Continuing its emphasis on diesel power, Tiffin Motorhomes Inc. has announced plans to add a diesel option for 2007 Allegro models priced in the $100,000 range, building on the success the company has achieved with moderately higher priced Allegro Bay models on Freightliner’s front-engine-diesel “FRED” chassis.
The FRED option, offering the Cummins 5.9-liter, 300-hp engine coupled with an Allison 5-speed transmission, will complement Ford and Workhorse chassis choices in the Allegro lineup. “We’ve been very strong in rear diesels and we’re going to pick up our pace in front-diesels because we have recognized the value of front diesels for years,” reported Tim Tiffin, general manager of the Red Bay, Ala., company during the Allegro dealer meeting held July 16-18 at the Marriott Denver Tech Center in Denver, Col.
Tiffin built a small number of front-diesel coaches on General Motors chassis in the early 1990s, notes Tiffin, whose family continues to operate the company with the founder, Bob Tiffin, actively involved with sons Tim as general manager, Van as product manager and Lex as quality control manager.
“Since Allegro weighs less than Allegro Bay, we hope to see Allegro FRED miles per gallon reaching into the mid-teens,” Tiffin noted. “A year ago, we were 50/50 gas and diesel. Today we are 80% diesel, and we are putting diesel within reach of an increasing number of family budgets.”
The company’s front-diesel coaches represent great value to the consumer in terms of fuel economy, coach size and GVWR, Tiffin maintains. “You’re getting a diesel coach with amenities at a price that you can’t put together with a rear diesel,” he noted. “At 65 mph it’s just as quiet as a Workhorse or Ford.”
Tiffin cautions that one of his only concerns regarding the shift to FRED is if Freightliner “puts too much cost into this chassis.”
“If they keep the cost within gunshot of the gas-engine chassis,” said Tiffin, “it’s a really good market, and I’ve been preaching to them to keep it there.”
The FRED-powered Allegro models will be available to dealers in October, joining a full lineup of newly redesigned FRED-powered Allegro Bay models that were shown to dealers in Denver. Both brands are also available on Ford and Workhorse chassis.
The Allegro Bay redesign was the headliner during the dealer show, which was attended by about 60 dealers as two of the new units were driven into an outdoor display at the Marriott Denver Tech Center. The redesign includes 7-foot ceiling heights, new front and rear caps, one-piece windshields, new one-piece molded roofs, standard alder rather than oak cabinetry, new interior decor and new exterior graphics.
The company expects to sell about 500 of the redesigned 2007 units, which are available in lengths ranging from 34 to 38 feet and in a base retail price range on the FRED chassis from $137,000 to $146,800. On Ford or Workhorse chassis, the Allegro Bay units are available in 34 and 37-foot lengths for $121,700 to $132,650. Pricing was not released for FRED-powered Allegro units.
Among other changes for 2007:
• The Phaeton received new decor items, a new full-tile floor option and new exterior graphics.
• The Allegro Bus will be built on Freightliner’s XC tag axle chassis, the wheel cut of which has been upgraded to 60 degrees with independent front suspension. Also added, along with myriad decor changes, was a new Whisper Cool air conditioning ducting system that reduces blower noise, new thicker fiberglass roof caps, new ceramic tile flooring in selected models and an optional new self-contained air bed for additional sleeping capacity.
While his company is working at production levels that are 10% above last year – reflecting growth in market share – Tim Tiffin said the market nevertheless is presenting challenges beyond fuel cost. Interest rates in particular have been an issue. “They’ve doubled since 2004, and it puts stress on the dealer in terms of financing their wholesale flooring,” he told RV Business. “I think it’s a bigger threat to the industry than fuel cost.”
Featured speakers during the event were Richard Coon, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), and Mike Molino, president of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association of North America (RVDA).
Coon spoke of his alarm over the “flatlining,” or lack of improvement, in consumer satisfaction scores reflected in RVIA-commissioned Roper studies of RV buyers. He noted that a new consolidated coalition of manufacturers, suppliers and dealers, working together under the auspices of the Go RVing Coalition’s Committee on Excellence, is making progress in finding ways to make an impact on the scores while suggesting that the industry cannot afford to allow the lack of progress to continue.
He said it is unfair that customers measure satisfaction against their experiences with cars and light trucks, which he regards as less complex, “but that’s the way it is.”
Molino urged dealers to become take better advantage of technical training offered by RVDA. In the RVDA 2005 Dealer Satisfaction Index rankings, Tiffin led the industry in 17 of 24 criteria including product design, quality and promotion of customer loyalty and support.
La Mesa RV, with nine locations in California, Arizona, Florida and Georgia, was named Tiffin’s top dealer for 2006, heading a list of the company’s 10 top dealers.