Winnebago Industries Inc. “made a determined effort to increase our presence in the Class A diesel market in 2004” and it appears to be succeeding, said Bruce Hertzke, chairman and CEO, during a conference call with investment analysts Thursday (March 18).
“Winnebago ended the 2001, 2002 and 2003 calendar years in the No. 1 overall position in motorhome sales,” Hertzke said. “We were No. 1 in Class C’s and we were No. 1 in Class A gas. But we were No. 4 in diesels.
“Our new and redesigned diesel models, the Winnebago Journey and Vectra and the Itasca Meridian and Horizon motorhomes continued to be very well received,” Hertzke continued. “Sales of our (model year) 2004 Class A diesel products have been particularly strong since the introduction last fall. This has resulted in an increase in our diesel Class A unit volume of 96% in the second quarter of fiscal 2004 compared with the volume of same period of fiscal 2003.
“Our retail market share in Class A diesels also is growing, reaching 12.9% for the month of January 2004 which compares very favorably with the 9.4% which we had in the Class A diesel market in calendar year 2003,” Hertzke said.
Hertzke also said on Thursday that he is optimistic about the coming peak spring and summer selling season because “it appears consumer confidence has begun to rise.” He added, “Our dealers appear to be extremely optimistic about the retail sales environment in calendar 2004. Retail RV shows across the country have been very well attended with improved retail buying activity. We see the retail market for motorhomes improving.”
Winnebago also revealed on Thursday that its dealer order backlog was up 55% as of Feb. 28 to 2,933 Class A and Class C motorhome units, compared with a 1,890-unit backlog a year earlier.
The number of Winnebago units on dealers’ lots also was up 8.4% as of Feb. 28 to 5,359 units, versus 4,944 units a year earlier. Hertzke believes Winnebago’s dealer inventory is “approximately where it should be” because virtually all of the increase was due to the new Vectra and Horizon models which were introduced last July. “The rest of our inventory was fairly comparable to where it was last year,” he said.
Winnebago’s diesel Class A inventory totaled 794 units on dealers’ lots as of Feb. 28, versus 297 units a year earlier. Meanwhile, the company’s Class C inventory totaled 905 units, compared with 861 units on March 1, 2003.
Its gas Class A inventory amounted to 1,234 units on dealers’ lots as of Feb. 28, compared with 723 units a year earlier.
However, Hertzke said the RV wholesale and retail markets were much weaker a year-ago due to worries about the eventual war in Iraq.