More than 350 people turned out Wednesday morning (Nov. 28) to hear details about Grand Design RV Co., a new RV manufacturer formed by a trio of former Thor Industries Inc. executives that will enter the market with an extended-stay Solitude fifth-wheel brand.
Led by Grand Design President Don Clark and brothers Ron and Bill Fenech — all co-owners in the company — Grand Design will start building RVs in December with two other yet-to-be-named brands scheduled be in production by the end of 2013.
”We are going to be a full-line manufacturer,” said Clark, the former president of Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc. ”The very small niches, we are not going to focus on. We want to hit the six major categories that are the bulk of the market.”
Ron Fenech is the former senior president of Thor’s RV Group and Bill Fenech is the former head of Thor Motor Coach (formerly Damon Motor Coach).
All three took turns presenting their vision for the company and the strategy they will employ to a standing-room-only crowd at the Crown Plaza Hotel during the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) 50th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.
”We wanted to make a statement to all of you that we are in this for real, that we are in this for the long term,” said Ron Fenech. ”This is not something to keep us busy a couple days a week in retirement. We are really into this.”
Although the Fenech brothers carry no official title other than ”co-owner,” both said they will be involved in the day-to-day operation of the company but that Clark will be the decision-maker. Grand Design general manager will be Marc Hauser, while Jerry McCarthy serves as vice president of service operations. Both are former Dutchmen executives.
Grand Design has set up shop in a 67-acre complex with 400,000 square feet of production and support facilities near the Indiana Toll Road north of Middlebury, Ind.
”We’ve got our first proto on line,” said Ron Fenech.
Solitude, which will retail in the low- to high-$60,000 range depending on equipment, will feature a 101-inch-wide body, 6-foot 6-inch ceilings, king-size beds, walk-in closets, 40-inch-deep slideouts, solid surface countertops and slam-latch baggage doors.
The retail introduction of Solitude at the Florida RV SuperShow in January will be followed by a mid-priced laminated travel trailer and fifth-wheel series in spring and probably a luxury toy hauler fifth-wheel brand by fall. A luxury fifth-wheel, along with a lightweight travel trailer and an entry-level travel trailers are in the planning stages.
”We are taking it slow,” Bill Fenech said. ”We are going to take our time. We are going to do what the market says. We want to brand the company as much as our individual brands. We want to sign up Grand Design RV Co. dealers. There will be one Grand Design RV dealer in a (specific) marketplace. You won’t have to worry about it being shopped down the street with another (Grand Design) brand.”
After a one-year hiatus and a great deal of speculation over the past year, high-profile RV industry senior managers Don Clark, Ron Fenech and Bill Fenech tell RVBUSINESS.com that the three former Thor Industries Inc. executives are ready to re-enter the RV market.
The three close friends report that they’ll be equal partners in a new travel trailer and fifth-wheel venture in northeastern Elkhart County, Ind., the name of which, along with a lot of other details, are still being kept under wraps. More details on this new venture are anticipated over the next couple of months, as information becomes available.
“We feel that the future looks bright,” they declared in a joint statement, adding that they’re pleased to finally lay to rest the rumors that have been circulating around the industry over the past year.
What is known is that the startup is currently setting up shop in a large 67-acre, 400,000-square-foot manufacturing complex they’ve recently purchased in rural Middlebury, Ind., near the Indiana Toll Road. “We bought this complex with the future in mind,” says Clark. “We have a long-term vision of where we want to take our company and this complex allows us to achieve that vision.”
“We loved what we have accomplished in the past, especially our time together at Keystone RV Co.,” the three note in the joint statement. “However, the market has changed. How we helped build Keystone, and how most of the industry operates today, will be different from how we build our company in terms of branding, clones and ‘sister’ products.”
Plans call for introducing the new company’s first brand in early 2013 for the spring market – not by the Louisville Show, as some in the industry had anticipated. “The show is an important industry event that would have been great to have our product displayed in, but not if it means rushing the product,” said Clark. “We are going to take our time and do this the right way.”
Four Winds International Corp., Elkhart, Ind., is marking its 20th anniversary with the ultimate goal of “exceeding expectations.”
With the spring selling season firmly under way, Four Winds is experiencing new levels of success, according to a news release.
“The 20th anniversary is a significant milestone, especially since Four Winds continues the tradition of producing and selling high quality, innovative motor homes at every day low prices,” said Bill Fenech, president of the Thor Industries Inc. subsidiary.
According to the release, the repositioning of the company last year has allowed for a new Four Winds which is leaner and more responsive to the dealers and retail customer’s needs and expectations. New, hot products are surpassing the retail turn expectations and a new arsenal of products will continue to keep this trend going.
The forefront of this success comes from the company’s valued relationships created at the dealer level. Four Winds is committed to helping dealers become more successful by steering customers to local dealerships for sales and service.
Improvements to the Four Winds International website encourage retail customers to consider the valuable benefits of buying from a local dealer. From stimulation of the local economy, product introduction and personalized service, the purchase of the RV from a local dealer is always the best decision.
The creation of the company’s new “Concierge Connection” customer service program is already providing positive results. “Concierge Connection” is a special program offered to new Four Winds International motorhome buyers. A special customer advocate contacts each and every new Four Winds retail customer to thank them and assist them with their new purchase.
“Our goal is not only to make sure our valued retail customers know we are here for them but to exceed their expectations of our product and services,” said Dana Simon, vice president and general manager. “We are proud to be in business for 20 years and look forward to then next 20 years. We have been fortunate to have had great relationships with many dealers for all 20 of these years and this has been the foundation of our success in the market. We will continue to listen and learn from our dealers and retail customers because we know they are the ingredient for success.”