Best of Show: Forest River’s Intriguing Aviator
Beyond all the sales pitches and brochures, it was obvious to most attendees at the 49th Annual National RV Trade Show, Nov. 29-Dec. 1 in Louisville, Ky., which new 2012 recreational vehicle had created the most “buzz” at the show: The Aviator by Forest River Inc., a modern-looking 34-foot travel trailer that should score a lot of style and feature points among today’s younger buyers.
Based on those style points, as well as some clever new high-tech twists integrated into this innovative new towable, RVBusiness’s staff is naming Forest River’s Aviator as “Best of Show” for model year 2012.
As such, the Aviator, along with an array of other products — from Fleetwood’s all-new 33-foot Excursion Class A to Thor Motor Coach’s elegant new 34-foot Palazzo Class A and Jayco’s trendy Seismic fifth-wheel toyhauler — will be featured nationally as one of “RVB’s Top 25 Debuts.”
“We wanted to bring to market a luxury travel trailer that would stand the test of time,” says Kevin McCart, general manager of Forest River’s Surveyor and R-pod product lines as well as the new Aviator division. “There were criteria that we used in development. Not only is it built with composite materials and Celtec cabinetry, we wanted something that would be wood-free. We wanted it to be customer-friendly, and we wanted it to have a distinguishable look that would be unprecedented in the industry.”
Developed by a small team over the past year and a half in a secluded plant at the company’s Goshen, Ind., facilities, the Aviator, designed to resemble an aircraft fuselage, features crowned contoured sidewalls, a one-piece radius fiberglass roof, curved interior ceilings, bonded tinted safety glass windows and a truly wind-cutting, aerodynamic front cap fitted with an integrated “windshield.”
LED-lit interiors include two 32-inch Sony LED HDTV’s – a third is stationed in the outside entertainment center – and are equipped with stainless steel appliances, including 8-cubic-foot Dometic reefers, 1.7-cubic-foot Frigidaire convection microwave ovens and 3-burner Atwood sealed-burner cooktops.
Now here’s where the plot thickens because each unit, retailing in the upper $70,000’s, comes with a Sony tablet computer replacing the remote control devices ordinarily used to operate a unit’s electronics. Aside from controlling the fireplace and TV’s, the tablet provides the RV owner with an interactive guide to how-to videos, tutorials, owners manuals, care and maintenance guides – anything that the customer’s going to need to know about that unit.
“We even programmed in the make and model and serial number of every appliance that’s in that unit – down to the 110 and 12-volt side of the converter – everything is labeled with amp and fuse sizes,” says McCart.
And that same tablet, as part of the Aviator’s “Mobile Onboard Smart Technology (MOST) system, can also stream movies to the unit’s three flat-screen TV’s.
“This is an industry first, and I think this is where it’s heading, or at least I hope it is,” says McCart. “We want to provide the customer with as much information as possible so that they’re not having to rely on the dealer or the manufacturer to answer all their questions to find out how things work. We’ll provide videos on how to light your water heater or how to maintain different things as well as trouble shooting videos.”
McCart, by the end of the Louisville Show, was already thinking warmly of this winter’s retail shows. “We already have shows lined up where we need to get this product into,” adds McCart. “So, we’re going to start off the new year with a bang.”