RV makers get spiffed up

RV dealers come to town for RV Open House Week to see 2012 models and hopefully place orders for units

Posted on Sept. 19, 2011 at 1:00 a.m.

MIDDLEBURY — A few days before Woodland Park Inc. would welcome dealers to the company’s first open house in 20 years, Dave Burroughs, North American sales manager, sounded so excited he probably got little sleep over the weekend.

“…very big event for us.”

“…huge, huge change for us.”

The park model manufacturer is among the many recreational vehicle makers in Elkhart County hosting RV Open House Week exclusively for dealers. With most events kicking-off Tuesday, thousands — some estimates go as high as 4,000 — of sales representatives from dealerships across the country and Canada are expected to come to Elkhart to look at the new 2012 models, enjoy a complimentary meal or two and, hopefully, place orders for the winter and spring retail shows.

Woodland Park has “completely and drastically” changed it products, Burroughs said. More than just switching the color of the drapes, the vacation homes have been redesigned to appeal to young as well as mature buyers.

“We have really worked for the last nine to 10 months trying to put together what the dealers want,” Burroughs said. “We went over and above and they are really going to be impressed, I am very confident.”

RVs Everywhere

Most of the action will be centered on C.R. 17 and C.R. 6 in Elkhart. Thor Industries, Inc., has commandeered the RV/MH Hall of Fame and will be displaying more than 350 units there. Meanwhile, Forest River has moved its open house to its Dynamax operation on C.R. 6.

Winnebago Industries has parked its units at a location on C.R. 6 and five manufacturers from the outlying regions of the from the outlying regions of the county and beyond — Monaco RV and Travel Lite from Wakarusa, Newmar from Nappanee, Carriage from Millersburg and Fleetwood from Decatur — have collaborated on a display south on C.R. 17 at the U.S. 20 Bypass.

Monaco opted to relocate its open house from its Wakarusa facility to a place that would be closer to other larger exhibits and, therefore, more convenient to dealers.

Having its units displayed side-by-side with products from its competitors is not a concern for Monaco, said Jade Vira, marketing manager. The company units are showcased beside its rivals every year at the National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., and every day on dealers’ lots.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for all of us as manufacturers,” Vira said.

Still, other entities, like Woodland Park, will be holding their open houses at their plants. In particular, Gulf Stream Coach in Nappanee and Evergreen Recreational Vehicles in Middlebury will both be greeting dealers to their facilities.

Economic Stimulus

More than a fun time for dealers, the open houses bring business to the community, manufacturers say.

Sales from the week translate into more work for local factories at a time when the RV manufacturers and its suppliers are slowing production. The RV selling season typically ends in the fall and companies are left waiting for substantial orders until after the Louisville show, held the first week of December.

To try to heighten the excitement and capture more orders, Keystone RV pushed up its schedule to engineer, design and build a new, innovative travel trailer in order to have it ready for unveiling during the open house.

Coupled with all the introductions of new products, Bob Martin, president of Keystone, will be shaking hands, exchanging stories and strengthening the relationship between the manufacturer and its dealers. Many sales representatives will be staying for two or even three days of the event, giving the executives from Keystone and all the Thor divisions a chance to spend quality time with the people who sell their RVs.

Each evening, Thor will be serving dinner to its dealers and having special entertainment including a casino night.

“Relationships,” Martin said, “help you get through the tough times.”

Staging the open house at the Woodland Park plant, Burroughs said, will allow the company to showcase a number of units, hold sales training classes and give factory tours for the dealers. Not only will this event potentially help the dealers sell more park models to the public, thus giving more business to the local manufacturer, but it will also give a boost to hotels, restaurants and retail shops.

Burroughs maintained everyone will benefit from having all the dealers come for a visit.

“In Elkhart County, most of all the RVs are made right here,” he said. “Why not have an open house and display here? It makes a lot of sense.”

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