Sunday, April 29, 2007

CEO steers Fleetwood motor home company through downsizing

Learning how to negotiate a 40-foot motor home along a city street takes a steady hand, a watchful eye and usually results in scrapes and dents along the way.

Steering a motor-home company takes all that and more.

For 66-year-old Elden Smith, who abandoned retirement two years ago this month for the top job at Fleetwood Enterprises, the road has been rougher than expected.

The market for the company's major products -- motor homes, travel trailers and manufactured housing -- has suffered declining or uneven sales. High gas prices, rising interest rates and low consumer confidence have also taken a toll.

Sales have dipped dramatically during Smith's tenure, financial losses have piled up and Fleetwood has shrunk significantly.

The company has closed or consolidated at least 13 plants, including two in Riverside County, and reduced the payroll by 5,000 people.

"We had to cut further than we ever imagined we would have to," said Smith, whose primary goal has been to return Fleetwood to profitability.
Full Story...
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