The all-new Sanibel fifth-wheel is in full production at Prime Time Manufacturing, a subsidiary of Elkhart, Ind.-based Forest River Inc.
According to a press release, the new fiver targets the luxury fifth-wheel buyer and is intended to compliment the Wakarusa, Ind., company’s mid-priced Crusader fifth wheel. Prime Time management recently delivered the first production model to Leisure Time RV in Oklahoma City. Base MSRP of the new Sanibel fifth wheel is $65,000.
Upon receiving the new unit, Debora Bingham and Ron Walker, dealer principals at Leisure Time RV, noted, “Sanibel looks absolutely fantastic and is loaded with lots of easy-to-sell features that high-end customers are going to love. Prime Time represents a big part of our business and we think Sanibel will be another great addition to our dealership”.
Sanibel Product Manager Jeff Wagner said Prime Time has a special relationship with Leisure Time RV, stating, “Ron and Debora were one of the very first dealers to sign up with Prime Time when the company was started in 2009. They have done a fantastic job representing all of our products in the Oklahoma City market and we are thankful for their continued commitment and support. It’s an honor to deliver the first Sanibel to Leisure Time RV.”
For more information regarding Sanibel and Prime Time Manufacturing, please call (574) 862-3001 or consult www.primetimerv.com.
Wakarusa, Ind.-based Prime Time Manufacturing, a Forest River Inc. subsidiary, announced that it has been notified the builder will be receiving the prestigious Quality Circle Award from the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) for the second straight year.
Three Prime Time brands – LaCrosse, Tracer, and Crusader – will be honored during the “Celebrate Excellence: All-Industry Gala” at the RVDA National Convention on Oct. 5. Each of the brands was recognized for scoring 80% or above in overall dealer satisfaction as measured in the Dealer Satisfaction Index (DSI) survey conducted by RVDA.
The DSI survey, which determines the Quality Circle Award winners, rates manufacturers’ performance in eight core areas: vehicle reliability/quality, parts support, dealership warranty support, vehicle design, sales support, sales territory, competitive price/value and overall dealer communications.
“Prime Time Manufacturing is again honored to have earned the Quality Circle Award with each of our eligible brands,” said Prime Time President Jeff Rank. “Winning is a tremendous credit to the hard work and commitment of nearly 300 employees who have come together with a joint mission to build high quality products, while providing industry-leading services to our dealers.”
“The DSI survey is an important tool for the measurement of the quality of our products, our manufacturing processes, and our sales and service policies,” said Rank. “We want to thank our valued dealer partners for honoring us with this prestigious award. Prime Time has geared up with an outstanding line-up of innovative and high quality towables for 2012 and we look forward to serving our dealers and retail customers with more award-winning products and services.”
Prime Time Manufacturing recently built the 1,000th Crusader fifth-wheel at its production facility in Wakarusa, Ind. The milestone unit was sold and delivered to Southern RV Supercenter, a multi-store dealership headquartered in Bossier City, La., which is the largest volume Crusader dealer in North America.
Prime Time President Jeff Rank made the arrangements for the sale of the special 298 BHD Crusader. “Southern RV was one of the very first Prime Time dealers when we started the company in 2009,” he said. “We are thankful for their continued commitment and support of Prime Time Manufacturing. It’s an honor to deliver Crusader number 1,000 to Jim and his team in recognition of their outstanding sales success.”
In accepting the 1,000th Crusader, Jim Hicks, president of Southern RV Supercenter, noted, “Like all of the Prime Time products, Crusader has several fantastic floorplans with lots of easy-to-sell features. Our retail customers think the Crusader looks great and our sales department loves to sell them. Crusader has quickly become a big part of our business.” Southern RV Supercenter has additional locations in Tyler, TX and Lafayette, LA.
Prime Time Manufacturing is a division of Forest River Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway Inc. company. Prime Time, founded in July 2009, offers towable RV’s under the brand names of Crusader, LaCrosse, Tracer and Sanibel. For more information regarding Prime Time Manufacturing, visit www.primetimerv.com or call (574) 862-3001.
TV viewers watching ”RV 2011” on HGTV New Year’s day generally got glowing cable TV reviews of 20 motorhomes and towable RVs displayed last September at the Pennsylvania RV & Camping Show in Hershey, Pa.
Host Chi-Lan Lieu guided two families with children and a third couple through the maze of RVs at the Hershey Show on the grounds of Hersheypark.
Each family had different goals — the Herbst family was looking to upgrade while the Styles family sought their first RV, a high-end motorhome or towable and Lindsay and Chad Drvak were looking to accommodate rescued dogs.
Lieu, in turn, showed different RVs that she thought would meet their goals. Although none committed to buying an RV during the program, each chose one that they thought best suited their needs.
Among the units highlighted were Fleetwood RV Inc.’s high-end American Revolution and Tiffin Motor Home Inc.’s diminutive Allegro diesel pushers, Winnebago Industries Inc.’s Access minimotorhome, Prime Time Manufacturing’s Crusader fifth-wheel and Roadtrek Motorhomes Inc.’s SS Ideal van camper.
The Herbsts chose a Dynamax Dynaquest XV Class C motorhome; the Styles, a Dutchmen Voltage high-end sport utility fifth-wheel (SURV); and the Drvaks, an Earthbound travel trailer.
The hour-long program marks the 13th year that HGTV has highlighted new RV products, and will be rebroadcast at unspecified times during the year.
Producers of the program worked with the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and its agency, Barton Gilanelli, to put the program together.
Two-year-old Prime Time Manufacturing, Wakarusa, Ind., a fast-growing division of Forest River Inc., has introduced the 2011 Crusader, its first fifth-wheel.
”For a little fifth-wheel, there is a lot of storage and a very residential feel,” said Jeff Rank, Prime Time president and co-founder.
Available in six 29- to 36-foot floorplans, 34-foot 298BHD floorplan features a fully equipped exterior kitchen with a stone facade. ”Clearly outdoor kitchens are the trend,” Rank said. ”Everyone has one on travel trailers, but it’s just starting to filter its way into fifth-wheels.”
The Crusader features an aerodynamic front cap that affords an 88-degree turning radius which allows towing by short-bed pickup trucks without having the need for a slider hitch.
Standard features on the fiberglass-and-aluminum Crusader, which joins the Tracer ultra-lite and LaCrosse laminated trailer in Prime Time’s lineup, include soldid surface countertops, large pantries, cherry-glazed cabinets, crown molding and wardrobe slideout. MSRPs range from $27,000 to $45,000.
On Prime Time’s agenda for 2011 is the Sanibel full-profile fifth-wheel, along with a stick-and-tin entry level trailer in late summer and then a sport utility RV (SURV) by the Louisville Show.
”At that point we will be in every major segment and then we will stop introducing new brands and and try to make all of them better,” Rank said.
Wakarusa, Ind.-based Prime Time Manufacturing has announced the promotions of Joe Luther and Dan Sellers to product managers for the company’s Crusader, LaCrosse, and Tracer product lines, effective today.
“Joe and Dan have been instrumental in the successful start-up and subsequent growth of Prime Time,” Chris Hermon, Prime Time Manufacturing vice president of sales, stated in a news release.
“They have a long history of developing outstanding dealer relationships based on hard work, integrity, and a real understanding of the RV industry. Although Jeff Rank and I will continue to be very involved in all product decisions, Prime Time is fortunate to have these two talented individuals ready to take our brands to the next level.”
Luther will be product manager for the company’s fifth-wheel products that include the recently introduced Crusader and the soon-to-be-introduced Sanibel. Prior to joining Prime Time as a regional sales manager, Luther was national sales manager for Gulfstream’s Class C Motorized division for 10 years. In order to stay close to the retail customer, Luther will retain a small sales territory in the southeastern U.S. Living in Granger, Ind., Luther and his wife, Cheryl, have four daughters.
Sellers will assume responsibility for Prime Time’s travel trailer products – the ultra lightweight Tracer and the luxury lightweight LaCrosse. A 22-year industry veteran, Sellers has worked at some of the industry’s leading manufacturers in various capacities with direct sales experience in over 60% of the United States. Sellers will have a small sales territory in the Midwest. Dan and his wife, Gayle, reside in Wakarusa, Ind., and have two adult children.
For information regarding Prime Time Manufacturing, consult www.primetimerv.com or call (574) 862-3001.
Prime Time Manufacturing is a division of Forest RiverInc, a Berkshire Hathaway Inc. company.
Prime Time Manufacturing has expanded its product offering with the introduction of the all-new Tracer Micro series travel trailer targeted toward minivan and small crossover tow vehicles. Industry insiders got their first look at the new Tracer Micro during the just completed Forest River Inc. dealer open house in Elkhart, Ind., according to a news release.
“The thinking behind the new Micro is simple,” according to Jeff Rank, president for the Wakarusa, Ind.-based manufacturer. “Prime Time wanted a travel trailer that can easily be towed by a minivan with 3,500 pounds of towing capacity. Unfortunately, most of the units in this weight range really compromise livability and function. With Micro we’ve combined great looks, the right features, and many of today’s lightweight composite materials to create a perfect balance between weight, price, features and eye appeal.”
Three floorplans, all with slideouts, are being offered in the Tracer Micro series with shipping weights starting at 2,550 pounds fully loaded. Standard interior equipment includes cherry cabinets and cherry hardwood cabinet doors, automotive styled leather wrapped dinettes, microwave, air conditioner and CD player. On the outside, a full-sized awning, stabilizer jacks, spare tire, stereo speakers, television hook-up and aluminum wheels are included as standard equipment.
The MSRPs for the new Tracer Micro series start at $14,900.
Prime Time Manufacturing is a division of Forest River Inc, a Berkshire Hathaway Inc. company. Prime Time offers towable recreational vehicles under the brand names of LaCrosse, Tracer, and Crusader.
For information regarding the Tracer Micro, consult www.primetimerv.com or call (574) 862-3001.
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 RVBUSINESS.com. ”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 RVBUSINESS.com, 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.”
Rapidly expanding Prime Time Manufacturing has announced details of a consumer incentive program designed to spur retail sales during the upcoming fall season.
The program, called Prime Time’s “Reason To Buy” Touring Edition, is available on all 2011 model LaCrosse and Tracer Executive Series travel trailers produced between Sept. 1, 2010, and Nov. 30, 2010, by the Wakarusa, Ind.-based manufacturer.
Chris Hermon, Prime Time vice president of sales, says the program is a proactive approach to addressing the traditional slowdown in retail sales that occurs after the Labor Day weekend.
“The Reason To Buy Touring Edition offers consumers up to $3,900 of free upgrades not normally available on LaCrosse and Tracer.” Hermon said. “It’s simple; we want to give customers a reason to buy now. With these incentives, Prime Time dealers are in a better position to compete for available customers or turn idle prospects into willing buyers.”
Participating dealers will receive point-of-purchase sales support and Prime Time has launched several web-based initiatives to increase retail interest. According to Hermon, “Retail customers are coming to primetimerv.com in increasing numbers and staying for long periods of time due to its informative and interactive format. The Reason To Buy Touring Edition will be featured prominently on the site to help generate awareness. We are also working with several industry web sites targeting retail customers to help get the word out.”
The program announcement represents a significant turning point for the young manufacturer. “For the last 14 months, we’ve focused our resources on launching the company with a foundation of industry-leading quality and customer service. Unlike many of our competitors, we were not in a position to offer heavily discounted products, yet, Tracer and LaCrosse have enjoyed remarkable market acceptance. We are excited to now leverage Forest River’s unmatched financial strength to help our dealers win in a much bigger way,” added Hermon.
For specific details regarding the Reason To Buy Touring Edition, consult www.primetimerv.com or call (574) 862-3001.
Prime Time Manufacturing, a division of Forest River Inc., has expanded its product offering with the introduction of the company’s first fifth-wheel, the mid-priced Crusader.
Full production of the new Crusader started in June at Prime Time’s facility in Wakarusa, Ind., and officials recently delivered the first production model to General RV in Wixom, Mich., according to a news release
Loren Baidas, president of General RV, and several members of the dealership’s management and sales team were presented with the 2011 Crusader 270RET fifth-wheel by Prime Time president Jeff Rank and Chris Hermon, Prime Time’s vice president of sales.
According to Rank, “General RV is not only one of Prime Time’s largest dealers, but also a huge dealer for all of Forest River. When we started the company, General was one of the first dealers to come aboard and we are thankful for their continued commitment and support of Prime Time Manufacturing. It’s an honor to deliver this very special Crusader fifth-wheel to Loren and his team.”
General RV, with nine locations, is the nation’s largest family-owned dealership. In acceptance, Baidas was quick to compliment the young company.
“The new Crusader has a great look and lots of easy to sell features. It will definitely be a nice addition to our dealerships. Prime Time is quickly becoming a bigger part of our business plan and we are excited to be a factor in their rapid growth,” he said.
After the presentation, Hermon was able to show several unique features of the new Crusader including the innovative Super Turn front cap, Slam Latch pass thru baggage doors, Quiet Cool ducted return air conditioning and solid cherry hardwood cabinet doors and drawers. During the walk-through with the dealership, Hermon emphasized, “We’ve loaded Crusader with features not normally found on a mid-profile fifth wheel and priced it very aggressively to deliver more value.”
Additional Crusader upgrades on the 270RET include solid surface countertops, an RCA Soundwave entertainment system, bumper mounted swing arm grill, hitch cover and a 42-inch LCD with electric lift.
Base MSRP of the new Crusader fifth-wheel is $29,500.
For more information regarding Prime Time Manufacturing and the LaCrosse, Tracer, and Crusader brands, please consult www.primetimerv.com or call (574) 862-3001.
Watch today’s Featured Video to learn more about the following Should I Attend My Ex Boyfriends Show story.
An RV company in Elkhart County, Ind., reached a milestone. It has delivered more than a thousand units and announced a new product line. And for a company that didn’t exist eight months ago — the results aren’t bad, according to WSBT-TV, South Bend.
Last September, Prime Time Manufacturing Inc., a division of Forest River Inc., set up shop in a vacant RV plant in Wakarusa. The complex previously housed Travel Supreme Inc. It started making a line of travel trailers and eventually hired up to 130 employees.
“In a short seven, eight months we’ve been able to open up a plant, and just most recently, we delivered our 1,000th unit and we are excited for a lot of reasons,” said Chris Hermon, vice president of Prime Time Manufacturing.
One reason is that they will soon introduce a new line of fifth-wheels, which will translate into more jobs.
“We’re getting ready to announce here very shortly that we will have 30 to 40 people hired and then by the end of the year, we will expect to have 80 to 100 people in a new fifth-wheel plant and the product will be called ‘Crusader,’” said Hermon.
A number of people now here at Prime Time have a lot of time under their belt in RV production, some were recently unemployed but all are glad to be back in the workforce.
“It’s nice to be back at a place and have a good paycheck coming in on Fridays again, and feel confident about the next day,” said Shane Abney, who has 22 years of RV experience.
“The people that are working here are very, very happy to not have to go home at night, and worrying about not having a job, coming in and having a good place to work,” said Jeff Abney, who has 26 years of RV experience.
Prime Time is one of the latest new RV companies to start in Elkhart County. Could more new companies like theirs spring up and bring TV employment levels back up to those of the past?
“Some people might say unemployment levels will never get up to what they once were, but I am not ready to say that,” said Kyle Hannon of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce. “I don’t think anyone can predict; that industry continues to evolve.”
Consistent with widespread projections that the RV industry is poised for a recovery in 2010, many dealers for recently formed Prime Time Manufacturing in Wakarusa, Ind., have enjoyed dramatic increases in retail traffic and sales during the first two months of the new year, according to a news release.
“This year’s Indianapolis show was the best I’ve seen in several years,” according to Dave Bane, president of Tom Raper RV in Richmond, Ind. “Customers are starting to feel more comfortable about their finances and seem ready to make the commitment to a new RV.”
Tom Raper RV, Prime Time’s largest dealer, is focusing on the towable market in 2010 to compliment its existing motorhome sales.
According to Bane, “For years, Tom Raper RV has been one of the nation’s largest motorized dealers. But we believe that towable RVs are going to lead the recovery so we are aligning ourselves with aggressive, innovative manufacturers like Prime Time in order to maximize our sales and profits. Prime Time has made a considerable contribution to the direction of our dealership with their product offering.”
Colleen Botello, sales manager at Hi-Way Campers in Plainfield, Conn., saw similar action at the recently completed Springfield RV and Camper Show where they sold nine Prime Time units.
“Traffic has been exceptional, retail sales are good, and we are starting to see some daylight. Consumers are taking more time in the buying process and are more cautious with their money, but they tend to be looking forward,” noted Botello. Two factors that are more of a priority for consumers, according to Botello, were weight ratings and value. “Prime Time’s LaCrosse offers a lot of bang for the buck with its upscale look and features while Tracer has opened up new markets for us with its low weights and towability,” Botello said.
Prime Time Regional Sales Manager Jason Gill said that many dealers will benefit from the pent-up demand that has been created the last two years as retail sales have slowed along with the national economy.
“Across the board, we are seeing huge increases in retail traffic and most dealers are selling more than they have the last couple of years,” commented Gill. “We are feeling confident about 2010 and Prime Time continues to increase production rates in anticipation of strong retail demand.”
Prime Time Manufacturing is a division of Forest River Inc, a Berkshire Hathaway company. Prime Time offers towable RVs under the brand names of LaCrosse and Tracer.
The RV industry faced difficult times in the last two years as both manufacturers and dealers closed their doors.
But the 30th Annual Edmonton RV Show and Sale added a solid dose of optimism to the industry’s outlook. When the doors to the show opened on Feb. 11, the crowd surged in to look at the latest in RVs and decide what to buy, according to the Edmonton Journal.
Within a few minutes of the opening, the first deals had been written. Many observers agreed it was the busiest opening to the show that they had seen in years.
Don Humphrey, manager of Roadmaster RV in Leduc, went further, saying it was the busiest opening night he had seen in his 30 years of attending shows.
“Sales are at least double last year,” Humphrey said in an interview, pointing out that there is “pent-up demand.”
“This year, people are eager to buy.”
This year’s RV show was the first held in the recently expanded Edmonton Expo Center and filled all the main floor halls, including the brightly lit new halls that opened late last year. In contrast, the recent Edmonton Motorshow did not use Halls A and B on the main level.
The show presented a variety of new RVs and features to grab the attention of consumers. A feature that attracted the attention of many visitors was the outdoor kitchens on a variety of RVs.
After years of seeing many RVs add more and more comforts of home, some of the trailers at the 2010 show took a back-to-basics approach to bring the outdoor experience back to camping. These more Spartan models are available both in tent and hard-wall travel trailers.
The Quicksilver tent trailers sold by Carefree Coach and RV exemplified the minimalist approach. These trailers are available in lengths ranging from just under nine feet to just over 21 feet. The Quicksilver line also includes tent-style truck campers that fold down for travel.
Quicksilver RVs, built by Livin’ Lite, rely on aluminum construction for strength, light weight and long-term durability.
“When I looked at today’s generation of pop-ups, I saw heavy, expensive units, but nothing that could be towed by a car or station wagon,” said Scott Tuttle, Livin’ Lite founder. “That’s when we decided to build our own tent camper that would be both affordable and able to be towed by most cars and minivans.
“Do our units have all the frills of the expensive units? No,” Tuttle said. “But that’s not what camping is all about. Camping for us is about having a great time in the outdoors.”
Not only can the Quicksilver units be towed by cars and minivans, the company also offers units designed to be pulled by motorcycles.
When Tuttle says Quicksilver units don’t have all the frills, he’s talking about trailers and truck campers that don’t have appliances or a bathroom. Storage cabinets and a sink are available in some units. Carefree also displayed one unit with a hole in the floor for ice-fishing.
Carefree president Elmer Lastiwka said Quicksilver trailers are priced at $4,000 to just over $9,000. “It’s affordable for any family with a small car.”
Because of the light weight of the Quicksilver campers, in some situations they could be towed by a quad, such as heading up a cut line into the wilderness or onto a lake for ice fishing. Using a quad would alleviate the fear of a truck or sport utility vehicle going through the ice.
The Kamparoo Camper, a lightweight, folding tent trailer manufactured in Australia and distributed by Kamparoo Campers in Wetaskiwin, is a similar concept.
Some travel trailers at the show also showed a more basic, affordable approach, including the Wolf Pup in the Cars RV and Marine display and the Takena Curv at the Roadmaster RV exhibit. Both of these trailers have a sloping, curved front to reduce wind resistance and make them easier to tow.
A number of manufacturers offer outdoor kitchens on their trailers this year. Some trailers with two entrance doors now come equipped with a bathroom just inside the rear door to shorten the mud trail when children go in to use the toilet.
Most outdoor kitchens are built into the rear corner of the trailer with a lift-up door that doubles as a canopy.
Outback Country RV sells the North Trail, made by Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC, which offers a fully equipped outdoor kitchen that includes a sink, microwave, refrigerator, television and stove. The refrigerator is electric only — the main refrigerator inside the RV is a gas-electric model.
Tango trailers, sold by Western RV of Leduc, have a different outdoor kitchen design, one that slides out of the rear corner of the unit.
Tango’s Dane Found talked about the reasoning behind building an RV with an outdoor kitchen:
“The idea is that most people want to spend as much time as possible outside,” Found said, explaining that this is the first year that Tango has offered the outdoor kitchen.
In addition to offering the option of preparing food outdoors, the slide-out kitchen also fulfils other roles.
Found said it can serve as a privacy barrier in a campground and a windbreak at the campsite.
The outdoor kitchen has been well received by consumers, he said.
During the show, it wasn’t unusual to hear showgoers comparing the various kitchens as they made their way from exhibit to exhibit.
Although RV manufacturers have failed in recent years, some new companies have been started to fill at least part of the void. Arrkann Trailer and RV Center sells the Tracer Ultra Lite trailer line, manufactured by Prime Time Manufacturing, which started producing trailers in August. Prime Time strives to build trailers with designs that appeal to buyers while ensuring that they’re priced right.
Earthbound RV is another new line Arrkann has added to give customers a lightweight RV that’s easy to tow. Arrkann’s Ken Friedenberg said Earthbound interiors are reminiscent of a luxury car. The sleek exterior is slate grey, in contrast to the usual white RV exterior.
Friedenberg said his dealership was selected by RV usiness magazine as one of the top 50 RV dealers in North America and was the lone Canadian to make the top 10 in that group of 50.
Many RV dealers at the show displayed, in addition to tent trailers and various styles of travel trailers, motorhomes ranging from large bus-style Class As to Class B van conversions and the intermediate-size Class Cs.
In Class A, improved fuel economy such as that offered by the Avanti from Damon is a welcome change for buyers. While many Class As travel less than 10 miles per gallon, the Avanti raises that to better than 14 miles per U.S. gallon or more than 16 miles per Imperial gallon.
Chris Cook of Woody’s RV said the Avanti uses a number of European design features such as a sloped front and reduced height to improve fuel economy. Woody’s recently sold one of these units, which have prices starting around $130,000 US.
Roadtrek Motorhomes Inc., a Kitchener, Ont.-based manufacturer of Class B motorhomes, has added a rear slide to its van conversion based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis. This van, in the Grove RV display, drew a steady crowd of interested onlookers.
Recreational vehicle dealers had cause to smile at this past weekend’s annual Detroit Camper and RV Show. The four-day event was packed morning to night, every day, according to ABC News.
Attendance at this year’s Detroit show was up 15% over last year. Industry insiders are encouraged by the enthusiasm after a big slump last year.
And the families who came to see everything from small pop-up camp vehicles to 40-foot luxury coaches with bathrooms, refrigerators and built-in barbecues were in a buying mood.
“Things have been great,” Chad Neff, general manager of American RV in Grand Rapids, Mich., said. “The traffic has been good and people are buying.”
American RV sells a full range of recreational vehicles from small economic campers to the fifth-wheel Montana, which has an interior floorplan that seems almost as large as a studio apartment. Neff, like many other RV dealers at the show, attributed increased industry sales to the improvement in the availability of credit.
“I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand,” he said. “People right now, they’re willing to get out, and the banks are lending more money, and those things are helping us out.”
The increased interest is a dramatic change from last year’s show, which occurred amid the backdrop of a weakened U.S. economy and uncertainty about the future. RV enthusiasts weren’t buying because of job insecurity and the prospects of losing their homes, leaving little appetite for mobile ones. Several RV manufacturers filed for bankruptcy early last year and even industry giant Winnebago Industries Inc. had a rough go at it.
The RV industry has long been thought of as a good indicator of the overall economy’s performance because RVs are a major discretionary purchase that often require financing. After a sales slump, which coincided with the worsening economy, and an overall lack of enthusiasm at RV shows last year, 2010 has started with a boom for the industry. Attendance at this year’s Novi, Mich., show was up about 15% from last year, according to show director Bill Sheffer, who is with the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds.
“We’re encouraged by what we see,” Sheffer said this weekend. “I’m not an economist but I sure hope this is a harbinger of good things to come.”
Attendance was also strong at two other important RV shows last month. The annual Colorado RV Adventure Travel Show was up 26% from last year and the Florida RV Super Show surpassed 50,000 for the first time in the history of the show, according to organizers.
The Florida show is one of the most important indicators of retail demand for the industry, analysts and insiders say.
“A year ago this time, financing was terrible,” said John Monterusso, a Michigan motorhome dealer. “People’s existing RVs took a beating in value so a lot of people were upside down in what they already owned. But things are on the upswing. Sales are better.”
About 1 in 12 U.S. vehicle-owning households, or about 8.2 million, also owns an RV, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA. The industry employs more than a quarter-million Americans.
RV lovers and the culture associated with owning the vehicles runs deep across the country. Retirees love the time outdoors, on the road in their vehicles. And people with small children enjoy the family time.
“You’re outdoors, instead of being at a theme park or something,” said John Dotson, who visited the show with his wife looking for an entry-level RV in the range of $10,000 to $15,000, “Instead of relying on something else to entertain you,”
He said he has never owned an RV but thinks now is the right time to buy one.
Another Michigan resident at the show, Larry Nethot, said he was looking for a replacement RV. He and his wife are former backpackers and they need a new RV because she no longer likes the outdoors. “Our parents stole our retirement home, so we’ve got to find another place to sleep,” he said.
Nethot checked out an RV that had an LCD television, DVD player, a kitchen dinette and other home furnishing in it. “I like the outdoors but my wife can no longer stand it at the camp, ” he said.
The RV is a compromise for the couple.
Jeff Rank, the president of Prime Time Manufacturing in Wakarusa, Ind., attended the Novi show and was delighted with interest from prospective customers like Dotson.
“The traffic is awesome,” he said. “Let’s face it, the last couple of years, it’s been a struggle. People seem to be in a better mood.”
Rank sells the impressive high-end LaCroose RV, which is 35 feet long and features a 26-inch LCD screen inside. That people are looking to buy some of the high-end RVs is a real sign the industry is back on track, he said. “You’re already seeing the comeback in wholesale shipments to dealers,” he said. “It’s about a 50-70% increase in shipments.”
Rank’s family has been in the RV business since 1969 and he says the past few years have been one of the worst periods he has seen in the industry. “It seems like every decade we have had a 10-, 12-year run that has been whatever the U.S. economy is doing, our industry is doing.”
Following its success at the recent Louisville Show, Forest River Inc.’s Prime Time Manufacturing division is preparing to introduce its third product: a mid-profile Crusader fifth-wheel.
A 70,000-square-foot plant in Prime Time’s Wakarusa, Ind., factory complex will be outfitted for fifth-wheel production during a Dec. 24 to Jan. 3 holiday shutdown.
”We are very excited about the upcoming season,” said Prime Time President Jeff Rank. ”Dealers at the show were very, very upbeat — more so than I’ve seen in the last year or so.”
The Crusader will feature floorplans in the 25- to 29-foot range weighing between 6,000 and 7,000 pounds that can be towed by half-ton pickup trucks
The company currently has about 100 dealers and employs 75 people with plans to manufacture seven units a day after the first of the year, according to Rank. He added that Prime Time’s work force is expected to double in the next four or five months.
At the show, rapidly expanding Prime Time — founded in July — introduced its second product, the ultra-lightweight Tracer Micro and Executive travel trailer series. The company’s inaugural line was a LaCrosse travel trailers.
”Dealers were not only willing to buy, they were able to buy,” Rank said. ”With inventories very low, I think the banks (that finance wholesale floorplans) wanted to get inventories in line.”
Rank said he senses that retail lending on a national level is still a problem for the RV industry.
”A lot of dealers have built relationships with banks at the local level,” Rank said. ” That added to the sense of optimism. But it’s apparent that there are still some concerning about national retail financing.
”Nobody’s kidding themselves that the market is going to return to what it was a few years ago, but there are going to be some nice recoveries for some dealers out there.”