Continuing an RV industry trend toward fall dealer meetings, four Thor Industries Inc. subsidiaries — Keystone RV Co., Damon Motor Coach, Four Winds International Corp. and Breckenridge — will hold a combined dealer open house Sept. 28-30 at the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum in Elkhart, Ind.
‘It’s a good opportunity to get in front of your dealers in the fall,” said Keystone President Bob Martin. ”It a good draw for Keystone with a couple of motorhome lines and Breckenridge (a manufacturer of recreational park trailers).”
Martin said the open house would be ”a little preview of Louisville,” referencing the National RV Trade Show Nov. 30-Dec. 2 at the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC) in Louisville, Ky.
”We will show some things at the open house that are going to Louisville, but not everything,” Martin said.
Individual planning is in process for at each division, Martin said. ”All the divisions are working on plans together,” he added. ”There will be a lot to see.”
Bill Fenech, president of both Damon and Four Winds, said that a major announcement will be made right before or during the open house.
”The bottom line is that we are looking to have an informal event with our dealers and give them a lot of product information and show them how they can make money with us,” Fenech said.
Fenech said both Damon and Four Winds will have new product on display at the open house.
The agenda includes seminars and training, vendor booths and meetings with customer service representatives and retail and wholesale financing sources.
Invitations sent to dealers the first of the week and via e-mail today (Aug. 4) offered to pay food and lodging costs at local hotels and provide shuttle transportation to and from the Hall of Fame on Elkhart’s north side.
Product displays will be open at the Hall from 1 pm. to 6 p.m. Sept. 28; 9 a.m to 6 p.m. Sept. 29; and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 30. A private party off-site is scheduled for opening night with transportation provided, while another is scheduled for the Hall Sept. 29.
The open house will be the first for Keystone in nearly 10 years, Martin said.
Earlier in the decade several Thor companies, including Damon, Four Winds and Breckenridge, participated in ”Thor Fusion” — a dealer open house at their different locations in northern Indiana.
Ford Motor Co. recently announced that Thor Industries Inc. is the top volume manufacturer of motorhomes built on Ford chassis.
The award came from Ford after calculating F-53 Super Duty chassis Class A motorhome and E-Series Class C cut-away chassis sales from January 2009 through December 2009, according to a news release.
“We are thrilled to win this award. Ford is a great supplier to us and to the overall motorhome market. Throughout the years, the relationship with Ford has continued to grow, and we have been very successful with Ford chassis’ and engines,” commented Bill Fenech, president of Damon Motor Coach and Four Winds International Corp.
Thor’s subsidiaries Four Winds International and Damon Motor Coach offer their gas class A RVs on the reliable Ford F-53 Super Duty chassis. Four Winds offers the Ford’s F-53 chassis on their popular Hurricane and Windsport Motorhomes. The Daybreak, Challenger, and Outlaw models from Damon Motor Coach also offer the Super Duty Class A motorhome chassis. Four Winds Class C products are built on the Econoline Class C cutaway chassis. This include their Four Winds, Chateau, Siesta and Citation brands.
Heartland Recreational Vehicles today (May 3) announced that it has expanded its management team with the appointment of 25-year industry veteran Jeffery Kime to the newly created position of president, effective May 10.
In this capacity Kime will help oversee Heartland’s operational, sales and marketing activities, reporting to Heartland CEO Brian Brady.
“As Heartland’s founders and senior management team, Tim Hoffman, John Rhymer, Jack Culbertson and I are extremely proud of the exceptional growth Heartland has achieved,” Brady said in a news release. “The expansion of our management team reflects this growth as well as the significant upside opportunities that remain ahead.
“Heartland has established itself as the fastest-growing company in our industry, counter to the trends that many of our peers have faced. We are differentiated by our innovation, solid dealer relationships and strong market position. We believe Jeff’s industry experience and record of execution will help us capitalize on our strengths to further extend Heartland’s leadership. Heartland’s management style has always been collaborative and collegial. Jeff will be part of this collaborative effort and will work closely with the founding partners to achieve long-term sustainable growth.”
“I am pleased to join the Heartland team at such an exciting time of growth and opportunity for the company,” said Kime. “I look forward to partnering with Tim, John, Jack and Brian as well as the entire management team as we work to drive the company’s continued success.”
Prior to joining Elkhart, Ind.-based Heartland. Kime worked for 19 years at Four Winds International Corp., a subsidiary of Thor Industries Inc., including serving most recently as Four Winds’ president for almost 15 years. Over this period, Kime helped position Four Winds’ Hurricane brand as the market leader in Class A motorhomes and helped establish the company as the No. 2 market share leader in Class C motorhomes.
Heartland markets over 15 brands of fifth-wheel and travel trailer RVs and has captured the No. 3 market share in the fifth-wheel category. Heartland’s towable RVs are sold through an independent network of dealers throughout the United States and Canada. The company has over 1,000 employees.
Four Winds International Corp., Elkhart, Ind., is marking its 20th anniversary with the ultimate goal of “exceeding expectations.”
With the spring selling season firmly under way, Four Winds is experiencing new levels of success, according to a news release.
“The 20th anniversary is a significant milestone, especially since Four Winds continues the tradition of producing and selling high quality, innovative motor homes at every day low prices,” said Bill Fenech, president of the Thor Industries Inc. subsidiary.
According to the release, the repositioning of the company last year has allowed for a new Four Winds which is leaner and more responsive to the dealers and retail customer’s needs and expectations. New, hot products are surpassing the retail turn expectations and a new arsenal of products will continue to keep this trend going.
The forefront of this success comes from the company’s valued relationships created at the dealer level. Four Winds is committed to helping dealers become more successful by steering customers to local dealerships for sales and service.
Improvements to the Four Winds International website encourage retail customers to consider the valuable benefits of buying from a local dealer. From stimulation of the local economy, product introduction and personalized service, the purchase of the RV from a local dealer is always the best decision.
The creation of the company’s new “Concierge Connection” customer service program is already providing positive results. “Concierge Connection” is a special program offered to new Four Winds International motorhome buyers. A special customer advocate contacts each and every new Four Winds retail customer to thank them and assist them with their new purchase.
“Our goal is not only to make sure our valued retail customers know we are here for them but to exceed their expectations of our product and services,” said Dana Simon, vice president and general manager. “We are proud to be in business for 20 years and look forward to then next 20 years. We have been fortunate to have had great relationships with many dealers for all 20 of these years and this has been the foundation of our success in the market. We will continue to listen and learn from our dealers and retail customers because we know they are the ingredient for success.”
Attendance at the 2010 Florida RV SuperShow continued to pleasantly surprise exhibitors Thursday with an 18% increase over last year, according to the sponsoring Florida Recreation Vehicle Trade Association (FRVTA)
“And we are having a strong day today,” said FRVTA Executive Director Lance Wilson, who reported that 12,375 people passed through the gates on Thursday at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa. According to FRVTA, 26,059 people attended the show the first two days.
Rain predicted for late Saturday wasn’t expected to put a damper on attendance, Wilson said. “We should have a good day on Sunday, too,” he told RVBUSINESS.com.
Marcus Lemonis, president of the Camping World RV Sales dealership chain, said traffic during the early stage of the pivotal Florida show has been ”unbelievable.”
”We are surprised,” said Lemonis, who reported selling 72 RVs — including 19 Four Winds and Damon motorized units — during the show’s first two days. ”It feels like ’06 and ’07 as far as traffic. We only did 98 (units) last year through five days.”
”We’re not just talking (to customers),” said Bill Fenech, president of Four winds International Corp. and Damon Motor Coach, both of which are divisions of Thor Industries Inc. ”We’re selling motorhomes. In fact, we’re selling a ton of diesels. What’s really nice is that there’s just very upbeat attitudes at the show. Customers are listening. They’re showing up, and they’re buying. It’s not doom and gloom. It’s very encouraging. We anticipate blowing away last year’s numbers.”
Customers are both newbies and seasoned RV enthusiasts with trade-ins, says Fenech, and his staff is seeing more demand for diesels than gas at the moment — in the Damon Tuscany and Four Winds Montecito price range on the diesels, generally in the high $100,000’s to the low $200,000’s. “It’s just exciting to hear the optimism again and the fact that people are getting out there again and buying,” added Fenech.
Lemonis said that national retail lenders Bank of America and Bank of West, which have booth space — along with regional lender BB&T — seem to have eased their lending policies some.
”They seem a little hungrier to do business,” Lemonis said. ”And customers aren’t scared to put cash down.”
Terry Elias, president of Canada-based Class B and C manufacturer Leisure System Travel Vans Ltd., also reported strong sales during the opening days of the show. ”We sold six or seven the first day,” Elias said.
Lemonis said that early shows in Cleveland and Syracuse, N.Y., also were generating good sales.
”I’m not going to tell you that the world is fixed and that everything’s in a good place again,” Lemonis said. ”But the bar got set pretty low last year, so everything feels better right now.
”With everybody having fresher inventory and the customer not thinking that everything is falling apart, its seems that things are trending back toward normal.”
After reassessing the North American motorhome market for the 2010 model year, Four Winds International Corp. has introduced a new high-end 2010 Montecito Class A diesel pusher motorhome now available in five floorplans, one of which is a 41½-foot, tag axle model. Built on a raised rail Freightliner XCR chassis with 32,000- or 43,860-pound GVWRs, the Montecito’s MSRPs start at $225,000. The new line is equipped with solid surface countertops and sinks, toe kicks, wood stiles around the dressers, leaded glass and entertainment centers with sound bars. In addition, Four Winds, an Elkhart, Ind.-based Thor division, has redesigned the mid-line 2010 Windsport gas Class A with an upgraded “Prestige” package that adds residential furniture and flooring along with dual-pane windows to the five 32- to 36-foot Windsport floorplans. Windsport Prestige retails from $125,000.
Motorhome manufacturers Damon Motor Coach and Four Winds International Corp. will operate as separate Thor Industries Inc. subsidiaries even though they will share some support functions and Damon President Bill Fenech will lead the new unofficial Thor Motorhomes division.
”We still need to keep separate products in the marketplace,” said Fenech who will serve as president of both companies. ”Technically, there is no such thing as Thor Motorhomes. There is Damon and there is Four Winds. Both are still very independent companies. All we are (at Thor Motorhomes) is support for those two companies.”
With Fenech, 41, at the helm, Damon will be led by Matt Thompson, who has been appointed vice president and general manager, while Four Winds will be overseen by Dana Simon, who carries the same titles. Previously president of Damon, Fenech added the title of Four Winds president with the recent resignation of Jeff Kime.
”I believe in ‘flat” organizations,” Fenech told RVBusiness. ”I know how to keep stuff separate. I won’t let one company copy off the other just because.”
To avoid duplication within the ”motorhome division,” the two companies will share some corporate functions including general counsel, finance, information technologies, human resources and parts and service, Fenech said.
”Does the (retail) customer care about how we pay our bills or handle our personnel or who our attorney is?’ Fenech said. ‘I don’t think so.”
Sales, product development, engineering, design, purchase and quality assurance will remain separate functions. The Mandalay Luxury Division will continue to operate as Four Winds’ diesel pusher division, according to Fenech, but ”will have to live and die on its own. That doesn’t change a bit.”
”They have similar products and similar markets, but one company sees it one way and one company sees it another way,” Fenech said. ”At the end of the day, there are different cultural circumstances in each company.”
Four Winds, he noted, will continue to manufacture Class C motorhomes, where it has a strong presence in the RV rental market where Damon does not have a presence, after abandoning development last year of the Del Ray minimotorhome.
”If Damon says they need to be in the Class C business and they can be profitable, they will be able to do it,” Fenech said. ”I have to keep the two companies unique becuase at the end of the day, we need a strong Thor.”