Louisville Seminars Offer Tips to Boost Business

October 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Chuck Morgan

Chuck Morgan

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) will offer two informative seminars during the National RV Trade Show to help dealers boost business and increase sales in the coming year, according to a news release.

On Wednesday, Dec. 1, Go RVing will offer a free informational seminar (with full breakfast) about the newly announced Leads-Plus Program, scheduled to launch in 2011. It will take place in Conference Room C105, beginning with breakfast at 7:00 a.m. and the workshop from 7:30 – 9:00 a.m.

To increase the value of Go RVing advertising leads to the industry and help users generate more sales in these tough economic times, Go RVing has developed the Leads-Plus Program, designed to deliver more highly qualified leads categorized by RV purchase likelihood and help dealers, campgrounds and manufacturers follow up more efficiently and effectively. Next year, all leads generated by the national advertising campaign will be run through a computer program that looks at profiling factors and then prioritizes the resulting leads into four groupings: those who are Highly Likely to Purchase, Likely, Moderately Likely and Interested in purchasing.

Seating is limited for the Leads-Plus Program seminar so industry members are encouraged to register immediately by contacting Go RVing advertising manager Margie Spence via email at or by calling her at (703) 620-6003, ext. 357.

The following morning on Thursday, Dec. 2, RV industry sales expert Chuck Morgan will present “Harnessing the Power of the Internet and Video for RV Dealers,” taking place from 8:00 – 9:00 a.m. in the KEC Second Floor Ballroom with a full breakfast served at 7:30 am.

In this presentation, Morgan will focus on improving a dealership’s internet presence by discussing the proper implementation of video, search engine marketing techniques, and the do’s and don’ts of social networking.

As the internet continues to be the dominant communication medium used by consumers in searching for an RV, dealers must recognize that simply having a website is not enough. Consumers expect interactivity and entertainment as well as functionality when visiting websites. High quality video provides that and improves the “stickiness” of websites, keeping consumer on the site for longer periods of time and improving conversion rates.

Morgan has spent 20 years in the RV industry as a salesperson, RV sales manager and trainer. He has seen thousands of RV customers over the years and has shared his on-the-job experience through sales training and products with 99 RV dealers throughout the U.S. and Canada.

The cost to attend “Harnessing the Power of the Internet and Video for RV Dealers” is $70 in advance and $80 on-site. For more information or to register for this session, contact Huyen Dang in RVIA’s Meetings and Shows Department at (703) 620-6003, ext. 305, or at

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Dealer Open Houses: A Good Week in Elkhart

October 1, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

Party scene this week at Forest River Inc. RV dealer open house

Party scene this week at Forest River Inc. RV open house

As the dust settles from the first annual Open House Week in and around Elkhart County, Ind., the region’s recreational vehicle manufacturers are beginning to assess the impact of what they experienced this week as at least 15 RV builders followed the lead of Elkhart-based Forest River Inc. in opening their doors to thousands of North American RV dealer personnel.

What makes it so unique and novel is that few of these companies worked together in orchestrating these open houses. No chamber of commerce or economic development agency called industry players to the table and proposed that they all, in concert, host dealers the week of Sept. 27-Oct.1.

This, instead, was more of a spontaneous action by RV builders intent on capturing the attention of North American RV retailers in the fall, even in some cases if it means pre-empting to an extent the industry’s traditional “Louisville Show,” the 48th Annual National RV Trade Show slated for Nov. 30-Dec. 2 in Louisville.

Again, Forest River started it all in 2008 when the economic atmosphere wasn’t all that good and the Berkshire Hathaway unit’s senior management decided to do something to build dealers’ spirits. Their answer was a big product show on the grounds of the company’s corporate headquarters on the west side of Elkhart.

“The recession led us to this because of our financial strength, and, being a strong company, we wanted to show the dealers that we thought that they needed a boost because a lot of the morale was weak that year,” recalls Forest River National Sales Manager Jeff Babcock. “We wanted to build the dealers’ confidence that, of course, Forest River’s going to be here and have them come down here, as we said, and stroll through the acres of product and have a good time on us.

“And I think we’ve got a pretty good reputation for taking care of dealers down here,” Babcock added. “We thought that, hey, it would be a good thank you to the dealers to throw something here. And, you know, we had a good turnout that year, and every year it continues to grow and grow and grow.”

The difference this year is that other manufacturers decided to piggyback on Forest River’s event with their own open houses on the same week, and the dealers came in droves, flooding area hotels, restaurants and bars starting on Monday. The action built up on Tuesday and peaked for the most part on Wednesday evening when hundreds of dealers converged on two sites in particular.

The social hour hot spots were rather predictable, as three Thor Industries Inc. divisions, Keystone RV Co. Inc., Thor Motor Coach and Breckenridge, worked together to host several hundred dealers at a happy hour gathering in a tent outside the RV/MH Hall of Fame on Elkhart’s east side. Some estimated the crowd at 650.

On the opposite side of town, Forest River presided over a blowout party so big – they say it drew in excess of 3,000 dealer personnel – that the company’s caterers were hard pressed to keep up. The party tent, which also featured live music like Thor’s, was positioned amid 500 display units.

From all we can tell, most all of the parties involved this week seemed to come away with a good taste in their mouths for the entire sequence of events. The general consensus was that, whatever occurred here in Elkhart this week, it was all “plus business.” And that goes for some of the smaller companies like Open Range RV, Evergreen Recreational Vehicles, Dynamax Corp. and Carriage Inc. for whom a story was posted earlier this week.

Manufacturers say that Open House Week did a good job of servicing an industry that is still finding its equilibrium on the heels of a global recession.

Doug Gaeddert

Doug Gaeddert

“It was fantastic,” said Doug Gaeddert, general manager of several Forest River divisions and first vice chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), sponsor of the annual Louisville Show. “Each year (the open house) gets better, and anybody who’s anybody in the RV business was pretty much in town this week. And, absolutely, it will be a record-breaking deal that will take us right on through into the first part of the year. It’s been fantastic.”

Pete Liegl

Pete Liegl

Gaeddert says everyone benefitted from the added participation of other companies. “I think it has benefitted the local community,” he said. “It’s obviously benefitted Forest River greatly and all the companies who have tagged on. I don’t know if there’s anybody left who didn’t do one this year. But if there are, I hope they do one next year.”

Forest River President and CEO Pete Liegl says the towable and motorized manufacturer drew in excess of 800 U.S. and Canadian dealerships and ultimately hosted 400 more people had pre-registered for the event, many of whom were bonafide buyers.

He says it’s all a general reflection of the industry’s surprising strength at this point in time. “Unquestionably,” said Liegl, “things have been good this year, and I think that things are going to be damn good next year. I really do.”

So, plan on Forest River following suit next year. “We’re running out of land,” said Liegl. “In fact, we added 20 acres next door that we didn’t have last year for extra parking. Heck, we can close down the streets next year, but I don’t know if we can outdo the enthusiasm of the dealers this year. I really don’t. Dealers are positive, happy, not only with us, but with everything. They’ve all had a pretty good year. They’ve survived 2009, and they’re operating much more like true businessmen, which is good, and I believe next year’s going to be even better. I really do.”

The general tenor of comments was much the same among the Thor companies that joined forces over at the Hall of Fame.

Bill Fenech

Bill Fenech

“It’s a good thing, a great thing for our dealers from all over the continent and overseas, and it’s a great thing for us as manufacturers,” Bill Fenech, president of Thor Motor Coach, told “Dealers got to see a bunch of new products in a casual, relaxed environment. I can’t tell you how many dealers are saying ‘this is a great thing you’re doing for the industry.’”

Bob Martin

Bob Martin

“The venue here brings a whole different atmosphere,” noted Matt Thompson, vice president and general manager of Thor Motor Coach’s diesel brands. “And I think the dealers really appreciate it, and we’ve been able to really relax, sit down, spend a lot more quality time together with individual dealers and really rekindle some old relationships and build some new ones. It’s really unlike anything I’ve seen in the last ten years that I’ve been in this business.”

“For us, it was phenomenal,” Keystone President Bob Martin told “It’s our first time doing it, and we’re very excited. We had great attendance.”

In anticipation of Open House Week, Martin said, Keystone moved some 2011 product changes forward on the calendar and had plenty for dealers to see. Fact is, Martin noted, September may be a better time frame for new model introductions rather than November or December when the Louisville Show is held – at least for some dealers and some products.

Thus, open house week could be playing a role in changing – to an extent – the industry’s habits. “It is,” said Martin. “Dealers are excited. They think it’s a good time of the year to come in and see product – a good time of the year to make buying decisions because they can buy new current product for the fall so they’re ready for spring show season. Everybody’s asked, ‘how does this affect Louisville?’ We don’t know yet. I mean, we’ll still have new products at Louisville and a reason to come to Louisville as well.

“Overall, though, it was very positive. Many dealers came through. They loved the product and the venue. You know, having it at the Hall of Fame is a draw. Many of the dealers actually haven’t been to the Hall of Fame, So, with that, it’s made the complete package with Keystone, Thor Motorized and Breckenridge. It’s been a very good venue for us.”

Indeed, the open house – a low-budget approach to manufacturer-dealer relations that has been used for years by individual companies — was a topic of choice over drinks at more than one local lounge as people began to analyze where all of this might lead.

Many in the industry have long treasured the fact that the recreational vehicle business still has a strong, single-site national show at which an entire spectrum of companies can participate, including component and service suppliers, aftermarket distributors, software vendors, finance companies, etc.

These open houses certainly aren’t cogent supplier venues, although a few suppliers did set up displays at a couple open houses. And their absence, most agree, would be a real problem if open house week ever gained an edge over Louisville.

Other concerns? How about the weather? The elements cooperated this past week; the weather was beautiful. But what if it wasn’t? With so many companies operating with outside venues, with tents in a few cases being the only shelter other than nearby factories and the insides of display units, the entire sequence of events was completely vulnerable to the elements. And everyone knows it.

As for expenses? While this whole phenomenon is sort of a low-budget sales tactic, it’s not all that cheap of an approach for the key manufacturers who covered dealers’ lodging, shuttle service and entertainment while in town.

And what about RVIA, the national trade association that depends so heavily on revenues from the Louisville Show to balance its annual budget? Louisville, loyalists point out, helps fund standards programs, political lobbying, public relations initiatives and so forth. What would become of the association and all of its critical services it if the wheels would ever come off the Louisville Show?

RVIA, for its part, is standing by and observing the whole scenario, cognizant, as RVIA President Richard Coon pointed out in a Monday (Sept. 27) statement, that “there continues to be strong, widespread industry support” for the Louisville Show.

“This year,” wrote Coon, “we will have 71 manufacturers and 230 suppliers displaying the latest RVs and products across more than 760,000 square feet of exhibit space. That is a substantial increase over the 604,000 feet of space used last year. Additionally, my colleagues at the manufacturing companies holding these events in Elkhart have assured me that the National RV Trade Show remains an integral part of their plans this year and moving forward.”

That said, few would argue that this past week’s activities around Elkhart County could be a harbinger of some eventual changes for the industry and, ultimately, for RVIA and the Louisville Show.

How much change remains to be seen.

“Well I think it’s changing the industry’s habits pretty greatly,” said Gaeddert. “As to the fate of the Louisville Show, which I know is a little bit of a question on everybody’s mind, I don’t think it threatens the Louisville Show. (But it’s) probably a little incentive for the Louisville Show to become a little more creative, raise the value of that product even further.

“Obviously,” he added, “I’m involved in RVIA, and I think it’ll push RVIA to increase the value of the Louisville Show and look at some issues – maybe timing – with respect to the value of that product. This is a competitive world, and I don’t care if you’re an association, a manufacturer, a publisher, if you don’t improve the value of your product continuously, somebody else will.”

“Louisville is a great show and it has its place,” noted Fenech. But he said that timing is a key issue because dealers who wait to buy at Louisville usually can’t get product in time for their key early retail shows – often not until February or March. In a perfect world where both the open houses and Louisville prevail, he suggests, dealers can do both – buy in September and December.

“Consider this a sneak peak at the Louisville Show,” adds Thompson, noting that his Thor division will be bringing significant new product to Louisville, including the company’s biggest unveiling of the year — a Class A that will be “one of a kind in the industry.”

“I think that dealers are taking more time in choosing the brands and the companies they do business with,” said Don Clark, president of Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc., a Thor division that set up separately on the north side of Elkhart in a vacant boat manufacturing plant. “And having an Elkhart open house will give them an opportunity to meet with the manufacturer and find out not only if the product is a good fit, but if the company and the people are a good fit for their businesses.”

Dealers with whom chatted in Elkhart generally viewed the open houses as a plus. “You can see product in a relaxed atmosphere,” said Doug O’Banion, president of Motor Home Specialist, Alvarado, Texas, a key Monaco dealer and one of Texas’s largest RV retailers. “It’s a great idea for the manufacturers and the dealers to come and see what they have to offer. If we see something we don’t have, we’ll order it.”

O’Banion, on the other hand, doesn’t see the open houses as a viable replacement for the Louisville Show. “As a dealer,” he said, “you will see at Louisville what the other manufacturers have. You have to go to Louisville.”

Jeannie Haught, co-owner of Northtown Motor Home in Rockford, Mich., also sees a lot of value in Louisville and suspects that the open house impact will be minimal. “This is a product show,” she said of this past week’s events. “Louisville is where you go to see what your competitors are carrying. This should not hurt the Louisville Show.”

But Roger Smith, owner of Smith Trailer Sales in Monroe, Ind., thinks this latest open house twist could make the Louisville Show obsolete. “I think we can do away with Louisville,” he said. “I saw more here than in Louisville. That’s the disappointment (vs. the National RV Trade Show).”

Based on what they saw and experienced this past week in Elkhart, meanwhile, Robb Cusack, Rod Roy and David Epp of Fraserway RV’s seven-store Canadian operations feel they may have seen a glimpse of the future. The trio, who visited Gulf Stream Coach Inc., R-Vision, Starcraft RV, Evergreen and Thor events, among others, think this whole open house concept is going to get legs in the future.

“I feel this is the new Louisville,” said Cusack, who runs the company’s Halifax store. “This is where dealers are going to come and see what’s new for the following year for product. I mean, it’s very exciting to be here. The weather’s awesome. And I’ll tell you what: The manufacturers have gone way over the top. There’s entertainment, food – I mean we didn’t buy one meal in four days. It’s amazing.”

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Niche Players Appreciate Dealer Open Houses

September 29, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

RV dealers listen to a band performing during an open house sponsored by Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc.

RV dealers listen to a band performing during an open house sponsored by Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc.

Warm, sunny weather this week is greeting thousands of RV dealer personnel from the U.S. and Canada, all of whom are here to visit with manufacturers, party some and bargain hunt for 2010 and 2011 product as part of a new wave of dealer “open houses.”

The open houses reach a crescendo today and tonight as industry leaders Thor Industries Inc. and Forest River Inc. entertain retailers at their respective open houses. Three of Thor’s four divisions, Thor Motor Coach, Keystone RV Co. Inc. and Breckenridge, are situated in a joint display at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in northeast of Elkhart, while all of Forest River’s divisions, including the company’s resurgent Coachmen RV unit, are showing product at the company’s headquarters on Elkhart’s west side.

Most of the area’s manufacturers seem pleased with the whole open house concept thus far – especially the smaller companies and various niche players — although it will be hard to tell how this year’s combined explosion of open houses plays out next year.

“Yesterday, we had a great turnout,” Ed Kinney, vice president of sales for Carriage Inc., told “We were pleasantly surprised, being over here in Millersburg. We had several of our current dealers and dealer prospects here, and our new Cabo (trailer) and all of our existing products went over real well. So, it was a great day for Carriage.”

Speaking for Carriage, Kinney likes this evolving “open house” concept. “It’s a great concept, and we thank (Forest River Inc. President & CEO) Pete Liegl for starting it because I think it’s good for the industry,” said Kinney, whose company’s open house doors remain open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today (Sept. 29) and Thursday.

In general agreement with Kinney is Gulf Stream Coach Inc. Co-President Dan Shea, whose company had always hosted its own private open house each June at the towable and motorized RV manufacturer’s Nappanee facilities.

“Obviously, a number of manufacturers were looking at this time frame to start bringing in dealers,” said Shea, whose family-held company is considered more of a mainstream manufacturer vs. a niche player. “And in talking to our dealers, “it made sense, particularly last year with the transportation issues (the difficulty in delivering RVs) and the pickup in business so quickly last spring that dealers are planning ahead for next year and are very interested in coming in and looking at new product and making their buying decisions earlier this year.”

”So, we’ve been very happy with the turnout of dealers coming in, and I think it makes sense when a lot of dealers are doing something at the same time. The dealers can come in and see several manufacturers and see the new ideas at one time and a little earlier than the typical December time frame.”

Reflecting a market in which wholesale motorhome shipments have plunged from about 71,000 to 13,000 units in the aftermath of the recession, Gulf Stream’s open house displays are predominantly towable product.

“There’s less players and less dealers and, you know, the banks are sort of frowning on big item purchases,” noted Phil Sarvari, Gulf Stream’s executive vice president. “So, our focus is going to be to ‘major in the majors,’ and there’s certainly more buyers and more shipments of towable products than there are motorhomes. But motorhomes are still a part of our company, and we’re still going to take care of the dealers that we have out there.”

Does this whole open house format threaten the viability of the industry’s National RV Trade Show in any way? Shea doesn’t think so, and Gulf Stream remains a strong supporter of a viable national show in which manufacturers, suppliers and distributors all congregate.

“No,” says Shea, “I still think that there is that camaraderie of all the dealers getting together, the new products of the suppliers, the events of the week in Louisville, you know,” he observed. “I think it will continue to be important to dealers as well. I think it’s important to have the entire industry in one place. I think we get a lot of play out of the press coming to it, and the coverage from the suppliers and all these stakeholders in the industry having one place to go.”

Livin' Lite's Jeep trailer

Livin' Lite's Jeep trailer

Northward in Wakarusa, Livin’ Lite Recreational Vehicles’ President Scott Tuttle is working to expand his company’s dealer body through open house contacts.

Tuttle, who specializes in light-weight, all-aluminum trailers, points out that this whole open house concept isn’t altogether new in that it’s been going on for years on more of an ad hoc basis. As has always been the case, he added, even companies who aren’t hosting big events with buffets and bands are expecting dealers to come by.

That said, Tuttle told that the first two dealers showed up at Livin’ Lite’s driveway at 8 a.m. Monday, one having driven in from Quebec, the other from Kansas. Both were including Livin’ Lite in their tour of area manufacturers.

While his sales staff has been making an effort to contact retailers who were planning to be in town this week – many of whom are in town to do business with manufacturers who “are blowing out yards full of inventory” – Livin’ Lite had several units set up in a display outside his plant.

“You know, this is a shoppers’ bonanza for a lot of RV dealers,” said Tuttle, “where guys (manufacturers) have built up open stock and they’ve filled their yards with it. We don’t do that. We just build what’s sold. So, there’s a lot of dealers in town, seeing what kind of deals they can get.

“But when they go to Louisville, they’re definitely looking at what they’re going to carry next year,” he added. “So, Louisville’s still the benchmark for us. While there will be some dealers picking up product this week, I think Louisville’s still the show for dealers to pick up new product lines.”

Also set up in a low key fashion with a small cluster of display units outside the company’s headquarters north and east of Elkhart in LaGrange County near the Michigan State Line, EverGreen Recreational Vehicles LLC President Doug Lantz says his firm is a “small player in this whole open house scenario.

“I just appreciate the fact that we’re able to bring dealers into the Elkhart County area,” he said. “I think it’s good for the economy here and for relationships. It’s nice to be able to have dealers stop by and see the facility, meet personnel. So, I welcome it. I think that it’s something that we should continue to focus on. I know that we’ll continue to do it. And we tie it into sales training as well and getting together and strategic planning, so it’s something that we’re going to embrace and continue to work for.”

Lantz, for his part, thinks there could be some impact on Louisville.

“I think it may make some difference in some of the dealers’ purchases. It might, especially from a floorplanning standpoint. I mean most of the dealers placing orders this time of year are going to be receiving product around Louisville… So, there’s probably some floorplan lines that will be impacted at the credit level at Louisville. So, yeah, I think it will have some impact.”

The timing of these new open houses is perfect for other niche players like Open Range RV, located farther to the east in Shipshewana, an Amish-populated tourist village. “I think so,” notes Open Range President Randy Graber. “I think it makes sense to have this (open house) at this time of year, rather than waiting until the middle of the selling season to make all the (new model product) changes.”

As for Louisville, he says it will be interesting to see how it plays out over the next couple of years, especially considering how much early buying does or doesn’t occur during this expanding open house format.

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RVIA’s Coon Addresses Dealer Shows in Elkhart

September 27, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: Richard Coon, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), sent the following letter out to its members on Monday to address the recent upsurge in northern Indiana recreational vehicle manufacturers’ hosting “dealer open houses,” more than 10 of which are occurring this week in and around Elkhart.

Dear RV Industry Members:

This week several RVIA member manufacturers are holding dealer meetings and events in the Elkhart, Ind., area to host their retail partners and unveil new products for 2011. As our industry continues to recover from the Great Recession, I applaud the wise business acumen of these companies to hold these events in the Elkhart area to help keep costs down, contribute to the local economy and create excitement for their companies and the RV market at a time when business typically begins to slow.

Accompanying these events has been speculation about their impact on RVIA’s National RV Trade Show. My personal feeling is that these events will not have a huge effect on the RV industry’s premiere trade event, and I say this for a number of reasons.

First, there have always been manufacturer-sponsored dealer events like these on the calendar. In the past, they’ve taken place in Las Vegas and other locations throughout the country. What is new is that for the first time these events are taking place in Elkhart at the same time to take advantage of lower event costs and the resulting economies of scale. Historically, such events and efforts have not been a drain on the National RV Trade Show.

Secondly, there continues to be strong, widespread industry support of the show. This year, we will have 71 manufacturers and 230 suppliers displaying the latest RVs and products across more than 760,000 square feet of exhibit space. That is a substantial increase over the 604,000 feet of space used last year. Additionally, my colleagues at the manufacturing companies holding these events in Elkhart have assured me that the National RV Trade Show remains an integral part of their plans this year and moving forward. Several of these people are on the record saying as much. Dutchmen President Don Clark told RVBusiness in August in an article titled “Elkhart County Dealer Meeting Schedule Growing” that their event “will be a good precursor to what dealers will be seeing in Louisville.” Likewise, Bob Martin, president of Keystone, in the same article said their product display “would be a little preview of Louisville.”

Finally, the National RV Trade Show is the one true trade-only show and a central event to the RV industry that is a must-attend for those making their living in the RV market. Over the course of the three-day show, sales and marketing teams can meet with more customers, prospects and contacts than they could in several weeks on the road. The show provides dealers and attendees the unparalleled opportunity to see all the industry has to offer: the brands they carry along with the brands they are interested in carrying and the brands they are competing against; the many, many RV products and accessories available from a host of component parts suppliers and wholesale companies; the product offerings from RV finance and insurance companies; and, the many valuable services provided by consultants and other professional service firms. In short, for those three days, the whole of the industry and all of its opportunity is at your fingertips.

Now, while I am confident that the National RV Trade Show will continue on as strong as ever, I also pledge that the RVIA staff, the National Show Committee, and the RVIA board of directors will remain committed to making sure this is the case. We will be open-minded in exploring ways that the show can be enhanced to be the best venue possible for exhibitors and attendees to build their businesses.

The fact of the matter is that the National RV Trade Show is one of the true gems of our industry. In a time when many other industry-sponsored trade shows are faltering and losing popularity, our event showcases the best we have to offer and is backed by the entire industry. The Outlook market expansion showcase that opens the show every year is one of the most eagerly-anticipated, fun, information-packed events found in any industry. The National RV Trade Show is something that other industries would love to have. And, it is something worth building on and protecting.

As we look forward to the upcoming National RV Trade Show, I offer my best wishes for success to all those attending the various events being held in Elkhart this week. I believe they will be a big boost to the Elkhart community and the RV industry while helping propel the industry to another great event in Louisville and a prosperous 2011.

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DeLay to Speak at Louisville Prayer Breakfast

September 24, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Tom DeLay

Tom DeLay

The RVI Leadership Prayer Breakfast, after a one-year hiatus, is returning to the lineup of activities for the week of the National RV Trade Show in Louisville this year.

“We were unable to have the prayer breakfast in 2009 because of the economic downturn, but we’re pleased to be able to return for 2010,” Carl Pletcher, event coordinator, stated in a news release. “We’re encouraged by the support and response we’ve received so far.”

The breakfast will be at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, formerly the Executive West, on Wed., Dec. 1, 7-8:30 a.m. with guest speaker Tom DeLay. DeLay, former majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, speaks out about the importance of preserving freedom and faith in America, citing three defining principles of security, prosperity and family as the necessary foundation for the lasting success of freedom.

“It’s good for all of us to be reminded of what’s really important and to come together in one accord,” Pletcher said. “We’ve found that members of the RV industry have found this to be a worthwhile, enjoyable event and have gotten a lot out of it. It’s great to start our busy day at the show with that kind of grounding and affirmation.”

All trade show attendees are welcome to attend. Tickets are $17 per individual or $160 for a table of 10. To register by the Nov. 24 deadline, contact Pletcher at (574) 215-7173 or  or send payment to the RVI Leadership Prayer Breakfast Committee at 56771 Wedgewood S., Elkhart, Ind., 46516.

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Stage Set for 48th Annual National RV Show

September 20, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Outlook Flyer 1.JPGAfter the recession severely cut back the size and scope of the National RV Trade Show last year, preparations are underway for a larger and more widely attended 48th National RV Trade Show, taking place Nov. 30 – Dec. 2 at the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC) in Louisville, Ky.

To date, 71 manufacturers and 230 suppliers have been assigned display space totaling more than 760,000 square feet for the event, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). At the 2009 National RV Trade Show, 70 manufacturer and 211 suppliers filled just over 604,000 square feet of space.

“We are very encouraged by the increase in exhibit space at this year’s show. It is another promising sign that the RV industry is on the road to recovery,” said RVIA President Richard Coon. “A large, well-attended National RV Trade Show will send a powerful message to consumers, the media, the financial markets, and our own industry about the health and outlook for the RV market.”

With RV wholesale shipments on the rise, there is a stronger sense of optimism as the industry looks ahead to the upcoming show.

“We’re certainly in a better position than we were last year with many reasons to be optimistic – shipments are rising, consumers love our products, and the long-term outlook remains positive,” said Coon. “I’m looking forward to a strong show that will further reinforce our industry’s recovery.”

The National RV Trade Show will kick off with RVIA’s popular all-industry market expansion showcase, Outlook 2011: A New Era Begins, taking place from 7 – 9 a.m. in the KEC South Wing Ballroom. The event will feature a complimentary breakfast for attendees and several informative and entertaining presentations. These will include:

  • Forging Our Future with Richard Coon sharing his thoughts on the important trends impacting the RV market and how RVIA is working to forge a bright future for the industry.
  • Go RVing: Inspiration for a New Era with Go RVing co-chairs Bob Olson and Tom Stinnett joining RVIA’s Gary LaBella to introduce the new Go RVing Leads Plus program, report on the impact of the Ambassadors of Affordability campaign, and unveil new plans for 2011.
  • RVIA Public Relations: A New Era of Possibilities with RVIA Public Relations Committee Chair B.J. Thompson and LaBella discussing tools and strategies to maximize the exposure of RVing in a changing media landscape and sharing some of the resulting high-impact publicity that’s helping stoke demand for RVs.

In addition to the 2011 RV product lines and latest RV accessories that will be on display, the show will also feature educational seminars led by popular industry experts and a series of hour-long proprietary seminars hosted by exhibitors chosen by lottery.

The show also offers attendees the opportunity to learn more about resources available to them. Industry members can visit the Go RVing booth to learn about the national advertising campaign and how to tie into it. For more information about RV technician education initiatives and certification, attendees can stop by the RVIA Education booth.

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Forest River Expects 2,800 at Dealer Meeting

Pete Liegl

Pete Liegl

As Forest River Inc. marks its best sales year since being founded in 1995 by Peter J. Liegl, the multi-divisional company anticipates hosting 2,800 people at its third annual dealer meeting, Sept. 29-30, at its corporate headquarters in Elkhart, Ind.

”I guess we are going to have a 40% increase this year in attendance,” Liegl told ”The response has been phenomenally good.”

The show will feature Forest River, Coachmen, Palomino and Prime Time recreation vehicles along with buses, cargo trailers, manufactured homes, commercial vehicles, ice houses, pontoon boats and bathroom units manufactured by other divisions.

In an exclusive interview with, Liegl estimates that Forest River’s sales for 2010 will be in the range of $2.5 billion, up 74.2% compared to last year.

”We’ve never had a better year in our whole history,” Liegl said. ”We’re happy with that. But by the same token, we picked up a lot of pieces of the pie (market share) where other people went out of business.”

Soon to join Forest River’s lineup is the reincarnation of the Shasta brand in a new division under the direction of industry veteran Brad Whitehead that will build stick-and-tin travel trailers, minimotorhomes and laminated trailers and fifth-wheels. Shasta’s new lineup will make their debut Nov. 30-Dec. 2 at the 48th National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.

”We won’t have anything from Shasta at our dealer showing, but there’s a need for a Shasta-type product and we’ll have it at Louisville,” Liegl said.

Although the recent proliferation of northern Indiana dealer meetings has raised some concerns within the industry regarding the ultimate impact on the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) Louisville Show, Liegl said that Forest River’s dealer show is meant to compliment the Louisville Show, rather than replace it.

”I think we need both,” Liegl said. ”No 1, Louisville is limited to RVs. By the same token, space is extremely costly there. I’ve got my show here in a field next to corporate headquarters. I can display more at no cost.”

Liegl, at the same time, said the Louisville Show by itself isn’t long enough to spend the time necessary with Forest River’s dealers. ”Our show just gives us more time to spend with our dealers communicating,” he said. ”That’s all Louisville is, communicating. But with our own show, we’ve got more time to do that.”

The Berkshire Hathaway Inc. subsidiary’s foray into staging its initial dealer meeting in 2008 with the theme ”Pick Your Partner” was spurred by the desire to ”let dealers know that financially, unquestionably, we were the strongest (RV manufacturer),” Liegl said.

”We wanted to make it known that they should make sure that their ‘partner’ was going to be here through thick and thin,” Liegl added. ”And obviously, it worked very successfully for us.

”In effect we were saying to dealers that they needed to know who they were doing business with because if your manufacturer goes out of business, you’ve got a problem, not only a problem getting your warranty, but a problem selling them and getting them financed.

“Every dealer out there understands that very well today when they look at the manufacturers that went out of business and the problems they had with the product that they had on their lots.”

Liegl said the theme for this year’s gathering will involve a ”thank you” to dealers for making Forest River the success it has become.

in the big picture, Liegl said a host of RV manufacturers holding dealer open houses and shows the same week in September is, in reality, boosting attendance at Forest River’s gathering.

Those other companies hosting dealers include Gulf Stream Coach Inc.; Thor Industries Inc. subsidiaries Keystone RV Co., Thor Motor Coach (recently created from the consolidation of Four Winds International Corp. and Damon Motor Coach), Breckenridge and Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc.; Monaco RV LLC; Livin’ Lite Recreational Vehicles; Dynamax Corp,; EverGreen Recreational Vehicles LLC; Sunnybrook RV; and Carriage Inc. Meanwhile, Jayco Inc.’s annual Master Sales Training Session for dealers’ sales staffs is partly slotted in the same time frame.

”Having the competition have their (dealer shows) at the same time has boosted our numbers,” Liegl said. ”We’re getting commitments (from competitors’) dealers that they are coming to ours too.”

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Outlook 2011 Breakfast Kicks Off RVIA Show

September 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Outlook Flyer 1.JPGOutlook 2011: A New Era Begins will kick off the National RV Trade Show on Tuesday, Nov. 30, with a lineup of insightful presentations that will focus on how the RV industry can meet the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities that a changing, more cost-conscious, linked-in market will present in 2011 and beyond, according to a news release.

The event will begin at 7 a.m. with a complimentary full breakfast in the South Wing Mezzanine Level Ballroom of the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky.

Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) Chairman Gregg Fore will host the high-energy, multimedia program which will feature:

  • Forging Our Future with Richard Coon sharing his thoughts on the important trends impacting the RV market and how RVIA is working to forge a bright future for the industry.
  • Go RVing: Inspiration for a New Era with Go RVing co-chairs Bob Olson and Tom Stinnett joining RVIA’s Gary LaBella to introduce the new Go RVing Leads Plus program, report on the impact of the Ambassadors of Affordability campaign, and unveil new plans for 2011.
  • RVIA Public Relations: A New Era of Possibilities with RVIA Public Relations Committee Chairman B.J. Thompson and LaBella discussing tools and strategies to maximize the exposure of RVing in a changing media landscape and sharing some of the resulting high-impact publicity that’s helping stoke demand for RVs.“This promises to be another tremendous Outlook event with a program that both informs and entertains,” said LaBella. “We expect attendees will enter the show excited about the prospects for the RV industry as it enters a new era.”
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RVIA Assigns Space for National RV Show

July 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Sixty-seven manufacturers and 199 suppliers were assigned display space totaling more than 750,000 square feet for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) 48th Annual National RV Trade Show during the annual space drawing held recently at association headquarters in Reston, VA.

After the recession severely cut back the size and scope of the National RV Trade Show last year, the increase in the amount of exhibit space assigned this year is another promising sign that the RV industry is on the road to recovery, the RVIA stated in its current issue of RVIA Today Express. At the 2009 National RV Trade Show, 70 manufacturer and 211 suppliers filled just over 604,000 square feet of space.

“We are very encouraged by the increase in exhibit space at this year’s show,” said RVIA President Richard Coon. “Having a large, well-attended National RV Trade Show sends a powerful message to consumers, the media, the financial markets, and our own industry about the health and outlook for the RV market.”

Exhibit space assignment was completed by using a lottery system established by RVIA. Tom Lutz of ASA Electronics and Joe Morales of Roadtrek Motorhomes attended the lottery as exhibitor representatives.

Exhibit space is still available for the show. For manufacturer space, contact Mike Hutya, vice president of Meetings and Shows at (800) 336-0154 ext. 332. For supplier space, contact Kelly Smith at ext. 465 at the same phone number.

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Louisville Show Supplier Space Nears Sellout

June 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

If space demand for the National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., continues at its present rate, supplier space will sell out before the July 6 deadline to apply, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) announced on Thursday (June 17).

Companies who request space after sellout, or July 6, whichever comes first, will be wait-listed for space.

RVIA’s Mike Hutya, vice president of meetings and shows, said in an e-mail to RVIA members, “Act now to ensure your participation in the show.”

“Only those companies whose applications and deposits are in the RVIA’s Reston, Va., office at the time of sellout or by July 6, whichever comes first, will be included in the drawing for space. While seniority in the show influences your booth location, seniority does not mean another exhibitor whose application and deposit arrives ahead of yours will be bumped from the show to make room for you.”

The discount booth rate is only offered to member companies who request space on or before July 6. After July 6, all member space will be sold at the regular, higher booth rates, she said.

For more information, contact Huyen (Wen) Dang at (800) 336-0154, ext. 395, or e-mail

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RVIA: 2010 Show Space Demand Rebounding

April 7, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

KEC exteriorAs yet another sign that the RV industry appears to be recovering from a major slump, space reservations for the annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., and the retail California RV Show in Pomona, Calif., are running well ahead of last year.

In fact, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), which owns both shows, reports that it will reserve 680,000 square feet of space at the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC) for the Louisville Show Nov. 29-Dec.1, up from 548,000 square feet last year but still down from the peak years.

RVIA's Mike Hutya

RVIA's Mike Hutya

”We already are 20% ahead of what we ended with last year,” said Mary ”Mike” Hutya, RVIA vice president of meetings and show, adding that 70 manufacturers have booked space.

The deadline for manufacturers’ requests for Louisville Show space was Friday (April 2), although RVIA will continue to take reservations as space allows. There will not be a space allocation draw because all manufacturers’ requests for space can be accommodated, Hutya reported.

The deadline to reserve space at a discounted rate at the Fairplex in Pomona for the Oct. 15-24 California RV Show was March 29 and Hutya said reservations were 30% ahead of last year.

California RV Show scene

California RV Show scene

Because of the demand for space in Louisville, RVIA will add supplier booths to Freedom Hall and manufacturer displays in the KEC’s West Wing. Neither locations was used for the 2009 show.

”We plan to be on both sides of the building and one exhibit hall,” Hutya said. ”If I get a floorplan for exhibits that is close to what the final plan will be, we probably will send another notice to members to tell them that some additional space may be available. There will be some changes by the time all is said and done.”

Recreational park trailer manufactures have been invited to display units at Louisville, all be in once adjacent area, probably in the KEC’s West Wing. ”We have no plans to use Broadbent Arena of the pavilion,” Hutya said, adding that 11 park model builders have already reserved space.

Individual park model displays last year were distributed throughout the South and North wings and the East Hall along with displays of traditional RVs.

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National RV Trade Show Space Sale Underway

March 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Heavy traffic at the 47th Annual National RV trade Show in Louisville, Ky.

Heavy traffic at the 47th Annual National RV trade Show in Louisville, Ky.

At the Outlook 2010 kickoff breakfast to the 47th National RV Trade Show in December, Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) President Richard Coon issued a challenge to the RV industry, asking attendees to work to ensure that 2010 is a year of recovery for the RV industry, and that the 2010 Louisville Show is bigger and better than the 2009 show.

Although the 48th National RV Trade Show is still months away, RV manufacturers should already have RVIA’s exhibit space offering in-hand, and the deadline for manufacturers to request show space is March 26, according to an RVIA release.

A large, well-attended National RV Trade Show sends a powerful message to consumers, the media, and financial markets about the health and outlook for the RV industry as a whole. The National RV Trade Show remains the industry’s premiere event. As the RV industry’s only true trade show, it is the best place for companies to display and promote their latest and greatest products and services to existing and potential customers while networking with industry colleagues.

Even in the recent challenging economic times, the National RV Trade Show remains a great value – allowing sales and marketing teams the opportunity to meet with more customers, prospects and contacts in just a few days than they could in several weeks on the road.

The National RV Trade Show also offers a strong return on exhibitors’ investment. Since RVIA is funded largely by the National RV Trade Show and the California RV Show, the money companies spend on show space is reinvested in association programs that boost the RV market – key initiatives that cover public relations outreach, government affairs programs, market trend and shipment reporting, and standards and education programs.

“Though we still have a long road ahead, times are decidedly better for the RV industry than they were a year ago,” Coon said. “We have withstood trying, difficult times once again, and we have survived. We are a resilient industry, and a courageous one. As you plan for this year’s shows, resolve to have the courage to believe in our industry’s recovery – to invest in show space and be a part of the biggest and best show ever.”

For information, call RVIA’s Shows Department at (703) 620-6003 ext. 305

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Truck Camper Magazine Debuts Show Videos

December 21, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Truck Camper Magazine has released an online HD video, “Louisville 2009,” featuring truck camper industry leaders presenting their 2010 products at the 47th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.

The video includes exclusive first looks at the all-new 2010 Lance 850, the all-new 2010 Adventurer 80GS with manual slide-out and the all-new 2010 TS116 triple-slide truck camper, according to a news release. The video is available now on Truck Camper Magazine at and is today’s featured video on the RVBUSINESS.COM website.

“For the past few years, the most important truck camper innovations have been multiple slide-outs and new weight-reducing materials and construction techniques including composites and lamination. As you’ll see in the video, these trends have been put into overdrive for 2010. It’s a very exciting time to be in the truck camper market,” said Gordon White, publisher of Truck Camper Magazine.

Founded in 2007, Truck Camper Magazine is a free, online-only magazine with over 335 feature length stories from exclusive truck camper news to engaging HD videos. With over 25,000 unique visitors and 175,000 pageviews a month, the magazine’s mission is to grow the truck camper marketplace by promoting truck campers.

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RV Owners’ Critiques Shared with OEMS at Show

December 8, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 


Steve Anderson, owner/editor of Workamper News

Steve Anderson, owner/editor of Workamper News

RV manufacturers appeared genuinely interested in the opinion survey results from RV owners made available to them last week at the National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.

Steve Anderson, editor of Workamper News, arrived in Louisville with over 1,700 survey results in hand to share with the RV manufacturers, according to a news release. Subscribers of Workamper News were asked to share their questions and input for this survey in regards to helping to improve on the RVing lifestyle. A large part of Workamper News subscribers live full time in their RVs.

CEOs and top management of the manufacturer attendees were open to the subscribers’ survey results, saying that they appreciate any input and questions from the Workamper News organization and would act on the results immediately,  said Anderson who was attending his firts national show since acquiring the Heber Springs, Ark.-based publishing firm in 2005.

For example, Jayco Inc. representative Paul Gardner said because of owners’ past feedback and suggestions, his company has made significant cosmetic changes in some of their coaches for 2010.

Anderson said he is extending an open hand to all RV manufacturers to help promote their businesses to his subscribers

Anderson said his primary goal at the show was to introduce himself and his organization to the RV manufacturers and to offer his services of working hand-in-hand with the industry leaders in promoting them to his 73,000-reader base.

Manufacturers can contact Workamper News for more information at (800) 446-5627, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. CST, Monday through Friday, e-mail him at or visit the website at

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RV Show Reports: Keystone Outsold 2008 Effort

December 7, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Keystone Rv Co. logoKeystone RV Co. Executive Vice President Bob Martin told Fox 28-TV, South Bend, Ind., his company sold more units at last week’s National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., than it did at the 2008 show.

He also said Keystone is expanding because of the positive outlook for the industry in 2010.

“We ran short of product a little bit last year so we’ve recently announced starting last fall we are opening four new production facilities in the Goshen area and we also bought some facilities in Oregon and we’ll start another line-up in Oregon in early spring so we’re looking for a good year,” Martin said. 

Martin said Keystone as well as other dealers have upgraded their lines to include more energy-efficient models.

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