Luxury fifth-wheel manufacturer Carriage Inc. announced today (Nov. 16) the addition of Elliott Bond to the position of regional sales manager for the Midwest/Northeast region.
Bond, an Elkhart, Ind., native and graduate of Indiana University, brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the Carriage team, according to a news release. Formerly an account manager for Four Winds International and Monaco RV, Bond has experience and creativity as well as a commitment to excellence.
“I am extremely happy to have Elliott on board with Carriage,” stated Ed Kinney, vice president of sales for Millersburg, Ind.-based Carriage. “He has exceptional leadership skills, the ability to be a true team player and the urge to grow with Carriage”.
“When I interviewed for this position and visited the Carriage Campus, I felt something I had not felt in a long time. It’s very hard to explain but a few of the words that came to mind are quality, integrity and dedication,” Bond stated. “It’s nice to be where peoples’ No. 1 commitment is to being the best, not the biggest. I am happy to be a part of this family.”
Tom Montague has a big responsibility and a tiny office in Syracuse, Ind. The two situations seem to be a good fit.
Montague, the national sales manager for the newly formed Redwood RV, only needs a desk, a cell phone, a chair and two wall-sized whiteboards to do his job. Anything more right now would be a waste as he is rarely in his office, The Goshen News reported.
This past week Montague returned from a two-week tour of the country to sell Redwood’s new residential fifth-wheel unit. Much of that time was spent in Florida, where he visited seven of the top 10 RV dealers.
“When they saw the product, they could not believe the look and feel of the product,” Montague said.
Fifteen of the 17 dealers Montague and his crew visited, ordered the new fifth-wheel from Thor Industries Inc.’s newest company.
Creating a new company
Thor is an ever-growing force in the RV industry, but usually expands by acquiring existing companies. But that did not happen for the residential fifth-wheel niche, so Redwood was formed.
Thor made Redwood a division of Crossroads RV in Topeka, Ind., and has attracted experienced talent from across established RV manufacturers. Redwood’s president, Don Emahiser, moved over from leading Carriage Inc. Montague came over from another Thor company, Keystone RV co. Since then they, and other managers of the company, have been assembling a team to build Thor’s first residential fifth-wheel and market it to dealers.
The unit will be made in lengths from 35 feet to 39 feet long and be priced from $65,000 and up. There are three current floorplans. Five floorplans will be available in January. By spring, Montague plans to have eight floorplans in the Redwood stable.
So, why is Thor starting a new fifth-wheel company? To fill a segment of the RV market the company has not entered previously.
“Thor has spent millions of dollars to gain and then retain customers from the ‘stick and tin’ all the way up to the Montana (a Keystone RV fifth-wheel). And they do a phenomenal job of that. One in every four coaches, I think, is a Thor product, maybe even more. At the end of that cycle we let that customer go to buy something like a DRV.”
But with Redwood coming online this fall, Thor loyalists will be able to step up to a residential fifth-wheel about $10,000 more than the top line towable.
With the whine of screwguns and hand drills in the background, Montague walked through a Redwood prototype on the factory floor. He pointed out the unit’s residential furniture. He picked up the mattress in the bedroom to show off the European-style slatted box springs beneath it. And he pointed out that the closet’s clothes rack extends the full width of the trailer.
These finishing touches have been worked out over the past few months. The details are listed on those white boards in his office. On those wall-covering boards are categories for appliances, carpeting, lighting, etc. Options for each are neatly printed in black marker ink.
But there are hundreds of RV models in the marketplace and even more floorplans for each. So how does a sales director decide what to go with in an initial offering? Feelings.
“When you go in, you want it to feel like home. Our goal was, when you walk in we wanted it to be warm,” Montague said.
That’s why the residential furniture was chosen, so the comfort and tactile feel is the same found in a residence. After all, it’s likely someone will sell their home to take to the road long-term in an RV like the Redwood.
The chassis and interior will sit on Lippert Components’ top-of-the-line Falcon Integrated Technology frame system. Redwood RVs will have a two-year bumper to bumper protection plan and a five-year structural warranty.
Montague has a goal for Redwood — it’s to sell 1,100 of the fifth-wheels during the company’s first year. Last week there were 11 units under construction in the 105,000-square-foot plant. Fourteen more are on order and in line for production. If the expected growth occurs, then up to 80 people will be making Redwood fifth-wheels within a year.
About that sales goal for the first year, Montague said, “That would be a phenomenal start.”
The first public showing of Redwood’s products will be made at the National RV Trade Show for dealers in Louisville, Ky. beginning Nov. 30.
Luxury fifth-wheel manufacturer Carriage Inc. announced today (Nov. 1) that Mel Mattix has rejoined the company as director of purchasing, a position he held from 2000-2005.
Since that time, Mattix was a partner in North American Traveler and, most recently, general manager of ITC Inc.’s Elkhart RV Sales Division. “We knew Mel would someday return to Carriage. The experience he has gained in the last five years will serve us well in the future,” Glenn Cushman, president of Millersburg, Ind.-based Carriage, stated in a news release.
“I have stayed close with the people at Carriage. I am excited about their new products and have always been impressed with their quality and integrity,” said Mattix, who is an Elkhart resident and a 16-year veteran of the RV Industry. “I’m glad to be back home. I look forward to hitting the floor running.”
Founded in 1968, Carriage manufactures Cameo, Carri-Lite, Royals International and the recently introduced Cabo fifth-wheel lines on a 72-acre campus, with distribution in the U.S., Canada and Europe.
Carriage Inc. has announced the appointment of Bob Richardson as regional sales manager for its Southeast region.
Richardson is a former Goshen-Elkhart, Ind., native who has over 30 years of industry experience ranging from ownership, management and both wholesale and retail selling experience, according to a news release. Moving to the Southeast and residing in the Tampa area since 2000, he has focused his selling efforts in this region.
“We are proud and excited to bring one of the industry’s top selling professionals to the Carriage team,” said Ed Kinney, vice president of sales and marketing.
“Bob brings a wealth of experience that will enhance our dealer/partners to focus on selling the Carriage product line up, along with his expertise in the day to day dealer operations, he will certainly be a valuable asset to our dealer partners within the southeast,” stated Kinney.
“As a sales representative for another top manufacturer for many years I am very happy to represent the Carriage resort vehicle lineup. This is a quality company with a quality product to represent,” stated Richardson.
Carriage Inc. headquartered in Millersburg, Ind., is a 42-year-old manufacturer of luxury resort vehicles distributed throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.
Luxury fifth-wheel manufacturer Carriage Inc. announced Monday (Oct. 11) the addition of Ray Robinson to its sales team. Robinson, a Kansas native and Gulf War veteran who has spent the past 16 years in high-end wholesale and retail RV sales, joins the Millersburg, Ind.-based towable manufacturer as its South Central Regional sales manager.
“When we asked our dealers who they thought should represent Carriage, Ray’s name was consistently on the top of the list,” Carriage Vice President of Sales Ed Kinney told RVBUSINESS.com. “We want to especially thank Chas Weatherby, manager of Explore USA’s Fort Worth location, for getting this ball rolling.”
“I am thrilled to be with Carriage,” said Robinson, who currently resides in Oklahoma City. “I know the product well, as it has been my major competition for the past 10 years. It’s good to be on this side of the table.”
”Ray replaces Doug Richards, who did an excellent job for us in the South Central Region, and we at Carriage want to wish Doug the best in his new venture,” states Carriage President Glenn Cushman.
Founded in 1968, Carriage manufactures Cameo, Carri-Lite, Royals International and the recently introduced Cabo fifth-wheel lines on a 72-acre campus, with distribution through dealers in the U.S., Canada and Europe.
Carriage Inc. has introduced the Cabo fifth-wheel, an entry-level unit into the Millersburg, Ind., manufacturer’s luxury fifth-wheel lineup. The all-weather Cabo, designed for fulltime living, is available in four 34- to 37-foot floorplans, one a bath-and-half bunk layout with a large picture window at the back. “We’ve segmented the luxury fifth-wheel market at four specific price points with the Cabo, Cameo, Carri-Lite and Royals International,” said Ed Kinney, vice president of sales. The interior features a contemporary design with cherry accents, residential window treatments, solid-surface countertops, free-standing kitchen table and queen bed with wrought iron headboards. MSRP: $53,000.
As the dust settles from the first annual Open House Week in and around Elkhart County, Ind., the region’s recreational vehicle manufacturers are beginning to assess the impact of what they experienced this week as at least 15 RV builders followed the lead of Elkhart-based Forest River Inc. in opening their doors to thousands of North American RV dealer personnel.
What makes it so unique and novel is that few of these companies worked together in orchestrating these open houses. No chamber of commerce or economic development agency called industry players to the table and proposed that they all, in concert, host dealers the week of Sept. 27-Oct.1.
This, instead, was more of a spontaneous action by RV builders intent on capturing the attention of North American RV retailers in the fall, even in some cases if it means pre-empting to an extent the industry’s traditional “Louisville Show,” the 48th Annual National RV Trade Show slated for Nov. 30-Dec. 2 in Louisville.
Again, Forest River started it all in 2008 when the economic atmosphere wasn’t all that good and the Berkshire Hathaway unit’s senior management decided to do something to build dealers’ spirits. Their answer was a big product show on the grounds of the company’s corporate headquarters on the west side of Elkhart.
“The recession led us to this because of our financial strength, and, being a strong company, we wanted to show the dealers that we thought that they needed a boost because a lot of the morale was weak that year,” recalls Forest River National Sales Manager Jeff Babcock. “We wanted to build the dealers’ confidence that, of course, Forest River’s going to be here and have them come down here, as we said, and stroll through the acres of product and have a good time on us.
“And I think we’ve got a pretty good reputation for taking care of dealers down here,” Babcock added. “We thought that, hey, it would be a good thank you to the dealers to throw something here. And, you know, we had a good turnout that year, and every year it continues to grow and grow and grow.”
The difference this year is that other manufacturers decided to piggyback on Forest River’s event with their own open houses on the same week, and the dealers came in droves, flooding area hotels, restaurants and bars starting on Monday. The action built up on Tuesday and peaked for the most part on Wednesday evening when hundreds of dealers converged on two sites in particular.
The social hour hot spots were rather predictable, as three Thor Industries Inc. divisions, Keystone RV Co. Inc., Thor Motor Coach and Breckenridge, worked together to host several hundred dealers at a happy hour gathering in a tent outside the RV/MH Hall of Fame on Elkhart’s east side. Some estimated the crowd at 650.
On the opposite side of town, Forest River presided over a blowout party so big – they say it drew in excess of 3,000 dealer personnel – that the company’s caterers were hard pressed to keep up. The party tent, which also featured live music like Thor’s, was positioned amid 500 display units.
From all we can tell, most all of the parties involved this week seemed to come away with a good taste in their mouths for the entire sequence of events. The general consensus was that, whatever occurred here in Elkhart this week, it was all “plus business.” And that goes for some of the smaller companies like Open Range RV, Evergreen Recreational Vehicles, Dynamax Corp. and Carriage Inc. for whom a story was posted earlier this week.
Manufacturers say that Open House Week did a good job of servicing an industry that is still finding its equilibrium on the heels of a global recession.
“It was fantastic,” said Doug Gaeddert, general manager of several Forest River divisions and first vice chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), sponsor of the annual Louisville Show. “Each year (the open house) gets better, and anybody who’s anybody in the RV business was pretty much in town this week. And, absolutely, it will be a record-breaking deal that will take us right on through into the first part of the year. It’s been fantastic.”
Gaeddert says everyone benefitted from the added participation of other companies. “I think it has benefitted the local community,” he said. “It’s obviously benefitted Forest River greatly and all the companies who have tagged on. I don’t know if there’s anybody left who didn’t do one this year. But if there are, I hope they do one next year.”
Forest River President and CEO Pete Liegl says the towable and motorized manufacturer drew in excess of 800 U.S. and Canadian dealerships and ultimately hosted 400 more people had pre-registered for the event, many of whom were bonafide buyers.
He says it’s all a general reflection of the industry’s surprising strength at this point in time. “Unquestionably,” said Liegl, “things have been good this year, and I think that things are going to be damn good next year. I really do.”
So, plan on Forest River following suit next year. “We’re running out of land,” said Liegl. “In fact, we added 20 acres next door that we didn’t have last year for extra parking. Heck, we can close down the streets next year, but I don’t know if we can outdo the enthusiasm of the dealers this year. I really don’t. Dealers are positive, happy, not only with us, but with everything. They’ve all had a pretty good year. They’ve survived 2009, and they’re operating much more like true businessmen, which is good, and I believe next year’s going to be even better. I really do.”
The general tenor of comments was much the same among the Thor companies that joined forces over at the Hall of Fame.
“It’s a good thing, a great thing for our dealers from all over the continent and overseas, and it’s a great thing for us as manufacturers,” Bill Fenech, president of Thor Motor Coach, told RVBUSINESS.com. “Dealers got to see a bunch of new products in a casual, relaxed environment. I can’t tell you how many dealers are saying ‘this is a great thing you’re doing for the industry.’”
“The venue here brings a whole different atmosphere,” noted Matt Thompson, vice president and general manager of Thor Motor Coach’s diesel brands. “And I think the dealers really appreciate it, and we’ve been able to really relax, sit down, spend a lot more quality time together with individual dealers and really rekindle some old relationships and build some new ones. It’s really unlike anything I’ve seen in the last ten years that I’ve been in this business.”
“For us, it was phenomenal,” Keystone President Bob Martin told RVBUSINESS.com. “It’s our first time doing it, and we’re very excited. We had great attendance.”
In anticipation of Open House Week, Martin said, Keystone moved some 2011 product changes forward on the calendar and had plenty for dealers to see. Fact is, Martin noted, September may be a better time frame for new model introductions rather than November or December when the Louisville Show is held – at least for some dealers and some products.
Thus, open house week could be playing a role in changing – to an extent – the industry’s habits. “It is,” said Martin. “Dealers are excited. They think it’s a good time of the year to come in and see product – a good time of the year to make buying decisions because they can buy new current product for the fall so they’re ready for spring show season. Everybody’s asked, ‘how does this affect Louisville?’ We don’t know yet. I mean, we’ll still have new products at Louisville and a reason to come to Louisville as well.
“Overall, though, it was very positive. Many dealers came through. They loved the product and the venue. You know, having it at the Hall of Fame is a draw. Many of the dealers actually haven’t been to the Hall of Fame, So, with that, it’s made the complete package with Keystone, Thor Motorized and Breckenridge. It’s been a very good venue for us.”
Indeed, the open house – a low-budget approach to manufacturer-dealer relations that has been used for years by individual companies — was a topic of choice over drinks at more than one local lounge as people began to analyze where all of this might lead.
Many in the industry have long treasured the fact that the recreational vehicle business still has a strong, single-site national show at which an entire spectrum of companies can participate, including component and service suppliers, aftermarket distributors, software vendors, finance companies, etc.
These open houses certainly aren’t cogent supplier venues, although a few suppliers did set up displays at a couple open houses. And their absence, most agree, would be a real problem if open house week ever gained an edge over Louisville.
Other concerns? How about the weather? The elements cooperated this past week; the weather was beautiful. But what if it wasn’t? With so many companies operating with outside venues, with tents in a few cases being the only shelter other than nearby factories and the insides of display units, the entire sequence of events was completely vulnerable to the elements. And everyone knows it.
As for expenses? While this whole phenomenon is sort of a low-budget sales tactic, it’s not all that cheap of an approach for the key manufacturers who covered dealers’ lodging, shuttle service and entertainment while in town.
And what about RVIA, the national trade association that depends so heavily on revenues from the Louisville Show to balance its annual budget? Louisville, loyalists point out, helps fund standards programs, political lobbying, public relations initiatives and so forth. What would become of the association and all of its critical services it if the wheels would ever come off the Louisville Show?
RVIA, for its part, is standing by and observing the whole scenario, cognizant, as RVIA President Richard Coon pointed out in a Monday (Sept. 27) statement, that “there continues to be strong, widespread industry support” for the Louisville Show.
“This year,” wrote Coon, “we will have 71 manufacturers and 230 suppliers displaying the latest RVs and products across more than 760,000 square feet of exhibit space. That is a substantial increase over the 604,000 feet of space used last year. Additionally, my colleagues at the manufacturing companies holding these events in Elkhart have assured me that the National RV Trade Show remains an integral part of their plans this year and moving forward.”
That said, few would argue that this past week’s activities around Elkhart County could be a harbinger of some eventual changes for the industry and, ultimately, for RVIA and the Louisville Show.
How much change remains to be seen.
“Well I think it’s changing the industry’s habits pretty greatly,” said Gaeddert. “As to the fate of the Louisville Show, which I know is a little bit of a question on everybody’s mind, I don’t think it threatens the Louisville Show. (But it’s) probably a little incentive for the Louisville Show to become a little more creative, raise the value of that product even further.
“Obviously,” he added, “I’m involved in RVIA, and I think it’ll push RVIA to increase the value of the Louisville Show and look at some issues – maybe timing – with respect to the value of that product. This is a competitive world, and I don’t care if you’re an association, a manufacturer, a publisher, if you don’t improve the value of your product continuously, somebody else will.”
“Louisville is a great show and it has its place,” noted Fenech. But he said that timing is a key issue because dealers who wait to buy at Louisville usually can’t get product in time for their key early retail shows – often not until February or March. In a perfect world where both the open houses and Louisville prevail, he suggests, dealers can do both – buy in September and December.
“Consider this a sneak peak at the Louisville Show,” adds Thompson, noting that his Thor division will be bringing significant new product to Louisville, including the company’s biggest unveiling of the year — a Class A that will be “one of a kind in the industry.”
“I think that dealers are taking more time in choosing the brands and the companies they do business with,” said Don Clark, president of Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc., a Thor division that set up separately on the north side of Elkhart in a vacant boat manufacturing plant. “And having an Elkhart open house will give them an opportunity to meet with the manufacturer and find out not only if the product is a good fit, but if the company and the people are a good fit for their businesses.”
Dealers with whom RVBUSINESS.com chatted in Elkhart generally viewed the open houses as a plus. “You can see product in a relaxed atmosphere,” said Doug O’Banion, president of Motor Home Specialist, Alvarado, Texas, a key Monaco dealer and one of Texas’s largest RV retailers. “It’s a great idea for the manufacturers and the dealers to come and see what they have to offer. If we see something we don’t have, we’ll order it.”
O’Banion, on the other hand, doesn’t see the open houses as a viable replacement for the Louisville Show. “As a dealer,” he said, “you will see at Louisville what the other manufacturers have. You have to go to Louisville.”
Jeannie Haught, co-owner of Northtown Motor Home in Rockford, Mich., also sees a lot of value in Louisville and suspects that the open house impact will be minimal. “This is a product show,” she said of this past week’s events. “Louisville is where you go to see what your competitors are carrying. This should not hurt the Louisville Show.”
But Roger Smith, owner of Smith Trailer Sales in Monroe, Ind., thinks this latest open house twist could make the Louisville Show obsolete. “I think we can do away with Louisville,” he said. “I saw more here than in Louisville. That’s the disappointment (vs. the National RV Trade Show).”
Based on what they saw and experienced this past week in Elkhart, meanwhile, Robb Cusack, Rod Roy and David Epp of Fraserway RV’s seven-store Canadian operations feel they may have seen a glimpse of the future. The trio, who visited Gulf Stream Coach Inc., R-Vision, Starcraft RV, Evergreen and Thor events, among others, think this whole open house concept is going to get legs in the future.
“I feel this is the new Louisville,” said Cusack, who runs the company’s Halifax store. “This is where dealers are going to come and see what’s new for the following year for product. I mean, it’s very exciting to be here. The weather’s awesome. And I’ll tell you what: The manufacturers have gone way over the top. There’s entertainment, food – I mean we didn’t buy one meal in four days. It’s amazing.”
Warm, sunny weather this week is greeting thousands of RV dealer personnel from the U.S. and Canada, all of whom are here to visit with manufacturers, party some and bargain hunt for 2010 and 2011 product as part of a new wave of dealer “open houses.”
The open houses reach a crescendo today and tonight as industry leaders Thor Industries Inc. and Forest River Inc. entertain retailers at their respective open houses. Three of Thor’s four divisions, Thor Motor Coach, Keystone RV Co. Inc. and Breckenridge, are situated in a joint display at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in northeast of Elkhart, while all of Forest River’s divisions, including the company’s resurgent Coachmen RV unit, are showing product at the company’s headquarters on Elkhart’s west side.
Most of the area’s manufacturers seem pleased with the whole open house concept thus far – especially the smaller companies and various niche players — although it will be hard to tell how this year’s combined explosion of open houses plays out next year.
“Yesterday, we had a great turnout,” Ed Kinney, vice president of sales for Carriage Inc., told RVBUSINESS.com. “We were pleasantly surprised, being over here in Millersburg. We had several of our current dealers and dealer prospects here, and our new Cabo (trailer) and all of our existing products went over real well. So, it was a great day for Carriage.”
Speaking for Carriage, Kinney likes this evolving “open house” concept. “It’s a great concept, and we thank (Forest River Inc. President & CEO) Pete Liegl for starting it because I think it’s good for the industry,” said Kinney, whose company’s open house doors remain open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today (Sept. 29) and Thursday.
In general agreement with Kinney is Gulf Stream Coach Inc. Co-President Dan Shea, whose company had always hosted its own private open house each June at the towable and motorized RV manufacturer’s Nappanee facilities.
“Obviously, a number of manufacturers were looking at this time frame to start bringing in dealers,” said Shea, whose family-held company is considered more of a mainstream manufacturer vs. a niche player. “And in talking to our dealers, “it made sense, particularly last year with the transportation issues (the difficulty in delivering RVs) and the pickup in business so quickly last spring that dealers are planning ahead for next year and are very interested in coming in and looking at new product and making their buying decisions earlier this year.”
”So, we’ve been very happy with the turnout of dealers coming in, and I think it makes sense when a lot of dealers are doing something at the same time. The dealers can come in and see several manufacturers and see the new ideas at one time and a little earlier than the typical December time frame.”
Reflecting a market in which wholesale motorhome shipments have plunged from about 71,000 to 13,000 units in the aftermath of the recession, Gulf Stream’s open house displays are predominantly towable product.
“There’s less players and less dealers and, you know, the banks are sort of frowning on big item purchases,” noted Phil Sarvari, Gulf Stream’s executive vice president. “So, our focus is going to be to ‘major in the majors,’ and there’s certainly more buyers and more shipments of towable products than there are motorhomes. But motorhomes are still a part of our company, and we’re still going to take care of the dealers that we have out there.”
Does this whole open house format threaten the viability of the industry’s National RV Trade Show in any way? Shea doesn’t think so, and Gulf Stream remains a strong supporter of a viable national show in which manufacturers, suppliers and distributors all congregate.
“No,” says Shea, “I still think that there is that camaraderie of all the dealers getting together, the new products of the suppliers, the events of the week in Louisville, you know,” he observed. “I think it will continue to be important to dealers as well. I think it’s important to have the entire industry in one place. I think we get a lot of play out of the press coming to it, and the coverage from the suppliers and all these stakeholders in the industry having one place to go.”
Northward in Wakarusa, Livin’ Lite Recreational Vehicles’ President Scott Tuttle is working to expand his company’s dealer body through open house contacts.
Tuttle, who specializes in light-weight, all-aluminum trailers, points out that this whole open house concept isn’t altogether new in that it’s been going on for years on more of an ad hoc basis. As has always been the case, he added, even companies who aren’t hosting big events with buffets and bands are expecting dealers to come by.
That said, Tuttle told RVBUSINESS.com that the first two dealers showed up at Livin’ Lite’s driveway at 8 a.m. Monday, one having driven in from Quebec, the other from Kansas. Both were including Livin’ Lite in their tour of area manufacturers.
While his sales staff has been making an effort to contact retailers who were planning to be in town this week – many of whom are in town to do business with manufacturers who “are blowing out yards full of inventory” – Livin’ Lite had several units set up in a display outside his plant.
“You know, this is a shoppers’ bonanza for a lot of RV dealers,” said Tuttle, “where guys (manufacturers) have built up open stock and they’ve filled their yards with it. We don’t do that. We just build what’s sold. So, there’s a lot of dealers in town, seeing what kind of deals they can get.
“But when they go to Louisville, they’re definitely looking at what they’re going to carry next year,” he added. “So, Louisville’s still the benchmark for us. While there will be some dealers picking up product this week, I think Louisville’s still the show for dealers to pick up new product lines.”
Also set up in a low key fashion with a small cluster of display units outside the company’s headquarters north and east of Elkhart in LaGrange County near the Michigan State Line, EverGreen Recreational Vehicles LLC President Doug Lantz says his firm is a “small player in this whole open house scenario.
“I just appreciate the fact that we’re able to bring dealers into the Elkhart County area,” he said. “I think it’s good for the economy here and for relationships. It’s nice to be able to have dealers stop by and see the facility, meet personnel. So, I welcome it. I think that it’s something that we should continue to focus on. I know that we’ll continue to do it. And we tie it into sales training as well and getting together and strategic planning, so it’s something that we’re going to embrace and continue to work for.”
Lantz, for his part, thinks there could be some impact on Louisville.
“I think it may make some difference in some of the dealers’ purchases. It might, especially from a floorplanning standpoint. I mean most of the dealers placing orders this time of year are going to be receiving product around Louisville… So, there’s probably some floorplan lines that will be impacted at the credit level at Louisville. So, yeah, I think it will have some impact.”
The timing of these new open houses is perfect for other niche players like Open Range RV, located farther to the east in Shipshewana, an Amish-populated tourist village. “I think so,” notes Open Range President Randy Graber. “I think it makes sense to have this (open house) at this time of year, rather than waiting until the middle of the selling season to make all the (new model product) changes.”
As for Louisville, he says it will be interesting to see how it plays out over the next couple of years, especially considering how much early buying does or doesn’t occur during this expanding open house format.
Mirroring reports from show exhibitors of strong traffic and sales, the 42nd Pennsylvania RV and Camping Show at Hersheypark in Hershey, Pa., that ended Sunday (Sept. 19) posted record attendance of 35,020 — 9.% higher than 2009, the sponsoring Pennsylvania Recreation Vehicle and Camping Association (PRVCA) reported.
”People have been putting off their purchases for a while and now is the time they want to buy,” Heather Leach, PRVCA director of marketing and education,” told RVBUSINESS.com.
Reports from the FreedomRoads/Camping World dealership chain, Thor Motor Coach, Tiffin Motors Home Inc. and Carriage Inc. and other exhibitors consistently confirmed the strong sales trend.
Thor Motor Coach, formed by the recent merger of Damon Motor Coach and Four Winds International Corp., reported the show was possibly ”the best ever.”
”We nearly doubled our diesel numbers from last year, and last year was a good year,” said Matt Thompson, Thor Motor Coach vice president for diesels.
”We did excellent,” observed Phil Sarvari, executive vice president of Gulf Stream Coach Inc. ”We sold 38 pieces. People were buying, and our products were very well received.”
”Traffic was incredible,” added Don Clark, president of Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc. ”We did more than 2 1/2 times the volume of retail than we did last year. The customers were very upbeat. It was reassuring to see that kind of traffic.”
Without a doubt, Todd Schmitz of Goshen, Ind., is hooked on fishing.
A pro for the past five years, Schmitz took first prize in the prestigious Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open Tournament on the Detroit River the weekend of Aug. 20-22, besting some of the biggest names in fishing and taking home a purse of $46,286 — the largest of his career, The Goshen News reported.
Since his move from Minnesota to the Goshen area approximately eight years ago, Schmitz has spent nearly every waking moment outside of his job as a national RV representative for Carriage Inc. of Millersburg either fishing for pleasure or practicing for his next big tournament.
“I absolutely love to fish and be outdoors, both hunting and fishing,” Schmitz said. “I’ve got a strong competitive nature about me, so this is just a way for me to bring all of that together. When you catch a fish during competition, it’s 10 times more fun than when you just catch a fish when you’re out with your friends. And the money from fishing can be pretty good too.”
According to Schmitz, he got a taste for competitive fishing after college when high school and college sports could no longer feed his competitive drive.
“I was always into sports in high school, and then went to college to play football,” Schmitz said. “When all of that kind of ended, I got into this, and it kind of fed my competitive fire. I was hooked on it from day one.
“To be able to fish and compete at the same time is the ultimate rush.”
Luckily for Schmitz, both his wife and three daughters are supportive of his long hours spent fishing or working as a traveling sales rep.
His wife even urged him to join the Bass Club 19 years ago, he said. “A lot of people think she’s crazy to let me go fishing every week,” he said with a laugh, “but maybe not so much after last week.”
Schmitz has been toying with the idea of fishing full time for years, though such a change up to this point has not been realistic.
“If things worked out perfectly and I could pick up enough sponsors to pay the bills, I’d look at it,” Schmitz said. “To be competitive on the Elite series and to pay for all your equipment and entry fees you’d need about $100,000, which is not easy. But with all the sponsors and everything there are some people that make a lot of good money doing it.”
With the Detroit Northern Open now over, Schmitz said the accomplishment of what he considers to be the biggest win of his competitive fishing career is just now beginning to sink in.
“Not only was it the biggest prize I’ve won, but the competition that was up there was the toughest I’ve come up against,” Schmitz said. “To be able to compete against that caliber of fisherman, it’s very rewarding, especially for someone who still has a full-time job.
“It means all of those days I spent out on the water meant something.”
Looking forward to what’s next for the recent tournament winner, Schmitz was to be Detroit on Friday (Aug. 27) to compete in an unrelated tournament, followed by yet another tournament Sunday just west of Louisville.
As for what’s next in the Bassmaster Northern Opens, Schmitz said he will leave next month for Chesapeake Bay in Cecil County, Md., to compete in the third and final leg of the tournament series.
Two people from that tournament will qualify to compete in the Bassmasters Classic, Schmitz said. The top seven in the Northern Open point standings also qualify for the elite tour.
Schmitz is currently 21st in the rankings.
“I’m going to have to have a good tournament out there to make up the ground that I need to qualify for the tour,” he said. “If you can qualify for that and find the sponsors, that’s the big leagues.”
The United States of America Patent and Trademark Office has officially trademarked the Carriage Inc. “Resort Vehicles” name under registered June 29, 2010, Reg. No.3,809,733.
Ed Kinney, vice president of sales and marketing for Carriage Inc., released the following statement:
“We at Carriage are so excited to receive this registered trademark for the Resort Vehicle concept. As more and more fifth-wheel purchasers examine the lifestyle that relates to the fifth-wheel segment of the RV lifestyle, the Resort Vehicle concept just fits.
Carriage has been the key player in the emerging high-end fifth-wheel segment for the past 42 years. And we continue to be the RV industry’s leader in that segment.”
Carriage produces Resort Vehicles under the brand names of Cameo, Carri-Lite and Royals International.
Five men who played key roles in the development of the modern day RV industry were among those inducted into the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind., Monday night (Aug.2) as part of the RV/MH Heritage Foundation Inc.’s Class of 2010.
During a 90-minute ceremony that featured equal parts of entertainment, nostalgia and inspiration, the new inductees reminisced before an audience of nearly 350 people.
Heritage Foundation Chairman Lon Larson welcomed the audience and received an award in recognition of his service, while B.J. Thompson, chairman of the Public Relations Committee of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) spoke briefly on the RV Centennial celebration held on June 7 at the Hall of Fame and encouraged the audience to continue to mark the centennial throughout the rest of the year.
And in a surprise turn of events prior to the induction ceremony, as RVBUSINESS.com reported earlier, the foundation presented its Spirit Award to Gary LaBella, RVIA vice president of communications and chief marketing officer, who took the opportunity Monday night to announce his early retirement after 32 years with the trade group.
Here’s a few highlights of the inductees’ remarks:
Rex Floyd, Floyd’s RV, Norman, Okla., joked at the outset,” I thought you had to be dead to get in it!” He said the RV industry has treated him well over the 40 years that he has been part of it and thanked the staff of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) for its hard work through the years. Floyd served 12 years on the RVDA board and was a leader in the early years in organizing a national marketing program which evolved into today’s Go RVing campaign. He was the first dealer to receive RVDA’s Jim Summers award.
Jim Fogdall, Ace Fogdall RV, Cedar Falls, Iowa, said the first award he ever received was “a cherry pie from a satisfied service customer.” He said his parents, who started the company, “stressed customer care and hard work” as keys to success. Now run by the third generation of the Fogdall family, the dealership has been profitable in each of its 77 years. He thanked the RVDA, The Spader Co. and praised the 20 Groups that allowed him to interact with – and learn from — other successful dealers.
Don Lougheed, RV Group Inc., Austin, Texas, thanked “God and thousands of friends and associates since he started his business in 1963.” Loughheed gave credit to a number of RVDA pioneers, such as Hilton Fitt-Peaster and Jim Summers, and the late Bill Gorman, an industry consultant whoLougheed called his “idol who taught dealers how to sell RVs.” He also recognized manufacturing legends such as Winnebago Industries Inc.’s John K. Hanson, Holiday Rambler Corp.’s Richard Klinger and Airstream Inc.’s Wally Byam.
Carl Pfalzgraf, Atwood Mobile Products, Elkhart, Ind., recounted his early years as “a troubled teen” who built cars and drag racers and told how he joined Atwood in 1965 and spent his career as “an apprentice,” soaking up knowledge from those around him. He served 18 years on the RVIA board, the last two as board chairman, and called his industry service “a career within a career.”
Clarence T. Yoder, Carriage Inc. Millersburg, Ind., an Elkhart County legend who was sporting his trademark hat, lived up to his reputation as a man of few words. One of 15 children in an Amish family, he quit school at an early age and went to work sweeping floors at a nearby factory. He led his company, Carriage Inc., for 30 years and had a primary role in research and development. He pioneered seamless fiberglass end caps, motorized slideouts on fifth-wheels and developed the first flat floor for fifth-wheels with no step up to the bedroom. He holds several patents.
Inductees from the manufactured housing industry were Raymond F. Bassett, Jim Boyts, Jerry Haggadone, Morris Hylton Jr., Jess Maxcy and Jeff Wick. Bassett and Boyts are deceased.
A total of 14 foursomes competed earlier in the day in the charity golf tournament. The shotgun tournament was won by the team of Doug Bassett, Steve Bassett, Brian Younkin and Rick Grise.
Carriage Inc. debuted a new “entry-level luxury” Solstice fifth-wheel line during the Millersburg, Ind.-based company’s annual dealer meeting, June 21-23 at the Gaylord Texan Hotel & Convention Center outside Dallas.
More than 40 dealers were on hand for the three-day affair, highlighted by the introduction of the Solstice, which Carriage Vice President of Sales Ed Kinney characterized as a new entry point for the company in the high-end fifth-wheel arena.
“We’ve segmented the overall high-end fifth-wheel market into four price points,” he told RVBUSINESS.com. “So now we have the ‘entry-level’ high-end fifth-wheel up to the ultra-high-end, which is the Royals International.”
Exclusively a manufacturer of luxury fifth-wheel trailers, Carriage’s lines also include the Cameo and Carri-Lite.
Kinney, a former Monaco executive who entered the picture at Carriage just prior to the dealer meeting upon the departure of Carriage President Don Emahiser, says the Solstice — and the further refinements made to the rest of the company’s fifth-wheel lines — was well-received by the company’s dealer body.
“I’ve been to a lot of dealer shows through the years, and this was probably one of the most comfortable ones I’ve ever worked, introducing product,” he said. “The lines were received quite well. The Carriage product is probably not for every dealer across the country, but it’s a real neat niche market so the dealers that were there responded to everything really well.”
According to Director of Engineering Greg Kitson, the Solstice “was developed to fit the industry standard price point that falls below the Cameo.” The new fifth-wheel is expected to have a base MSRP in the mid-$50,000 range.
“We went after it, with all the features that the other industry products in the price point carry, but we were able to put the Carriage value in it, the quality,” Kitson said. “We also created a brand-new Carriage ‘hybrid’ frame for the unit — which we’re building in-house along with a lot of other components — so we’re able to control a lot of those key components that make the product better.
“All the other players in the industry all use some sort of I-beam type construction,” he added. “We were able to hit our target weight and price points using a tube-frame construction, which is superior in strength.”
Carriage builds its own frames for all of the company’s lines.
The Solstice will initially be available in one 34-foot and one 36-foot floorplan, both with triple slideouts.
“The floorplan in the 36 foot is a very open floorplan concept, very similar to what we would do with a full-wall-slideout, but without using our full-wall technology,” Kitson noted. “From the exterior fiberglass caps and graphics to the interior, we have some different looks with the Solstice. We’ve also done some pretty neat things with cabinetry, including new-style cabinet doors that are full overlay with hidden hinges, and focal-point black accents with the wood grain cabinets that really went over well.”
Weights were also a foundational consideration in developing the Solstice.
“One of the things we’re pretty excited about is the weight of these units ,” noted Kitson. “We’re about 10,800 and 11,300 pounds, respectively, which is pretty aggressive, and those are ‘equipped.’ We’re pleased to offer a quality-driven price-point product here that comes in at weight points that are very competitive with some of the lesser-quality construction methods that exist. We feel good about that.
“We’re not cheating the customer out of anything. That’s the beauty of this whole product. They’re still going to be able to get king beds and big refrigerators – stuff that they’ve been accustomed to and wanted — in a brand-new product line for us.”
Beyond the Solstice introduction, Carriage noted a number of refinements throughout the rest of its lines, ranging from a new engraved Corian kitchen backsplash and new faucets in the top-of-the-line Royals to all-new graphics and optional full-body paint schemes on the Cameo and Carri-Lite.
Kitson said Carriage added four new floorplans in the past six months to the company’s popular Cameo series, including a front-bath master suite model, which has a half-bath in the mid-section and a full bath up front, plus a center kitchen model with a split-level slideout.
In January, said Kitson, Carriage introduced a rear entertainment (“RE”) SLX Cameo model, which is another split-level slide using Carriage’s full-wall technology that sports a full-depth 80-inch sofa behind the kitchen island and a large popup TV in the rear entertainment center
Former Monaco executive Ed Kinney has joined the management team of Carriage Inc. as vice president of sales and national sales manager for the Millersburg, Ind., towable RV manufacturer.
A well-known professional in industry circles, Kinney actually started out at Carriage, a mid-size company located in northern Indiana’s Amish country.
So, the surprise announcement of Kinney’s arrival at Carriage after a two-year hiatus from the industry — he left Monaco Coach Corp. prior to its Chapter 11 transition to Monaco RV LLC — is somewhat of a reunion.
“After more than 25 years away from us, Ed Kinney has finally found his way home,” said Carriage owner Glenn Cushman in today’s (June 15) press release. “Ed Kinney, formerly vice president of sales for Monaco Coach Corp., has taken over the reins of our sales team at Carriage. Ed started at Carriage as a regional sales manager in the late ’70s and early ’80s. We are pleased to have him back. Ed will be responsible for Carriage’s three lines of high-end fifth-wheels — Cameo, Carri-Lite and Royals International — as well as a fourth line we are introducing at our national dealer show in Dallas next week.”
“I have always admired Carriage as a company, and the product is the best in the business,” added Kinney, who also spent time at Mallard and Prairie Schooner during his career. “I look forward to talking to all my industry friends and growing Carriage’s dealer network. The atmosphere at this company is amazing.”
Carriage’s 2010 New Product Show is slated for June 21-24 at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, Texas.
Carriage Inc. has secured a substantial financial credit extension from its bank this week, according to Don Emahiser, president and CEO of the Millersburg, Ind.-based RV manufacturer.
“This loan agreement enables us to move forward in a positive manner,” Emahiser stated in a news release.
The company is working on new products that will be introduced at its annual dealer meeting in Dallas on June 21. “We have more dealers than ever signed up, so this financial security will only help boost confidence as we introduce aggressive programs and products,” Emahiser added.
Carriage Inc. was founded in 1968 and introduced the luxury fifth-wheel to the RV market. Today its high-end fifth-wheels include the Cameo, Carri-Lite and Royals International brands.
The company has operated continuously for over 40 years at its 72-acre Millersburg facility.