In response to growing demand in the U.S. market for ultra-luxurious travel trailers, Marion, Ind.-based Earthbound RV announced today (Nov. 18) it will pilot a new production program through the winter and spring of 2012.
According to a news release, customers for the first time will be able to work directly with the RV manufacturer to design fully custom towable RVs. Earthbound President Charles Hoefer said this move is only possible due to the shift in RV buying patterns in recent years.
“We are excited for this new direction, and for the encouragement and positive feedback we have had from customers,” said Hoefer. “The RV climate is much different today. Where you once had a flood of $500,000 to $1 million-plus Class A consumers, we are finding there is a big shift toward appreciation for towable luxuries. For a fraction of the price, we can out-style, out-perform, and outclass the 40-foot diesels with a 30-foot ultralight composite coach you can tow with almost any luxury V8 SUV.”
Earthbound said that for the luxury travel consumer, this new offering provides multiple advantages that were not previously available in modern camping, including:
• Mobility: Earthbound’s use of exclusively composite and alternative [wood-free] materials allows for superior performance in weight, aerodynamics, and overall towability. A unit with options will weigh 5,000-5,800 pounds, which makes for a smooth tow with Mercedes, Volkswagen, Porsche, Jeep, Cadillac, Ford, and Lincoln SUVs. Once at the campground, owners have the option of using their tow vehicle as a daily driver capable of up to 28 highway mpg in some diesel models.
• Design:Earthbound said that each unit can be tailored to meet customer tastes and preferences. Interior and exterior premium automotive paint in any color is standard, and countertops, fabrics and furniture are customizable.
Paint matching a tow vehicle is no problem. The cabinetry is a propriety composite system using thermoplastics and aluminum with a revolutionary surface that can be digitally customized to reflect any print imaginable. Earthbound’s Vice President of Marketing David B. Hoefer Jr. said the unit’s design follows simple rules that discerning customers appreciate.
• Technology: Earthbound offers plenty of technology as well. “The entry steps extend and retract, which is a first for towables,” David Hoefer said. “The awning is automated. LED TV’s, HDMI capability, advanced satellite and military-grade solar systems are just several of the features available.”
• “True” green technology: “Our formaldehyde levels for a just-built unit that has not left the factory are 0.02 parts per million,” said David Hoefer. “This is equivalent to outdoor air quality in many areas around the U.S., and is off the charts for clean air in an RV. We publish our independent test results on our website for all to see.” The factory also produces very little waste that can’t be reused.
Dave Hoefer Sr., Earthbound’s founder and an industry icon, first had his vision for composite RVs in the late 1990′s, and he worked for years amidst stout industry opposition. “The dream was to build an RV for the 21st century,” he said. His prior achievements include founding Dutchmen RV and co-founding Four Winds RV, which he sold to Thor Industries Inc. He also co-founded Dutch Housing, Hart Housing and managed and consulted for a number of other manufacturers.
“We are still very small, so it is hard to gain the approval of the industry,” he said. “We have global demand on every continent and have devoted a number of resources towards future international builds. However, for the immediate future, U.S. and Canadian customers will have our full devotion of resources to work directly with them to create real works of art. These units will be special for years to come.”
Earthbound said it is now taking orders for custom 2012 models for immediate production. Customers may reach the factory directly at 765-677-9090 or email@example.com. Units range in price between $127,900 and $147,900 plus options. Earthbound will reserve up to 20 units for custom production. The project will be evaluated later in the Spring, to determine if it will be continued in the future. More information can be found at www.earthboundrv.com.
Officials at several dealerships say they are concerned about the future of Marion, Ind.-based Earthbound Recreational Vehicles LLC, according to a report by the Indiana Economic Digest.
“We were always hoping to be a part of their success, but right now I feel that we are in limbo,” said Bill Mirrielees, general manager of Howard RV Center in Wilmington, N.C.
Earthbound President C. David Hoefer said the company was focused on lining up everything for its new business model and “confidently” projected that production would begin again by mid-November. He said the company will start work on both new and old models at that point.
“We’ll be building for probably four months straight before we take another order,” he said. “It’ll be very low key as we move it forward. We look at this as the nature of being start up. We’re excited and just looking forward to the new line.”
The start-up company relocated in Marion in 2010 with the city backing a $2 million bond with county economic development income tax (CEDIT) money to support its startup. The company never met expectations to hire around 180 employees to produce 400 or more coaches a year at its 1001 E. 38 St. factory.
Production has been shut down at its factory as the company retools its strategy in anticipation for an announced new “boutique” product line with a higher price point than older models. Only 100 units are slated to be sold in North America at a starting price of $84,900.
Indiana Economic Digest reported that Hoefer said the company has been focused on lining up international distribution in China and Europe for another 100 units of the new line for the past few weeks. He said the company will probably use just 12 dealers in the U.S. in the future.
“We’re going to be scaling the network back,” he said. “It will essentially be a lot more limited high distribution network.”
Hoefer said the company has kept a number of its “closer” dealers as part of the process. However, some current and former dealers said they have not been kept informed of changes in business strategy. In addition, they said old orders and warranty claims have been left unfulfilled.
Mirrielees said his dealership still has product orders from April and May that have yet to be built, as well as outstanding warranty claims. He said one retail order has been cancelled and its deposit refunded and there has been no commitment on when the others can be built.
“Not that we’ve canceled them, they can’t tell if they would be built even this year,” he said. “I would hope that they get back up and running soon. I hope they are able to catch up on the unpaid warranty claims.”
He said he hoped the company would “turn this thing around” because the company has created an “outstanding” niche in the marketplace.
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Take a visit to any RV dealership and you’ll immediately notice the trends in motorhomes and trailers these days. As reported in Canada’s Saskatoon Star Phoenix, words like luxurious, amenities and conveniences are becoming a constant part of the RV salesperson’s vocabulary.
“People are spending more time in their RVs,” says Patti Gryzbowski from Sunridge RV in Radisson, “so they’re looking for more functional features.”
At the same time and for the same reasons, she says people are also looking for RVs that are more feature-rich. “A few years ago it was our base models that were the better sellers but now we’re finding people want the loaded models. Again, because they spend more time in their RVs, people are wanting more and more comforts and conveniences of home.”
Gryzbowski points to one particular model – the Prowler Shadow 29 PS RKS by Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC, which recently acquired the Fleetwood towable brands, including Prowler.
“We’re really excited about this model,” she says. “It has a really good fl oor plan and two slides but one slide is half in the bathroom and half in the bedroom, so it gives more storage space in an area where RVers really want.”
In addition to storage space, Heartland also engineers RVs to maximize headroom wherever possible. They feature a full seven-foot ceiling height, making for taller showers, wardrobes and more overhead storage possibilities.
Gryzbowski says there are other hot selling features that indicate people want to take it with them.
These include portable satellite dishes and camp kitchens – where a cook stove, fridge and sink are all handily located on outside of vehicle.
At Kehoe RV, Darryl Kehoe says Sunset Trail’s Reserve Package is the model of the moment.
“It’s a lightweight travel trailer with a large slide, a champagne exterior and a dark brown exterior. It looks real sharp.”
He says it’s notable for some features that you might not expect in an ordinary RV. “For instance, it has a fireplace that spins so you can choose to have it facing towards either the living room or the bedroom. There’s also a flat screen television that does the same thing.”
Other features include solid-surface countertops, a fully mounted stainless steel sink, an antique nickel faucet, a power package that includes awning, stabilizer and tongue jacks, and leather throughout the interior and furniture.
The bedroom features a queen bed and is styled with Tuscan decor overhead wood cabinets and spacious wardrobes for ample storage.
“Simply put, they just look great,” Kehoe adds, agreeing with the trend. “The features such as fireplaces and large screen TVs used to be features you’d only find on only high-end trailers but they’re more commonplace on all ranges of trailers today. People want to have all of the amenities of home so, as houses get nicer, so do trailers. They’re like luxurious homes on wheels.”
Similarly, Kehoe says the typical customer demographic is changing. “It used to be the market was mainly seniors but now we’re seeing people from all age ranges, including people in their mid-20s.
Everyone wants to get out and do something on the weekends. RVing seems to be the way to do it these days.”
Tom Oakes at TRX RV says the new Earthbound Recreational Vehicles LLC line of trailers is paving the way in the industry.
“Earthbound is a new company that started two years ago with the goal of becoming the logical alternative for Airstream buyers,” he said. “It features high end interiors and exteriors.”
He says those interiors see stunning features like birch wood, enhanced light fixtures, and high gloss walls. Extra aluminum cladding on the exterior gives the RV a unique look.
The overall effect is stunning, he reports. “When people walk into the Earthbound trailers, we hear comments like how much they look more like a yacht than a trailer.”
One of the most outstanding features, Oakes says, is a panoramic front window. “It’s a curved front window so it’s really aerodynamic but they’ve also put in a huge glass window in some models. You can look out but you can also look up and see the sky or stars in the same uninterrupted piece of glass.”
He says another unique product is the Element, a trailer from Evergreen. The completely woodfree trailer is ultra resistant to the rot, mold or mildew that are seriously damaging to most RVs.
At the same time, it’s durable and lightweight, able to be towed by most mini-vans or mid-sized SUV’s.
“With the Element, they’ve created a trailer that doesn’t have the typical chassis frame rail confi guration but instead has an exoskeleton that surrounds the exterior and makes for a very rigid body,” Oakes explains. “That means you buy a 26-foot trailer with a single axle. It’s a very unique product in the market.”
There were plenty of innovative new RVs on display at RVIA’s 48th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., and that’s no surprise because tough economic times tend to bring out the best in many companies as they turn up the R&D focus to better compete for market share in a tight market.
Among the most eye-catching were Evergreen Recreational Vehicles LLC’s starkly different Element travel trailer, Fleetwood RV Inc.’s innovative rear-slide Tioga and Jamboree Class C, Monaco RV LLC’s futuristic Holiday Rambler Trip Class A, Earthbound RV’s chic new travel trailer, Airstream Inc.’s classy Eddie Bauer Edition Airstream, Open Range RV Inc.’s patio-equipped fifth-wheel, Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc.’s new high-end Voltage toyhauler and Winnebago Industries Inc.’s redesigned Winnebago Tour/Itasca Ellipse Class A.
But the RVBusiness staff’s unanimous choice for “Best of Show” was Thor Motor Coach’s A.C.E. Class A motorhome.
“In our view, the A.C.E. – an acronym for “Class A & C Evolution” – is a prime example of a post-recessionary motorhome that addresses the changing tastes – and wallets – of American consumers yet retains in the process a degree of style, dignity and even a touch of class,” stated RVBusiness Publisher Sherman Goldenberg.
Bottom line, the A.C.E., designed on a 16,000-pound GVWR, gas-fueled Ford chassis to combine the best attributes of Class A and C motorhomes, is a sharp-looking, kid-friendly, entry-level coach with full body paint, electric jacks, rear-view camera, kitchen slides, optimal storage, pet-friendly accoutrements and an electric drop-down cockpit bed that retails for under $80,000.
“You’ll see show specials for $69,995,” said Thor Motor Coach President and CEO Bill Fenech, “which will be a great deal for the customer, and the dealer should be very happy with his margin on that. We want our dealers to make money, but we want our customers to be able to get into the coach. They are going to get into it for not much more than a Class C price point.”
“The ACE is a real neat project,” added Fenech. “It started out as an entry-level motorhome. We wanted to get into that price segment even more than we were. We wanted to be aggressive. So, instead of just coming out with a price piece that is just another me-too motorhome, we looked at the market a little differently. We looked at the Class A and Class C markets, and there are some advantages to both products for the buyer. We looked at the two, hence the name A.C.E. – A & C Evolution.”
Floorplan, eye appeal and price are the key ingredients that appeal to the retail buyers, said Fenech, and the A.C.E. was designed with those three priorities in mind.
Consistent with a market that in some cases has consumers looking for smaller vehicles, the A.C.E. is a relatively short 29 feet, 7 inches, in length – shorter than some Class C motorhomes – yet it offers 84-inch headroom.
The cockpit tends to appeal to more of a Class C buyer, with a moderate exterior eyebrow in a front cap that houses an overhead front bunk and smaller windshield with an integrated visor that, according to Fenech, limits distracting direct sunlight and heat. “Women are saying that this doesn’t feel as overwhelming as a big bus,” says Fenech.
In addition, drivers can check out the coach’s passenger side with a uniquely placed floor line window while a large conversation mirror above the driver’s seat affords a good view of the living space.
Storage capacities, on the other hand, lean more toward the traditional Class A, with exterior “mega-storage” including a relatively huge rear curb-side compartment.
Major passenger-side basement storage compartments are located under the patio awning, while noisy heat-generating appliances are located on the driver’s side of the coach away from the activities. Campsite hookups are situated on the driver’s side rear of the coach.
Incorporated in the entry step is a storage drawer and toolbox for keeping tools, gloves and other RV gear without having to track through the coach, and there’s a broom and coat closet at the entry door in addition to a “Motorhome Mud Room” at the main entrance door for dirty shoes and gear.
In the final analysis, however, the fact that the A.C.E. is inordinately pet-friendly – with an “integrated tiedown” for dogs outside plus an inside “Kibble Station” for feeding pets – was the icing on the cake in opting to name Thor’s A.C.E. “Best of Show.”
“We tried to do a price leader coach before,” added Fenech, “but we could never get it right. Everything we put in this coach, we did for a reason. Every single dollar we spent or dollar we took out, we did it for a reason.”
RoamingTimes.com recently commented on its annual “Green RV of the Year Award” winners and what has happened to them.
Earthbound RV was named the winner in 2010 and has now gone from small to having “more than 40 dealers” and David B. Hoefer, Earthbound’s director, says that the RoamingTimes.com award “played a major part in the success.” They added four new dealers to their roster last week and have added distribution channels for Germany and Australia as well.
Livin’ Lite Recreational Vehicles LLC was given the first award in 2008 (RoamingTimes.com found no suitable candidate in 2009). Since then, Livin Lite has gone from being very small to being recently named one of INC. magazine’s 500 fastest growing U.S. companies. INC. identified Livin Lite’s three-year growth figure as 611% and cited “Roaming Times’ Green RV of the Year” award.
Livin Lite went on to manufacture other RV products that RoamingTimes.com helped promote. For example, Scott Tuttle, president, cited the company’s CampLite lightweight trailer. Said Tuttle, ”I received a great e-mail today — typical of what I’ve been getting from a lot of potential customers. It said, ‘We just found you on RoamingTimes.com, and discovered that we can pull your trailer with our new Jeep — the only trailer that we found that we can pull with our new Jeep!’” Since then, Livin Lite has produced a new trailer for Jeep.
Meanwhile, RoamingTimes.com is beginning the selection process for 2011 RoamingTimes.com Green RV of the Year honoree and is looking for suggestions from RVers, wannabe RVers, RV manufacturers and dealers as well as from the media. Send nominees to greenRV@RoamingTimes.com.
There was a time in the 1970s until the mid-‘80s when the RV industry would gather annually each August in the sweltering heat of northern Indiana for what was then known as the South Bend Show. Dealers would come from near and far to be wined and dined by manufacturers and to see some new model year lineups.
New models would also be shown at subsequent private dealer meetings and then at the annual all-industry Louisville Show.
Now, the North American RV industry is headed back to the future to an extent this week as a host of companies — spurred by a budget-minded atmosphere in the wake of The Great Recession and by the success of Forest River Inc.‘s own big Elkhart dealer meetings over the past two years – beckon dealers to the flatlands of
Elkhart County for a series of “dealer open houses.”
Although it’s a bit later than the South Bend Show, which was held outside the Notre Dame Stadium, these new open houses should benefit the region’s hotels, restaurants, lounges and shuttle bus drivers in much the same way.
Forest River, a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary that again sets up shop this week next to its corporate headquarters on the west side of Elkhart, is expecting 2,800 people and reportedly had registered more than 700 dealerships by the beginning of this week. Along with a series of dealer displays that will include everything from conventional RV’s to commercial trailers, boats and mobile latrines, dealers can expect lavish buffets and a bustling Wednesday night cocktail party that should rival the best of those good ‘ole days at South Bend.
“I assume it’s going to be as good as last year,” Forest River President and CEO Pete Liegl told RVBUSINESS.com.
Much the same can be expected across town on the east side of Elkhart at the RV/MH Hall of Fame as three Thor Industries Inc. divisions set up shop for the first time this year on the grounds around the RV/MH Heritage Foundation Inc.’s museum, library and hall near the Indiana Toll Road. This is the first year that Thor, another market leader, has hosted dealers for a September open house and, in the process, did not manage to station all of its divisions in one place like Forest River did.
So, Thor Motor Coach, Keystone RV Co. Inc. and Breckenridge will be manning displays – Keystone itself is setting up about 200 units on the hall’s periphery – on Wednesday and Thursday. Also on tap at the hall: Seminars sponsored by Freightliner Custom Chassis Inc., GE Capital, Ally Financial and Statistical Surveys Inc. plus a Wednesday night cocktail party – scheduled, perhaps coincidentally, at the exact same time as chief competitor Forest River’s. Tunes are being provided by the popular John Kirkwood band.
Keystone President Bob Martin, who tells RVBUSINESS.com that he’s expecting somewhere between 700 and a thousand dealer personnel to stop by, says Keystone has always brought dealers in during the fall for a look at new product. And while they’re stepping it up this year, his Goshen, Ind.-based firm is still planning an aggressive display with additional new product at RVIA’s 48th Annual National RV Trade Show, Nov. 30-Dec. 2 in Louisville.
‘It’s a good opportunity to get in front of your dealers in the fall,” says Martin, whose company will also host vendor booths and meetings with customer service representatives and retail and wholesale financing sources.
Just down the street a few minutes to the west at a temporary rented facility at the corner of Marina Drive and County Road 6, Thor’s Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc. division will launch an open house of its own tonight (Sept. 27) with cocktails provided by the Thor division and entertainment supplied by a group called Blammo. Displays, complete with continental breakfast, are open all day Tuesday and Thursday, closing out Thursday at noon.
Also kicking off the festivities tonight down in Nappanee – with a tailgate party, casino night and poker tournament — is Gulf Stream Coach Inc., which will be featuring a favorite of the company’s founder, the late Jim Shea Sr.: Daily lunch consisting of Stanley’s famous steak, shrimp and eggroll. Gulf Stream’s event runs through Thursday
“We believe recent developments in the RV industry will create great opportunities for the independent manufacturers,” says Gulf Stream Co-President Dan Shea. “We developed many new dealer relationships this year and we look forward to showing our new innovative, value-packed models.“
Also opening their doors to dealers this week:
Carriage Inc.: Tuesday through Thursday at the towable manufacturer’s Millersburg, Ind., plant.
Dynamax Corp.: Monday through Thursday at the company’s north side Elkhart plant at the corner of Northland Dr. and County Road 6.
Earthbound RV: Monday through Friday at the Spring Meadow Farm Golf Club east of Elkhart in Middlebury, as well as at the firm’s new main plant 70 miles to the south in Marion, Ind.
Evergreen Recreational Vehicles: Monday through Thursday at the company’s plant in Middlebury.
Livin’ Lite Recreational Vehicles: Monday through Thursday at the firm’s Wakarusa facility a few miles south of Elkhart off of Indiana 19.
Monaco RV LLC: Tuesday through Thursday at the Navistar division’s Wakarusa plant.
Open Range RV: Tuesday through Thursday at the company’s facilities east of Elkhart in Shipshewana.
Sunnybrook RV: Tuesday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the company’s plant in Middlebury.
Meanwhile, adding to the week’s industry activities, Jayco Inc. will have about 250 retail personnel on hand for intensive sales training at its complex in Middlebury, Ind. Jayco’s second Master RV Product Training Session runs Monday through Thursday, with a graduation ceremony Wednesday at the Marriott in South Bend.
Roaming Times has named Earthbound RV as winner of its Third Annual Green RV Award.
The purpose of the Roaming Times’ Green RV of the Year selection is to recognize and highlight innovation in the RVing industry that supports environmental factors for the world in general, and the RVing, travel and leisure industries in particular, according to a news release.
The RV company, which recently moved from Middlebury, Ind., to Marion, Ind., was cited by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels at a ceremony marking the relocation. He said in part, “The RV industry is reinventing itself and starting to bounce back.”
David B. Hoefer, Earthbound’s vice president of sales and marketing, said, ”We’re at the cutting edge. Instead of traditional RV-building methods, we’ve turned to experts in other fields, such as automotive and plastics…”
The V-2 Earthbound being produced has already eliminated all wood and wood byproducts. “Earthbound has leaped ahead with the use of composites, thermoplastics and lightweight hybrid structural materials. We’ve been partnering with major international composite suppliers for over eight years.”
Earthbound trailers are eco-friendly and lightweight. “We have the potential to add 11 million new customers to the towable RV buying market. Our RVs are towable with vehicles that are already parked in many of today’s family driveways.”
“We’re in the 21st century. The consumer will not accept the status quo, why should we?” said C. David Hoefer, who has had a hand in founding a number of companies over the years, including Dutchmen, Hart Housing, Four Winds and Pilgrim RV.
David B. Hoefer said these units being produced represent the second generation of Earthbound’s eco-friendly vehicles, while the first was produced by Hoefer Sr.’s previous company, Pilgrim.
“This is eons ahead of Pilgrim,” he said. “We’ve taken it five steps further as far as greenness.”
The RV industry faced difficult times in the last two years as both manufacturers and dealers closed their doors.
But the 30th Annual Edmonton RV Show and Sale added a solid dose of optimism to the industry’s outlook. When the doors to the show opened on Feb. 11, the crowd surged in to look at the latest in RVs and decide what to buy, according to the Edmonton Journal.
Within a few minutes of the opening, the first deals had been written. Many observers agreed it was the busiest opening to the show that they had seen in years.
Don Humphrey, manager of Roadmaster RV in Leduc, went further, saying it was the busiest opening night he had seen in his 30 years of attending shows.
“Sales are at least double last year,” Humphrey said in an interview, pointing out that there is “pent-up demand.”
“This year, people are eager to buy.”
This year’s RV show was the first held in the recently expanded Edmonton Expo Center and filled all the main floor halls, including the brightly lit new halls that opened late last year. In contrast, the recent Edmonton Motorshow did not use Halls A and B on the main level.
The show presented a variety of new RVs and features to grab the attention of consumers. A feature that attracted the attention of many visitors was the outdoor kitchens on a variety of RVs.
After years of seeing many RVs add more and more comforts of home, some of the trailers at the 2010 show took a back-to-basics approach to bring the outdoor experience back to camping. These more Spartan models are available both in tent and hard-wall travel trailers.
The Quicksilver tent trailers sold by Carefree Coach and RV exemplified the minimalist approach. These trailers are available in lengths ranging from just under nine feet to just over 21 feet. The Quicksilver line also includes tent-style truck campers that fold down for travel.
Quicksilver RVs, built by Livin’ Lite, rely on aluminum construction for strength, light weight and long-term durability.
“When I looked at today’s generation of pop-ups, I saw heavy, expensive units, but nothing that could be towed by a car or station wagon,” said Scott Tuttle, Livin’ Lite founder. “That’s when we decided to build our own tent camper that would be both affordable and able to be towed by most cars and minivans.
“Do our units have all the frills of the expensive units? No,” Tuttle said. “But that’s not what camping is all about. Camping for us is about having a great time in the outdoors.”
Not only can the Quicksilver units be towed by cars and minivans, the company also offers units designed to be pulled by motorcycles.
When Tuttle says Quicksilver units don’t have all the frills, he’s talking about trailers and truck campers that don’t have appliances or a bathroom. Storage cabinets and a sink are available in some units. Carefree also displayed one unit with a hole in the floor for ice-fishing.
Carefree president Elmer Lastiwka said Quicksilver trailers are priced at $4,000 to just over $9,000. “It’s affordable for any family with a small car.”
Because of the light weight of the Quicksilver campers, in some situations they could be towed by a quad, such as heading up a cut line into the wilderness or onto a lake for ice fishing. Using a quad would alleviate the fear of a truck or sport utility vehicle going through the ice.
The Kamparoo Camper, a lightweight, folding tent trailer manufactured in Australia and distributed by Kamparoo Campers in Wetaskiwin, is a similar concept.
Some travel trailers at the show also showed a more basic, affordable approach, including the Wolf Pup in the Cars RV and Marine display and the Takena Curv at the Roadmaster RV exhibit. Both of these trailers have a sloping, curved front to reduce wind resistance and make them easier to tow.
A number of manufacturers offer outdoor kitchens on their trailers this year. Some trailers with two entrance doors now come equipped with a bathroom just inside the rear door to shorten the mud trail when children go in to use the toilet.
Most outdoor kitchens are built into the rear corner of the trailer with a lift-up door that doubles as a canopy.
Outback Country RV sells the North Trail, made by Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC, which offers a fully equipped outdoor kitchen that includes a sink, microwave, refrigerator, television and stove. The refrigerator is electric only — the main refrigerator inside the RV is a gas-electric model.
Tango trailers, sold by Western RV of Leduc, have a different outdoor kitchen design, one that slides out of the rear corner of the unit.
Tango’s Dane Found talked about the reasoning behind building an RV with an outdoor kitchen:
“The idea is that most people want to spend as much time as possible outside,” Found said, explaining that this is the first year that Tango has offered the outdoor kitchen.
In addition to offering the option of preparing food outdoors, the slide-out kitchen also fulfils other roles.
Found said it can serve as a privacy barrier in a campground and a windbreak at the campsite.
The outdoor kitchen has been well received by consumers, he said.
During the show, it wasn’t unusual to hear showgoers comparing the various kitchens as they made their way from exhibit to exhibit.
Although RV manufacturers have failed in recent years, some new companies have been started to fill at least part of the void. Arrkann Trailer and RV Center sells the Tracer Ultra Lite trailer line, manufactured by Prime Time Manufacturing, which started producing trailers in August. Prime Time strives to build trailers with designs that appeal to buyers while ensuring that they’re priced right.
Earthbound RV is another new line Arrkann has added to give customers a lightweight RV that’s easy to tow. Arrkann’s Ken Friedenberg said Earthbound interiors are reminiscent of a luxury car. The sleek exterior is slate grey, in contrast to the usual white RV exterior.
Friedenberg said his dealership was selected by RV usiness magazine as one of the top 50 RV dealers in North America and was the lone Canadian to make the top 10 in that group of 50.
Many RV dealers at the show displayed, in addition to tent trailers and various styles of travel trailers, motorhomes ranging from large bus-style Class As to Class B van conversions and the intermediate-size Class Cs.
In Class A, improved fuel economy such as that offered by the Avanti from Damon is a welcome change for buyers. While many Class As travel less than 10 miles per gallon, the Avanti raises that to better than 14 miles per U.S. gallon or more than 16 miles per Imperial gallon.
Chris Cook of Woody’s RV said the Avanti uses a number of European design features such as a sloped front and reduced height to improve fuel economy. Woody’s recently sold one of these units, which have prices starting around $130,000 US.
Roadtrek Motorhomes Inc., a Kitchener, Ont.-based manufacturer of Class B motorhomes, has added a rear slide to its van conversion based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis. This van, in the Grove RV display, drew a steady crowd of interested onlookers.