicles.
“Each Gold franchisee will have demonstration vehicles, and others for members to use on their vacations,” Puntoriero said. “We would be able to move the coaches around as they are needed.”
Silver and Bronze franchisee levels primarily will sell memberships and might not be RV dealers.
Puntoriero said Fleetwood set up a franchise structure to sell and service memberships to provide branding and maintain control of quality. “We thought it was very important to come out with a firm commitment to quality and service,” he said. “To do that properly, we needed a franchise structure. Each of the franchisees will sell the same package at the same price and provide the same service.”
Vehicles will be owned by FVC, but will be housed and maintained at franchisee locations.
Puntoriero declined to detail Fleetwood’s capital costs to set up the program, the anticipated number of members or the number of franchises the company expects to sell.
“We hope to have enough franchisees to have a national footprint,” Puntoriero said. “In order for this to work, there has to be a reasonable number of franchisees.”
The cost of a obtaining a franchise will vary, he said. “It’s difficult to summarize what the price of a franchise will be because there are so many elements to it,” Puntoriero said. “Franchise fees will vary quite a bit depending on what the franchise footprint is on the lot.”
It’s still unclear whether the program initially would be available throughout the country.
“We’ve got some regulatory hurdles to overcome,” Puntoriero said. “We are registered in 31 states to sell franchises, and I would anticipate being able to sell franchises in the majority of the other states (by April 1.)”
Puntoriero said the Vacation Club is different from fractional ownership programs – several of which already manage luxury motorhomes – because of the number of people who will be utilizing specific units. “There will be many more users per vehicle than a fractional program,” Puntoriero said.