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Ron and Lisa Fenech Add $5k To Learning Center

October 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Ron Fenech

Ron Fenech

Ron and Lisa Fenech made a $5,000 personal donation to the Mike Molino RV Learning Center last month, the National RV Dealers Association (RVDA) announced. This brings the couple’s total lifetime contribution to $60,000. Ron Fenech is co-owner of Grand Design RV.

The RV Learning Center’s fundraising campaign allows investment in new technology and upgrades to resources so that learning remains affordable, flexible and relevant for dealers and their staff. Contributions make it possible to update critical resources like the soon-to-be-released 11th edition of the Service Management Guide.

“Longtime donors like Ron and Lisa Fenech are great examples of why this industry prospering; they focus on the future. With our biggest education event of the year approaching, this generous donation will help us get the ball rolling for fundraising for the coming year,” said RV Learning Center Chairman of the Board Jeff Pastore of Hartville RV Center. “We cannot afford to become complacent in funding the learning center, so we are fortunate to have friends like the Fenechs who keep us in mind each year.”

Donations to the RV Learning Center fund programs including webinars on current topics, training and certification for dealership staff, essential publications and learning guides, and the Convention/Expo.  Convenient online donations as well as a printable form that accommodates customized pledges and donations have simplified giving.

                        The RV Learning Center is supported by dealers, manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, and other RV industry members committed to dealership education and the high levels of customer service provided by educated employees.

For more information go to the RV Learning Center’s website and learn more about what the RV Learning Center does for dealers and how you can help keep it going. The RV Learning Center is a tax-exempt organization. Contributions may be tax deductible as charitable donations.

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Grand Design Delivers 1st Solitude to Dandy RV

January 30, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Solitude fifth-wheel by Grand Design

After a solid Florida RV SuperShow, startup manufacturer Grand Design Recreational Vehicles has shipped its first unit — the extended-stay 38-foot Solitude fifth-wheel — to Dandy RV Superstores in Anniston, Ala.

Grand Design, founded in October by industry veterans Don Clark and brothers Ron and Bill Fenech, made its retail debut at the Tampa show in a Lazydays RV Center booth earlier this month at a prominent display that drew a steady stream of consumers throughout the event.

”It was the grand debut of Grand Design,” Clark told RVBUSINESS.com. ”I’m pretty confident that we hit the nail on the head. We’ve got a real winner. It exceeded our expectations (in Tampa) and we had high expectations.”

Middlebury, Ind.-based Grand Design’s first product came together quickly after the three principals’ non-competition agreements expired last year with Thor Industries Inc.

”You have all these ideas in mind and then you have to put them down on paper, and then you’ve got to make sure it works,” Clark said. ”(General Manager) Marc Hauser and our production and engineering staffs did a great job in a short amount of time.”

Clark and both Fenechs specifically attended the Florida show to interface with potential buyers. ”You have a lot of experienced buyers in Tampa,” Clark said. ”They know what they want. All three of us wanted to come here to get some feedback and ideas about improvements we could make to the coach.”

With the early success of the 38-foot Solitude, 35- and 36-foot floorplans will follow quickly with MSRPs that range from the low- to high-$60,000s, depending on equipment.

”Eventually, we will have six or seven Solitude floorplans when we are done,” Clark said.

At the same time, Grand Design has escalated the development of its next two brands which are expected to go into production later this year, Clark reported.

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Grand Design to Unveil Solitude at Tampa Show

January 11, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

Grand Design's new Solitude fifth-wheel

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

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

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

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

Solitude offers a spacious interior

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

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

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

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

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Grand Design RV Enjoys Industry Honeymoon

December 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Ron Fenech (forefront) outlines plans for Grand Design RV with partners (L-R) Bill Fenech and Don Clark

Grand Design RV Co., the new towable manufacturing company currently being set up at a 67-acre complex near the Indiana Toll Road north of Middlebury, Ind., has created plenty of positive industry buzz recently – a fact that’s perhaps most interesting because the newly founded company has yet to build its first unit.

In fact, as Grand Design’s three co-owners — all former executives of Jackson Center, Ohio-based Thor Industries Inc. — were introducing themselves to a crowd of more than 350 at an introductory meeting last week (Nov. 28) at the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) 50th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., a prototype of Grand Design’s first Solitude-brand, extended stay fifth-wheel lineup was still in the works at the firm’s 400,000-square-foot plant near the Michigan state line.

And now that Grand Design co-owner Ron Fenech, former president of Thor’s RV Group, is back in northern Indiana after a hectic week at the Louisville Show, he told RVBUSINESS.com that he and his partners, brother Bill Fenech and long-time associate Don Clark, are pretty pleased with the way things are going.

“We were very excited by the reaction to the news that we were coming back into the marketplace, but more importantly the dealer reaction to how we were going to position the company in regard to products that we were going to introduce, and, most significantly, the fact that we were going to pick one dealer per market who would have our full line of Grand Design products and that we would not be building sister or cloned products under the Grand Design name,” says Fenech, who played a key role in building Goshen, Ind.-based Keystone RV Co. into a national player as well as Thor’s largest single division. “All the dealers seem to be reacting very positively to it, and that — more than anything really — is gratifying at this point.”

In fact, Fenech, whose new firm has begun signing up selected dealerships, says the positive reception at Grand Design’s Louisville Show meeting wasn’t any different than what they’ve been receiving elsewhere throughout the country.

“Yeah, part of it I think is that there was some anticipation that we would be coming back into the marketplace,” he added. “We’ve built a lot of relationships over the years. We think that dealers recognize they can trust us and they believe in our track record. So they’re giving us a chance to talk to them seriously about joining forces.

“Part of it I think that is rather appealing is that we’re taking things back to how the business was done 25 or 30 years ago when companies had one dealer in a market. And I think in today’s market with so much Internet shopping, the fact that there’s fewer dealers in the market and credit isn’t flowing as it was back in the early 2000s that we are providing a way for dealers to build margin with the distribution strategy we’ll put in place. And I think that’s what they’re reacting to.”

 

 

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Fenechs and Clark Reveal Plan to RV Audience

November 29, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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

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

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

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

Don Clark, Ron Fenech and Bill Fenech

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ron Fenech addresses an audience in Louisville.

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

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

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Clark, Fenech Brothers Roll Out ‘Grand Design’

November 21, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Don Clark, Ron Fenech and Bill Fenech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Clark, Fenech Brothers Roll Out ‘Grand Design’

November 20, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

Don Clark, Ron Fenech and Bill Fenech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fenech Brothers, Don Clark ‘Back in Business’

October 22, 2012 by · 3 Comments 

Former Thor executives Don Clark, Ron Fenech and Bill Fenech

After a one-year hiatus and a great deal of speculation over the past year, high-profile RV industry senior managers Don Clark, Ron Fenech and Bill Fenech tell RVBUSINESS.com that the three former Thor Industries Inc. executives are ready to re-enter the RV market.

The three close friends report that they’ll be equal partners in a new travel trailer and fifth-wheel venture in northeastern Elkhart County, Ind., the name of which, along with a lot of other details, are still being kept under wraps. More details on this new venture are anticipated over the next couple of months, as information becomes available.

“We feel that the future looks bright,” they declared in a joint statement, adding that they’re pleased to finally lay to rest the rumors that have been circulating around the industry over the past year.

What is known is that the startup is currently setting up shop in a large 67-acre, 400,000-square-foot manufacturing complex they’ve recently purchased in rural Middlebury, Ind., near the Indiana Toll Road. “We bought this complex with the future in mind,” says Clark. “We have a long-term vision of where we want to take our company and this complex allows us to achieve that vision.”

“We loved what we have accomplished in the past, especially our time together at Keystone RV Co.,” the three note in the joint statement. “However, the market has changed. How we helped build Keystone, and how most of the industry operates today, will be different from how we build our company in terms of branding, clones and ‘sister’ products.”

Plans call for introducing the new company’s first brand in early 2013 for the spring market – not by the Louisville Show, as some in the industry had anticipated. “The show is an important industry event that would have been great to have our product displayed in, but not if it means rushing the product,” said Clark. “We are going to take our time and do this the right way.”

 

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RVDA Con/Expo Comes at Industry Juncture

August 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Expo LogoThe RV Dealers International Convention/Expo, scheduled for Oct. 4-8 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nev., comes at a crucial time for the U.S. economy in general and the RV industry in particular as both work their way out of the tough recession of 2008/2009.RVDA logo

On one hand, the industry’s rebound has exceeded expectations in many ways, especially for manufacturers, suppliers and retailers aligned with the right towable recreational vehicle brands. On the other hand, however, the aftershocks of the Great Recession are obviously still with us in terms of unemployment, stock market fluctuations and a general discomfort among many Americans with regard to the general state of the economy.

And while most Americans assume that the worst is over, many of the nation’s durable good manufacturers – including RV builders — are still looking to bridge their way to the next year and the next level of recovery and to find a comfort zone in this new post-recessionary age.

Mike Molino

Mike Molino

“There is a consensus we have to recalibrate our definition of what is a good business environment,” said Mike Molino, president of the Fairfax, Va.-based Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), lead sponsor of October’s annual Con/Expo. “We’re not going to get back to the 400,000-unit years any time soon. We’ll probably never return to that. The next couple of years will be tough, but doable. If dealers stay within the cash structure they have, they will survive. The consumer will come back — slowly. We won’t see a significant increase (in sales) until there is more certainty (about the state of the economy). I’m not so sure the election of 2010 will bring more certainty. That might just bring more confusion.”

But Molino, generally a realist, does tend to see the cup half full.

“The dealers who are still in business, for the most part, are the ones who will survive,” he maintained. “The dealers coming to the convention are in good shape. The shakeout is well on its way to being complete. But it’s not totally over. Dealers are telling me they have inventory but are paying more finance charges on the inventory they have than they used to, and retail financiers are very stringent on who they are lending money to, so the ability to buy a recreational vehicle, the threshold for buying, is higher and the ability to buy is a lot lower.

“Another dynamic is that there is uncertainty among businesses, both large and small, and that drives employment, and employment drives the mentality of the economy,” Molino continued. “When a consumer is hearing levels of unemployment we currently have (around 10%), it’s still not conducive to them going out and buying an RV, even if they can afford to get a loan for an RV. Until unemployment goes down and employment rises, we will have some issues.”

A New Era for the Industry As Well as RVDA’s Con/Expo

RVDA of CanadaThe RVDA is tackling this new era head-on with a refreshing revision of the annual convention, which is co-sponsored by RVDA of Canada and the RV Learning Center.

A crowd of between 475 and 550 U.S. and Canadian dealers, with total registrations of about 1,100 attendees, is anticipated for the five-day event.

“I think it’s going to be the best convention ever,” adds Molino. “We’ve got a very, very active committee under (Convention Chairman) Peter Albano. Between him and my staff and the volunteers on the committee, I think they have put together the most pertinent program for dealers and the management level of staff I’ve ever seen.”

As ever, of course, there will be an aggressive educational component including workshops on everything from wholesale and retail financing options to new inventory management strategies and how to reach new customers through innovative marketing communications. And the 2010 convention will again feature an exhibit hall filled with the RV industry’s leading OEM and supplier companies offering products and services to help dealers improve profitability.

But attendees will notice significant changes, starting with the brand committee meetings, closed door sessions in which dealers meet as a group with representatives of the recreational vehicle brands they carry. RVDA’s “Partners in Progress” brand committees, among other things, will work on important dealer-manufacturer issues and address results of RVDA’s Dealer Satisfaction Index (DSI).

“We’ve restructured the brand committees meetings, so they come early in the session,” Molino explained. “We tried to make it so there is no conflict between the committee meetings and anything else they want to do. I think it will enhance the experience for the dealers, especially the manufacturers.”

Peter Albano

Peter Albano

Before he took on the assignment of chairing this year’s convention committee, Albano confides, he talked with many dealers and asked them what they wanted with regard to the convention. “They said that we need to change and get some new blood into the system and see how we’re running the sessions, break it up and make it new,” Albano, owner of American RV in the Memphis suburb of Olive Branch, Miss., told RVBusiness. “We’ve worked very, very hard at doing that.”

Former Interior Secretary Kempthorne Will Keynote

Albano predicts that convention attendees will especially enjoy the remarks of former Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, who will serve as keynote speaker at the first general session on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

Dirk Kempthorne

Dirk Kempthorne

“Secretary Kempthorne has a track record of developing innovative approaches to meet the outdoor recreation needs of RV travelers and other outdoor enthusiasts,” Albano said. “As a long-time motorhome owner, he is enthusiastic about the future prospects for our industry. He will provide an inspiring message for everyone who makes their living in the RV business.”

Kempthorne continues to champion outdoor recreation and is an active RV traveler and motorcyclist. As Secretary of the Interior during the George W. Bush administration, he brought fundamental relational changes in the environmental, conservation and outdoor recreation arenas.

During his service in the U.S. Senate, Kempthorne led successful efforts to create a sustainable funding source for building and maintaining trails and to promote balance between resource protection and outdoor fun – which is among the reasons he received the 20th Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award in 2008 from the American Recreation Coalition (ARC).

A second general session, on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 7, will feature an “RV Outlook Panel Discussion” for which panelists will include Ron Fenech, president of Thor Industries Inc.’s RV Group; Craig Kennison, analyst with Robert W. Baird, Inc.; and Pete Lannon, GE Capital Commercial Distribution Finance.

Tom Walworth, president of Statistical Surveys Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich., will chair the discussion, which will focus on minimizing risk factors with RV floorplan loans, a manufacturing outlook on the future of RV product development and distribution, financial markets and the impact the issues will have on the dealers’ bottom lines.

“This session is sure to be extremely informative for everyone attending the upcoming convention,” said Albano. “It will provide some important steps that dealers can take to reduce their risk and successfully meet the financial challenges we are all facing today. The Convention/Expo Committee secured an outstanding group of RV industry experts to participate in this event.

RVBusiness HostsTop 50 Dealer Awards Festivities

Ann Coulter

Ann Coulter

RVBusiness magazine (and RVBUSINESS.com) will host its 3rd Annual RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards during a Wednesday, Oct. 6, reception and dinner at the Rio hosted by Affinity Group Inc. President & CEO Mike Schneider and keynoted by conservative political commentator and author Ann Coulter.

While the award eligibility has been expanded this year to include recreational park model dealers – just as it was expanded last year to include Canadian retailers — the awards format will include five Blue Ribbon retailers and one individual receiving the Altman Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Go RVing Coalition Convenes at Con/ExpoGo RVing logo

Concurrent with RVDA’s convention agenda, the pan-industry Go RVing Coalition will convene 8-11 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 6, in the Rio’s Tango Room to continue discussions of topics raised during the coalition’s last meeting June 8 during RVIA Committee Week in South Bend, Ind. This will likely include campaign planning, 2011 funding levels and development of the Go RVing consumer leads prioritization system approved by the coalition in June.

Gary LaBella

Gary LaBella

Along with recent shipment and retail data, the coalition will rely on a new University of Michigan RV market forecast and new ad tracking research. “Go RVing’s 2010 ad tracking research will be complete, giving us a better handle on the impact of our media mix and the Ambassadors of Affordability creative,” reports Gary LaBella, vice president and chief marketing officer for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and the coalition’s staff liaison.

Additionally, LaBella says results of the new study of Go RVing leads over the past three years will be reported by The Richards Group, the coalition’s Dallas-based agency. “This study will enable us to better prioritize leads, to provide more information to users about the specific products and price ranges consumer are considering, the lifestyle attributes of our leads and which media are most effective in delivering them,” he said. “All of this information will be helpful to future Go RVing media and creative planning as well as industry marketing efforts.”

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Thor Redirects Oregon-based Komfort Division

April 20, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

Komfort logoPeter Kinden, former general manager of Stiers RV, Bakersfield, Calif., has been named vice president of sales for Komfort Corp., a towable RV manufacturer based in Clackamas, Ore. In his new position, Kinden will manage all sales, marketing and product development for the Thor Industries Inc. division, according to a letter sent early this week (April 19) to Komfort’s 90 dealers by Thor Group President Ron Fenech.

As part of the transition, former Komfort President John Attilla remains with the company, but he’s stepping down from the top job. Komfort operations are now the direct responsibility of Don Clark, president of Thor’s Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc. subsidiary in Goshen, Ind.

“I would like to be open about what we see at Komfort,” Fenech wrote in the dealer letter. “Over the past few years, Komfort has lost its way. We have not been providing our dealers with the competitive products nor the responsive service that will allow us to be the dominant RV brand in the West. And that is going to change.

“The Komfort team has the basics in place to move quickly in getting us going in the right direction,” added Fenech, “and these changes are just the beginning. We at Thor are very committed to the Komfort brand and will be investing to return Komfort to the No. 1 name in the Western states, as it has been in the past.”

Although Clark will not have a Komfort title, Fenech told RVBUSINESS.com that “when appropriate” a new Komfort leader will be appointed who “will continue to report to Don Clark.”

The move comes as a number of companies appear to be positioning for West Coast market share in anticipation of the post-recession era, even though the current state of the marketplace out West continues to be “tough,” said Fenech. “The Northwest is strong, but the Southwest still has its challenges,” he said. “All in all, everything is getting better out West.”

Dutchmen has a manufacturing facility in Burley, Idaho, where the company builds entry-level, wood-and-aluminum travel trailers, while Komfort is located near Portland, Ore. Together, says Fenech, the two plants are well positioned to service the West. “Don understands the western market and will bring a lot of good direction to Komfort,” he added. “And there are efficiencies to be gained between Komfort and Dutchmen, and that will be good for both Dutchmen and Komfort dealers.”

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