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While acknowledging a recent slowdown in production, Tiffin Motorhomes Inc. assured attendees at its national dealer meeting July 21-23 that the builder remained progressive on product development and was “uniquely positioned” to grab additional market share once sales improved.
“One of our goals at this meeting is to let you know that Tiffin is here for the long run,” said General Manager Tim Tiffin, addressing representatives from around 50 dealerships at the Hilton Convention Center in Branson, Mo. “Even though the market isn’t the greatest right now, we want to give you a confidence level that it will return and that Tiffin will be on top when it does.”
As evidence, Tiffin tracked the Red Bay, Ala.-based company’s market share gains since 2005 when the Class A sector first began to show signs of weakening. The coach builder increased unit shipments from 1,365 in ’05 to 2,265 in 2007 while increasing market share from 5.3% to 9.9%. In the current year, Tiffin ranked No. 5 among Class A builders through April with a 12.2% market share.
“Our commitment to service through the years has been a key to our growth,” Tiffin told RVBusiness. “As an industry, it’s getting harder and harder to find parts, and we want to be known as a company that always stands behind our product.”
Tiffin also emphasized that despite the downturn in the economy, and subsequently the Class A marketplace, the company continued to “innovate and make our product better for the consumer.”
Jerry Williamson, national sales manager, reported that Tiffin had also made a significant investment in production facilities, including the purchase of a water jet cutting system. And while production had recently been pared to six units a day on a five-day schedule – a result of a weak market and reduced inventories by dealers – the firm has made several changes in its production lines to allow for an immediate ramp-up.
“We have the capacity to go up to three lines now,” Williamson said, noting that Tiffin had been building 13 units a day before the slowdown. “We want to be very reactive to the marketplace.”
As part of its 2009 product rollout, highlighted by a new bath-and-a-half floorplan in certain models of its Phaeton, Allegro Bay and Zephyr product lines, Tiffin management also emphasized that it would be extending use of the company’s proprietary PowerGlide chassis introduced last year.
Originally offered as an option on the Allegro Bus series, the builder will be expanding usage into its Phaeton line “in a few months,” according to Tiffin. He estimated that around 30% of the units sold on the Allegro Bus were equipped with the PowerGlide chassis.
“We are still using Spartan and Freightliner and will continue that relationship,” Tiffin said, noting that the builder also employs Ford and Workhorse chassis for certain applications. “But we are very pleased with acceptance of the PowerGlide. It allows us to quickly custom manufacture chassis that will integrate with new floorplans. It’s something that most of our competitors can’t do.”
The PowerGlide chassis is equipped with an Allison electronic 3000 MH 6-speed automatic transmission with two overdrive gears, keypad electronic shifter with digital readout, 35,600-pound GVWR, full air brakes with automatic slack adjusters and four-wheel ABS. The platform is built on a raised-rail huck-bolted frame with low-profile engine mounting and a fully multiplexed electrical system with auto-reset fuses.
Tiffin’s new bath-and-a-half floorplan, available on the 37-foot Allegro Bay, 42-foot Phaeton and 45-foot Zephyr, features a “huge rear bath,” according to Williamson, that offers a full-width mirrored wardrobe.
“We really added some very upscale amenities that the women will love,” he said. “The woodworking, done by our millwork shop at our factory, has a lot of very fine detail and we’re also offering an optional white chocolate glaze on the cabinetry.”
The half bath is situated just behind the midsection of the coach while the full bath features surface mount “vessel lavatory” sink bowls.
Two universal features in all ’09 Tiffin units are ceiling fans in the bedrooms and a sliding cover for the shower skylight that keeps out heat during the day.
Other upgrades in the 2009 line include:
• Tiffin’s “entry-level” Allegro models for 2009 feature 7-foot ceilings, matching the other four Tiffin lines. “This expansion enables design of a much more livable coach, with additional cabinetry above and below counters, improved TV placements and larger windows,” Williamson said. The Allegro is available in five floorplans ranging from a double-slide 30-foot gas-powered model with an MSRP under $100,000 to a 35-foot quad-slide, diesel-powered front engine model with a base retail of $134,050. Optional full-body paint on the Allegro will become standard later this year.
• Tiffin has discontinued use of pleated shades in its coaches, equipping units with a roller system that has a black-out shade for night and retractable solar shade for day. The windshield shade is powered and an electric option is available on side windows on particular models.
• The new front-engine gas or diesel Allegro Bay has gone to a two-step entry instead of three. Tiffin also redesigned the entire entryway for easier access. Four floorplans from 34-38 feet carry base retail prices from $132,230 to $171,290 in the Allegro Bay line.