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Starcraft RV ‘Re-enters’ Fifth-Wheel Marketplace

September 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Solstice fifth-wheel by Starcraft

Solstice fifth-wheel by Starcraft

Starcraft RV, a division of Jayco Inc., has re-entered the fifth-wheel market with some exciting new products to complete its full line of towables.

According to a press release, an upscale, mid-high priced Solstice luxury fifth-wheel is the flagship of this latest generation. The mid-priced Travel Star and Travel Star Galaxy, featuring an upgraded trim and features package, fill out the company’s offerings.

“We took our time and got it right,” said Brent Froman, vice president of sales. “The look is modern yet residential, and we did our homework by not only matching features of similarly-priced units but taking everything to the next level.”

Solstice and Travel Star fifth-wheels come with widebody 102-inch construction – versus the 96-inch industry standard – along with larger showers, elegant Honey Glazed Cherry cabinetry, Denver brand mattresses, a universal docking station and many other creature comforts and solid construction features.

Along with Starcraft’s exclusive two-year limited warranty, a “reputation for quality” is carried forward in the new fifth wheel line.

Ashley Lehman, director of marketing, noted, “Our Magnum Roof System, screwed cabinet stiles, old-world craftsmanship and meticulous detailing are proof that we do not take shortcuts on quality. The Solstice and Travel Star fifth-wheels will impress customers from their aesthetics to everything that’s under the surface.”

All Starcraft brands and a large variety of floorplans will be on display at next week’s Elkhart County RV Open House. Starcraft and Jayco will display product on Executive Parkway Drive next to the RV/MH Hall of Fame.

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Starcraft to Debut New Product at Open House

September 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Starcraft RV will display more than 30 units at the Elkhart County RV Open House Sept. 17-19. According to a press release the Starcraft exhibit, located at the northwest corner of County Road 6 and County Road 17 across from the RV/MH Hall of Fame, will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

During the week, Starcraft will showcase 34 of its 2014 towable lineup, featuring eight new floorplans covering all brands. One of the biggest highlights will be its new hardside Comet camping trailer series with three floorplans on display. In addition to the new hardside floorplans, the Comet series now boasts tan-colored sides, new graphics and black moldings.

“With our new Comet Hardside series and the other new floorplans on display, we expect a good reaction to this year’s open house.” said Starcraft Director of Sales Brent Froman. “It’s always a great time for us to meet with our dealers and show them we’re not slowing down as we move into the winter months.”

Starcraft is also using the open house as a platform to introduce many exciting changes to the front profile of its AR-ONE, AR-ONE WideBody and Autumn Ridge lines. They will also have on display two new Launch Ultra Lite floorplans, 24RLS and 26BHS, and a new 239TBS Travel Star EXP floorplan.

In addition to the display, Starcraft will be hosting a 50th anniversary celebration for dealers complete with a live band, door prizes and hors d’oeuvres. The celebration will take place September 17 from 2-5 p.m. at the display. This dealer celebration is part of a yearlong 50 anniversary campaign for Starcraft.

Starcraft’s regional sales managers will be onsite during the open house hours Tuesday through Thursday to talk with dealers. Starcraft will provide lunch from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday for visitors.

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Starcraft Announces Launch of Revamped Site

June 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Continuing its focus on providing the best experience for customers, Starcraft RV Inc. recently launched a redesigned website with new functionality, comprehensive product information and easy-to-use navigation, according to a press release.

“Our goal has always been to provide our consumers with a quality camping experience, and we recognize those experiences start the moment a consumer is looking to buy a camper,” said Sid Johnson, director of marketing and sales for the Middlebury, Ind.-based Jayco Inc. subsidiary. “The new starcraftcamping.com is a direct reflection of that goal. Through the redesign and enhanced functionality, we hope our consumers will find that the site is easy to navigate, provides quality and comprehensive information, and makes the buying experience more enjoyable.”

The new starcraftcamping.com spotlights the company’s emphasis on families and the overall camping lifestyle. Featuring vibrant photography along with a buyer’s guide and model comparison feature, the website was designed to bring each visitor into the experience. The website is also responsive, designed to automatically adapt to all user devices, including desktops, tablets and smart phones.

“We understand that each Starcraft customer has different needs and wants in a product,” said Johnson. “The new website is designed to help consumers explore all of the options that fit within their budgets.”

The new look of the website also pays tribute to Starcraft’s 50th anniversary. Marking five decades of providing durable and affordable campers, Starcraft wanted the new website to be a reflection of everything that makes up the RV company – both past and present.

“Celebrating 50 years of having positive impact on families is a huge milestone,” said Johnson. “We believe this new website and the special 50th Anniversary microsite represent those achievements.”

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New Starcraft Site Targeting Smartphone Users

October 29, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

In response to consumer shopping needs, Starcraft RV Inc. today (Oct. 29) launched a new mobile website, m.starcraft.com. According to a press release, the site is geared toward campers who use smartphones and mobile devices to research their next RV purchase.

Using “responsive design,” Starcraft’s new site detects the user’s mobile device, screen size and device orientation. The site then seamlessly adjusts for optimal viewing, minimizing the amount of resizing, panning and scrolling needed to view information.

Knowing that 47% of America’s smartphone owners use their device to research products, Starcraft focused on improving its mobile shopping experience. The new site is packed with a host of interactive tools that add to the experience, including:

• A menu button with dropdown navigation.

• Pinch-to-zoom capability on floorplans and photos.

• Easy-to-view standards and options.

• Collapsible specifications.

The site also features an interactive dealer locator that uses the phone’s IP address to launch the search. Users can opt to manually input their address. Once nearby dealers are located, the user can launch the phone’s mapping application by tapping the “Get Directions” button. Users can also “click-to-call”, making contacting dealers efficient and easy.

“We really wanted to make this site user-friendly,” said Sid Johnson, director of marketing for Topeka, Ind.-based Starcraft. “We know more and more of our customers are using mobile devices to search the Internet. We want to make sure these customers can easily find and view up-to-date Starcraft product information on whatever device they prefer.”

Additionally, the site features tools for current owners, allowing customers to find a campground, contact roadside assistance or keep up on Starcraft’s latest social media posts.

“This new site puts Starcraft ahead of the game in mobile,” Johnson said. “We’re excited to see the response we get to the site and we plan on continuing to be as in tune with technology as our customers.”

To view the new Starcraft mobile website, visit m.starcraft.com on any mobile device.

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Starcraft Expanding ‘Open House’ Display Area

August 21, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Topeka, Ind.-based towable builder Starcraft RV Inc. will host an open house September 18-20 as part of the 5th Annual Elkhart County RV Open House Week. According to a press release, Starcraft will be displaying product from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 2702 Ada Dr. in Elkhart, just off of County Road 6.

During the week, Starcraft will showcase 35 towable models from its 2013 towable lineup, 18 of which are new or redesigned. On display will be the new AR-ONE WideBody series, an addition to the popular AR-ONE, a lightweight, family-friendly unit. Also, the Travel Star EXP will feature two new floorplans, one with a slideout and another featuring a king-sized bed.

“With our display being one-third larger than last year we are very excited for the open house.” said Starcraft National Sales Manager Brent Froman. “We have several new price points being featured, so we have some big expectations for this year’s open house.”

Starcraft, a division of Jayco Inc., will use the open house as a platform to introduce many “exciting changes and brand new additions” to its camping trailer offerings, including a new Comet RT Off-Road series and new floorplans that will appeal to a broader camping trailer market.

Starcraft’s regional sales managers will be on-site during the open house hours Tuesday through Thursday to talk with dealers. “We enjoy the open house because it lets us reconnect with our current dealers, connect with new ones and show everything Starcraft has to offer for 2013.” commented Froman.

In addition to the units, Starcraft will also provide lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday for visitors.

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Starcraft to Sponsor ‘Long Road Home Project’

July 11, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Starcraft RV is sponsoring the Long Road Home Project, an event in which five U.S. veterans bike 4,200 miles for 90 days across the country to raise awareness of the difficulties often faced by service people upon returning home. According to a press release, the trek will begin July 15.

Topeka, Ind.-based Starcraft, a division of Jayco Inc., is donating the use of a Travel Star 285FB travel trailer that will accompany the riders and people aiding them as they cross the country. The Travel Star travel trailer spans a length of 28 feet and offers spacious interior space, sleeping up to six people. The trailer will allow the veterans on the Long Road Home Project journey the chance to recuperate and relax after their long days biking across the nation to achieve their goal.

These veterans, most all having served in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, face hardships in their lives due to injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and the struggle to raise awareness about the difficult military experience. Their goal is to bring awareness to the hardship faced by veterans, particularly following their service to the country and the adjustments of returning home. Through this journey, the Long Road Home Project also hopes to raise $75,000 to ease the transition of returning soldiers and help veterans live full, meaningful lives.

For more information about the Long Road Home Project, visit http://longroadhomeproject.com/.

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Starcraft to Debut Travel Star Fiver in Louisville

November 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Starcraft RV will debut its all-new Travel Star fifth-wheel at the Nov. 29-Dec. 1 49th Annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., offering a lightweight design capable of being hauled by half-ton tow vehicles.

According to a press release, the fully-loaded Travel Star fifth-wheel completes Starcraft’s towable lineup with two 27-foot floorplans and two more to follow.

Models feature a 30-inch by 72-inch entry door, four inches taller than normal, along with a STARMAXX drop frame front basement storage area with light and tool hooks and 75 cubic feet of storage – 25% more than other basement storage areas. Also included is the Arctic Package which offers an insulated, enclosed and heated underbelly. Dark tinted windows, 10-gallon DSI water heater, radial tires and an amber light at the entry step are other notable exterior features.

Inside, the standards include in-floor ducted heat with thermostat controlled heating, decorative lighting package, radius corner shower, multi-media sound system with AM/FM/CD stereo with MP3 input jack and a 60-inch by 80-inch queen-size Evergreen mattress, which is 30% lighter than a comparable innerspring mattress.

Kitchens in the Travel Star fifth-wheel are designed with a three-burner range, 21-inch oven, deep oversized kitchen sink, residential faucet with pull-out sprayer and sink covers, deep storage drawers and under-booth dinette seats. The dinette area is set off by a  large picture window.

Other upgrades include slam latch pass-through storage doors, deluxe graphics package, solid-surface countertops with under mounted sink and  reflective foil insulation in the roof, floor and front wall. Starcraft is also offering its Galaxy Package for Travel Star fifth-wheels featuring 17 convenient upgrades, including a colored front fiberglass cap, electric awning, rear power stabilizer jacks and a 32-inch LCD TV with DVD player. A key fob remote is also part of the package, which controls the patio awning, porch light, security light, front and rear jacks and slideout room.

 

 

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Starcraft to Unveil New Trailers at Open House

September 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Starcraft RV will introduce two new products – the redesigned Travel Star travel trailer and the Launch – during its Sept. 20 –22 Open House located on CR 6 at Ada Drive in Elkhart, Ind. The event is running in conjunction with the 4th annual Elkhart County RV Manufacturers’ Open House, scheduled for Sept. 19-23.

According to a press release, the Travel Star travel trailer, featuring an optional upgrade package, is one of the “lowest priced, fiberglass travel trailers on the market.” The 2012 lineup is available in three floorplans, available to order now, with three more layouts to follow. Lengths run 28 feet to 30 feet offering seven-foot interior height and a 30-inch by 72-inch entry doors – four inches taller than comparable models, according to Starcraft. The Travel Star also is equipped with a Fastway Flip automatic jack foot, a Starcraft exclusive, and a STARMAXX front pass-through storage area with light and tool hooks.

The kitchens in the Travel Star line have been updated with a residential style faucet with a pullout sprayer, a deep oversized kitchen sink, covers for the sink with integrated drying rack, a storable kitchen cutting board and a double drawer with incorporated silverware dividers. The bedrooms were upgraded with two-tone wallboard and a pull-out laundry basket located under the bed. Exterior security light switches were added to the bedroom and living area and an amber light was also added at the entry step.

Starcraft is introducing the new optional Galaxy Package that features 23 upgrades, including colored front fiberglass cap, electric awning, front and rear power stabilizer jacks, electric tongue jack and key fob remote which controls the patio awning, porch light, security light, front and rear jacks and slideout room.

Other upgrades include slam latch pass-through storage doors, deluxe graphics package, aluminum rims, two 30-pound propane bottles with cover, reflective foil insulation in roof, floor and front wall, solid-surface countertops with under mounted sink, upgraded kitchen backsplash and raised panel cabinetry throughout.

The brand new Launch is a lightweight fiberglass travel trailer that is towable by most minivans and crossover vehicles. It has three floorplans, including a 15-footer with expandable bed, 17-foot model with rear dinette and 18-footer with bunks, all with dry weights under 3,000 pounds.

The Launch features a 78-inch interior height, fully decked roof with 3/8-inch decking, TuffShell vacuum-bonded fiberglass sidewalls, front diamond plate, patio awning, 14-inch radial tires, spare tire with carrier, four-cubic-foot refrigerator and freezer, 8,000 BTU A/C plus optional 13,500 BTU roof mount A/C, 18,000 BTU furnace, microwave and range hood, six-gallon water heater, 54-inch booth dinette with inside/outside dinette table, and screwed stile cabinetry with hardwood stiles.

Starcraft will showcase its full line-up of towables along with their new products at the Open House, which will run 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day.

 

 

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Starcraft Rolling Out New Units for Open House

August 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Starcraft RV will be showing new product Sept. 20–22 as part of the 4th annual Elkhart County RV Manufacturers’ Open House.

According to a press release, Starcraft will display units off of C.R. 6 on Ada Road in Elkhart from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. all three days. The Topeka, Ind.-based towable builder is a subsidiary of Jayco Inc., headquartered in Middlebury.

Starcraft said it will be showcasing its 2012 products that encompass the company’s full towable lineup, including the new Starflyer series – the most basic camping trailer offered by Starcraft – to its affordable luxury Lexion fifth-wheels.

“We’re excited to host an open house to showcase our 2012 models for our current and future dealers,” said Starcraft National Sales Manager Brent Froman. “We feel this is our most exciting look and lineup yet and we’re eager to have it on display.”

Starcraft also plans to use the open house as a platform to introduce many exciting changes and brand new additions to its Travel Star line. These new products and upgrades have been designed “to enhance the Travel Star line’s consumer appeal and repositioning strategy” for the 2012 model year, according to the release.

Starcraft’s regional sales managers will be on-site during the open house hours Tuesday through Thursday to talk with dealers and attendees. “This open house will give us a chance to reconnect with our current dealers, connect with new ones and show them everything Starcraft has to offer for 2012,” said Froman.

 

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Starcraft RV Unveils Starflyer Camping Trailer

April 22, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

Starcraft Starflyer

Starcraft Starflyer

As part of its focus on providing products that offer owners economical and memorable camping experiences, Starcraft RV has announced the introduction of a new camping trailer, the Starflyer. The 2012 Starflyer is designed to help consumers move up from tent camping in an enjoyable yet affordable manner, according to a news release.

“The Starflyer is an entry-level camping trailer that is perfect for the first-time buyer,” said Jim Jacobs, general manager for Topeka, Ind.-based Starcraft RV. “We work very hard to provide our customers with pure, simple camping products. This camping trailer is a prime example of providing the basic essentials without high impact on the family budget.”

Easy to set up and take down, the Starflyer is offered in both 8- and 10-foot floorplans. The unit is light weight (the 8-foot model starts with a dry weight of 985lbs), and can be easily towed by most family vehicles. Standard equipment on the 2012 Starflyer includes domed, fiberglass roof with no center seam; corrosion-resistant frame; aluminum exterior sidewalls; and mildew-resistant aluminum ceiling. In addition, the unit has prepped access for 110-volt power; pre-wired for battery hookup; 12-volt lighting; booth dinette with inside/outside dinette table; non-sliding cushions for dinette with reversible EZ-clean vinyl backs; lots of interior storage and two (2) rear stabilizer jacks. Backed by Starcraft’s one-year warranty, the well-built, entry-level Starflyer fits well within Starcraft’s line of camping trailers.

“Our goal is always to provide our consumers with a quality camping product at an attractive price,” said Jacobs. “The new Starflyer is a fantastic introductory product for the family that is just starting out on their camping adventures.”

Starcraft RV manufactures and markets towable RVs under the Starflyer, Comet, Centennial, Travel Star, AR-ONE, Autumn Ridge, Lexion S-Lite, and Lexion brand names. For more information on Starflyer and other Starcraft products, call (800) 945-4787, or visit www.StarcraftCamping.com.

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Hoosier Official Touts RV Industry in Speech

December 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Becky Skillman

Becky Skillman

Becky Skillman, Indiana lieutenant governor, touted job creation in the RV industry during a speech in Elkhart, Ind., on Thursday (Dec. 16).

Speaking to an audience of mostly female business executives sponsored by the Women’s Council of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce, Skillman said she is glad to see the RV industry as part of Elkhart county’s full revitalization efforts. Indiana is seeing new life in the RV industry with companies like Nexus RV LLC, Jayco RV and its subsidiary, Starcraft RV, in Elkhart county, she said. These companies are investing in Elkhart, expanding and creating new jobs for Hoosiers.

In 2010 the state’s economic development corporation (Indiana Economic Development Corp.), has received commitments for more than 22,000 new jobs and more than $4.3 billion in private capital investment, noted Skillman. This year is becoming the strongest year-to-date for new job commitments since Gov. Mitch Daniels and Skillman assumed office in 2005.

Skillman is contemplating a run to succeed Daniels in 2012. He cannot run for a third conseucutive term, due to term limits in Indiana.

Indiana has been among the leaders in private sector job growth in 2010. According to the latest numbers from the U.S. bureau of Labor Statistics, Indiana’s job growth was at 2.1%. That’s more than two times the national average, she said.

Elkhart County has attracted investments and new jobs in the RV industry as well as in the manufacturing of the next generation electric vehicles. Daniels recently joined executives from THINK North America to announce the company’s investment of $43 million and their plans to create 400 new jobs.

Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources took possession on Thursday of 15 electric vehicles made by Think at the Elkhart plant, housed in a former RV supply factory on the city’s east side.

Site Selection Magazine just ranked Indiana’s business climate as the eighth best in the nation – putting Indiana in the top 10 every year for the past three years.

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Hoosier Newspaper Covers Louisville Product

December 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: The Goshen (Ind.) News published this summary of products made by Northern Indiana-based RV firms that were shown at the 48th Annual National RV Trade Show.

New and improved were the two popular words at the recent Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) trade show in Louisville, Ky.

Elkhart County companies involved in making recreational vehicles used the show to promote their products to dealers. Here are a few of the new offerings that were at the show.

Newmar Corp.

Newmar Corp. of Nappanee unveiled its Ventana LE.

The Ventana LE will retail for $30,000 less than the company’s Ventana motorhome.

“Yet, we haven’t sacrificed eye appeal or popular features to hit this price point. When customers see the Ventana LE for the first time, the value will be obvious. We anticipate market share growth for our dealers and Newmar with this exciting product introduction,” said Pat Terveer, director of sales.

The Ventana LE features an aluminum-framed sidewall and roof construction on 16-inch centers. The motorhome is powered by a Cummins ISB 340 horsepower engine on a Freightliner chassis. The motorhome comes in 36-foot and 38-foot lengths.

Dometic Group

Dometic presented 17 new products at the show, including:

  • QuietZone Ducted AC that the company says increases airflow by 26% while decreasing noise and vibration.
  • AlumaRoom, a snap-in-place patio room that features flexible windows and water funnels.
  • Breathe Easy Air Purification that the company says can reduce volatile organic compounds by 57% and formaldehyde levels by 41% within a six-hour period.
  • 9500E Power Lateral Arm Awning, a rafterless, remote-controlled awning with a wind sensor and pitch adjustment and other features.
  • The LW3000 Plus portable digital inverter/gasoline generator. The company stated the unit can run for up to 10 hours.
  • The SlideTopper cover that automatically rolls out to cover a slideout.

In addition, the company has added the Better Homes & Gardens mattress collection from Serta to its product lineup.

Starcraft RV

Starcraft of Topeka introduced the AR-ONE travel trailer and the Travel Star Expandable Sport 187TB lightweight travel trailer.

The company said the AR-ONE is an entry-level trailer with three floorplans in 14-, 15- and 16-foot lengths.

The trailers are designed to be towed by most minivans and SUVs and crossover vehicles.

The Travel Star has three tented bunks, laminated roof and sidewalls, microwave oven and large kitchen window.

Another introduction was the 12RT Camping Trailer. It features a sofa, porta-potti and has a 5-by-8 foot cargo deck.

Jayco Inc.

Jayco Inc. of Middlebury introduced 8- and 10-foot Jay Series Sport camping trailers. The trailers come in two floorplans and feature E-Z Lube axles, reversible dinette cushions, an ice box and 10-gallon freshwater system.

Jayco also introduced the Skylark travel trailer with the 21FB floorplan. Upgrades include a fiberglass skin and roof, new graphics, black extrusion and baggage doors and aluminum split rims.

The Eagle 330RLTX travel trailer has been added to the Eagle lineup. The trailer features dual hide-a-beds in opposing slideouts, a side aisle leading to a bedroom and a large bathroom in the front of the unit.

Shasta

Shasta, based in Middlebury, redesigned all its products that were shown at the RV show.

Shasta’s Revere travel trailer family features a one-piece seamless, fully walkable rubber roof and aluminum exterior skin. The trailers are built on structural steel I-beam frames that include an integrated A-frame.

The Revere trailers have seven-foot interior ceilings and a 5/8-inch tongue-and-groove plywood floor.

The Revere also comes in the LE line, which has a lower price.

Shasta’s new ultra-light lineup carries the Freeport name. The trailer has welded aluminum framing with R-9 insulation and a vapor barrier and heated/enclosed underbelly.

The Class C lineup is labeled Cynara.

The Class C’s feature fiberglass roofs and 2-inch laminated, vacuum-bonded sidewalls with aluminum frames.

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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 RVBUSINESS.com. “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 RVBUSINESS.com. “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 RVBUSINESS.com 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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Starcraft RV Unveiling Small AR-ONE Trailer

September 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Starcraft RV AR-ONE copyProving the idea that less truly is more, Starcraft RV has announced the introduction of a new lightweight travel trailer called AR-ONE. The 2011 AR-ONE is designed to give owners a high value of camping’s essentials with a low-impact on the wallet, according to a news release.

“For some time now we’ve been telling our customers and dealers that Starcraft is all about camping – pure and simple. We’ve placed emphasis on providing our consumers with high value, practical features, not on high-cost items they neither want nor need,” said Jim Jacobs, general manager for Starcraft RV. “The AR-ONE is a perfect example of this philosophy.”

“The AR-ONE is a solidly built, affordable travel trailer that is towable by most standard and crossover SUVs and mini-vans,” Jacobs stated. “Weighing at around 2,000 – 2,500 pounds, it’s ideal for the family looking to move up from the standard fold-down, but not wanting to move out of their family vehicle.”

The AR-ONE is a member of the popular Starcraft Autumn Ridge travel trailer family. “The Starcraft Autumn Ridge is one of the more popular travel trailers in today’s market place,” said Brent Froman, national sales manager for Starcraft RV. “We took the quality construction found in the Autumn Ridge and applied those same principals in a lighter, aggressively priced model. However, with the AR-ONE, what you see is what you get. To keep the unit affordable and simple, all features are standard and there are no available options. This allows customers to have the necessary amenities without added cost. The focus is about an enjoyable camping experience – pure and simple.”

With three floorplans to choose from, the AR-ONE sleeps two to five people and is available in lengths from 14 to 16 feet. The 15RB floorplan has added sleeping capacity with an expandable Aqua-Shield Aqualon sectionalized tent.

The interior boasts a two-burner range; 3-cubic-foot three-way gas/electric refrigerator; a 54-inch booth dinette; ball-bearing drawer guides with a 50 pound capacity and full-drawer extension; hardwood cabinet drawers; and nickel hardware. In addition, the AR-ONE comes standard with cable and satellite TV prep; crank-up HDTV antenna with signal booster; pleated nightshades; residential furniture made by Starcraft; and vinyl flooring throughout.

Standard equipment includes a 6-gallon gas water heater, a 5,000-watt A/C unit, Carefree patio awning, microwave oven with carousel, spare tire with carrier and an AM/FM stereo with iPod/MP3 connection. In addition, the AR-ONE features dual-hitch safety chains, safety-glass windows, break-away switch and deadbolt lock on the entrance door.

“The goal was to go beyond creating a lightweight, travel trailer that can be pulled by the average family vehicle,” said Froman. “We wanted to give consumers a unique product that offers the necessities they need for a quality camping experience, a good value product at an aggressive price. The AR-ONE is that product.”

For more information on AR-ONE and other Starcraft products, call (800) 945-4787, or visit www.StarcraftCamping.com or www.facebook.com/StarcraftCamping.

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Starcraft RV Unveiling Small AR-ONE Trailer

September 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Starcraft RV's AR-ONE

Starcraft RV's AR-ONE

Proving the idea that less truly is more, Starcraft RV has announced the introduction of a new lightweight travel trailer called AR-ONE. The 2011 AR-ONE is designed to give owners a high value of camping’s essentials with a low-impact on the wallet, according to a news release.

“For some time now we’ve been telling our customers and dealers that Starcraft is all about camping – pure and simple. We’ve placed emphasis on providing our consumers with high value, practical features, not on high-cost items they neither want nor need,” said Jim Jacobs, general manager for Starcraft RV. “The AR-ONE is a perfect example of this philosophy.”

“The AR-ONE is a solidly built, affordable travel trailer that is towable by most standard and crossover SUVs and mini-vans,” Jacobs stated. “Weighing at around 2,000 – 2,500 pounds, it’s ideal for the family looking to move up from the standard fold-down, but not wanting to move out of their family vehicle.”

The AR-ONE is a member of the popular Starcraft Autumn Ridge travel trailer family. “The Starcraft Autumn Ridge is one of the more popular travel trailers in today’s market place,” said Brent Froman, national sales manager for Starcraft RV. “We took the quality construction found in the Autumn Ridge and applied those same principals in a lighter, aggressively priced model. However, with the AR-ONE, what you see is what you get. To keep the unit affordable and simple, all features are standard and there are no available options. This allows customers to have the necessary amenities without added cost. The focus is about an enjoyable camping experience – pure and simple.”

With three floorplans to choose from, the AR-ONE sleeps two to five people and is available in lengths from 14 to 16 feet. The 15RB floorplan has added sleeping capacity with an expandable Aqua-Shield Aqualon sectionalized tent.

The interior boasts a two-burner range; 3-cubic-foot three-way gas/electric refrigerator; a 54-inch booth dinette; ball-bearing drawer guides with a 50 pound capacity and full-drawer extension; hardwood cabinet drawers; and nickel hardware. In addition, the AR-ONE comes standard with cable and satellite TV prep; crank-up HDTV antenna with signal booster; pleated nightshades; residential furniture made by Starcraft; and vinyl flooring throughout.

Standard equipment includes a 6-gallon gas water heater, a 5,000-watt A/C unit, Carefree patio awning, microwave oven with carousel, spare tire with carrier and an AM/FM stereo with iPod/MP3 connection. In addition, the AR-ONE features dual-hitch safety chains, safety-glass windows, break-away switch and deadbolt lock on the entrance door.

“The goal was to go beyond creating a lightweight, travel trailer that can be pulled by the average family vehicle,” said Froman. “We wanted to give consumers a unique product that offers the necessities they need for a quality camping experience, a good value product at an aggressive price. The AR-ONE is that product.”

For more information on AR-ONE and other Starcraft products, call (800) 945-4787, or visit www.StarcraftCamping.com or www.facebook.com/StarcraftCamping.

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