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2018 Elkhart Open House Week Preview

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By all accounts, this year’s Elkhart Open House Week is likely to be bigger (and better) than ever.

Show watchers attribute their belief that this year’s Open House Week will build on the success of previous events to a number of factors. First and perhaps most notably, the demand for new RVs continues to be strong, so manufacturers plan to debut a plethora of new models for dealers. Second, with no National RV Trade Show this year, Elkhart Open House Week becomes the event for dealers to place orders.

Third, simply looking at a map of exhibit space around the RV/MH Hall of Fame shows that plenty of RV makers, park model manufacturers and suppliers plan to showcase their products this year, including new OEM exhibitors Braxton Creek RV, Crux Expedition Trailers and Regency RV. 

Meanwhile, suppliers are stepping up their presence at the event. Notably, this year’s Open House Week will play host to the RV Supplier and Vendor Exhibition, which is located amidst RV makers next to the RV/MH Hall of Fame and which is expected to feature more than 30 vendors. That supplier event is in addition to the returning Supplier Showcase hosted by BAL/Norco along County Road 6, which will host about a dozen well-known suppliers.

This year’s Open House Week is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 24, through Thursday, Sept. 27. As in past years, the freestanding event will be anchored by Thor Industries at the RV/MH Hall of Fame near the intersection of County Road 17 and County Road 6 and Forest River’s exhibit at the Dynamax plant, located on Northland Drive just off County Road 6.

For more details about what attendees can expect to see in terms of manufacturer offerings at this year’s Open House, read on.

OEMs will once again roll out the red carpet for dealers during Elkhart Open House Week, offering feasts, live entertainment and other activities while showcasing their latest offerings.​

Thor Motor Coach 

Thor Motor Coach (TMC) was dominating the motorized segment of the RV industry with a 32.5 percent market share through May and plans to keep that momentum rolling at Open House by showing 25 new floorplans across its vast product lineup of gas and diesel Class A’s, standard and Super C’s, Class B’s, RUVs, motorized toy haulers and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter brands. 

TMC also owned a 36.4 percent market share in the Class C market through May and in that spirit, the big attention grabber at Open House may be its two new Super C’s: the Omni and Magnitude, built on a Ford F550 chassis. These brands will feature 6.7-liter diesel engines, hardwood cabinetry, solid-surface countertops, Mobileye lane changing assistance and Ford navigation options. 

“It’s a decked-out C for people who like a traditional cab Class C with the features of a Class A,” says Jonathan Krider, TMC’s vice president of product development and marketing. The Omni and Magnitude will weigh in at around 19,000 pounds. The fact that the Omni and Magnitude are TMC’s only new brands for Open House illustrates TMC’s view of the current market.

“We have spent the last five years looking at the overall market and focusing that product on what consumers say they need in the market. We feel pretty confident in what we’re doing,” Krider says. “Now, we’re dialing in the ‘touch and feel’ aspects of the product, along with the features people are requesting. 

“So, we’re spending more product development on those items. We think our product lineup is very strong and didn’t see many holes that needed addressed; we just want to ‘massage’ what we already offer.” 

That “massaging” includes a new 27-foot floorplan for its Class C lineup that features a queen-size bed (down from a king, because consumers are saying a queen is large enough for their needs) but a larger bathroom; a Class A Outlaw toy hauler with a unique garage layout; and a clever way to feature a sofa and dinette in the front of its Sprinter-based brands and still provide a walk-around bed in the rear, Krider notes. 

Thor Motor Coach’s 2019 Outlaw motorized toy hauler will feature a unique garage layout and a bold graphics package.​

TMC introduced its first RUV product just two years ago with four brands in the overall lineup. Each brand’s success in the market underscores the growing contention that “small is the new big,” he says. 

In a similar vein, Krider notes that TMC is “investing resources into many smaller products on a Class A chassis. We think these smaller units are a good deal, especially for new consumers get- ting into the market who are intimidated by that larger Class A.” 

Krider notes two other trends in TMC brands. 

“We have a big push to sustainability and looking at ways to leave less of a carbon footprint,” he says. “Every unit will either include solar charging or be prepped out for solar charging.” 

For the latter, the prep work will include the wiring from the roof to the battery compartment to the solar controller. The only question will be how many panels the consumer wants on the roof. 

The other trend is the availability of multiplex wiring control system in most units, not just high-end ones. This feature simplifies consumer operation as well as service after the sale and in traditional trouble shooting, Krider says. 

“We continue to believe that all RVs will be ‘connected’ within the next few years,” he adds.

Jayco Toy Haulers & Trailers 

Earlier this year, Jayco leadership appeared to double-down on its toy hauler segment when it introduced a new four-man veteran sales team to canvass the country on its behalf. 

Since then, senior product developer Brent Hamood and the rest of the toy hauler team has been hard at work trying to make a statement of their own in the 2019 lineup, where Hamood says the team focused on rounding out the company’s relatively young lineup of toy haulers. 

Both the entry-level Octane SL and the larger Seismic product lines will debut two new floorplans each. Among the Octane SL additions is the product line’s first slide-out floorplan, while the Seismic pair features an offering with an outside kitchen.

Dealers can expect to see a number of new offerings in the popular Jayco Jay Flight trailer line. Pictured above is the SLX 224BHW, a double bunk offering that also features a queen bed.​

“Anytime we’re able to introduce an outside kitchen into a toy hauler it’s a little bit unique because we’re at such a premium for space,” Hamood says. 

Taking a cue from the higher-end segment, and responding to market demands, the RV maker also will debut a mid-bunk floorplan for its toy hauler segment. 

“Mid-bunks have become increasingly popular over the last four or five years, and they didn’t really have a home in toy haulers because of how we had to lay out units,” Hamood says. 

However, after giving the idea some time, the team came up with what Hamood describes as a cross between a Northpoint fifth wheel and a travel trailer. 

“(Inside) we have a more open concept with 19 to 20 feet of space in the back that opens up to be a living room, bunk room or more room for toys,” Hamood says. “In our Eagle line, this is really our first adaptation to the toy hauler segment to do a mid-bunk.” 

At the center of the company’s towable offering are the latest additions to its popular Jay Flight trailers. These new floorplans include a 34-foot mid-bunk (34MBDB) and a 32-foot rear sleeper with an outside kitchen, and the newest addition to the Jay Flight SLX 8 line (235RKS).

R-Pod/No-Boundaries 

R-Pod celebrates 10 years this year. Product Sales Manager Cody Schade says R-Pod plans on celebrating its anniversary in a number of ways, including an exterior design that pays homage to the original design. 

“It’s become pretty iconic over the years,” he says. “Not only the shape of the unit, but the shape of the graphics. We plan to bring it into the present and the future with a new set of colors and a very handsome monochromatic color scheme.” 

The lineup includes some new features, such as an outdoor kitchen, which Schade says typically is a challenge to accomplish in a product the size of an R-Pod. He says it will be an option on the RV’s top-selling floorplans. 

R-Pod also plans to offer a Thule powered-awning and solar package that includes a 100-watt roof-mounted panel and 1,000-watt inverter.

The R-Pod is getting an updated exterior design that pays tribute to its 10-year anniversary. Meanwhile, one-year-old No- Boundaries will showcase new features and at least one new floorplan. ​

Separately, R-Pod will use Open House Week to introduce a new floorplan, the RP191, which is well under 3,500 pounds.

“What makes this unique is that it will feature two north-south beds. It’s the first time R-Pod has featured any north-south beds,” Schade says. “Other notable features in the new 10th anniversary edition would be the round, deep baled-kitchen sink, upgraded kitchen faucet, stainless-steel appliances and other new interior upgrades.” 

Instead of traditional wood, products will feature Azdel composite construction to focus on even lighter towing weights. Schade says the upgrades and improvements to this year’s lineup are a direct result of feedback from the 10,000-plus R-Pod owners’ member group as well as its dealer network. 

Meanwhile, No-Boundaries was introduced at last year’s Open House. Schade says the plan is to continue with the look unveiled last year while offering a number of new features and at least one new floorplan. 

No-Boundaries also will be introducing the No-Bo Nest: An exclusive feature offered on certain floorplans that Schade says will not only double sleeping space, but will not add significant weight or size to the unit. 

The new 16.8 floorplan weighs less than 3,500 pounds and has a single axle. It offers a queen-size bed and an oversized dry bathroom. 

“Typically, a unit this size would not have a dry bath; it would have wet, which means the toilet is in the shower,” Schade says. “We’ve also increased the ground clearance and created an option for a Rhino Rack storage system to be integrated into the roof.”

REV GROUP

REV Group plans to hit Elkhart Open House Week with products that run from Lance’s travel trailers to Fleetwood’s high-end Discovery LXE – a lineup company officials are calling “the best we’ve had in years.” 

“For Open House, REV Group is proud to showcase all of our brands in one display,” says Bethany Grabher, REV Group marketing director. “We cover the entire market, from indus- try-leading truck campers from Lance Camper to the most beautiful Class A luxury diesel units from American Coach.”

Most notable, she says, will be:

  • The entry-level Class A gas models from Fleetwood RV and Holiday Rambler – the Flair and Admiral.
  • Reintroduction of retooled Class C units: The Fleetwood RV Pulse and the Holiday Rambler Prodigy.

The 2019 Flair and Rambler Admiral – each with five floor- plans – feature changes geared to attract first-timers in the top-selling Class A motorhome segment.
Grabher says the Flair, for instance, includes features usually more likely to be found on higher-end level Class A’s, such as the king bed, Hide-A-Loft drop-down queen bed, ducted air conditioning, residential refrigerators on select models, modern cabinetry, and auto generator star. It also comes with a 50-amp service, heated holding tanks and pass-thru storage. There are plenty of options, including theater seating, suspension upgrade and power driver seat.

REV Group is reintroducing the Fleetwood RV Pulse and the Holiday Rambler Prodigy for 2019. The Class C motorhomes, built on the Sprinter chassis, received exterior and interior finish changes.​

The Fleetwood RV Pulse and Holiday Rambler Prodigy also have been redesigned for 2019. The Class C diesel motorhomes, built on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis, received interior and exterior finish changes that include residential-styled doors, increased functionality and more spacious kitchen layouts and solid-surface countertops. There’s a new color, too, called Cool Blues. 

The new models come at a time REV is reorganizing a bit, trimming the number of models and listening to its dealers as it concentrates more on its core models. 

“We’re excited to show dealers our commitment to them and what we’ve learned in working with them over the last year,” Grabher says. “We have totally redesigned our Class C’s and entry-level Class A’s from Holiday Rambler and Fleetwood RV and have raised the bar on the high-end with thoughtful layouts and additions to our Fleetwood RV Discovery LXE.” 

REV’s draw at the 2019 show, she adds, “is our product lineup. We believe this is REV’s best product lineup in years – we don’t want to eclipse that or take any focus of our product. Our dealers have expressed that their expectation with us is a much better product showing than in years past, and that’s our sole focus on what we’re delivering.” 

At the high end, the 2019 Discovery LXE comes in five floorplans that include a variety of upscale features usually found on much higher priced luxury models. It comes standard with an exterior 48-inch LED TV, an integrated roof-mounted patio awning, Villa residential-style furniture, an Aqua-Hot system heat and hot water, full-tile shower, front zone tile floor heat, residential refrigerator and induction cooktop. 

It also includes a 10-inch, in-dash touchscreen, Bose sound bar, and a Firefly command center for house electronics. For those who want more tech, customers can add options such as a Bluetooth speaker porch light, a Wi-Fi extender, cell booster, 160-watt solar panel and collision avoidance. 

The goal for 2019: To meet dealer expectations, Grabher says. “We know their expectations and we are focused on delivering a product lineup that adds value on their lots, from entry-level to luxury motorcoaches.” 

As in past years, REV Group will be displaying units on Executive Parkway leading up to the RV/MH Hall of Fame.

For the rest of the impressive lineup of manufacturers and brands that’ll be at the show, be sure to read the complete Open House Preview.

Darian Armer, Steve Bibler, Lisa Dicksteen, K. Schipper, Jesse Sidlauskas, Garrison Wells and the RV PRO staff contributed to this story.

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