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In a 2008 economy that produced the worst RV sales numbers since 1993, Goshen, Ind.-based Keystone RV Co. achieved a record 22.3% market share in the travel trailer and fifth-wheel sales for the month of October, according to Statistical Surveys Inc.
As reported by the South Bend Tribune, it represents a market share increase of more than 19% from October of 2007.
In the midst of a recession when many RV companies are struggling to survive, how did Keystone do it?
Keystone officials are quick to credit an intense product development initiative over the last year that resulted in the creation of more than 150 new models and several industry-leading features.
“We understand the value of great products and given last year’s challenging sales environment it was critical to ensure our dealers consistently had the newest and best products on their lots,” said Ron Fenech, president and CEO of the Thor subsidiary, in a release. “Consequently we have had our product development team running at full speed all year long.”
It began a year earlier with 84 new floorplans, said Jim Mac, communications manager, and carried through to 2008.
“We were trying to push a lot of things,” he said. “We were trying to push more lightweight models, even then.”
When the gas prices soared this past summer, that strategy paid off.
“A year ago we started to expand our line and make sure no stone was left unturned,” said Mac. “Going into this past Louisville (at the annual National RV Trade Show), with the gas thing this summer, we put even more emphasis on the lightweights. We were not starting from scratch.”
And Keystone’s Passport line, which came out in 2006 proved to be the fastest growing trailer in the company, Mac said.
“It’s an ultra-light trailer,” he said. “In 2007, it did extremely well and was growing. This year in Louisville, the Passport added a new lighter model, the Express Super Lite.”
The lightweight vehicles are being made at the Howe plant in LaGrange County.
Just how that market share results in earnings remains to be seen, Mac said.
“We don’t know what the future brings,” said Mac, whose company did have to lay off 290 employees in August. “When the industry pulls out of it, we will be in an even stronger position than we are today.”