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Grand Design RV Grows Workforce to Nearly 500

March 25, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Don Clark, Ron Fenech and Bill Fenech

Grand Design RV Co. has hired nearly 500 employees in about 15 months.

When you consider the Middlebury, Ind.-based recreational vehicle manufacturer only began producing its first RVs in January 2013 and already has nearly 500 employees, it’s hard to argue with the assessment of its president, Don Clark. “It’s crazy,” he said. “We are not even two years old.”

As reported by the South Bend Tribune, Clark co-owns the company with Ron and Bill Fenech. The three men, longtime leaders in the RV industry, founded it in January 2013.

On Monday (March 24), Clark said the company was adding a third production line soon.

Clark noted Grand Design already has hired 70 employees and has begun adding another 65 because of the success of its Reflection, a mid-profile fifth-wheel.

The Reflection retails for about $50,000 and is 32- to 38-feet long, and is made for people who want to use it for a weekend or a two- to three-week stay, Clark said. Like the company’s original offering, the Solitude, the Reflection features hardwood cabinetry and high-end features found in an upscale home.

“The Reflection was outpacing our capacity,” he said. “It’s smoking hot.”

For the full story click here.

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Grand Design Names Peter Kinden Western DSM

December 19, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Peter Kinden

Grand Design RV Co. announced that it has hired industry veteran Peter Kinden as Western district sales manager.

“With over 30 years of industry experience Peter brings a wealth of knowledge and deep-seated relationships to our company,” said Don Clark, president and co-owner of the Middlebury, Ind.-based builder.

Micah Staley, general manager of Grand Design’s Reflection division, added, “Peter’s six years of manufacturing as well as his 20-plus years of dealer experience – including running one of the largest western dealerships – allows him to understand the day-to-day challenges that dealers face. Our western dealers will find Peter to be invaluable in doing business with Grand Design RV.”

Kinden noted, “I am truly honored to have been invited to be a part of what I would consider one of the strongest team ever assembled in our industry. I am excited to get out and meet my dealers and help grow our mutual businesses.”

Kinden can be reached at (661) 201-5501 or pkinden@granddesignrv.com.

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Grand Design RV Continues Fast-Paced Startup

October 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Marc Hauser, general manager for Grand Design's Momentum line, with President Don Clark

A year ago, Middlebury, Ind.-based Grand Design RV Co. was just beginning. But, according to a report by the South Bend Tribune, more than 1,300 fifth-wheels later, it’s clearly a winner.

“We never cease to be amazed at how well our product is being received by both the RV dealers and retail consumers,” said Don Clark, company president, who owns the business along with Bill and Ron Fenech. The success has surpassed the founding trio’s expectations, he added. “It’s incredible.”

The numbers are certainly giving the Elkhart County economy a boost.

Currently more than 250 workers are employed on the 67-acre campus.

Two production lines are running and a third will be added in the next two months. When that line is totally operational, the company should employ more than 360 workers. The first line has already produced 1,000 RVs.

The company is still targeting four lines and a total of 500 employees by 2016, possibly sooner.

To read the full article click here.

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Grand Design Ships 1,000th Fiver to Camp-Land

October 15, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

(L-R) Dave Paschen, Co-Owner, Camp-Land RV; Pam Argostino, Co-Owner, Camp-Land RV; Rob Groover, Sales, Grand Design RV; Pat Paschen, Founder/Co-Owner, Camp-Land RV; Jeremiah Grubert, Sales, Grand Design RV; Al Paschen, Founder/Co-Owner, Camp-Land RV; Don Clark, President, Co-Owner, Grand Design RV; Bill Fenech, Co-Owner, Grand Design RV; Ron Fenech, Co-Owner, Grand Design RV

Middlebury, Ind.-based Grand Design RV Co. announced today (Oct. 15) the delivery of its 1,000th fifth-wheel to Camp-Land RV in Burns Harbor, Ind.

The company also reported that in around 30 days it will be opening a third production line that will add 130 jobs.

“We are very pleased to announce that, in less than one year from our company’s beginning, Grand Design’s first production line has produced and shipped over 1,000 luxury, extended-stay fifth-wheels,” Don Clark, president and co-owner of Grand Design RV, said in a press release. “According to Statistical Surveys, Grand Design has already climbed the rankings and has now become the 13th largest producer of fifth-wheels in the entire industry. We credit this accomplishment to our incredible work force and the pride and care they take in building our products, leading product designs and our dealer body comprised of the ‘who’s who’ of the finest dealers in the business.”

“We are thrilled to partner with Camp-Land RV,” continued Clark. “Camp-Land and Grand Design share similar business philosophies such as ‘do what’s right,’ ‘take proper care of your retail customers’ and ‘be personally involved as owners in the day-to-day oversight of your business.’ Being in business for 52 years, it is obvious that Camp-Land has been doing something right for a long, long time.”

Marc Hauser, Grand Design’s general manager of the Solitude and Momentum brands, added, “In celebration of the delivery of our 1,000th unit, Camp-Land RV graciously hosted an open house on Oct. 12. Don Clark, Bill Fenech and Ron Fenech (owners of Grand Design) along with Grand Design Regional Sales Managers Rob Groover and Jeremiah Gruber were there to personally present the keys of the 1,000th fifth-wheel produced by Grand Design to the ownership and management team of Camp-Land.”

 

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Grand Design ‘Turns Up Heat’ For Open House

September 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Reflection fifth-wheel by Grand Design RV

Middlebury, Ind.-based Grand Design Recreational RV Co. announced today (Sept. 13) that it will unveil four new models at next week’s Elkhart County RV Open House. According to a press release, Grand Design will show product at its display on Executive Drive in Elkhart, the main artery leading to the RV/MH Hall of Fame.

Don Clark, president and co-owner of Grand Design RV, noted, “The four new floorplans are exciting additions to the Grand Design’s popular Solitude extended stay fifth-wheel, Momentum luxury toy hauler fifth-wheel and Reflection mid-priced product lines. The new floorplans will include the new groundbreaking Reflection 337RLS.”

The reflection 337RLS includes:

• Grand Design’s innovative deep bedroom slide that allows for twice the floor space as conventional fifth-wheels.

• 6-foot-5-inch master bedroom ceiling.

• Industry first-in-class full walk-in wardrobe closet with washer and dryer prep.

• Walk-in residential size shower with all-curved glass front.

• Oversized pass-through lower storage bay.

• Exclusive full-height kitchen pantry.

• Solid-surface countertops.

• Solid select hand-rubbed maple cabinetry.

• Reclining theater seating.

• LED HD TV.

“All of these groundbreaking innovations have been included in a unit that is easily towed with a ¾ 3/4-ton pickup,” said Micah Staley, Grand Design general manager for the Reflection brand.

Clark commented, “Micah Staley joined the Grand Design team in February of this year. Micah’s stellar reputation for innovative design and attention to detail is well known throughout the industry. Micah has totally exceeded our expectations with his creation of the new Reflection brand. Dealers have already communicated their excitement over the new Reflection.”

Clark added, “General Manger Marc Hauser’s rock solid Solitude brand and his new Momentum Luxury Toy Hauler Fifth Wheel are guaranteed to turn heads at the upcoming show. We are anticipating a very exciting open house and look forward to hearing our dealers feedback and comments at the upcoming open house.”

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Grand Design to Unveil Solitude at Tampa Show

January 11, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

Grand Design's new Solitude fifth-wheel

Fledgling towable manufacturer Grand Design RV Co., Middlebury, Ind., will debut its first model — the 38-foot triple-slide Solitude fifth-wheel — at the 28th Annual Florida RV SuperShow next week at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa.

An industry preview of some 1,100 units will be Tuesday (Jan. 15) followed by a five-day retail show sponsored by the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA).

The Solitude, retailing in the low- to high-$60,000s, depending on equipment, is a product of a new company launched by former Thor executives Don Clark, and co-owner brothers Ron and Bill Fenech, respectively the former president of Thor Industries Inc., and Thor Motor Coach.

Two Grand Design Solitude fifth-wheels will be on display in Louisville with the company expecting ”to start shipping in earnest in February,” Grand Design President Clark told RVBUSINESS.com.

Solitude offers a spacious interior

The high-profile, extended-stay Solitude features high-gloss beige fiberglass sidewalls with a painted brown front cap and is equipped with 7-foot-tall slideouts. ”The floorplan has a very spacious feel,” Clark said.

Solitude features include a large amount of pass-through storage with slam-latch doors, hydraulic 6-point leveling system, frameless windows, LED puck lighting throughout, solid-surface countertops, two recliner sofas and a 40-inch HD TV sitting atop a radius fireplace.

Two other floorplans will be available by late February, Clark reported.

Also at the Florida SuperShow for the first time: Germany-based HYMER AG, Europe’s largest RV manufacturer, will display its European-built product as it gauges the North American market. Additionally at the show, Ohio-based startup Advanced RV will display its first Class B motorhome, Ocean One, as will Augusta RV, a new company that opened last year in Bristol, Ind., which will exhibit its Flex-brand travel trailer and fifth-wheel series for the first time.

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Dealers Warm to Grand Design RV Game Plan

November 29, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Ron Fenech makes a point during his presentation Wednesday in Louisville, Ky., about Grand Design RV Co. In the background are his partners, Bill Fenech (left) and Don Clark.

Grand Design, a 7-week-old RV company, has been well-received by dealers at the National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.

Grand Design was created by Don Clark and Bill and Ron Fenech, RV industry veterans who created Keystone RV Co. and rocketed to the top of the RV industry with that company before selling it to Thor Industries Inc. The three then held leadership positions with Thor, before leaving those behind in the past year, The Goshen (Ind.) News reported.

“I think it’s great,” said Jim “Dandy” Cooley, president of Dandy RV Superstore in Anniston, Ala.

Cooley and a couple hundred other dealers and RV industry people attended a breakfast Wednesday morning sponsored by Grand Design. At the breakfast the three founders outlined their plans for the new company, and Cooley liked what he heard and from whom he heard it.

“The Fenech boys and Clark are the same kind of human beings,” Cooley said. “They are incredibly high-quality people who separate themselves from the crowd. I am going to be their very first dealer.”

What the trio said was that Grand Design will be located in the former Four Seasons Housing industrial complex on C.R. 2 north of Middlebury. There the company is building a prototype extended-stay fifth-wheel. They expect to begin producing and delivering one unit per day in January.

Prior to the breakfast, the Grand Design team, which includes the founders and Marc Houser, general manager, and Jerry McCarthy, vice president of service operations, spent Monday and Tuesday at a small table on the trade show floor meeting and greeting dealers and old friends in the industry. They drew a constant crowd.

“The whole industry is abuzz about what we are doing,” Clark said during a short break from his meet-and-greet duties. “Everyone is rooting for us.”

At the breakfast the founders outlined how their creative business plan used to move Keystone to the top tier of RV companies will be discarded in this new venture. At Keystone they created “competitive cells” within the company, where one trailer line was competing against others in the company. When Thor purchased Keystone, that model was adopted by other Thor companies, according to Clark, and those companies also grew.

“In a blink of an eye we were a very large, huge corporation,” Clark said of Thor.

But the Keystone founders didn’t want to be in a large company and one by one decided to leave.

Now the model for their new company will be to create products for six segments of the RV market, starting with the “Solitude” fifth-wheel. From there, they will add a mid-size travel trailer and fifth-wheel later in 2013 and then maybe a toy hauler late in the year. But each segment will have just one product under the same Grand Design name.

“We are not going to have sisters or clones,” Clark said.

The new fifth-wheel will have a wide, 101-inch body, a 7,000-pound capacity axle, 40-inch slideouts and three 20-pound LP gas bottles that can be changed out for full ones at gas stations.

No Cut-Rate Internet Pricing

The company will also try to address one gripe common among RV dealers — cut-rate pricing on the Internet from a few dealers.

Bill Fenech said the company will enforce minimum pricing standards so Internet pricing wars don’t break out. And some Internet RV dealers won’t be asked to sell the company’s products.

“We are not going to do business with them,” Bill Fenech said, which drew loud applause from the dealers present.

He said dealers do have to have a strong Internet presence because consumers are doing research on the Internet before going to a dealer to shop. But, he said, a line has to be drawn for online discounts.

“We are going to stay away from that class of dealer that is causing problems,” Bill said.

Nationwide Service Policy

The founders also floated an idea about service that causes RV owners to grumble — the lack of a nationwide service policy.

Ron Fenech said they would like to create a nationwide service policy, where a Grand Design owner could get their unit serviced under warranty at any Grand Design dealer nationwide. He said the model would be based on what the automotive industry does, where, for example, a Ford owner can obtain service at any Ford dealer in the country.

“I think we have to get our arms around this,” Ron said.

Asking for a show of support for such a program the response was about 50-50 among the dealers present.

But overall, the dealer response to Grand Design was positive.

“They are very credible guys, which is hard to find these days,” said Frank Roberts, owner of Longview RV in Windsor Locks, Conn. He has been selling RVs since 1959 and seen RV people and companies come and go.

“We are interested in selling. I have not even seen the product and I’m a buyer, Roberts said.

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Fenechs and Clark Reveal Plan to RV Audience

November 29, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

This is an aerial view of the more than 400,000-square-foot factory complex near Middlebury, Ind., where Grand Design RV Co. has set up shop. The site formerly housed Four Seasons, a manufactured housing builder. Photo courtesy of FM Stone Commercial and the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County.

More than 350 people turned out Wednesday morning (Nov. 28) to hear details about Grand Design RV Co., a new RV manufacturer formed by a trio of former Thor Industries Inc. executives that will enter the market with an extended-stay Solitude fifth-wheel brand.

Led by Grand Design President Don Clark and brothers Ron and Bill Fenech — all co-owners in the company — Grand Design will start building RVs in December with two other yet-to-be-named brands scheduled be in production by the end of 2013.

”We are going to be a full-line manufacturer,” said Clark, the former president of Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc. ”The very small niches, we are not going to focus on. We want to hit the six major categories that are the bulk of the market.”

Ron Fenech is the former senior president of Thor’s RV Group and Bill Fenech is the former head of Thor Motor Coach (formerly Damon Motor Coach).

Don Clark, Ron Fenech and Bill Fenech

All three took turns presenting their vision for the company and the strategy they will employ to a standing-room-only crowd at the Crown Plaza Hotel during the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) 50th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.

”We wanted to make a statement to all of you that we are in this for real, that we are in this for the long term,” said Ron Fenech. ”This is not something to keep us busy a couple days a week in retirement. We are really into this.”

Although the Fenech brothers carry no official title other than ”co-owner,” both said they will be involved in the day-to-day operation of the company but that Clark will be the decision-maker. Grand Design general manager will be Marc Hauser, while Jerry McCarthy serves as vice president of service operations. Both are former Dutchmen executives.

Grand Design has set up shop in a 67-acre complex with 400,000 square feet of production and support facilities near the Indiana Toll Road north of Middlebury, Ind.

”We’ve got our first proto on line,” said Ron Fenech.

Solitude, which will retail in the low- to high-$60,000 range depending on equipment, will feature a 101-inch-wide body, 6-foot 6-inch ceilings, king-size beds, walk-in closets, 40-inch-deep slideouts, solid surface countertops and slam-latch baggage doors.

Ron Fenech addresses an audience in Louisville.

The retail introduction of Solitude at the Florida RV SuperShow in January will be followed by a mid-priced laminated travel trailer and fifth-wheel series in spring and probably a luxury toy hauler fifth-wheel brand by fall. A luxury fifth-wheel, along with a lightweight travel trailer and an entry-level travel trailers are in the planning stages.

”We are taking it slow,” Bill Fenech said. ”We are going to take our time. We are going to do what the market says. We want to brand the company as much as our individual brands. We want to sign up Grand Design RV Co. dealers. There will be one Grand Design RV dealer in a (specific) marketplace. You won’t have to worry about it being shopped down the street with another (Grand Design) brand.”

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Clark, Fenech Brothers Roll Out ‘Grand Design’

November 21, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Don Clark, Ron Fenech and Bill Fenech

Former Thor Industries Inc. executives Ron Fenech, Bill Fenech and Don Clark plan to address the “vision” and gameplan of their new company — Grand Design RV Co. — from a booth at the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) 50th Annual National RV Trade Show, Nov. 27-29 at the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC) in Louisville. They’ll also present their case at a special 8:30 a.m., Wednesday (Nov. 28) kickoff breakfast in the Whitley Meeting Room at the Crown Plaza Hotel right after the RVI Leadership Prayer Breakfast.

Grand Design RV is currently setting up shop with fewer than 20 employees in a 67-acre, 400,000 square-foot former manufactured housing plant near the Indiana Toll Road north of Middlebury, Ind.

“It’s something that we’ve had on our minds now for a lot of years,” reported Don Clark, president and co-owner of Grand Design who formerly served as president of Thor’s Goshen, Ind.-based Dutchmen Mfg. Inc. “You know, we’ve all had our own careers, and we always had this in the back of our minds — to take what we’ve learned in the industry and really do something special and unique that we could totally control. We knew it was going to happen, but we just didn’t know when, and we wanted the timing to be right.”

“We’ve all been talking about what brought us to this point,” added Ron Fenech, who exited his position as president of Thor’s RV Group in September of 2011. “And for me it was just time for a different chapter, as much as anything. I’m an entrepreneur at heart, and I really felt that pull.”

Clark and the Fenech brothers, also operating as co-owners, are preparing for the debut of their first line of mid-priced Solitude-brand “extended stay” fifth-wheels at the Florida RV Trade Association’s (FRVTA) Florida RV SuperShow in January with a startup staff that includes General Manager Marc Hauser, and Vice President of Service Operations Jerry McCarthy, both former Dutchmen executives.

In the big picture, meanwhile, they’ll operate from the perspective of a company in a post-recessionary market that’s inhabited by fewer dealers, but often by larger and more multi-store retailers.

“We’ll talk at our breakfast about the vision of our new company and hold a Q&A session,” said Bill Fenech, who resigned as president of Elkhart, Ind.-based Thor Motor Coach Inc. in mid-2011. “We’re going to be real strategic in who we sign — we’ve got to get dealers who buy into our philosophy of what we’re doing, and we want dealers who want to carry our full line of products.

“We’re going to market Grand Design RV as much as we’re going to market the individual brand names,” he added. “We’re not going to have sister products or clones at the same price points in the same market as another dealer. We’re not going to produce them at all. We’re going to be very selective in the dealers we sign.”

All three, in turn, say their driving interest in launching Grand Design, for which a serious ramp up in production will begin in December, is to have the opportunity to build a privately held RV manufacturing firm in which they retain plenty of control.

“The bottom line is that we’re not doing this just for the money or for an exit strategy,” added Bill Fenech. “We don’t have a ‘Plan B’ to go sell it or anything like that. We want to build a great company — whether it’s a 25-year company or a 50-year company or less if something happens before that. We’re going to let the market tell us that. But at the end of the day, we’re going to build a great company, and we’re going to do it our way and we’re going to build it slowly and methodically.”

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Clark, Fenech Brothers Roll Out ‘Grand Design’

November 20, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

Don Clark, Ron Fenech and Bill Fenech

Former Thor Industries Inc. executives Ron Fenech, Bill Fenech and Don Clark plan to address the “vision” and gameplan of their new company — Grand Design RV Co. — from a booth at the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) 50th Annual National RV Trade Show, Nov. 27-29 at the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC) in Louisville. They’ll also present their case at a special 8:30 a.m., Wednesday (Nov. 28) kickoff breakfast in the Whitley Meeting Room at the Crown Plaza Hotel right after the RVI Leadership Prayer Breakfast.

Grand Design RV is currently setting up shop with fewer than 20 employees in a 67-acre, 400,000 square-foot former manufactured housing plant near the Indiana Toll Road north of Middlebury, Ind.

“It’s something that we’ve had on our minds now for a lot of years,” reported Don Clark, president and co-owner of Grand Design who formerly served as president of Thor’s Goshen, Ind.-based Dutchmen Mfg. Inc. “You know, we’ve all had our own careers, and we always had this in the back of our minds — to take what we’ve learned in the industry and really do something special and unique that we could totally control. We knew it was going to happen, but we just didn’t know when, and we wanted the timing to be right.”

“We’ve all been talking about what brought us to this point,” added Ron Fenech, who exited his position as president of Thor’s RV Group in September of 2011. “And for me it was just time for a different chapter, as much as anything. I’m an entrepreneur at heart, and I really felt that pull.”

Clark and the Fenech brothers, also operating as co-owners, are preparing for the debut of their first line of mid-priced Solitude-brand “extended stay” fifth-wheels at the Florida RV Trade Association’s (FRVTA) Florida RV SuperShow in January with a startup staff that includes General Manager Marc Hauser, and Vice President of Service Operations Jerry McCarthy, both former Dutchmen executives.

In the big picture, meanwhile, they’ll operate from the perspective of a company in a post-recessionary market that’s inhabited by fewer dealers, but often by larger and more multi-store retailers.

“We’ll talk at our breakfast about the vision of our new company and hold a Q&A session,” said Bill Fenech, who resigned as president of Elkhart, Ind.-based Thor Motor Coach Inc. in mid-2011. “We’re going to be real strategic in who we sign — we’ve got to get dealers who buy into our philosophy of what we’re doing, and we want dealers who want to carry our full line of products.

“We’re going to market Grand Design RV as much as we’re going to market the individual brand names,” he added. “We’re not going to have sister products or clones at the same price points in the same market as another dealer. We’re not going to produce them at all. We’re going to be very selective in the dealers we sign.”

All three, in turn, say their driving interest in launching Grand Design, for which a serious ramp up in production will begin in December, is to have the opportunity to build a privately held RV manufacturing firm in which they retain plenty of control.

“The bottom line is that we’re not doing this just for the money or for an exit strategy,” added Bill Fenech. “We don’t have a ‘Plan B’ to go sell it or anything like that. We want to build a great company — whether it’s a 25-year company or a 50-year company or less if something happens before that. We’re going to let the market tell us that. But at the end of the day, we’re going to build a great company, and we’re going to do it our way and we’re going to build it slowly and methodically.”

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