Walt Michal’s RV Center, recently profiled in the Detroit News, is adding on to its growing facility in Belleville, Mich.
The dealership, which sits on 47 acres and is poised to sell more than 2,000 units this year, is in the process of building a 30,000-square-foot service center.
The construction represents the latest in a series of six expansion projects initiated since Walt Michal purchased the business in 1997.
Last year, Walt Michal’s opened a 17,000-square-foot indoor luxury motorhome showroom. Next on the list is a campground and small water park.
According to the Detroit News, Walt Michal’s RV now rates as one of Michigan’s largest RV dealerships.
Michal said he took a chance when he purchased the business.
“I mortgaged everything I had,” he said. “I signed for $6 million I didn’t have.”
But the gamble paid off. Before he took over, the dealership’s best year had been $3.2 million in sales in 1995. In 2004, the company should top $70 million, Michal said, noting that his primary manufacturers are Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. and Coachmen Industries Inc.
Walt Michal is “probably one of the best marketers and promoters of the RV lifestyle in this half of the country,” said Chuck Green, Coachmen’s assistant vice president of sales. “He’s made tremendous inroads in bringing in first-timers to the marketplace, which benefits everybody.”
Advertising plays a big role in Michal’s marketing strategy, particularly in reaching today’s young buyer. The budget has increased from $50,000 in 1997 to over $3 million for radio, television and newspapers, in addition to 134 billboards in Michigan and Ohio. The dealership also opened an Internet division and expects to sell 200 to 250 recreational vehicles online in 2004.
But the biggest area of expansion has been the RV rental arm, Michal said.
“Since 2001, the rental business has doubled, from half a million dollars to over $1 million annually,” he said.
Currently, the rental division has about 55 units worth $2.5 million, Michal said. The company takes trade-ins on anything from campers to boats, cars and motorcycles.
Michal said business fell after Sept. 11, 2001, and didn’t pick up until March 2002, when the rental department had a huge increase.
Walt Michal’s RV employs about 100 people, up from about 20 in 1995, including a 24-person sales staff.
“We use aggressive marketing, good customer service and provide convenience to the customer,” Michal said. “Our customer satisfaction index is high.”