Jane and I recently had a tour of the Fleetwood diesel plant in Decatur, IN and we were impressed with the quality of the coaches being produced and the overall attitude of the employees. Everyone agrees that the market has changed and that there are new priorities however there is a consensus that North Americans are going to continue to travel by RV. Recent studies indicate that a RV vacation is the least expensive family vacation. I am sure most of us already know this.
Although I have owned Bounder since 1993, I discovered something in this tour that I did not know after all those years. Every Fleetwood RV has an adjustable dump fitting in the waste dump tank area. The bottom fitting that the dump hose connects to moves or swivels up and down as part of its design. What this means is that if you find it awkward to connect the dump hose you can adjust the angle of the fitting to make connecting the hose easier. This just goes to show you that you learn something new every day.
I attended the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) dealer show held immediately after Thanksgiving in Louisville, KY. Many interesting trends were noted. Fleetwood RV has significantly trimmed their existing model lineup for the 2011 model year, while adding a number of newer models including many Class C and lower priced Class A models. The Bounder and Bounder Classic continue to be offered in various floor plans, powertrains and sizes. Truthfully there is a large amount of competition to these models and Bounder has dropped from its status as the class leader that it enjoyed for many years. As Bounder owners we know that there are features on a Bounder that make it a superior coach and a value leader. Today's consumer is often more price conscious than in the past and sometimes offering a lower priced version captures a buyer that would not buy otherwise. This is the justification for the Bounder Classic that some Bounder owners say is not a true Bounder. With the perspective of close to 20 years of Bounders, I am not so quick to dismiss this coach. I think if a Bounder was developed today the Bounder Classic would be what would be offered as a Bounder. It has a lot of features and a reasonable selection of floor plans and options and good carrying capacity. Those of us that have had Bounders and replaced them every few years have moved up our expectations of what should be in our Bounder. The clubs have been good venues to tell the designers how much more we would like and as these options and features were added, the coach grew in size, weight and price. The value proposition was not quite as sharp and the competition set their target on deposing the Bounder as the class and value leader. I think the newest Bounder and Bounder Classic will continue to carry the torch for Fleetwood and where else can a RV buyer get the support that a Bounder Club offers. Encourage everyone to consider a Bounder. As always it is great value for the consumer's dollar.
With Fleetwood RV's decision to move all diesel coaches to the Spartan Chassis, with CAT dropping out of the diesel RV market and the new comprehensive diesel emission compliance requirements, the base price of the 2010 and newer chassis has jumped considerably. I have been told that prices have increased about $20,000 with these changes. The rationalization of the diesel lineup means that the Bounder diesel is gone. It really did not exist in 2010 (you could special order it) however it was getting up in price and it is obvious there is more money for Fleetwood in selling more upscale models. This is a disappointment to a Bounder purist however it is a reality of the new world of RVing we are experiencing. Fleetwood RV has reintroduced other models in the lower to mid-price diesel range but that does not allow a move up Bounder owner to stay within the Bounder lineup. The features that made a Bounder - a Bounder - are best secured in the gas chassis version and as prices move up it is harder to justify placing the Bounder name on a mid-priced diesel coach. My guess is that as the market matures there will be a new Bounder diesel, likely a short 36 foot model, not offered as a move up model which the previous diesel powered coach did, but an alternative to the gas chassis for those that want value and better fuel efficiency. Think a domestic version of the Mercedes chassis that has taken the Class C market and make it a class A on a newer more fuel efficient chassis. It should offer the value that Bounder has always has with some class leading features. This vehicle will once again set a Bounder up as a class leader and now is the time to do the research and development to make it happen. Other manufacturers have started down this path with some exciting (some would say sexy looking) RV's. Fleetwood RV needs to get in on the action and the Bounder is the perfect foundation for them to once again develop a class leader. The challenge is there - let's see if it is taken up.