Former Thor Industries Inc. executives Ron Fenech, Bill Fenech and Don Clark plan to address the “vision” and gameplan of their new company — Grand Design RV Co. — from a booth at the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) 50th Annual National RV Trade Show, Nov. 27-29 at the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC) in Louisville. They’ll also present their case at a special 8:30 a.m., Wednesday (Nov. 28) kickoff breakfast in the Whitley Meeting Room at the Crown Plaza Hotel right after the RVI Leadership Prayer Breakfast.
Grand Design RV is currently setting up shop with fewer than 20 employees in a 67-acre, 400,000 square-foot former manufactured housing plant near the Indiana Toll Road north of Middlebury, Ind.
“It’s something that we’ve had on our minds now for a lot of years,” reported Don Clark, president and co-owner of Grand Design who formerly served as president of Thor’s Goshen, Ind.-based Dutchmen Mfg. Inc. “You know, we’ve all had our own careers, and we always had this in the back of our minds — to take what we’ve learned in the industry and really do something special and unique that we could totally control. We knew it was going to happen, but we just didn’t know when, and we wanted the timing to be right.”
“We’ve all been talking about what brought us to this point,” added Ron Fenech, who exited his position as president of Thor’s RV Group in September of 2011. “And for me it was just time for a different chapter, as much as anything. I’m an entrepreneur at heart, and I really felt that pull.”
Clark and the Fenech brothers, also operating as co-owners, are preparing for the debut of their first line of mid-priced Solitude-brand “extended stay” fifth-wheels at the Florida RV Trade Association’s (FRVTA) Florida RV SuperShow in January with a startup staff that includes General Manager Marc Hauser, and Vice President of Service Operations Jerry McCarthy, both former Dutchmen executives.
In the big picture, meanwhile, they’ll operate from the perspective of a company in a post-recessionary market that’s inhabited by fewer dealers, but often by larger and more multi-store retailers.
“We’ll talk at our breakfast about the vision of our new company and hold a Q&A session,” said Bill Fenech, who resigned as president of Elkhart, Ind.-based Thor Motor Coach Inc. in mid-2011. “We’re going to be real strategic in who we sign — we’ve got to get dealers who buy into our philosophy of what we’re doing, and we want dealers who want to carry our full line of products.
“We’re going to market Grand Design RV as much as we’re going to market the individual brand names,” he added. “We’re not going to have sister products or clones at the same price points in the same market as another dealer. We’re not going to produce them at all. We’re going to be very selective in the dealers we sign.”
All three, in turn, say their driving interest in launching Grand Design, for which a serious ramp up in production will begin in December, is to have the opportunity to build a privately held RV manufacturing firm in which they retain plenty of control.
“The bottom line is that we’re not doing this just for the money or for an exit strategy,” added Bill Fenech. “We don’t have a ‘Plan B’ to go sell it or anything like that. We want to build a great company — whether it’s a 25-year company or a 50-year company or less if something happens before that. We’re going to let the market tell us that. But at the end of the day, we’re going to build a great company, and we’re going to do it our way and we’re going to build it slowly and methodically.”