A group of eight RV industry executives met Thursday (April 12) evening with two freshmen Republican U.S. Congressmen at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Mishawaka, Ind., in what amounted to a “bridge-building” session for both sides.
The meeting was called by U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, a farmer from Howe in LaGrange County just east of Elkhart whose 3rd District includes much of Elkhart County, and Congressman Larry Buchson, a heart surgeon from Newburgh in southern Indiana’s 8th District and a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) staff had a hand in pulling together the get-to-know-you session, according to Gregg Fore, current chairman of RVIA and president of Elkhart, Ind.-based Dicor Corp. “The primary goal, as I had talked to Marlin Stutzman about this some months ago, was about trying to find an opportunity to get some RV folks together to meet with him because he had not had the opportunity to do that since he had been elected to office,” said Fore.
Stutzman, who currently serves on the House Committees on Agriculture, Budget, and Veterans’ Affairs, says Buchson’s seat on the Transportation makes his role rather pivotal for Elkhart County’s RV contingent.
“Yeah, I had been working with Congressman Buchson, and the RV industry had an issue with trailer-axle weights, and he was willing to take the lead on that and actually get the issue into the transportation bill to promote the RV industry,” said Stutzman, whose own father once worked for Coachmen Industries Inc. “So last night, I thought it would be helpful both to folks in the RV industry and to Congressmen Buchson to have the opportunity to sit down and meet each other and build those bridges and work together with myself and Larry and folks in the RV industry. We had a great visit and we’re looking forward to working together in the future as well.”
Among the topics discussed: A stymied transportation bill, formaldehyde issues, energy policy, the economy, the budget — or a lack thereof — and potential standards issues affecting recreational park trailers.
Doug Gaeddert, a general manager for Elkhart-based Forest River Inc. and 1st vice-chairman of RVIA, said it was time well spent. “It was productive and they’re (the two freshmen Congressmen) far more educated than they were before we got there. All in all, it looks like both of them ran for public office for the right reasons.”
“They were very interested in learning more about the industry, getting an update on industry trends as well as any challenges and difficulties we were facing that might impede our progress,” added RVIA Public Relations Committee Chairman B.J. Thompson, president of BJ Thompson Associates, Mishawaka.
Suffice to say that this probably isn’t the last the industry has heard from Stutzman, who’s unopposed in the primaries but faces re-election this fall against any one of six Democrats, as a potential political ally.
“No, absolutely not,” said Stutzman. “I have an agriculture background and also a trucking industry background, and we used to haul cargo trailers and other products for the RV industry when we were in the trucking business. So, obviously it’s a huge part of our economy in northern Indiana. And, with friends and neighbors that work in the industry, I know how important the RV industry is to our economy and also to the lives of people in our community. So this is something that I feel very passionately about, and the hard work and the values of the RV industry are the kinds of things we want to promote and support as much as we can.”
Shasta RV, a division of Forest River Inc., today (March 7) announced that Mark Lucas has been appointed the new president and general manager, according to a press release.
“Mark brings a wealth of product knowledge, customer relations, as well as sales and operational experience to Shasta,” said Michael Terlep, who oversees Forest River’s Coachmen RV division. “Mark is capable of assessing organizational needs and devising, implementing and executing strategies to facilitate sustainable growth. One of his strengths is the ability to translate ideas into rapid action and introduce products and solutions built around the needs of the customer.”
Lucas served as president and general manger of Thor Industries Inc. subsidiary CrossRoads RV from 2002 through 2010. Prior to joining CrossRoads RV, Lucas started his career in the RV industry as a regional sales manager for Shasta Travel Trailers in February of 2001.
Lucas will work out of the Shasta complex in Middlebury, Ind.
“We look forward to Mark’s leadership and influence as we lead Shasta RV toward its mission of outstanding growth and profitability,” Terlep said.
Forest River Inc. has contracted with California-based McMahon’s RV to sell the builder’s new Trilogy luxury fifth-wheel.
According to a press release, the 42-foot Trilogy offers a roomy interior with three sildeouts and 6-foot, 7-inch ceilings. Other amenities include a 40-inch HD TV in the living room, a 32-inch HD TV in the bedroom, Frigidaire stainless steel refrigerator, solid-surface countertops and an on-board floor vacuum.
“The Trilogy is a great RV addition to our already wide selection of fifth-wheels,” said Brent McMahon, president of McMahon’s RV. “We know our customers, and this fifth-wheel is something they will want for sure.”
McMahon’s RV is a division of MegaRV Corp. and has been serving Southern California since 2000. The dealership recently expanded into Arizona. For more information visit www.mcmahonrv.com.
Tom Johnson Camping Center today announced it will be carrying Forest River’s Inc.’s line of handicap-accessible V-Cross travel trailers.
“We are very excited to add the V-Cross handicap model to our extensive line of recreational vehicles,” said Gary Stroud, vice president of Tom Johnson Camping Center, in a press release. “It is rewarding for us to be able to open RV travel to individuals who the past have missed out on the RV lifestyle.”
The V-Cross handicap-access model is built with wider entry doors and hallways, handicap-accessible bathroom features, large bedroom areas with grab handles, wiring for lift system, available remote controls for slideouts, power jacks and awnings and modifications to the kitchen areas. The V-Cross also has a unique front end that assists in aerodynamics and eases towing.
“While we have been offering access model motorhomes from Winnebago for years, this addition of affordable towable RVs greatly expands our offerings for our customers,” stated Stroud. “As we have increased our support of Shriner’s Hospitals for Children we have continued to grow our customer base of parties interested in these access model RVs.”
Founded in 1967, Tom Johnson Camping Center has locations in Concord and Marion, N.C.
North America’s two largest RV manufacturers, Thor Industries Inc. and Forest River Inc., jointly announced today (Feb. 10) that Elkhart County’s 5th Annual RV Open House Week will be held Sept. 18-20 throughout the northern Indiana RV-building center.
Both companies are planning to locate their product displays in the same locations as last year’s Open House, which drew more than 3,000 U.S. and Canadian dealer personnel to the streets, factories and open roadside lots of area Hoosier communities like Elkhart, Middlebury, Wakarusa and Shipshewana.
Thor’s six RV-building divisions are to be located on the grounds of the RV/MH Hall of Fame, while Forest River’s varied business units will be positioned in and around the grounds of Forest River’s Dynamax facility on C.R. 6 – about a mile apart from each other. Again this year, shuttle buses will ferry dealers back and forth between the two larger displays.
Having said that, the management teams of both companies apparently are looking for another good year of Open House festivities, a rare combination of serious business and social time that tends to cultivate sales as well as build relationships between dealers and manufacturers for the year ahead.
“For this year, we’re looking for more of the same – if not bigger,” says Bob Martin, the former Keystone RV president recently named president of Thor’s RV Group, headquartered in Jackson Center, Ohio. “Based on dealer reaction at Louisville, dealers that weren’t able to make the Open House last year had commented that this year they definitely would make it to the Open House. For us, it’s a great opportunity. We can simply show more product (versus a typical convention) and it’s a little bit more laid back atmosphere.”
Jeff Babcock, general manager for Elkhart-based Forest River, also sees some changes in the works with regard to a “tighter” layout for this year’s exhibitors that should make it easier for some of Forest River’s and Thor’s competitors to “set up camp” in more amenable locations. This would answer one of the chief drawbacks to the Open House for some of the exhibiting companies, who want better and more accessible locations.
“I think that this year is going to be even better than last year,” adds Babcock. “This thing’s taken on a life of its own. I think we’re going to have more participation from other manufacturers outside Indiana and Michigan. They’re going to come in. I know that I’ve talked to a land developer who plans on leasing out over a hundred acres and he thinks he can fill up that acreage.
“I mean, I think this thing’s going to be bigger than it ever has been before, but that just follows suit from the last four years,” he noted. “Every year this goes on, it just gets bigger and bigger, and we’re expecting this year’s Open House to be our best year yet.”
Marshall, Mich.-based supplier Progressive Dynamics Inc. announced that Palomino RV, a division of Forest River Inc., is equipping its Columbus fifth-wheels with the 4560 all-in-one panel converter.
According to a press release, Forest River’s Wolf Pack division will be using Progressive Dynamic’s 4590 series converter in its upcoming Vengeance line of toy haulers.
The 4560 and 4590 all-in-one panel converters offer an AC/DC distribution panel and Inteli-Power Converter with the patented “Charge Wizard Battery Conditioning” technology in one space-saving system. Other features of include easily accessible reverse battery protection and automatic thermal protection.
Progressive Dynamics, established in 1964, produces electronic power converters, intelligent battery charging systems, distribution panels, automatic transfer switches, panel converters and replacement converter sections. The company also offers a series of intelligent battery charging systems for the marine industry.
For more information, visit www.progressivedyn.com.
Beyond all the sales pitches and brochures, it was obvious to most attendees at the 49th Annual National RV Trade Show, Nov. 29-Dec. 1 in Louisville, Ky., which new 2012 recreational vehicle had created the most “buzz” at the show: The Aviator by Forest River Inc., a modern-looking 34-foot travel trailer that should score a lot of style and feature points among today’s younger buyers.
Based on those style points, as well as some clever new high-tech twists integrated into this innovative new towable, RVBusiness’s staff is naming Forest River’s Aviator as “Best of Show” for model year 2012.
As such, the Aviator, along with an array of other products — from Fleetwood’s all-new 33-foot Excursion Class A to Thor Motor Coach’s elegant new 34-foot Palazzo Class A and Jayco’s trendy Seismic fifth-wheel toyhauler — will be featured nationally as one of “RVB’s Top 25 Debuts.”
“We wanted to bring to market a luxury travel trailer that would stand the test of time,” says Kevin McCart, general manager of Forest River’s Surveyor and R-pod product lines as well as the new Aviator division. “There were criteria that we used in development. Not only is it built with composite materials and Celtec cabinetry, we wanted something that would be wood-free. We wanted it to be customer-friendly, and we wanted it to have a distinguishable look that would be unprecedented in the industry.”
Developed by a small team over the past year and a half in a secluded plant at the company’s Goshen, Ind., facilities, the Aviator, designed to resemble an aircraft fuselage, features crowned contoured sidewalls, a one-piece radius fiberglass roof, curved interior ceilings, bonded tinted safety glass windows and a truly wind-cutting, aerodynamic front cap fitted with an integrated “windshield.”
LED-lit interiors include two 32-inch Sony LED HDTV’s – a third is stationed in the outside entertainment center – and are equipped with stainless steel appliances, including 8-cubic-foot Dometic reefers, 1.7-cubic-foot Frigidaire convection microwave ovens and 3-burner Atwood sealed-burner cooktops.
Now here’s where the plot thickens because each unit, retailing in the upper $70,000’s, comes with a Sony tablet computer replacing the remote control devices ordinarily used to operate a unit’s electronics. Aside from controlling the fireplace and TV’s, the tablet provides the RV owner with an interactive guide to how-to videos, tutorials, owners manuals, care and maintenance guides – anything that the customer’s going to need to know about that unit.
“We even programmed in the make and model and serial number of every appliance that’s in that unit – down to the 110 and 12-volt side of the converter – everything is labeled with amp and fuse sizes,” says McCart.
And that same tablet, as part of the Aviator’s “Mobile Onboard Smart Technology (MOST) system, can also stream movies to the unit’s three flat-screen TV’s.
“This is an industry first, and I think this is where it’s heading, or at least I hope it is,” says McCart. “We want to provide the customer with as much information as possible so that they’re not having to rely on the dealer or the manufacturer to answer all their questions to find out how things work. We’ll provide videos on how to light your water heater or how to maintain different things as well as trouble shooting videos.”
McCart, by the end of the Louisville Show, was already thinking warmly of this winter’s retail shows. “We already have shows lined up where we need to get this product into,” adds McCart. “So, we’re going to start off the new year with a bang.”
Forest River Inc. has hired industry veteran Larry Meredith to oversee sales in the West Coast region for its Cardinal and Blue Ridge fifth-wheel division.
The Elkhart, Ind.-based company said in a press release that Meredith would be charged with “rebuilding and developing” the fifth-wheel lines.
Meredith joins Forest River with 35-plus years of RV sales and management experience. “We are excited to use his experience to develop Cardinal and Blue Ridge fifth-wheels on the West Coast and bring it back to the prominence it once had,” the release stated.
For additional information contact National Sales Manager Jay Cavitt at 574-389-3227 or Larry Meredith, West Coast sales, at 909-335-8337.
Forest River Inc. will introduce the luxury Aviator travel trailer at the Nov. 29-Dec. 1 National RV Trade Show, representing “a culmination of new concepts and design ideas,” according to a press release.
“When we sat down to design the Aviator over a year and a half ago, we wanted to bring to market a luxury travel trailer that would revolutionize this industry. Low maintenance, customer friendliness and a unique look were the criteria we used in developing this product,” says Kevin McArt, general manager for the new Aviator.
Features in the Aviator include an aerodynamic front cap with integrated windshield, contoured composite sidewalls and a maintenance-free fiberglass roof. Elkhart, Ind.-based Forest River also noted that the construction of the Aviator is wood-free.
“Not only is the absence of wood material a strong environmental commitment, but the implementation of aluminum and composite materials add higher strength tolerances and are impermeable to moisture,” said McArt.
Aviator is also the first RV unit in any segment to introduce Smart Technology. The base of the system is an incredibly powerful Sony tablet computer. “We’ve assembled a system of familiar components that when combined together deliver unparalleled access to information, entertainment and ease-of-use for our customers,” said Cody Schade, regional sales manager for the Aviator.
According to Schade, Mobile Onboard Smart Technology (MOST) allows customers to share a direct service link not only with the dealer network but also with Forest River. It provides a personal, interactive guide including how-to videos and tutorials, troubleshooting, and any question a customer may encounter on set-up, appliances, or other features.
“The result,” the Aviator team states, “is a more confident and educated customer, which results in fewer service situations and less maintenance at the dealer level.”
For additional information contact Regional Sales Manager Matt Maday at (574) 642-3119, ext. 215, email@example.com, or Cody Schade, at (574) 642-3119, ext. 273, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elkhart, Ind.-based Forest River Inc. announced today (Nov. 17) that Lawton Tinley will be the new general manager of the company’s Work and Play division.
According to a press release, Tinley brings “a wealth of knowledge, operational and sales experience, customer relations, team building skills and energy to Work and Play.”
Previously, Tinley served as general manager of Coachmen RV’s Georgia division from 1984 through 2008, which manufactured and sold travel trailers, fifth-wheels and sport utility trailers. The division was not part of Forest River’s asset purchases at the time of acquiring Coachmen RV.
In the release, Forest River stated: “Tinley’s contagious passion and enthusiasm, proven leadership skills and his product knowledge and strong dealer relation skills will undoubtedly add value to Work and Play and its valued dealers.”
According to Forest River Inc. General Manager Jeff Babcock, the company’s new Trilogy fifth-wheel is “the only fifth-wheel on the market with radius walls, windows, entry door and roof” — construction techniques that can be sourced to Forest River’s acquisition of Dynamax Corp. earlier this year. “It utilizes the same radius sidewalls and roof that (Dynamax) has used on its motorized product for 15 years,” said Dewayne Creighton, general manager of the Dynamax division. “The construction is basically the same — just on a fifth-wheel frame — so the work force knows how to build it.” The new unit also comes fully equipped. “The only choices are the bed, refrigerator and color you want,” added Babcock. “Everything else is standard.” Currently available in a 38-foot floorplan with two others in the works, the unit offers 8 feet, 5 inches of headroom in the living room and 6 feet, 7 inches in the upper deck. Interior features include hard cherry raised-panel cabinet doors, solid-surface countertops with mosaic tile on backsplashes, walk-in closet, padded ceiling and Forest River-designed sofa and chairs. Additional features include six-point hydraulic levelers, 97-pound LP-gas capacity (under floor with remote fill) and 250 square feet of basement storage. MSRP is expected to be in the mid- to high $70,000 range.
Forest River Inc. has launched its new Vibe by V-Cross line of lightweight travel trailers. The V-nose trailer was displayed for the first time at the Pennsylvania RV and Camping Show in Hershey and is one of the front-line new 2012 models on display at the sprawling Forest River Inc. exhibit this week during Elkhart County’s 4th Annual RV Open House. The micro-light 6500 series is the smallest unit – able to be towed by smaller SUV’s and minivans – while still featuring up to 70-cubic-feet of exterior storage, queen pillow top mattresses, full bath, convection microwave, flat panel LCD TV, 81-inch interior height, independent torsion suspension and a high gloss gel coat exterior and front cap. Targeting the more traditional sector of the market, the Vibe 800 series offers lengths up to 30 feet with deeper slideouts. Features include walk-around queen beds, multiple entries, along with spacious bathrooms, bedrooms and kitchens. Standards include hide-a-bed sofas, cognac maple cabinetry, neo-angle showers with glass doors, enclosed tanks and exterior showers. Both series offer aluminum-framed, laminated construction for lighter weight.
XLR has completed the final phase of its rebranding strategy with the introduction of the all new XLR Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt is a premium toy hauler built by Forest River Inc. All Thunderbolt models come standard with frameless windows, mid-profile and high-profile configurations, and unique floorplans with a choice of 10-, 12- and 14-foot extended living spaces. Thunderbolt offers many premium options, including the industry’s first “Man Cave Package” – a mobile entertainment center with a 32-inch LCD TV, Kicker stereo with dual subwoofers, neon blue ground effects lighting, a “kegerator,” and two sport rockers. Thunderbolt will also offer three full body paint options – Black Pearl, HD Sunset, and Rock Star Red. The “AMP IT UP Package” includes a new exclusive tiger stripe Corian countertop, deluxe high rise gooseneck faucet with a deep stainless steal undermount sink, and a laser cut custom backsplash. The Thunderbolt represents just one part of the XLR transformation, which also includes the XLR Hyper Lite, widebody Nitro and aerodynamic Viper.
After much anticipation, Forest River Inc.’s Surveyor 10th Anniversary Edition models will be showcased September 20–22 during this week’s Elkhart County 4th Annual RV Open House at the company’s expansive display at its Dynamax campus in East Elkhart.
According to a press release, Surveyor is a fully laminated lightweight product that offers 23 floorplans ranging in lengths from 20 to 35 feet and featuring non-slideout units, expandables, above-floor slideouts and flush-floor sliderooms. Dry weights for the 10th Anniversary Surveyor start at 3,100 lbs.
“Our 10th Anniversary Edition is the direct result of listening to our dealer network and travel trailer enthusiasts and meeting their needs,” said General Manager Kevin McArt. “We pride ourselves on developing cutting edge floor plans packed with features and benefits unsurpassed in the lite weight trailer market today. Our new Surveyor Select and Sport trailers are for anybody looking to optimize and enhance their RV experience.”
“Surveyor is known for its dependability in the market place as well as its superior construction,” said Sales Manager Mike Dolowy. “We provide our dealer network with a product they can feel comfortable in selling.
Upgrades include Lamilux 4000 “Cool Vanilla” gel-coat fiberglass, slam-latch baggage doors, crowned roof with aluminum truss rafters, Jensen LCD flat screen TV, hitch light, ball bearing drawer guides, black external trim, pass through storage compartment light, assist grab handles, tinted skylight/roof vents and the 10th Anniversary graphics package.
Other amenities include raised panel cabinet doors throughout with residential hidden hinges, outside shower, heated and enclosed underbelly, E-Z glide dinette table, detachable power cord, independent torsion axles, water filtration system, powered stabilizer jacks, Serta “Dreamscape” mattress and gas/electric DSI water heater.
“Innovation is the road to success in this industry and I feel that we have accomplished that,” said McArt. “We have received a lot of acclaim for our Vista Lounge concept as well as our rear drop-floor frame design in the SV305 model. Another notable feature is the Versa Track storage system that is utilized in our outside kitchen floor plans.
Surveyor towables are manufactured in Goshen, Ind., as well as Dallas, Ore. “Our West Coast operation has seen tremendous growth over this past year,” said McArt. “We are able to provide our West Coast dealer network with the same product that is manufactured here in Indiana without the added freight cost – and that is a huge advantage for those dealers.”
For more information on Surveyor’s 10th Anniversary Edition Select and Sport models, please visit Forest River’s website www.forestriverinc.com/Surveryor or Surveyor’s facebook page titled “Surveyor by Forest River.”
Prime Time Manufacturing, a division of Forest River Inc., has expanded its product offering with the introduction of the all-new entry-level Avenger travel trailer.
Dealers and retail customers are having their first look at Avenger during this week’s Pennsylvania RV and Camping Show in Hershey. Two models will also be on display for industry insiders at the Forest River display Sept. 20-22 as part of the Elkhart County 4th Annual RV Open House.
Avenger is the fifth brand to be introduced by Prime Time and represents the final stage in the company’s strategy to offer a full range of towable products.
“When we started the company two years ago, the goal was to be a full-line towable manufacturer,” said Jeff Rank, president of the Wakarusa, Ind.-based manufacturer. “In our mind, that meant having five products that served five distinct markets. Avenger completes that goal and now our customers have a choice of Prime Time products ranging from entry-level travel trailer to luxury fifth-wheel.”
Standard interior features for Avenger include glazed cherry hardwood cabinet doors, Armstrong “Tough Guard” linoleum with a five-year wear warranty, extra large slide rooms, 87-inch U-Dinettes and dual pots and pans drawers with full extension drawer guides. Exterior features include “2X2 construction,” enclosed underbelly, gas/electric DSI water heater, outside shower and Super Lube axles.
“When we were designing Avenger, we examined every feature and every component to maximize value to the end user,” said Product Manager Joe Luther. “We also wanted to build Avenger with a much higher standard of quality so we implemented processes and construction upgrades far superior to typical ‘stick and tin’ products that will provide our customers a fantastic ownership experience.”
MSRP for the new Avenger starts at $15,995.
For information regarding the Avenger, please consult www.primetimerv.com or call (574) 862-3001.