Forest River Inc. is on target for more growth in 2003 , according to Pete Liegl, founder, president and CEO of the Elkhart, Ind.-based firm.
“In tougher times, dealers are more prone to change brands and we’re gaining shelf space right now,” Liegl said in a recent interview, which will appear in its entirety in the May issue of RV Business magazine. Tough times “puts us in a better place with the dealers because I feel we’ve got a better product-to-price ratio.”
Currently, Liegl said “retail customers are a little more hesitant in buying than they were” but Forest River is “still doing good, we’ve dropped some production days, but haven’t had any layoffs.”
During its fiscal year 2002, which ended on Sept. 30, Forest River, a diversified transportation equipment manufacturer that also builds cargo trailers, aluminum pontoon and bass boats, shuttle buses, “high cube” commercial truck bodies and park models, achieved $750 million in sales revenue, which was equivalent to 40% growth over fiscal year 2001.
And during the five-month period ended Feb. 28, Forest River’s sales were up 47.5%, which puts it on target to reach $1 billion in sales in fiscal 2003.
Already, Forest River, which has around 4,000 employees working at 59 factories in 31 communities in Indiana, Oregon, Georgia and California, is the No. 2 producer of travel trailers and fifth-wheels, the highest volume product categories within the towable RV sector. Closely held Forest River had a 14.3% retail market share in travel trailers and fifth-wheels in 2002, trailing only Thor Industries Inc., which had a 28.8% market share, according to Statistical Surveys Inc., an independent market research firm.
Forest River also was No. 2 last year in folding campers with a 14.3% retail market share, behind Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.’s 42.7%, and that does not include Vanguard LLC, manufacturer of the Palomino brand, which Liegl, as an individual, bought last year. Vanguard, based in Colon, Mich., was No. 6 in the folding camper market last year with a 3.8% market share, Statistical Surveys reported.
Liegl is keeping Vanguard separate from Forest River for tax purposes, he said.
Meanwhile, Liegl believes Forest River needs to keep growing and its recently completed 250,000-square-foot towable RV assembly plant in Goshen, Ind., is a part of that effort.
The company also acquired two factories in Dallas, Ore., from Caterpillar Inc., one for building laminated towable RVs and one for assembling cargo trailers.
In general, Liegl believes Forest River needs to expand in areas away from its Northern Indiana home base to achieve his goal of $2 billion in annual sales revenue in five years.