RV PRO

August '18

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36 • RV PRO • August 2018 rv-pro.com R V M A N U F A C T U R E R S Pricing was a key concern. Management saw that some 80 percent of all retail sales of RVs were below $40,000 – even though most fifth wheel manufacturers continued to focus on high-end (read "heavy") fifth wheels. Fifth wheel shipments across the industry have experienced good growth in recent years, but Forest River's Cherokee team thought the numbers could have been better. "The entire industry has missed the market in fifth wheels," Walczak contends. "The secret is building for the light-duty trucks: the GMCs, Chevys, Dodge 1500s and the Ford F-150s. Weight is our No. 1 sales feature." So, the goal was to stay within the towing ability of the best- selling trucks, which meant keeping dry weights well under 10,000 pounds. "When we first started doing this, a lot of dealers looked at us and said, inquisitively, 'How light?'" This approach to reach the proper balance in a towable really has some merit. Walczak refers to the aviation industry for support. "On an airplane, pilots must achieve a proper balance for the plane, and they have to judge where the weight is. Have you ever flown and heard the pilot say he needs some passengers to switch seats further back in the plane? We did the same thing with the Arctic Wolf. Certain percentages of the dry weight must be on the hitch, so we redesigned where the axles are on every unit. This has been one of the most thought-out projects in fifth wheels in recent years." He adds, "Suffice to say, we're doing a lot of stuff to target the light-duty trucks, which outsell heavier trucks by a ratio of 10 to 1. We're going the opposite direction of the rest of the industry. When we talk to a customer, he needs the safety and convenience of a fifth wheel without having to update his daily driving vehicle. That's what we've built this brand on." Product Lineup Matters Not unlike Ford Motor Co. – which is eliminating most of its cars except for two models to allow the company to focus on its "winning portfolio" – Cherokee management has narrowed its lineup to just six popular floorplans. The idea behind limiting choices also is designed to make it easier for the consumer to choose. "Everything is targeted toward a certain buyer," Walczak explains, adding that half of the company's floorplans are geared toward Millennials. "The Millennial (buyer) is key," he stresses, "so, designing floorplans for that buyer must include additional sleeping area." In particular: • The 265DBH8 is a double bunkhouse designed to sleep eight people. In its second year, the floorplan has already become one of the best-selling Cherokee fifth wheels. • The 315TBH8 is a triple-slide bunkhouse that sleeps eight, features one-and-a-half baths and offers a huge outside kitchen. Figure 1 Forest River Towables Sales Leaderboard* Brand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . % Market Share 1. Cherokee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.3 2. Rockwood . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.9 3. Wildwood . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.8 4. Sandpiper . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.5 5. Crusader . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.1 * Through April 30 Source: Statistical Surveys Figure 2 Fifth Wheel Shipments: 2016-2019 Year . . . . . . . Shipments . . . % Change vs. Prior Year 2016 . . . . . . . . . 80,435 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +7.0 2017 . . . . . . . . . 94,215 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +17.1 2018* . . . . . . . . 99,000 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +5.1 2019* . . . . . . . 100,800 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +1.8 * Forecast numbers Source: RV Industry Association • The 295QSL8 quad-slide loft also sleeps eight. It was introduced at last year's Open House Week event. The other three floorplans are designed for couples: • The 285DRL4 double-slide rear living room for four people is an offshoot from the Cherokee best-selling living rooms. "We're doing it to distinguish it from the family models," Walczak says. • The 305ML6 mid-living for six people was introduced late last year and is unique in that it offers a mid-coach living room, according to Walczak. "We wanted to show that we could hit the weight and price point customers wanted," he adds. • A sixth floorplan, the 245RK4 rear kitchen model, will be unveiled at this year's Open House. This floorplan is Cherokee's only new entry for 2019 thus far. "The rear kitchen is the best possible use of space in any towable," Walczak says, because it provides more storage in the back of the coach than most other coaches.

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