A year ago Ron and Bill Fenech and Don Clark had a poster with a drawing of recreational vehicles on it. That was the extent of their new RV company. A year later, the partners were busy hosting dealers at their display of RVs that looked very similar to that drawing on the poster.
The Goshen (Ind.) News reports that Grand Design RV was just an idea at last year’s National RV Trade Show. It was an idea that the Fenech brothers and Clark pitched to a group of dealers crowded into a too-small hotel meeting room near the convention center. They received an overwhelming positive response and moved ahead quickly after the show to begin producing fifth wheels in a plant north of Middlebury.
“It was an eight-by-eight (booth) just outside the men’s bathroom,” is how Clark remembers that small space where the partners showed dealers their poster before calling a meeting at the hotel.
At this year’s show, Grand Design has a larger presence.
“It’s a small display, but it’s a display of five units,” Clark said just outside a Solitude fifth-wheel. “Last year what was funny was all we had was these placards, these posters of what we thought we were going to build. And it turned out to be spot on of what we actually built, which is the Solitude product line.”
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Grand Design RV announced that it will receive the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association’s (RVDA) “Quality Circle Award” as part of the 51st National RV Trade Show running Dec. 3-5 in Louisville, Ky.
“We are both honored and thrilled to be receiving this award,” Don Clark, Grand Design president and co-owner, said in a press release. “This very special award is a derivative from a (DSI) survey by our dealers. It’s like the ‘People’s Choice’ award of the RV industry. Our dealers are our life blood and to get this kind of endorsement is huge. This year’s award is also special because it is Grand Design’s very first year in business and the award is affirmation that we are headed in a positive direction.”
The Quality Circle Award criteria is based on several criteria, including sales support, sales territory, vehicle design, vehicle reliability/quality, competitive price/value, parts support, dealership warranty support and overall dealer communication.
“The Solitude luxury extended-stay fifth-wheel was our only brand manufactured at the time of the dealer survey and it received record high scores,” Clark noted. “Marc Hauser, Solitude’s general manager, and his sales and design teams did a remarkable job creating the Solitude. Furthermore, our service group, headed by Jerry McCarthy (vice president of service operations), has taken awesome care of our dealers and retail customers after the sale. We could not be more pleased with the entire Grand Design team.”
Marc Hauser commented, “We are privileged to be receiving this special award and will continue to impress our dealers with hot selling high valued products in the future. Thank you to our entire dealer partners for making this award possible.”
Grand Design RV Co. announced the Middlebury, Ind.-based builder had completed a new state-of-the-art owner’s manuals, according to a press release.
“At Grand Design RV we are keenly focused on the overall ownership experience of our customers,” said Don Clark Grand Design RV President and co-owner. “This is why we have dedicated a great deal of resources in the creation of one of the most advanced, comprehensive owner’s manuals in our industry. Vice President of Service Operations Jerry McCarthy and his team have gone far beyond what owners typically receive when purchasing a recreational vehicle. Our industry-leading owner’s manual is now available in both printed and digital CD format.”
McCarthy added, “Critically important to a positive ownership experience is an extremely detailed and user-friendly owners manual. Our industry-leading manual and companion CD completely meets our goal of providing vital operational information and “safety first” considerations.”
The company began distribution of the new owner’s manuals in mid-June of 2013.
Middlebury, Ind-based Grand Design RV Co. announced today (June 26) the opening of an additional production line for Reflection, a new luxury, high-value, easy-to-tow fifth-wheel brand.
“Reflection is being introduced on the heels of the company’s extremely successful Solitude extended stay fifth-wheel,” Don Clark, president and co-owner, said in a press release. “Reflections General Manager Micah Staley and his team were strategic in selecting this very important segment as Grand Design’s next entry into the marketplace. Reflection will enable our dealers to expand their reach into the high-volume, smaller fifth-wheel market.”
Staley added, “A large portion of our dealers have voiced the need for an innovative, smaller, easily-towed fifth-wheel and Reflection fits these requests perfectly. Grand Design has quickly earned the reputation for unique, distinct styling and the Reflection is no exception. Reflection’s interior living space, residential eye appeal and unique layouts will raise expectations in the marketplace.”
The company plans to begin shipping Reflection mid-sized fifth-wheels to dealers in mid July.
Tiffin Motorhomes Inc. and Grand Design RV announced today (June 5) they are joining forces at the upcoming Elkhart County RV Open House Week set for Sept. 17-19 in Elkhart, Ind.
According to a press release, the companies will be displaying on an approximately 15-acre lot leased through Elkhart-based real estate firm Northland Corp. along the “gauntlet” on Executive Parkway – the primary feeder leading to Thor Industries Inc.’s massive display area at the RV/MH Hall of Fame.
“We are thrilled and honored to have the opportunity to share a display space with Tiffin Motorhomes,” said Don Clark, president and co-owner of Middlebury, Ind.-based Grand Design RV. “No other motorhome company can rival the reputation that Bob Tiffin and his team have crafted in their 41 years of building class A motor homes. Tiffin Motorhomes has set and raised the bar for service expectations in our industry.”
Clark noted that Grand Design and Tiffin share “many of the same customer and dealer-focused business philosophies,” including:
• Both companies believe in the concept of no clone manufacturing.
• They practice the policy of single-point distribution (partnering with dealers by having only one dealer per market).
• Tiffin and Grand Design employ fair dealer orientated advertising policies and customer driven warranty policies.
Clark continued, “It should be no surprise that Tiffin and Grand Design share many of the same dealer relationships throughout the nation. Now dealers can see all the new ‘cutting edge’ creations during the Open House.”
Tim Tiffin, general manager of the Red Bay, Ala.-based builder, noted, “Tiffin Motorhomes is excited to participate in the ElElkhart County RV Open House Week this September. We are very pleased to share a display space with Grand Design RV, the industry’s up-and-coming travel trailer and fifth-wheel company. This event continues to gain momentum and we feel the need to be represented there to show off our new 2014 lineup. It is our desire to spend more time with our dealers and build on our great relationships.”
Goshen, Ind.-based Lippert Components Inc. (LCI) announced that Grand Design Recreational Vehicles LLC is now installing the Correct Track trailer alignment system as standard equipment on its Solitude fifth-wheel trailers.
According to a press release, the patent pending Correct Track alignment system is integrated into the suspension system of the recreational vehicle chassis. Correct Track enables the manufacturer or dealer to customize the wheel alignment to the end user’s specific requirements.
Out-of-alignment RV and trailer suspensions can create excessive tire wear and failure. The resulting vibration can cause excess wear of other components such as electronics and appliances. Correct trailer alignment can improve gas mileage and reduce wear on suspension components.
“This is just another innovation Grand Design is offering consumers,” said Grand Design General Manager Marc Hauser. “The LCI Correct Track system will allow our owners to fine tune their alignment for years to come.”
“We are extremely pleased that Grand Design has adopted the Correct Track trailer alignment system,” said LCI Vice President of Sales Andy Murray. “This product will help Grand Design owners take full advantage of the latest development in RV suspension technology and benefit from improved towing performance.”
The RV industry is on its way back in Indiana, and Elkhart County has a lot to do with it.
According to a Goshen News report, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence made a brief appearance in Middlebury Thursday (April 18) afternoon to help celebrate the recent expansion plans of up-and-coming RV manufacturer Grand Design RV LLC.
Surrounded by Grand Design executives, employees, team members, suppliers and their family members, Grand Design President and co-owner Don Clark announced that in the next 60 days the company plans to launch its second line of RVs — a launch which could potentially bring as many as 120 new jobs to the county.
Started by RV veterans Clark and brothers Ron and Bill Fenech in late 2012, Grand Design’s first RV unit, the extended-stay fifth-wheel known as the “Solitude,” rolled off the line on Jan. 15 to rave reviews.
“Our entry into the marketplace, the “Solitude,” has been very well received by the retail buyers — so well received that I am pleased to announce that in the next 60 days we will begin manning and staffing for Line 2,” Clark said. “Our Line 2 will produce a smaller, mid-profile fifth-wheel. After the ramping up stage of Line 2, we intend to bring approximately 120 more jobs to the community. These are exciting times for Grand Design.”
Clark told RVBUSINESS.com that Grand Design currently has 87 U.S. dealers selling the Solitude line. “As production keeps up, we’re starting to bring more dealers into the fold,” he said, adding that the company had shipped more than 200 units to its dealer body.
Ron Fenech noted, “We’ll add more dealers. You know, maybe by the end of the year, I could see us being at maybe 120 or 130 dealers, and we’ll have three product lines up and running for the 2014 season. That’s probably a pretty accurate projection of where we’re going to be.”
He told RVBUSINESS.com that good timing factored into the company’s growth with the industry on an upswing. “Yeah, I think that dealers are pretty optimistic,” Fenech said. “It’s always a battle. There is tremendous competition. But the timing never worried me. I just felt it was a good time for us because we had a great story to tell and I think we bring something different to the marketplace. We’re benefiting, though, by the fact that the dealers are optimistic and that allows them to make choices a little bit easier.”
According to the Goshen News, Pence termed Grand Design’s expansion plans as “exciting news for all of Indiana as well,” especially when coupled with Grand Design’s recent pledge to bring as many as 500 new jobs to the area by 2016. That’s a pledge the company has to keep if it wants to take advantage of up to $2.85 million in conditional tax credits and up to $200,000 in training grants recently provided to the company by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. Such tax credits are performance-based, meaning until Hoosiers are hired, the company is not eligible to claim incentives.
“When I was first elected governor, I said we were going to make job creation job one, and today is a great example of how Hoosier entrepreneurs and Hoosier workers are coming together to create new jobs and opportunities and are bringing Indiana back,” Pence said. “Grand Design launched in the fall of 2012 and has been on a tear ever since, with plans to produce more than 1,750 units this year. We appreciate their commitment to quality and to service. This is a great moment for Elkhart County and the RV industry.”
Pence went on to thank the company for its decision to locate its headquarters and manufacturing operations in Indiana and for throwing its support behind the workers of Elkhart County.
“The desire of this company to set up a “Grand Design” here in Middlebury in Elkhart County is a tribute to many things, but it’s mostly to the skill, to the character and the work ethic of the people of Indiana, and particularly of Elkhart County,” Pence said. “We look forward to your continuing and abounding success. You are proving today two things: the Hoosier RV industry is coming back, and Indiana is open for business.”
According to the Goshen News, Elkhart County Council member Dave Hess also had some words of thanks and encouragement for the fledgling RV company during Thursday’s gathering.
“Things have turned the corner, and things are improving in Elkhart County, and I think it’s a real testament to the outlook and the vision of these fine business people we’ve got here, and the fact that they chose Elkhart County not only to locate their industry, but to grow and expand their industry as well,” Hess said. “They could have probably gone anywhere they wanted to, but they chose Elkhart County because of our entrepreneurial spirit, our expertise in the RV business, and most of all, you people standing right out here, the workers in this county. I think it’s because of companies like this that the future of Elkhart County is very bright.”
Clark also anticipates hiring up to 10 more people to work the original line.
“Today is a great example of how Hoosier businesses and Hoosier workers are coming together to create new jobs and opportunities and are bringing Indiana back but it’s companies like this that are making it happen,” Pence says.
Anyone interested in one of the new positions all you have to do is stop by Grand Design RV’s office in Middlebury to apply.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence will join executives from Grand Design RV Thursday (April 18) at the company’s manufacturing complex in Middlebury, Ind., for 2 p.m. announcement regarding hundreds of new jobs.
The South Bend Tribune reported that the startup towable builder, which has been in business for about four months, celebrated both the hiring of its 100th employee and the making of its 100th RV on March 19. At that celebration, company officials said another line would be added in the near future which would mean more jobs.
The company currently builds the Solitude, an extended-stay, luxury fifth-wheel trailer. Grand Design officials also have said they envision the company eventually reaching 500 employees.
Middlebury, Ind.-based startup builder Grand Design RV announced today (March 20) the appointment of Cameron Boyer as CFO, according to a press release.
“The overwhelming dealer and retail customer response to our Solitude extended stay fifth-wheels has created the need for this position,” said Don Clark, president and co-owner of Grand Design. “We are thrilled to be able to attract someone of Cam’s exceptional qualifications. His unique ability and diversified background makes Cam ideal for this position. His strong work ethic, strategic mind set and leadership skills will help in Grand Design’s accelerated growth.”
Boyer brings eight years of RV industry experience and 10 years in the marine sector. Most recently, he spent four years at Thor Industries Inc.’s Dutchmen RV division, first as the company’s vice president of finance, and later serving as president.
“I am extremely excited to be associated with such a dynamic organization,” said Boyer. “Grand Design has assembled a ‘who’s who’ of the RV industry team. I am humbled to have been chosen for this position and look forward to helping continue their already amazing start.”
Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from an article appearing in a special Business & Industry Magazine published by The Elkhart Truth, based in the RV industry’s hub in Indiana’s Elkhart County. To read the entire article click here.
A group of local RV industry veterans is betting their reputations, their time and their money on a new business model for the industry.
“This is putting our money where our mouth is, and we never looked back,” said Don Clark, president of Grand Design RV. Clark founded the company alongside brothers Bill Fenech and Ron Fenech.
They left major positions in Thor Industries Inc. in the second half of 2011 and decided to start over. “We knew we wanted to create a special company, something that’s going to matter to the industry,” Clark said.
They have a 67-acre site north of Middlebury, Ind., with 450,000 square feet of manufacturing space. Right now they have exactly one product with exactly one floorplan. They have exactly one dealer in any given market.
At the most, they plan to have six product lines, one for each market segment they’ll target.
That’s a big change from most of the industry, which sometimes has a dealer for one line just a few miles away from another dealer offering a line that may have a different name, but may be the exact same product made by the same company.
To read the entire article click here.