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Recognizing the need to provide distinctive products to an increasingly selective dealer base, Gulf Stream Coach Inc. focused on innovation in its 2007 towable and motorized lineup introduced June 5-12 to around 140 dealers during the RV manufacturer’s Dealer Days at its Nappanee, Ind., complex.
“We listen to our dealers,” said Claude Donati, vice president of sales and marketing. “And what they’re telling us is that they want products that stand out in the marketplace – features that motivate customers to buy – while still yielding a nice gross profit.”
Gulf Stream officials felt they answered that demand with a new line that emphasizes “residential” amenities, flexible floorplans – including the company’s 3-zone-living concept – and a step up in towable and motorized sport utility recreational vehicle (SURV) offerings.
Attendees also saw two Crescendo Class A floorplans equipped with Freightliner’s front-engine (FRED) diesel chassis – a new platform introduced last year that’s capable of delivering around 12 miles per gallon. In addition to the Crescendo, Gulf Stream is offering the new front-diesel rail as an option on several Sun Voyager Class A models.
Donati reported that Gulf Stream was able to add around 20 to 25 new dealers during the weeklong product debut while also increasing business with existing dealers. “I liked what I saw,” noted Steve Plemmons, owner of Bill Plemmons RV World, Rural Hall, N.C. “It’s somewhat of a strange retail environment right now, and I really don’t see it getting much better the rest of the year. What we’re looking for are products that can change that market environment. Gulf Stream seems to be doing that.”
One of the more popular ’07 Class A floorplans, according to Gulf Stream, is a Friendship diesel pusher built on Freightliner chassis that removes the engine from underneath the bed. Two configurations, both with a lowered queen-size bed, offer either a walk-in closet or bath area built over the engine and behind the bedroom.
In an interview with RV Business, Motorized President Brian Shea acknowledged that the Class A sector remains challenging, but reported the company’s Class A retail sales were 15% ahead of last year while the company’s Class C business remained even with 2005. “Our business has been pretty consistent all the way up to the model change,” he said. “We are looking for our new models to capture additional market share.”
Highlights from Gulf Stream motorhome introductions include:
3-Zone Living: Gulf Stream debuted a floorplan with three separate living areas on its gas-fueled Sun Voyager 8389 Class A motorhome and Conquest Endura 6362 Class C built on the 22,000-pound GVWR Chevrolet Kodiak chassis. “The Class C is just a shrunken version of the Class A floorplan,” said Dean Crane, sales training and public relations coordinator, noting the Class A version offers 19-foot opposing sliderooms and the Class C is equipped with 14 1/2-foot opposing slides. A 37-inch TV is built into an extended wall separating the family/ living room from the dining and galley area. A “hidden” door makes the bedroom private while the adjoining bath has two points of entry. The Sun Voyager is built on a Workhorse W-24 chassis and retails for around $142,000, while the Endura is offered with either a Vortec gas or Duramax diesel engine for an MSRP of about $114,000.
Vista Cruiser Class C: Gulf Stream showcased a 24-foot Vista Cruiser minimotorhome in either rear-bath or corner bed configurations now featuring an integrated steel truss subfloor foundation. The Vista Cruiser’s 10,200-pound GVWR Daimler Chrysler imported Sprinter chassis is powered by a Mercedes Benz 2.7-liter, 154-hp, 5-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine delivering 17-19 miles per gallon. To improve styling and add strength, Gulf Stream eliminated roof seams with a Poly-Tech spray application. The interior is set off by “yacht-style” curved cabinetry, 6 1/2-foot ceilings, Comfort-Plus seating and a large, open galley. Retail for the 24-footer is around $85,000.
Shea said Gulf Stream had dedicated a 45,000-square-foot facility to production of the Vista Cruiser line.
On the towable side – in which Gulf Stream reported wholesale activity up 30% in the first five months of 2006 and the hiring of 300 additional employees over the past year – Towable Division President Dan Shea said the company had successfully transitioned early in the year from building Emergency Living Units (ELUs) for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Gulf Stream received a $500 million to $600 million contract following the devastation from Hurricane Katrina, by far the industry’s largest temporary housing order to help displaced victims.
“We were able to dedicate facilities to build the FEMA products without interrupting the fulfillment of orders to our dealer body,” Shea said. “And when the FEMA contract was completed, we had products lined up to take their place. For example, we have a facility in Etna Green (Ind.) that we converted and went right into production of luxury fifth-wheels.”
For 2007, Gulf Stream introduced a new G-Force fifth-wheel toy hauler line featuring “race-inspired” seating and interior decor. “The lightweight toy hauler market is huge right now,” said Steve Lidy, director of marketing. “We wanted to have multiple entries in that sector.”
Other G-Force features include a 12-foot-deep garage area with 9-foot ceilings, bunks that raise up and a stereo system with outside speakers. The interior is laminated and the flooring is solid linoleum. The 31-foot G-Force, available in two floorplans, retails for about $46,000.
The company also unveiled a new V-Nose laminated Kahuna Bay travel trailer, a mid-priced line available in 34- and 36-foot lengths with one or two sliderooms and a patio door entry. “With the V-Nose configuration, we’re able to utilize what is normally wasted space at the front of the unit,” Lidy said. “It’s very aerodynamic and offers some unique floorplans.”
Standard features on the Kahuna Bay include a one-piece vinyl roof, oversized exterior storage, enclosed and heated underbelly, large overhead cabinets and a built-in entertainment center. Base retail starts at $31,500.