Diesel pusher motorhome manufacturer Foretravel Inc., Nacogdoches, Tex., plans to build a network of 12 to 15 independent dealers between now and next April to replace the five factory-owned retail stores that it currently operates, according to Andy Baer, director of dealer operations.
The manufacturer of motorhomes in the $350,000 to $600,000 retail price range might sell some of its dealerships to their management, while others might be sold to other RV dealers, Baer said.
One exception will be the Foretravel dealership in Escondido, Calif., which will be closed during the second half of June because that location is considered inadequate, he said.
Foretravel’s other company-owned dealership locations are in Denton, Tex., Kodak, Tenn., San Antonio, Fla., and Liberty Lake, Wash. Foretravel also retails units from its factory in Nacogdoches.
The company will be an exhibitor at the RV industry’s National Trade Show in Louuisville during December in an effort to add dealers, Baer said.
Typically, Foretravel inventories about 10 units at its retail locations and, most likely, unsold inventory at the Escondido location will be moved to the Foretravel stores in Washington state and Texas after it is closed, Baer said.
Foretravel might also convert some of its existing retail stores into a service centers after setting up an independent dealer in the same market, he added.
Foretravel built an average of 200 units a year between 1994 and 2000 but its production volume declined to 148 units in 2002, and it “will do a little less” than 148 this year, Baer said.
The company now is focusing on signing up independent dealers in the western states and then moving east, Baer said. The company hopes it will eventually need to ramp-up production in order to fill the dealer pipeline, he added.
Foretravel, which assembles its own monocoque chassis that, for 2003, included Cummins ISL or ISM engines and Allison 3000- or 4000-series transmissions, got involved in retailing early in the 1980s when many of its dealers were prompted by an energy crisis to exit the motorhome business, Baer said.
But now, company executives concluded that having small dealer network is preventing the company from growing, he said.
“We have customers who are not retired, who lead busy lives, so they won’t drive 600 or 700 miles to one of our dealerships.” Baer said. “So, we want to get the product out to them. The Internet has helped make more people aware of our products but if someone in New York or Chicago sees our closest dealership is in Tennessee, that’s a problem.”
Because most of Foretravel’s coaches retail in the $450,000 to $550,000 price range, Baer said, “The capital requirements are phenomenal, so cash-flow was a factor, but it (the decision to leave retailing) was mainly due to the fact that we want to be a manufacturer first.”