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If indeed there were more prospective high-end buyers as well as upscale tire kickers in evidence at this past winter’s retail shows – perhaps more so than some manufacturers had seen in a while – then one of the busiest booths at Tampa’s RV SuperShow in January was operated by Foretravel Motorcoach of Texas, a factory-direct builder of luxury motorhomes still based in its traditional home turf of Nacogdoches, Texas. How busy was it? Foretravel Sales Manager Curtis Fancher said the lines were so constant at times that the only real break for Foretravel’s sales staff came at lunch and dinner time. Of particular interest to consumers was the company’s ih-45, a coach that Foretravel started building on its own chassis in 2012 in addition to its Nimbus and Phoenix lines. That’s a real switch for a high-end company that, along with the rest of the industry, is still technically emerging from a global downturn. “We custom build just about everything we make,” says Fancher, adding that the ih-45, a 54,000-pound GVWR coach equipped with a 600-hp Cummins engine, an Allison 4000 transmission and a 3,500- to 4,000-pound payload, is the company’s biggest seller. “Last year was a good year,” said Fancher, standing in front of a black-tan-champagne and red-exterior ih-45 listing for $1.3 million. “The typical year since ’08 has been very up and down. Last year was a steady year, and the beginning of this year has been very steady. That’s all a telltale sign of the stock market and economy starting to come back. It’s turned about nicely.”
As part of a two-year initiative designed to leverage the Winnebago brand’s cachet with RV consumers, the builder recently informed dealers it has essentially phased out its Itasca nameplate.
“This is all part of a larger strategy to become more aggressive in promoting the Winnebago brand name,” Scott Degnan, vice president, sales and product management for Forest City, Iowa-based Winnebago Industries Inc., told RVBUSINESS.com. “We continue to strengthen and build the Winnebago brand through our advertising, social media, mainstream media, and brand licensing efforts.
“If you go back a few years and look at some of our motorhomes, you can’t even tell that they’re Winnebagos. We saw that as a lost opportunity. Winnebago stands for quality and longevity, and we wanted to promote that in the industry.”
Degnan stressed that the move would not impact its dealer body in a significant way. “Dealers will be keeping the same product lines and the Itasca network has not gone away,” said Degnan. “For instance if they carried the Itasca Sunstar, it will now be a Sunstar motorhome by Winnebago. A lot of our dealers are actually seeing this as a positive. They understand that the bigger and bolder the Winnebago name is, the more recognition it will have with consumers.”
Sam Jeffson, public relations specialist, added, “In all of our marketing efforts, we are focusing on bringing Winnebago to the forefront. Ultimately, we want people to see motorhome and immediately connect to Winnebago – no stop in between.”
Wed, Oct 28, 2015:
RV wholesale shipments to retailers of 27,960 units were reported by manufacturers in the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) September monthly survey, 2.3% greater than the previous month and 12.4% ahead of the same month one year ago. This was the highest September total in nine years with gains recorded in conventional travel trailers and all categories of motorhomes. Seasonally adjusted, shipments in September were at an annualized rate of more than 405,000 units. Year-to-date, total RV shipments have now climbed to 285,049 units through the first nine months of the year and ahead of this same period last year by 5%. Towable RVs have gained 5% while motorhomes shipments were up 5.5% through September.
<img class="alignleft size-full wp-image-146777" src="http://www.rvbusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Screen-Shot-2015-10-26-at-3.14.39-PM-e1445886912671.png" alt="Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 3.14.39 PM" width="580" height="733"/>
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