Indiana-based RV manufacturer Jayco Inc.’s ongoing efforts to differentiate and refine its product offerings has yielded some eye-popping results in shipments and sales.
That was the central message delivered by the privately held company’s management team during Jayco’s annual Homecoming Meeting July 19-21 in Las Vegas.
“In 2003, Jayco increased shipments to dealers by nearly 10 percent over the previous year,” Jayco President Derald Bontrager told representatives of some 190 dealerships in what amounted to the largest Jayco dealer meeting to date.
“This was during the beginnings of our program to reduce the number of product lines, simplify our product and consolidate our operations. Because of the consolidation of our operations, this year to date we have produced 41 percent more units than we did last year during the same period.
Bontrager said the RV industry experienced a 15 percent increase in sales for all product types in the first four months of 2004.
“That number, in and of itself, is remarkable. But, with the right products, smart pricing and our dealers’ hard work, Jayco has seen an amazing 46 percent increase in retail sales of our products.
“All of this translates into Jayco being the fastest-growing manufacturer in the business today.”
The fact that Jayco has become a pace-setter in the towable sector of the marketplace – following a period that saw the veteran manufacturer losing market share – is not news to most industry insiders. Director of Marketing Sid Johnson emphasized that fact for the dealers on hand in Las Vegas, pointing out that the company had maxed out orders for the year on several of Jayco’s products and was already working on fulfilling orders for 2005.
“Needless to say,” Johnson noted, “this year will be a record for Jayco, and we’re looking for more of the same next year.”
Perhaps the bellwether product for the 2005 model year for Jayco, which posted $390 million in revenues last year according to Indiana Business magazine, is the lightweight Jay Flight towable series. Bontrager deemed it the “No 1 selling travel trailer in America.”
As Dealer Sales Adviser John MacDonald pointed out, the Jay Flight’s market share increased by more than 150% during the first few months of 2004 on the heels of a 250% increase last year.
Jayco unveiled two new Jay Flight models for the 2005 model year during the convention, along with an off-road-style Jay Flight Baja concept travel trailer. Also among the 11 new models introduced were a new Seneca HD Class C motorhome on a midsize Chevrolet Kodiak cutaway chassis, a Jay Feather Sport hybrid towable, a four-slide fifth-wheel in Jayco’s high-end Designer line and several new floorplans and enhancements in the Talon SUT series.
With a bulging order backlog, Jayco’s management acknowledged one of the biggest issues is product availability to dealers. “We’re at the point where we’re forced to examine all sorts of ideas to increase production capacity,” Johnson said.
According to Bontrager, Jayco, to meet the demand, is “willing to take a gamble and produce open inventory.”
He emphasized, however, that the risk was a two-way street, noting, “We need our dealers to be willing to share in that risk and stock product through the down season as well.”
Transportation continues to be a challenge for Jayco and throughout the industry, Bontrager added. Jayco has its own transportation company and is taking measures to increase the driver pool, he said, adding that Jayco has also worked out an arrangement with one of the primary RV carriers.
“All of these actions will cost us and our dealers more for transportation,” Bontrager said. “Everyone must realize that, as an industry, we need to begin investing in the delivery of our products.”
Jayco management reviewed a recent Dealer Satisfaction Survey, which pointed out areas in which Jayco is performing well and others that need improvement. “We set out to examine seven areas of critical importance,” said Jim Jacobs, vice president of sales and marketing. “These areas are management, Aftermarket Services (AMS)/parts, AMS/warranty, marketing, sales support, product attributes and product quality.”
Here’s a closer look at the new 2005 products unveiled in Las Vegas:
* The Seneca HD Class C: The new Seneca diesel-powered C-body motorhome is equipped with Chevrolet’s Kodiak Top Kick truck, and is being marketed as a Class A coach in a Class C configuration. According to Senior Product Manager Paul Gardner, the chassis provides the “tightest turning radius of 53 degrees of any chassis in its class.” The Seneca features an Allison 1000 five-speed transmission, a Duramax 6600 V8 Turbo Diesel 300hp engine and an electronic exhaust brake. Available in two floorplans, a 34-foot double-slide and a 35-foot triple-slide, the Seneca features aluminum-clad baggage doors, gelcoat fiberglass sidewalls with a fiberglass front cap and two interior decors – onyx and stone.
* Designer 35CLQS fifth-wheel: This new floorplan now available in the high-end 37-foot Designer fifth-wheel features a step-down rear-kitchen and a dining area with a central island bar. Available with four slideouts, including a king-size bed slide and opposing slides in the kitchen and dining area, the new Designer’s exterior is set off by a premium paint package while the interior offers residential-style appointments like an optional fireplace, rich fabrics and built-in entertainment center. Jayco, meanwhile, announced that it has discontinued its premier Legacy fifth-wheel line and will be offering a Legacy upgrade package in the Designer series.
* Jay Feather Sport 186: The new hybrid is the newest offering in Jayco’s ultralightweight towable line that keys in on “a growing market for small, personal, but fully-featured camping vehicles.” The Sport 186 is equipped with a walk-around queen bed and built-in J-steel sofa, a street-side dinette with folding chairs and pass-through front storage.
* Jay Flight Baja concept travel trailer: This 23-foot travel trailer is built for the off-road and is an extension of Jayco’s Baja camping trailer series. The travel trailer features 15-inch tires, a beefed-up suspension and an outback galley. Like the Baja fold-down, Jayco is targeting a younger audience interested in hiking, mountain biking and other off-road activities.