Elkhart County Extravaganza
It started simply enough, four years ago, with one manufacturer hosting an open house in Elkhart, Ind., for dealers.
Now, that idea has morphed into something truly incredible: Multiple manufacturers hosting a plethora of events for a few short days near the end of September, hundreds of new RVs expected to be unveiled, and thousands of dealers from across North America expected to attend. Given the scope of the event, it’s only seems fair to refer to the event as the Elkhart County RV Open House Extravaganza.
Location: RV/MH Hall of Fame, 21565 Executive Parkway in Elkhart
Times/Dates: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sept. 20-21; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sept. 22
Thor Industries wasn’t the first manufacturer to host an open house in Elkhart, but it is making up for lost time by hosting a major event, which it has dubbed the “All-Star Open House.”
Thor’s event is taking place on the grounds of the RV/MH Hall of Fame. In addition to featuring its brands – Airstream, Breckenridge, CrossRoads RV, Dutchmen, Heartland, Keystone RV, Redwood and Thor Motor Coach – Thor’s event also will feature vendor exhibitors Freightliner, Workhorse, GE Capital and Ally Financial.
Special events on Sept. 20 include a cocktail hour with open bar from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., followed by dinner and entertainment featuring the John Kirkwood Band. Special events Sept. 21 include a cocktail hour from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., followed by dinner and entertainment featuring the band Blammo and a casino night inside the RV/MH Hall of Fame (free admission to the Hall of Fame is included).
Several Thor Industries’ brands intend to use the event to showcase new and updated RVs.
Dutchmen Manufacturing: Dutchmen will showcase about 70 new RVs, including travel trailers, fifth wheel and park models. Of those, “more than 40 will be new models and new creations that dealers have yet to see,” promises Dutchmen President Don Clark.
He says he expects dealers to be impressed with the company’s new, limited edition Kodiak travel trailers featuring high-gloss gel coat and bronze-painted exteriors as well as interior upgrades. The Kodiak will be offered in multiple floorplans.
“We’ll also have a brand-new exterior scene on our Dutchmen travel trailers with interiors that, before, you could only get in a higher-end fifth wheel,” Clark adds.
Additionally, Dutchmen will offer new amenities in its Voltage high-end toy hauler and new floorplans for its Infinity highline fifth wheel, including a front lounge, which Clark says is a first for the industry.
CrossRoads RV: Dave Boggs, director of marketing for CrossRoads RV, says he’s expecting dealers to be wowed at the RV manufacturer’s open house event.
CrossRoads RV and sister company Redwood RV will have 50 to 70 units on display, including CrossRoads’ brand-new Z1 RV and its Slingshot ultra-lightweight travel trailer. Several of the units on display will feature updated floorplans.
“We are re-vamping our brand of travel trailers, with a colored front cab,” Boggs says. “The floorplans feature more of a residential feel with an optional sliding-glass door.”
A sliding-glass door and screen is a feature many RVers have been requesting, as it adds greater visibility, ventilation and natural light, Boggs adds.
Location: Dynamax Corp.,
2745 Northland Drive in Elkhart
Times/Dates: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sept. 20; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sept. 21-22
Touted with launching Elkhart County’s first RV manufacturer open house with its inaugural Product Expo four years ago, Forest River is looking to build on its success with its mega-event.
This year’s event, themed “Building the Future Today,” will showcase more than 500 products, including RVs, cargo trailers, buses, pontoons and commercial vehicles, as well as Forest River’s new lineup of Dynamax products.
Forest River anticipates more than 2,000 dealers will attend the event at the company’s Dynamax facility. In addition to a multitude of RVs, the event will also host a small group of suppliers and bank representatives.
Forest River will provide hotel accommodations, food, beverages and continuous shuttle service from the hotels to the meeting site.
Several Forest River divisions will be previewing new units at the open house.
Coachmen: Coachmen expects to have 72 RVs on display, and notably, more than half of those units will be either product launches or new floorplans for existing units.
“I think it’s just consistent with what we’ve been doing for the last couple of years,” Coachmen President Michael Terlep says, referring to the many changes Coachmen has made to its 2012 product lineup. “Coachmen has a lot of market share momentum at the retail level, and it’s been our focus to re-create that momentum … and in order to re-create that momentum we need to stay ahead of the game.”
Among the units Coachmen looks forward to previewing for dealers is its Sports Coach line of Class A diesels, including the Pathfinder and Cross Country series.
“Those will be brand-spanking new. It will be totally redesigned and this will be its debut,” Terlep says. “These are going to feature a whole new design – new chassis configuration, new floorplans, new interiors and exteriors, new molded parts, new windshields – new everything.”
Also brand new will be the V Trec V-1 Offroad Camping Trailer offering a front storage deck and is designed to be conducive to off-road camping.
Prime Time Manufacturing: Prime Time also will be debuting several new units at the Product Expo, including the Sanibel, a high-end fifth wheel, and the Avenger, an entry-level stick and tin camper. The manufacturer also will showcase new features and improvements on the company’s existing three brands: Tracer, Crusader and Lacrosse.
“We are in the mind-set that the open house is a preview, or first version of Louisville,” says Prime Time Manufacturing President Jeff Rank. “We will be pulling out the stops to give dealers an idea of where we are going with products.”
KZ RV & Tiffin Motorhomes
Location: KZ RV, 985 N. 900 W. in Shipshewana
Times/Dates: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sept. 20-22
KZ RV makes towables exclusively, and Tiffin Motorhomes only makes coaches, but the two manufacturers share many common characteristics, so perhaps it only makes that they team up to offer a combined open house on the grounds of KZ’s facility in Shipshewana. Units from both companies will be displayed both inside the KZ’s factory and outside.
“Our product lines are complementary, not competitive. Also, the two manufacturers share the business philosophy of taking good care of their customers,” explains Jerry Williamson, Tiffin national sales manager. “We share a number of dealers, too.”
Andy Baer, vice president of sales and marketing for KZ RV, seconds Williamson’s assessment. “KZ RV and Tiffin have much in common, from our core beliefs in fairness and honesty in business to many of our valued dealer partners,” he says.
KZ RV: At the open house, KZ will showcase 24 units, of which 14 will feature new floorplans. Among those is the all-new Spree Escape E204S, a 23-foot fiberglass travel trailer with a slide-out and a dry weight of 3,390 pounds. The Escape models are entry-level (but not cheap) travel trailers that are designed to be towed by new SUV-type tow vehicles that have a 5,000-pound tow rating, according to Baer.
In conjunction with the celebration of its 40-year anniversary, KZ also plans to showcase three “throwback units” – two trailers and a fifth wheel in floorplans that were popular roughly 10 years ago.
“We’ve revised and updated them a bit … and I think that’s going to bring a lot of buzz,” says Marlene Snyder, KZ product manager. The three “throwback units” are the 2605 S Spree travel trailer, the 2857 Durango fifth wheel, and the Sportsman 2303, a stick-and-tin travel trailer.
“These are floorplans that sold like hotcakes back in the day,” Baer says, adding he expects the new models to do very well.
Tiffin Motorhomes was still finalizing which units it would display at the open house prior to the open house.
KZ RV will be offering all dealers who attend its open house a complementary round of golf and a golf cart at the Meadow Valley Golf Club in Middlebury.
Winnebago & SunnyBrook
Location: 53000 Decio Drive in Elkhart
Times/Dates: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sept. 20-22
Forest City, Iowa-based Winnebago will host its’ first-ever open house-type event in Elkhart this year, in what company officials see as a way to both showcase new products and to highlight its local presence with its acquisition of towables manufacturer SunnyBrook in late 2010.
“This is terrific for us,” says Chad Reece, the director of marketing for Winnebago. “After the acquisition of SunnyBrook, Winnebago became a part of the community more than ever. We have a footprint now, and we feel more of a member in that community.”
But while SunnyBrook does have a facility in Elkhart County, officials opted to display Winnebago and SunnyBrook units on the corner of County Road 6 and County Road 113 in Elkhart in hopes that this location will be more convenient to its dealer partners.
Reece notes that the open house will be dealers’ first opportunity to see Winnebago’s line of towable products.
”It will be the first big showing of the new SunnyBrook – the revised towable products on display, and then, on the motorized side, we will have a good representation of the Winnebago, Itasca and ERA product lineup,” he says.
Winnebago will unveil its ERA 70X, which is being reintroduced for 2012. The company also will have new floorplans for its Access Premier 31RP, Aspect 28T, Vista 36D, Adventurer 35P, Via 25R, Journey 36M and Tour 42JD. The company’s Itasca brand will unveil several new floorplans, including the Navion 24M, Sunstar 30T, Sunova 30A and Meridian.
Jayco, Starcraft & Entegra
Location: For Jayco, 903 S. Main St.
in Middlebury; for Starcraft & Entegra,
2702 Ada Drive in Elkhart
Times/Dates: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sept. 20-22
As a rule, Jayco doesn’t do anything halfway, and that’s especially true when it comes to the manufacturer’s September open house event. Jayco will actually host two dealer events – one for Jayco dealers at its facility in Middlebury, and a second in Elkhart for dealers that carry its Starcraft and Entegra products.
Jayco officials are looking forward to showcasing about 40 RVs, including the debut of the company’s Seneca Class C motorhome, which is being reintroduced for 2012. Additionally, Starcraft will be introducing four new floorplans for its Travel Star expandable line, which will include features such as a U-dinette, queen bunk ends, and a 6-cubic-foot Norcold refrigerator standard on all models.
“The redesigning of the Travel Star Expandables is just the first of many more thrilling and customer-pleasing changes and additions that are coming between now and Louisville for Starcraft’s Travel Star line,” promises Ashley Bontrager, the company’s marketing manager.
Meanwhile, Jayco’s Entegra Coach division will display several of its motorcoaches from its 2012 product line, including its Aspire and Anthem models. “The 2012 model year offerings are Entegra Coach’s best yet. We’ve incorporated new technologies and upgraded the interior decors that will appeal to the consumer,” says Tadd Jenkins, national sales manager for Entegra Coach.
Carriage RV, Monaco RV, Newmar & Travel Lite
Location: County Road 17 and
U.S. Highway 20 in southeast Elkhart
Times/Dates: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sept. 19-22
In what could be called the granddaddy of combined events, four manufacturers – Carriage RV, Monaco RV, Newmar Corp. and Travel Lite – have teamed up to offer dealers a chance to preview a smorgasbord of new products in one, easy-to-access location.
“It’s kind of nice that we’re all together, so we’ll have a better draw. I think it will be good for all of us,” says Ed Kinney, vice president of sales and marketing for Carriage, adding that he’s continuing to field calls from other manufacturers that may want to join the combined event. “I think we could have a few more join us.”
Kinney notes that the 15-acre location selected by Carriage has several factors in its favor, including plenty of parking, easy road access via County Road 17, and its close proximity to the RV/MH Hall of Fame, where Thor is hosting its event.
Carriage RV: Carriage officials are looking forward to previewing the company’s entire 2012 product lineup for dealers.
“We’ll be showing all 2012 product. Everything there is going to be new; dealers haven’t seen these units yet,” Kinney promises. “For example, the Cabo — which is our entry-level unit, but still a highline model – has been totally redesigned inside and out.
“Also, the Cameo has a very unique floorplan with a residential shower in it; it’s a 48-inch by 32-inch shower, which is pretty cool. The Carri-Lite has a new floorplan, also with a residential shower in it. And then the Royals will have a new interior and a new floorplan as well – so everything is going to be a little bit new that we’ll be showing there.”
Newmar Corp.: Likewise, Newmar officials are anxious to get dealer feedback on their new units and new floorplans for 2012, especially the King Aire and Essex, which went through lifecycle changes this year.
“We’re obviously going to show all of our new 2012 products,” says Shannon Stover, marketing coordinator for Newmar. “We have eight different units – from our low-end gas motorhome all the way up to our King Aire diesel bus.”
Meanwhile, Monaco RV and Travel Lite were finalizing details in terms of what units they would display at the open house prior to the event.
Location: EverGreen RV,
10758 County Road 2 in Middlebury
Times/ Dates: 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sept. 19-22; 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sept. 23
EverGreen RV will showcase several new RVs at its open house, including the new tandem-axle Element and the new lightweight line of i-Go travel trailers and fifth wheels.
“The i-Go travel trailer is brand new. It still uses composite materials similar to the Ever-Lite, but the i-Go was designed to go after the SUV market,” says Kevin C. Slater, EverGreen’s vice president of sales. “To get the SUV market, we had to build this trailer with all floorplans less than 29 feet in overall length, with dry weights ranging between 4,440 to 4,800 pounds.”
At the open house, EverGreen RV will show four i-Go trailer floorplans, including the i-Go lite fifth wheel with a 28-foot overall length, which Slater says is extremely unique.
“That’s the same version of the fifth wheel we ship to Australia,” he explains. “The dry weight of that fifth wheel is 6,400 pounds.”
EverGreen also will preview several new floorplans for its popular Ever-Lite series of travel trailers and fifth wheels.
The open house will also include a tour of EverGreen’s vacuum lamination department; the assembly line for the Ever-Lite, i-Go and the Element; and the “rain booth” where units are tested for water leaks.
Recognizing that many dealers may want to attend multiple open house events in Elkhart County, but may not have transportation, Slater says EverGreen RV is offering to shuttle dealers to and from its Middlebury, Ind., plant.
“If they need a ride during open house week this year, all dealers need to do now is give us a call,” he says, “and we have a 10-passenger van and company SUV ready to pick them up.”
Location: Livin Lite,
1025 E. Waterford in Wakarusa;
and Dynamax Corp.,
2745 Northland Drive in Elkhart
Times/ Dates: 8 a.m. - 6 p.m., Sept. 19-23
Livin Lite RV will actually host two open house events in September: One will be at its manufacturing facility in Wakarusa; the second, larger event, will run in conjunction with Forest River’s open house at its Dynamax facility in Elkhart.
All told, Livin Lite expects to showcase a dozen RVs for dealers, including two new truck camper models and a new tent camper, along with several updates to existing models.
“Livin Lite will be showing updated models of our all-aluminum and composite RVs, including our Quicksilver automotive tent campers; Camplite ultra-light travel trailers and truck campers, and VRV toy haulers,” says Scott Tuttle, president of Livin Lite. “We will also be debuting new models, including a new all-aluminum tent camper with full LP systems, the Quicksilver XLP, as well as two new Camplite travel trailer floorplans, and two new truck camper models, including what is sure to be the lightest, fully self-contained model ever built for a short-bed, light-duty pickup truck.”
Open Range RV
Location: County Road 6 and Northland Drive in Elkhart
Times/ Dates: 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.,
Sept. 19; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sept. 20-22
Shipshewana-based Open Range RV will host a dealer open house featuring 24 RVs on display, including many new model and floorplans. Outside kitchens will be standard equipment on multiple floor plans. Open Range President Randy Grabel says among the units to be featured are a half-ton towable fifth wheel with a 90-degree turning radius on a 5½ -foot bed.