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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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