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The Motorhome Division of Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. stumbled badly this year, but President Nelson Potter promised the company’s dealers that new leadership and new strategies will turn the struggling operation around.

Late last month, Potter fired Dick Parks, the head of Fleetwood’s entire RV operation, and John Weiss, head of the motorhome division.

“The decision to change key leadership was not an easy one,” Potter said during Fleetwood’s recently completed national dealer meeting in Nashville, Tenn. “It was not an action I consider one of my finest hours, by any means. However, the leadership changes had to be made.”

Although Fleetwood continues to be the market share leader in motorhomes, certain competitors have gained at Fleetwood’s expense because it became slow to react to changes in consumer tastes and preferences, and product quality slipped, Potter said.

The rapidly expanding motorhome market during 1998 and 1999 disguised Fleetwood’s shortcomings, but they became glaringly apparently when retail demand cooled this spring and summer.

“We are not as nimble, quick or innovative as we need to be,” Potter said.

But Fleetwood now is putting into operation in the motorhome division the Product Development Improvement Process, or PDP, which was embraced earlier by Fleetwood’s successful Travel Trailer and Folding Camper divisions, Potter said.

“The PDP process has been successfully implemented at numerous companies around the globe, especially automobile companies like Toyota, Daimler Chrysler and Honda,” Potter said. “In fact, the PDP process is credited with having put Chrysler on the map by delivering exciting new products like the Viper and the PT Cruiser.

“This is a tool we will use to develop breakthrough RV products,” he continued. “PDP will help us focus our resources on priority products which will eventually shorten our response time, which has been a problem, and get us to market sooner with better RVs.”