May/June 2010 RVBusiness



May/June 2010 RVBusiness
RVB1006 Cover LO.qxp 6/2/10 3:39 PM Page 1
Most Influential
People in
RV History
Lloyd Bontrager
Wally Byam
Tom Corson
John Crean
A Look at Some of the People
and Products That Impacted
the RV Industry Through Its
First Dynamic 100 Years
Ray Frank
John K. Hanson
Dick Klinger
Pete Liegl
Art Rouse
Wade Thompson
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RVB1006 Monaco Gatefold.qxp 5/28/10 2:17 PM Page TABA
Where to next?
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RVB1006 Monaco Gatefold.qxp 5/28/10 2:17 PM Page TABB
We roam
We fill in our drea
We look to the open road fo
We are driven by the same curiosity tha
where to next?
We’ll start by rededicating ourselves to every RV c
We’ll blaze new trails with Navistar firmly b
We’ll embrace 175 years of transportation expertise.
We’ll apply the no-hassle emissions technology of MaxxForc
We’ll pioneer aerodynamic testing to improve fuel effi
We’ll set new standards in engineering and creature comfo
We’ll stand behind every rivet and bolt.
We’ll never stop looking for what tomorrow could
See where Monaco & Navistar are headed next at
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RVB1006 Monaco Gatefold.qxp 5/28/10 2:18 PM Page 2
The journey starts here.
oam from vista to vista.
dreams along the way.
ad for inspiration and delight.
y tha
that drives our customers...
RV customer and dealer.
ly behind us.
Force Advanced EGR.
uld bring.
Moncao RV LLC, go to
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RVB1006 PG 49 RVB TOP 50.qxp_RVB Full-Page Ad 5/28/10 2:19 PM Page 49
RV Business and the
Ann Coulter:
In the
Eye of the
3rd Annual RV Business Top 50 Dealer Awards Banquet
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
RVDA Con/Expo, Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas
In an effort to continue the work of the Go RVing Coalition’s
Committee on Excellence in raising the bar on industry quality, RV
Business is rolling out the 3rd Annual RV Business Top 50 Dealer
Awards program. Manufacturers are asked to nominate worthy dealer
candidates who, in turn, submit applications to a review panel. The
Top 50 dealers, once selected, are honored at a gala awards banquet
during the RVDA Con/Expo in Las Vegas.
Please join us in celebrating these 50 outstanding dealers and their
achievements in customer care and overall professionalism. To attend
call (800) 719-1085. For more details on the RVB Top 50 program,
please visit
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RVB1006 Table of Contents LO.qxp_RVB Table of Contents 6/3/10 6:33 PM Page 3
VOL. 61, NO. 3, MAY/JUNE 2010
4 State of the Art
14 In Brief
67 Public Domain
64 Supplier Showcase
70 Ad Index
72 Classifieds
9 Wholesale Shipments Skyrocket 85% in April, Highest in Two Years
9 Monaco LLC Promotes Navistar Linkage With Marketing Program
9 Industry Veteran Jeff Kime Named New President of Heartland RV
9 Kempthorne Keynote Speaker at 2010 RVDA Convention/Expo
10 RVBusiness Kicks Off 3rd Annual Top 50 Dealer Awards Program
10 Jury Finds in Favor of Recreation by Design in Formaldehyde Suit
12 CalARVC Lends Support to Proposed Ban on Holding Tank Products
12 KZRV Hosts 90 Dealers at Annual Open House, Debuts New Durango
14 RPTIA/RVIA Continue Discussions on Associations’ Reunification
16 Spader Report: How to Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
19 At Statistical Surveys, There’s More to Data Analysis Than Numbers
22 Winnebago Execs Voice Optimism at Huge Uptick in 2Q Revenues
56 Equity LifeStyle Properties Elevates Emphasis on RV Resorts
28 Housecars to Motorhomes: An Abbreviated History of the RV Industry
38 The Top 100 Most Influential People in the Industry’s First Century
60 Newell Coach Corp. Sees Upswing in Factory-Direct Retailing
Newell Coach Corp., which recently
updated its luxury motorcoaches for the first time
since 2006, is finding a receptive audience in factory-direct retailing (page 60).Winnebago’s senior
management team sat down with RVB Publisher
Sherman Goldenberg for a wide-ranging interview
following the company’s 2Q turnaround, which saw
its revenue increase 247% (page 22).
COVER: Needing an image to represent RVB’s
recognition of the RV industry centennial, we
didn’t have to look beyond the iconic shape of the
Airstream (seen with Airstream Inc. President and
CEO Bob Wheeler). The riveted aluminum travel
trailer has, in testament
to its longevity —
which nearly rivals that
of the industry itself —
become “the” symbol of
American outdoor recreation (photo by Shawn
Spence). We also went
out on a big limb —
and selected the Top 100
most influential people
of the first 100 years.
RV Business (USPS 920-340) is copyrighted 2010 by TL Enterprises
Inc. in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and other countries.
Publication Sales Agreement No. 1938495 Canadian return address:
Affinity Group Inc., 2575 Vista Del Mar, Ventura, CA 93001. All
rights reserved. Permission to reprint or quote excerpts granted only
upon written request. Periodicals postage paid at Ventura, Calif.
93001, and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address
changes to RV Business, PO Box 5858, Harlan, IA 51593-1358.
CUSTOMER SERVICE: Call (866) 238-3237 or email [email protected] SUBSCRIPTION RATES: U.S. and
Canada, $79 a year; $149 for two years. Foreign subscriptions, $129
a year. Single copies are $11.95. Advertising rates are provided on request. RV Business is published by TL Enterprises Inc., 2575 Vista
Del Mar Dr., Ventura, Calif. 93001, which also publishes Trailer Life,
MotorHome, Rider, Trailer Life’s Campground/RV Park & Services
Directory and Highways for the Good Sam Club. TL’s Book Division
currently has 11 books in print.
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RVB1006 State of the Sherm LO.qxp_RVB State of the Art 6/4/10 11:42 AM Page 4
Sherman Goldenberg
Bruce Hampson
The RV Business Top 50 Dealer
Awards Are Back Again, With Plans
Set for Yet Another Gala Event at
This Year’s RVDA Con/Expo
Brenda Hutchinson
Gerald Vandiver
IMAGE EDITOR Robert Peterson
e’re back.
Indeed, as you’ll see on page 10
of this issue, our staff is well
underway with preparations for the
3rd Annual RV Business Top 50 Dealer
Awards, an unusual program designed to
help elevate the general professionalism of
recreational vehicle dealerships throughout
the U.S. and Canada at a time when the
industry is waging a serious comeback
from the aftereffects of the deepest economic downturn in modern history.
The fact of the matter is that it
would have been relatively easy for us to
walk away from an elaborate undertaking
like the RVB Top 50 over the past three
years, faced with relatively adverse economic conditions. But
the industry, in fits and spurts, region by region, product type
by product type, is coming back. There’s no doubt about it.
And so we’ve decided to move ahead with the third annual
RVBT50 awards, a fact for which we’ve got to thank all of
the folks who make this extraordinary program happen, including:
• North America’s RV manufacturers – and now park
model builders as well – who again stepped up to nominate
their best dealers in terms of consumer care and general professionalism from the back office to the front drive, from the
sales kiosk to the service bay, from the F&I desk to the
• The dealers who have already begun submitting their
applications in a rather impressive way, given all of the
things they’ve got on their plates during a spring selling season that’s been about as frenetic and unpredictable as any on
record. As esteemed consultant John Spader points out in
his column in this issue, 20 Group participants tell him that
retail traffic has been strong at times this year, but it ebbs
and flows without explanation on a moment’s notice.
• The internal RVBusiness team, including BJ Thompson
and his daughter, Barb Riley, of BJ Thompson Associates,
Mishawaka, Ind., who oversee the whole application and
judging process and always find a way to get things done.
• The seven gentlemen who have agreed to seclude themselves for a time in August to laboriously review applications
at the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum in Elkhart, Ind.,
as members of our so-called Panel of Experts.
• Our friends at the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), who have been so kind again this year to
Stephen Adams
Michael Schneider
Bob Livingston
Dale Hendrix
Susan Bray
Joe Daquino
Ken Hurd
Art Rouse
2575 Vista Del Mar Drive, Ventura, CA 93001
(805) 667-4100; Fax: (805) 667-4484; [email protected]
Sue Seidlitz (Mgr.), Joyce Reweda
Denielle Sternburg
P.O. Box 8510, Ventura, CA 93002-9912
(805)667-4100; Fax: (805) 667-4379
Elkhart, Indiana
2300 Middlebury St., Elkhart, IN 46516
(574) 295-7820; Fax: (574) 522-0418
ADVERTISING SALES Tacy Hendershot-Sargent
(772) 288-0387; Fax: (772) 288-0085
(954) 723-0565; Fax: (954) 339-0825
Seattle, Washington
ADVERTISING SALES Scott Oakes, John Marciano
1818 Westlake Ave., Seattle, WA 98109
(206) 283-9545, fax (206) 283-9571
Automotive Accounts
9595 Mansfield Road
Sheveport, LA 71118
(334) 613-2040, fax: (334) 356-7740
continued on page 55
As Vice President of RV Trade Publications for TL Enterprises Inc., Sherman Goldenberg, based
in Elkhart, Ind., oversees RV Business & Woodall’s Campground Management.
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built on
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the power of
promises kept.
over the last 40 years,
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Industry Vet Jeff Kime
Named President of
Elkart-Based Heartland
Recreational Vehicles
Heartland Recreational Vehicles announced May 3 that it has expanded its
management team with the appointment
of 25-year industry veteran Jeffery Kime
to the newly created position of president.
In this capacity Kime will help oversee Heartland’s operational, sales and
marketing activities, reporting to Heartland CEO Brian Brady.
Prior to joining Elkhart, Ind.-based
Heartland, Kime worked for 19 years at
Four Winds International Corp., a subsidiary of Thor Industries Inc., including
serving most recently as Four Winds’
president for almost 15 years.
Heartland markets more than 15
brands of fifth-wheel and travel trailer
RVs and has captured the No. 3 market
share in the fifth-wheel category.
Earlier, the company announced
plans to expand its operations in Elkhart,
creating up to 265 new jobs by 2013.
Heartland will invest more than $2.6 million to purchase and equip a 125,000square-foot manufacturing facility. The
company, which employs more than
1,000 workers, planned to begin hiring
additional workers immediately as the
new product lines are phased in. Δ
Kempthorne Keynote
Speaker at 2010 RVDA
Con/Expo in Las Vegas
Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior
Dirk Kempthorne will be the keynote
speaker for the
2010 RV Dealers
International Convention/Expo at the
Rio All-Suite Hotel
& Casino in Las
Vegas, Nev., Oct.
S e c r e t a r y Dirk Kempthorne
Kempthorne will
deliver his remarks to attendees at the Tuesday (Oct.
5) General Session. The convention is
sponsored by the Recreation Vehicle
Dealers Assocation (RVDA), Recreation
Vehicle Dealers Association of Canada
(RVDA Canada) and the RV Learning
continued on page 55
Wholesale RV Shipments Skyrocket in
April, But Retail Recovery Is Slower
All Major RV Categories Report Significant Increases as Monthly Shipments Hit the
Highest Level in Two Years; Seasonally Adjusted, April Orders Amount to Annualized
Rate of Nearly 250,000 Units as Dealers Replenish Inventories; Retail Sales Lag
As the RV industry continues to dig out
of a global recession, the latest market reports
at press time prompted both celebration and
caution among astute industry observers.
With towables leading the way, total
wholesale shipments of 24,600 units skyrocketed 85% in April compared to April of 2009
— the most units shipped in two years, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry
Association (RVIA). Towables were the
biggest gainers with deliveries to dealers in
April of 22,000 units, up 78.9%, while motorhomes shipments grew 160% from 1,000
units in April 2009 to 2,600 in April 2010.
The April increase in wholesale shipments
was 2.5% over March.
Here’s a look at year-to-date unit shipments for major RV categories through April:
•Travel trailers: 50,400, up 93.1%
• Fifth-wheels: 18,700, a 96.8% hike
• Class A motorhomes: 4,200, a 200% increase
• Class C’s: 3,500, a 105.9% upswing
Seasonally adjusted, this all amounts to an
annualized rate of nearly 250,000 units with
all vehicle segments showing increases compared to March 2009. The industry wholesaled 165,700 units in 2009.
“Strong wholesale growth continues to be
driven by the bullwhip effect of easy comps
(year-to-year comparisons) and better inventory replenishment rates,” Robert W. Baird
& Co. stated in a client newsletter. “We expect strong shipment results to continue as
dealers replenish inventory at closer to a 1:1
ratio. To sustain the recovery, however, we are
looking for retail demand to improve.”
Indeed, retail sales have consistently
lagged behind wholesale throughout the economic recovery as they did in March, the
most recent month for which statistics were
available at press time. Although results reportedly varied greatly by region, first-quarter
retail travel trailer sales were up 2.1%, fifthwheels off 4.3% and folding camping trailers
down 26.6% while motorhome sales of 3,971
units were off by 6.3% compared to the first
quarter of 2009.
But while these disparate results have
prompted concern among plenty of industry
observers — dealers and manufacturers alike
— they didn’t seem to particularly alarm
Baird. “Dealer inventory is at comfortable
levels in both motorhomes and towables,”
added the analyst. “We believe strict floorplan
lending rules will prevent excess buildup of
inventory ahead of retail sell-though — but
note that normal restocking rates should continue to drive strong shipment results
through the early selling season. Δ
Monaco LLC Promotes Navistar Linkage on
National Scale With New Marketing Program
‘What We Are Really Trying to Do is Relaunch Ourselves Again to Not Only Dealers,
But to Consumers’ Who Didn’t Know Company Was Acquired by Navistar, Noted
Company Exec Mike Snell. ‘Commonality’ of (Company) Culture Also Cited.
Fledgling Monaco RV LLC
C is raising its public relations flag on a national scale for the first time while
launching a marketing program that stresses its ties
to U.S. truck giant Navistar Inc., which formed the
Coburg, Ore., RV-building company in 2009 on the
foundation of its bankrupt predecessor — Monaco
Coach Corp.
Monaco’s new print-and-online campaign conveys
the slogan “Where to Next?” with the promise that
Monaco RV will be closely linked to Navistar, not only
because it will be equipping its diesel coaches from
now on with Navistar’s MaxxForce EPA-compliant
continued on page 69
Monaco RV LLC’s Mike Snell (left) and Ryan Lee
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RVB1006 Top of the News LO2.qxp_RVB Top of the News 6/2/10 3:09 PM Page 10
of the NEWS
Jury Finds in Favor of RV OEM
Recreation by Design in Third
‘Bellwether’ Formaldehyde Suit
A federal court jury in New Orleans on May
24 found in favor of RV manufacturer Recreation by Design LLC, Elkhart, Ind., in the third
“bellwether” lawsuit involving allegedly
formaldehyde-laced trailers provided by the
Federal Emergency Management Agency
(FEMA) as temporary housing for victims of
hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The jury deliberated for about two hours
after hearing eight days of testimony that alleged that Earlene Castanel’s health had been
damaged by a trailer laden with formaldehyde.
“There have been three trials and all of them
have resulted in defense verdicts,” said Andrew
Weinstock, a partner in the Metairie, La., lawfirm of Duplass, Zwain, Bourgeois, Pfister and
Recreation by Design and other RV manufacturers sold tens of thousands of emergency
living units to FEMA following the 2005 hurricanes.
Two previous suits involving Gulf Stream
Coach Inc., Nappanee, Ind. — in which Weinstock was lead attorney — and Forest River
Inc., Elkhart, Ind., have resulted in favorable
verdicts for RV manufacturers. Another lawsuit
against Gulf Stream is expected to go to trail in
September with a others to follow, unless plaintiffs and defendants come to a settlement.
The ''bellwether'' trials for a handful of
claims chosen from among hundreds that had
been filed are designed to help the New Orleans
court test the cases’ merits and possibly settle
other claims over formaldehyde exposure in
FEMA trailers.
RVB Kicks Off 3rd Annual ‘Top 50 Dealer Awards’
Park Model Manufacturers To Be Included in This Year’s Program, Held
During RVDA Con/Expo; Author Ann Coulter Named Keynote Speaker
On the premise that the pursuit of work, F&I departments and personnel
professionalism and top-notch consumer matters in addition to civic and charitacare may find an even more receptive ear ble aspects.
as the recession lifts, RVBusiness maga“One key change for 2010,” said
zine is moving ahead with its 3rd Annual Goldenberg, “is that RVBusiness is exRV Business Top 50 Dealer Awards — panding its program to include recrea quality-focused program culminating ational park trailer manufacturers,
Oct. 6 at an upbeat receprealizing just how signifition and dinner at the Rio
cant their contributions
All-Suite Hotel & Casino
have become in a rapidly
in Las Vegas during the
changing marketplace.
annual RV Dealers Inter“Although their businational
nesses haven’t fully recovExpo.
ered from the recession
“While we realize that
yet, the accommodations
recognizing 50 U.S. and
sector of the RV park and
Canadian recreational vecampground arena has
hicle dealerships above all
been shifting somewhat
the rest is a tough and
to more destination-style
highly subjective matter,” Keynote Speaker Ann Coulter cabins and lodges at parks
said RVBusiness Publisher
throughout the U.S. and
Sherman Goldenberg, “we feel that the Canada. So, we thought it was time to
process of nominating, selecting, honor- include them.”
ing and promoting those who generally
Nominated dealers are invited to subdo the best they can throughout North mit applications by mid-July to BJ
America is in itself a worthy exercise Thompson Associates, a northern Indithat brings to the forefront the quality ana agency that oversees an independent
themes outlined by the Go RVing review of those applications by a panel
Coalition’s Committee on Excellence.” of industry “experts,” none of whom are
North American RV manufacturers directly associated with RV Business or
have already completed their nomina- its parent company, Affinity Group Inc.
tions for this year’s awards by forward- (AGI).
ing the names of their best and most
Multi-store operations are again limprofessional dealers with regard to after- ited to one award, regardless of how
market parts stores, sales lots, service
continued on page 62
ARVC Convention Slated for Dec. 1-3 in Las Vegas Faulkner Buys OntarioInSites 2010 Convention & Outdoor
Hospitality Expo, will take place Dec. 13 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino
in Las Vegas, Nev.
At InSites 2010, the 3,700 member
parks of the National Association of RV
Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) will
have the opportunity to sharpen their
skills through educational and networking events plus the chance to see the latest in products, services and technologies
at the Outdoor Hospitality Expo.
“At InSites 2010, we want our members to get the most out of their time
spent with us in Vegas. We have designed
InSites to be three days of action packed
information — education, networking
and tradeshow time,” said Linda Profaizer, ARVC CEO and president.
InSites 2010 will kick off on Wednes10
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day, Dec. 1, with educational seminars in
the morning followed by the opening
lunch and keynote address by internationally acclaimed “intuitionist” Job Stetson. Also this year the ARVC
Foundation, which promotes the education and sustainability of the RV park
and campground industry for future generations, will host its Foundation Auction
during Thursday’s luncheon. The auction
is the main fundraiser for the year and
generates about $20,000 annually.
Following the luncheon, attendees will
have their first opportunity to visit the
Outdoor Hospitality Expo. New for
2010, the expo is free to all attendees.
The expo wraps up at 3 p.m. on Friday.
For more information on InSites 2010,
please visit or call the
ARVC office at (800) 395-2267. Δ
Based General Coach
General Coach will remain 100% focused
on the production of recreational park trailers
or park models under the new ownership of
Roger Faulkner, who purchased the Hensall,
Ontario-based firm from Thor Industries Inc.
April 30 for an undisclosed price.
Faulkner, who served as president of the
Thor subsidiary, told RVBusiness that the firm
has been successful in “building a niche in the
Canadian market and chopping away at the
Northeast and other border states” and he
plans to continue to do so, now that he owns
100% of the company.
The company employs 102 workers at a
100,000-square-foot facility in Hensall, located
100 miles northeast of Detroit. Faulkner said he
will just produce park models in part due to the
competitive nature of the RV industry. His son,
Chris, is assisting him as vice president. Δ
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RVB1006 PG 11 SKYLINE CORP.qxp_RVB Full-Page Ad 5/28/10 2:19 PM Page 11
59 Years in Business
53 Word No Nonsense Warranty
Unparalleled Customer
Satisfaction Index Program
Loyalty to our Dealers
PDI Inspected Before Shipment
Individually Weighed and Tested
Rain Tunnel Tested
Skyline Integrity
Recently a friend asked me “why Skyline?”
In a word TRUST.
Skyline keeps commitments, pays their
warranty, protects their dealers should a
consumer issue arise, and builds a quality
trailer at a competitive price. When my
customers and employees are happy so am I.
Debbie Brunoforte
Little Dealer Little Prices
©2010 Skyline Corporation, 2520 By-Pass Road, Elkhart, Indiana 46514-1584, 574-294-6521
Skyline Corp., go to
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RVB1006 Top of the News LO2.qxp_RVB Top of the News 6/2/10 3:09 PM Page 12
of the NEWS
REDEX to Focus on Private Labeling
Services Under Priority RV Network
After reviewing its options, the Recreation
Vehicle Dealer Exchange Association (REDEX)
has decided to focus on private labeling services under the Priority RV Network brand name,
but not RVs or aftermarket products.
The decision to focus on services rather
than products came during REDEX’s annual
meeting April 19-21 attended by about 100
people representing 40 of REDEX’s 46 member
dealerships at the Monte Carlo Resort and
Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.
REDEX offers Priority RV insurance, road
care, certified pre-owned RVs, extended warranties, protectorant and a camping club. A Priority RV Network emblem is attached to each
RV sold by association members to raise the
network’s visibility. The association’s website
— — details its products and acts as a clearing house for members
to sell new and used RVs.
During the meeting, Paul Skogebo, who
founded REDEX in 1996, stepped down from
his position as president and resigned from the
REDEX board. He was replaced by Michael
Peay, owner of Holiday World of Houston with
stores in Katy and League City, Texas, and Las
Cruces, N.M. Δ
California Legislation Draws CalARVC
Support, Thetford Corp.’s Opposition
The Bill, Which Would Ban the Use of Holding-Tank Products Containing Six
Chemicals — Most Notably Formaldehyde — Has Also Drawn Strong Backing
From the California Travel Industry Association (CalTIA)
The California Association of RV
Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC)
has taken an aggressive stance in support
of state legislation banning the sale of RV
and marine holding tank products containing six chemicals — most notably
formaldehyde — on the premise that
these substances threaten ground water
That bill (AB 1824) unanimously (730) passed out of the full Assembly in
mid-May and went to the Senate Toxics
and Environmental Quality Committee
for a hearing sometime in June.
“This means it is one more hurdle in
the process,” remarked CalARVC Executive Director Debbie Sipe, who has
been outspoken in advocating the proposed holding tank chemical ban and
feels the bill has a good chance of moving
through Senate Appropriations, then the
full Senate and, finally, across the Cali-
f o r n i a
August or
“ We ’ v e
got some
to get more
support for
the bill, but
we are not
Thetford’s Kevin Phillips
all of that right now,” Sipe told RVBusiness.
“Toxic chemicals, like those used in
many common RV toilet additives, kill
the natural bio-organisms and cause the
septic systems to fail, causing sewage to
seep into surrounding soil and groundwater,” CalTIA legislative advocate
Teresa Cooke wrote in a letter to Felipe
continued on page 71
KZ RV Hosts 90 Dealers at Annual Open House
KZRV LP introduced its new, full-profile Durango 2500 fifth-wheel and Darryl Zook,
company president, fielded questions from some of the 90 dealers in attendance during
the KZ Dealer Open House, May 16-18 at the towable manufacturer’s headquarters in Shipshewana, Ind.
The Durango 2500 retails for about $38,000 and is intended for towing behind 3⁄ -ton pickup trucks.
“We’ve done a complete revamp (of the Durango line) and
brought the price down considerably,” Andy Baer, vice president of sales and marketing, told RVBusiness, adding that
dealers at the open house are optimistic about the future.
”We see a market poised for some growth,” Baer said.
”We definitely see an uptick. Our business has been much
improved over last year, but we’re also concerned about
what’s going on in the business environment. We think
growth is going to be pretty consistent. We just don’t want
Darryl Zook
any of us to overshoot the mark. We don’t want to be in the
same position we were in a year ago.”
He said KZ dealers have reported
10%-20% sales increases over 2009.
”And inventories are in line,” he
In addition to the new Durango
2500, KZ also introduced a hybrid
version of the Sportsmen Classic
travel trailer, available with either one
or two tent-type extensions. KZ also
manufactures Escalade, Stone Ridge,
Spree, Sportsmen and Coyote towable RVs plus Inferno SURVs. Δ
Durango 2500
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Vendor, Consumer Registrations
Rise for ‘The Rally’ July 22-25
Both consumer and exhibitor signups are
ahead of last year — by double digits — for
The Rally July 22-25 at the Kentucky Exposition
Center (KEC) in Louisville, Ky.
The Rally, considered the largest single RV
event in the country, is sponsored by Affinity
Group Inc. (AGI), parent of RVBusiness.
”We are at least 10% or more ahead of
where we were with advance (consumer) registrations than last year,” said Terry Thompson,
AGI vice president of sales, in a May 24 conversation with RVBusiness. ”We are two
months out, and traditionally during the last two
months we get a huge rush of registrations.”
Thompson also expects a 20%-25% increase in display coaches for sale that will be
brought to The Rally by RV manufacturers and
a 10% hike in vendor booths.
The Rally’s displays and programs this year
all will be located indoors in the South Wing of
the KEC, annual site of RVIA’s National RV
Trade Show.
”We got manufacturers who didn’t participate last year,” Thompson said. ”That’s a good
thing. They are healthier, obviously, than they
were a year ago. And our sense is the people
are buying at RV shows and The Rally certainly
has become a buying rally.” Δ
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Thetford Pitches In With
Summer Promo & Toilet Rebate
Th market is turning around – and Thetford is doing
its part to keep momentum going by “jump starting” RV
Dealer sales with a summer permanent toilet promotion.
In an offer
ff sure to catch your customer’s attention, the
industry leader is off
ffering a $15 manufacturer rebate on
all Thetford replacement toilets bought from RV Dealers
from May 15-Sept. 30, 2010.
This is a win-win situation,” a Thetford spokesman
said. “Consumers save money on new toilets, while
Dealers increase sales and profits
fi from the sales and installations of those toilets.”
To help “pull-through” sales at the Dealer level,
Thetford will advertise the promotion in major RV
publications nationwide. In addition, Th
Thetford will
promote the offer
ff in Dealerships with informative
posters and colorful mail-in rebate coupons.
Thetford, an American-owned company, is the only
maker to off
ffer RV toilets in all three categories: allplastic (Aqua-Magic V and Bravura), combination
plastic and porcelain (Aqua-Magic Style Plus and II)
and all-china (Aria Classic and Aria Deluxe).
To learn more about this
outstanding summer s
opportunity, RV Deal
ers should contact
their Thetford
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Go To:
User Guide
RVB1006 Top of the News LO2.qxp_RVB Top of the News 6/2/10 3:09 PM Page 14
of the NEWS
Prime Time Delivers 1,000th RV, Adds Workers
Decorator Industries Narrows
Losses in Q1. Decorator Industries Inc.
announced May 17 improving operating
results for the first quarter ended April 3.
The Pembroke Pines, Fla.-based supplier
to the RV, manufactured housing and hospitality industries reported a net loss of
$343,521 for the quarter, compared to a
net loss of $1.29 million in the same quarter one year ago. Net sales for the first
quarter decreased 21% to $4.02 million
compared to $5.1 million for the first quarter of 2009. Sales to RV customers increased 50% to $1,283,000 compared to
$853,000 in last year’s first quarter. The RV
industry reported that total RV wholesale
shipments increased 97% in the first quarter of 2010 from last year’s first quarter.
Liberty Coach Reports Increase in
’10 Production. Liberty Coach, a family-owned and operated luxury motor
coach manufacturer, has reported increased sales in both new and used
motor coaches ordered for 2010. Having
sold a new triple-slide coach just this past
Saturday (May 8) for a total of seven new
coaches sold so far this year, the company projects a total of 16 will sell by the
end of 2010, up from 12 last year. With
coaches selling for upwards of $1.8 million, this is a significant increase that coowner Frank Konigseder attributes to a
strengthening economy.
Coast Reports Improved 1st Quarter Results. The Coast Distribution System Inc., Morgan Hill, Calif., reported May
13 financial results for the first quarter
ended March 31 highlighted by revenue
growth and improved bottom line results.
Coast reported net income of $22,000, or
$0.00 per diluted share, for the first quarter
of 2010 as compared to a net loss of $0.9
million, or $0.20 per diluted share for the
first quarter of 2009. That nearly $1 million
year-over-year improvement was primarily
attributable to increases in net sales and
gross margin, and a reduction in selling,
general and administrative (SG&A) expenses in this year’s first quarter.
RV Care Network Ltd. Affiliates
with GE Capital. GE Capital’s Commercial Distribution Finance (CDF) business in Canada announced May 11 that it
has entered into an agreement with RV
Care Network Ltd. of Vancouver, Britsh
Columbia, to provide expanded benefits
to its inventory financing program for RV
Care members, a network of independent
recreational vehicle dealers across
Canada. GE Capital provides inventory financing to RV manufacturers and RV
dealers throughout Canada. Δ
Go To:
M A Y / J U N E
Recently formed Prime Time Manufactur- Prime Time’s aggressive approach to product
ing, a division of Forest River Inc., celebrated a development and are proud to take delivery of
manufacturing milestone May 11 with the de- their 1,000th unit.”
livery of its 1,000th travel trailer from its proDuring the ceremony, Prime Time President
duction facility in Wakarusa, Ind. The company Jeff Rank announced plans to introduce the
also used the opportunity to
announce a planned expansion
and the addition of “a significant amount” of employees.
The towable builder recognized the achievement with a
brief ceremony and luncheon
attended by more than 130 production workers, vendors and
Wakarusa town officials. Many
of the employees have been The keys to Prime Time Mfg.’s 1000th unit were presented to officials
with the company since its in- from Tom Raper RV (pictured, l-r) Jim Leep, Ed Unger, Scott Miller
and Eddie Unger, joined by Jason Gill, Jeff Rank and Chris Hermon
ception in September 2009.
from Prime Time, a division of Elkart-based Forest River Inc.
Special guests included the
management team of Tom Raper RV, who were company’s first line of fifth-wheels, to be called
presented the keys to the milestone unit — a Crusader.
Tracer 3000 BHD. With three locations in Indi“We will begin production by the end of
ana and Ohio, Tom Raper RV is Prime Time’s May and expect to be hiring a significant
largest volume dealer.
amount of additional employees within the next
“Both the Tracer and LaCrosse have proven few weeks,” he noted. “The management team
to be very innovative, well-built and quite pop- at Prime Time understands the fifth-wheel marular with our retail customers,” said Dave Bane, ket and we look forward to making Crusader
president of the multi-site dealership. “We love an industry leader.” Δ
RPTIA/RVIA Continue Reunification Talks
Park Model Board Has ‘Positive’ Outlook During May Meeting; Representatives of Two Groups to Meet Aug. 26 in Elkhart to Further Discussions
The Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) is on track for further reunification discussions with the Recreation Vehicle
Industry Association (RVIA) following an RPTIA
board meeting in May.
The meeting at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in
Elkhart, Ind., took place amid a rising tide for
park model manufacturers, according to Bill
Garpow, RPTIA executive director, whose association has reported that wholesale shipments for the first quarter were 800 units.
Garpow said the board had a long discussion about rejoining RVIA.
”No decision has been reached at this
point,” said Garpow. ”The position the association has taken is to continue discussions with
RVIA and do so in a positive nature and find out
exactly what (reunification) would look like and
how it would work.”
Fifteen of about 40 RPTIA manufacturermembers that have votes on the RPTIA board
attended the meeting during which they voted
to change RPTIA’s board structure.
Representatives of the two organizations
previously scheduled an Aug. 26 meeting in
Elkhart to continue talks.
”We want to be able to go to our members
and say, ‘Here’s the package’ and go forward
from there,” Garpow said.
”We don’t have any crisis things that are in
the mill. It’s not like RPTIA can’t exist without
the merger. We’re solvent and the future looks
good. We can continue to function as an organization, either autonomously or, if the board
decides, as a product within RVIA.”
Those opposed to reunification are mostly
concerned about RPTIA members ”being able
to control our own destiny,” Garpow said.
On the other hand, proponents of the
merger point to RVIA’s strength as an asset.
”RVIA is a heck of a lot bigger, been around
longer, is financially stronger and has excellent
connections legislatively,” Garpow said.
”They’ve got everything in place.”
Park model manufacturers were RVIA
members until October 1994 when they left the
organization and formed their own group based
in the Atlanta suburb of Newnan, Ga. Talks to
reunify the two groups have been on and off for
more than a year.
During the meeting, the RPTIA board also
voted to reorganize the board structure to have
13 members elected to four-year terms to include eight manufacturers, two suppliers,
a park trailer dealer and two campground
owners. Δ
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User Guide
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RVB1006 Top of the News LO2.qxp_RVB Top of the News 6/2/10 3:09 PM Page 16
■ B Y
Get Comfortable With
Being Uncomfortable
etting comfortable with being uncomfortable” will be a
theme for the RV industry during the next 12-24 months.
While I was at an RV 20 Group meeting toward the end of
May, some things about the near future became clearer. While many
of the dealers in this group (and industrywide) are reporting sales and
net profits that are up significantly compared to the same time frame
in 2009, there does not seem to be the optimistic, enthusiastic, confident “vibe” that one might expect to go along with the numbers.
While the 20 Group members discussed various issues, the
biggest common challenge seems to be that most RV dealers — and
probably many of their customers — are functioning in a fear-driven
mode versus a goal-driven mode. Looking at the year-to-date or rolling
12-month results, things don’t look as bad as they did 12 to 18
months ago. However, while the overall trend line appears to be more
stable for many dealers, beneath the surface the market does not
seem to have the solid foundation that needs to be in place before
dealers can make solid, longer-term decisions and plans.
Here are the kinds of things we hear dealers saying:
q I know my numbers look good now, but I’m not sure I can keep
them there the rest of the year.
q A big part of my sales year-to-date have been used units. I’m
almost out of used units, and I can’t find more to buy.
q Floor traffic is strong, but then it dies off. It starts and stops for
no apparent reason.
q The customers keep shopping for deals, even after they sign
the contract.
q I have units sold that I can’t get from the manufacturer.
q I’m afraid the units I have on order are going to arrive too late
for the season.
“Steady by jerks” describes the current environment. In most markets, dealers who bring clear-headed leadership, focused strategies,
financial strength and operational strength will ultimately succeed —
with lots of ups and downs along the way. However, consistent execution is easier said than done in markets that have us careening from
crisis to crisis. If it’s not flooring, it’s manufacturer insolvency. If not
housing data, it’s unemployment data. Just when people are feeling
“normal” again about the stock market, it drops 1,000 points in a few
minutes. We are operating in a time of uncertainty. The key to dealer
success is learning to function focused on our goals, while addressing
the realities of an unstable marketplace — without overreacting to
At any one time, we are primarily motivated by either fear(s) or by
goal(s). When a dealer is operating from a basis of fear — especially
when combined with an environment of change — the tendency is to
gravitate towards one of two approaches.
The first approach is one in which the dealer constantly changes
strategies. When they don’t instantly get the results they are seeking,
it becomes proof that the strategy isn’t working — so they abandon
it for another and start over before giving it time to work. This often
makes their business situation worse.
The second approach is to not change anything at all. The dealer
is almost paralyzed by a fear of making the wrong decision. As a result, he or she will miss opportunities to improve their business situation and cling to “what worked in the past” at the expense of a more
successful approach. Dealers using this approach also tend to think
that this approach is best because they didn’t take an action that may
have failed and comfort themselves with a false sense of security in
not doing anything differently.
As we can see, when we operate from fear it doesn’t tend to solve
problems effectively. We tend to focus on the symptoms of the problem
rather than seeing the root causes of the issue and then use modes of
behavior that don’t produce results. Both changing too much and not
changing enough can turn into a self-fulfilling downward spiral.
There seem to be more questions at this time than answers. So,
what should dealers be doing in this environment? Concrete goals
with specific actions give you something to work towards and are inherently more positively motivating, even if the goal changes as a result of the market. At least you have a target by which to measure.
When done well, it also provides you with the “triggers” to act.
Here are some recommendations:
1. Change the business to a size and organizational structure that
give you stability from which to operate.
2. Make highly adaptable plans and goals. Create a written budget
and cash-flow plan, with “what-ifs” for 25% higher-than-target sales
volumes and 25% lower sales volumes so you can know ahead of
time what changes would need to be made to keep you profitable.
Having these written plans in place and knowing you can make it even
if your dealership is hit with these decreases has eased the stress and
pressure on many dealers and allowed them to focus and execute the
plan versus enduring unplanned major changes.
a. Seriously consider cutting back hours of operation. For example,
the math has shown that in many cases being open six days versus
five days can cost you 25% more in people costs. If your people (and
you) are tired and burned out, you are all much less productive, versus
coming to the game rested and focused. Reducing hours of operation
continued on page 18
An author, consultant and instructor, John Spader has worked with a host of individual companies (most frequently retail dealerships)
in a variety of industries. Spader
Business Management - and the network of 20 Groups for which is has largely become known - blends statistical analysis and hands-on
coaching and
consulting to assist clients in formulating proven business plans and increasing revenues. Comments or suggestions can be sent to: [email protected]
Go To:
M A Y / J U N E
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User Guide
RVB1006 Top of the News LO2.qxp_RVB Top of the News 6/2/10 3:09 PM Page 18
of the NEWS
Spader from page 16
can potentially allow you to do the same business with less staff and/or paid hours.
b. Make sure sales processes and presentations are top-notch. Prospects are fewer and
tougher in this buyer’s market, so we need to
make sure we bring our “A Game” when we get
a chance at a prospect.
c. Make sure you have a proactive inventory-management system that addresses
aged units so they don’t become a serious liability. Write down, in dollars, your target inventory level for the end of June, the end of
July, the end of August and the end of September. Put these goals in writing and manage
to them.
Do the things you need to do to get some
stability back in your business so you’re operating from a position of strength! Even if profits
have come back around for you this year, the
growth of the past is not likely to be the pattern
going forward. We believe the near-term
growth is going to be steady — by jerks. Continue to do more with less. Then get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
We wish you the best in these interesting
times. Δ
Thor Sales Soar 64% in Q3; Company Announces
Sale of Canadian RV and Park Model Operations
Thor Industries announced May 4
preliminary sales and backlog for the
quarter and nine months ended April 30
and the divestiture of its Canadian RV
and park model operations.
Sales in the quarter were $679 million,
up 64% from $415 million last year. RV
sales were $558 million, up 79% from
$312 million last year. Specialty Vehicle
sales, which include buses and ambulances, were $121 million, up 17% from
$103 million last year.
Sales in the 9 months were $1.61 billion, up 49% from $1.08 billion last year.
RV sales were $1.28 billion, up 65% from
$777 million last year. Specialty Vehicle
sales were $328 million, up 8% from
$304 million last year.
Cash, cash equivalents and investments
on April 30 were $155 million versus
$296 million last year. Backlog on April
30 was $667 million, up 51% from $442
million last year. RV backlog was $448
million, more than double the $214 million last year. Specialty vehicle backlog
was $219 million versus $228 million last
Thor also announced that it had sold
its Citair Inc. subsidiary, d.b.a. General
Coach Canada, to management, effective
April 30.
“The RV industry continues a strong
wholesale re-stocking trend, as evidenced
by Thor’s large order backlog,” said Peter
B. Orthwein, Thor chairman, CEO and
president. “Importantly, Thor’s recent internal retail sales results also demonstrate
substantial improvement over last year,
including the March and April periods.
This bodes well for a better balance between retail demand and wholesale replenishment as we move forward.” Δ
Gulf Stream Coach Unveils Aztec Fifth-Wheel
Little Guy Trailers, go to
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fifth-wheel. Aztec is a completely new design, offering high-end features at a mid-range
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chalking over time. Exterior speakers are placed low for better sound quality and to preserve wall construction integrity. A fold-down bulkhead wall in the main storage bay provides an extra 20 cubic feet of storage space, Upscale additions include a residentialstyle stainless steel sink, solid hardwood two-tone cabinetry, optional memory foam
mattress and cedar-lined closet. The 32FRBW starts at $29,000 MSRP.
Go To:
M A Y / J U N E
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User Guide
RVB1006 NIF-Walworth LO.qxp_RVB News In Focus 5/28/10 2:18 PM Page 19
At Statistical Surveys Inc.,
Bill Pontus Massages the
Data and Tom Walworth
Performs ‘Face Man’ Duties
Statistical Surveys
Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Data Analysis Company Does More Than Crunch
Numbers and Track OEM Market Share
— It Can Identify Regions Where Certain Products Are More Likely to Sell
Well. ‘Everybody Knows Where the Top
10 Markets Are, But After That Where
do You Go?’ Asked Company President
Tom Walworth. ‘We Help Them Find the
Rest of the Business.’
Partners Bill Pontus (left) and Tom Walworth purchased Stastical Surveys Inc. in 1986.
RV marketing is a numbers game.
Just ask Tom Walworth, president of
Statistical Surveys Inc., a company that
collects data nationwide about retail,
boat- and cargo-trailer and manufactured-housing sales and repackages it
so that manufacturers, dealers, financial
institutions and others can make sense
of the cornucopia of valuable information.
Not only does “Stat Surveys'” track
RV manufacturers’ market share, but
the Grand Rapids, Mich., firm also can
identify retail markets where products
are more likely to sell well.
Manufacturers use the information
to formulate products — while dealers
use it to decide which products to buy.
“We are a factor in marketing, both
for manufacturers and dealers,” Walworth said. “We buy our data and input
it so that it is affordable for the industry.
If a company tried to go get that market
data every time they wanted to put together a marketing program, it would be
very expensive.
“Our primary customers are manufacturers, suppliers, lien-holding banks,
dealers and industry analysts. If you look
at it from a manufacturer’s standpoint,
their goal is to build a product and sell
it. One of the things we tell them is
where the opportunity to sell it is.
“Everybody knows where the top 10
markets are, but after that, where do
you go? We help them find the rest of
the business.”
Statistical Surveys was founded in
1957 in Wisconsin to gather statistics
on the manufactured housing industry.
The company moved to Grand Rapids
after being purchased by Foremost Insurance. Later, Stat Surveys was sold to
local businessman Ralph Klinker.
The company began gathering statistics on fifth-wheels in 1984, motorized RVs in 1987, boats in 1994 and
utility trailers in 2005.
Wisconsin native Walworth and partner Bill Pontus — both employees of the
company — bought it from Klinker in
1986. Pontus primarily handles the data
manipulation while Walworth is the
“face man” — the outside agent who
markets Stat Surveys’ various products.
The company has 17 employees, and
works closely with R.L. Polk & Co.,
which provides the same service to the
automobile and motorcycle industries.
Stat Surveys’ Grand Rapids location
is in America’s heartland about two
hours north of the northern Indiana RV
hub. “To some extent, we can do what
we do anywhere, but you have to look
at the talent pool and the location of our
customers,” Walworth said. “With Elkhart
(Ind.) being so close, we spend a lot of
time there.”
For the RV industry, the company relies on information provided by retail
buyers who register titled vehicles,
whether they are motorhomes, travel
trailers or fifth-wheels.
Stat Surveys pays each state, usually
under a one- to four-year contract, for
the raw data from vehicle registration
files. “They are more than willing to sell
it,” Walworth said. “They don’t give you
“The states don’t have a good means
of sorting the information. When we ask
for a trailer file, they give us everything
from their state that involves a trailer.
There are a lot of transfers that don’t involve a retail sale. It might be something
that’s been homemade or it might be a
be a big milk truck with a trailer.
“We throw away about 90% of the
information that we purchase.”
Stat Surveys’ job got more difficult in
M A Y / J U N E
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RVB1006 NIF-Walworth LO.qxp_RVB News In Focus 5/28/10 2:18 PM Page 20
The staff of Statistical surveys includes (l-r): Marcy
Couturier, Randy Lemasters, Kim Weiland, Diane Micele,
Janice Lovell, Chris Pontus, Cheri Curtis, Aarn Rosen,
Winnie Kowalski, Bill Pontus, Mike Constable, Theresa
Eliott, Scott Stropkal, Laura Feys, Tom Walworth and
Vinh Vu.
2000 with the passage of the federal
Drivers’ Privacy Protection Act that was
the result of TV actress Rebecca Shaffer
being murdered by a stalker who tracked
her down through the California DMV.
After details of Shaffer’s murder
came out, states began withholding vehicle registration information, although
all have since begun providing it again,
albeit while keeping the identities of
buyers anonymous.
“We lost the of state of California for
about nine months,” Walworth said.
Stat Surveys owns its own computer
servers and initially provided its data to
companies in printed form. In 2006,
files began being transferred to customers in PDF form via e-mail. “We did
that for speed,” Walworth said. “For
someone in California who buys our
printed report, it could take a week to
get there in the mail. With a PDF, it’s
there in seconds.”
At the dealership level, Stat Surveys’
Five Minutes With Tom Walworth
Statistical Surveys President Tom Walworth recently chatted with
RVBusiness Senior Editor Bob Ashley on a varieity of topics:
RVB: Tom, What is your sense of the RV market right
now? We are getting a lot of mixed signals as the industry
tries to extricate itself from the recession.
Walworth: The RV industry is healing. We are
in a recovery mode. Each month, the data gets
stronger. We are still below previous years’ retail
numbers, but improving each month.
RVB: Going forward, which parts of the market do
you see performing the best?
Walworth: The towable market is going to be
the strongest and travel trailers will lead. Retirees
are probably still going to be buying the higherticket items — Class A motorhomes and fifthwheels.
The reason I say that is, the retirees that we
have out there now have the largest amount of
spendable dollars in history. Obviously, during the
recession, they closed down. They sat on their
cash. They’re starting to loosen up.
The other thing is that the recovery will be led
by the weight of the Baby Boomers. You’ve got a
huge number of people who are starting to retire,
and they will recreate.
RVB: Sat Surveys reports in recent months indicate
that the towable side is recovering more quickly than the
motorized side. What’s with that?
Walworth: Motorized is doing well out there.
But the growth of the trailer market has been so
rapid that motorized is going to shrink to a smaller
market share. Motorhomes are growing, but not at
the speed that the trailer industry is — but they are
Go To:
M A Y / J U N E
still growing.
RVB: Has anything surprised you about the last couple of years?
Walworth: Not really. Our industry has been
on a number of down cycles and up cycles over
the years — the late ’70s and early ’80s and the
late ’80s and early ’90s. Common wisdom pretty
much wrote us off both times. But we came back.
And after 9/11 in 2001, everything went down,
but what was the first to come back — the RV industry. People have a need to recreate. And we
offer a great opportunity to do that.
And here we are again. Last year was a jolt for
the whole country. But the RV industry is coming
back faster than probably other parts of economy
right now.
RVB: Are there any lessons coming out of this
downturn that can be drawn from the experience of earlier
Walworth: In the recession during the early
1990s, a number of companies built bigger production facilities. It was ‘iffy’ about whether it was
something they should do or shouldn’t do. But
those that built larger facilities, it has worked for
Manufacturers need to do a gut check right
now. While they’ve been in the bunker for the last
18 months, they are now going through the same
processes they did in the early ’90s.
The companies that are strong-willed, that
have tenacity and know that this industry is going
to get better, they will make the capital investments — and they are going to be successful because of it.
RVB: There are some who suggest the industry is
about to face another problem: backlogs. Do you agree?
Walworth: Right now, everybody has backlogs
out there. It’s up and down the line. You’ve got
manufacturers, suppliers, transport services.
This has been caused by a number of things.
Dealers have been a little shy about ordering
product. And because of floorplan issues and
changes in curtailments, a lot of dealers waited
until they were closer to the selling season before
they ordered product.
When everybody does that at the same time,
there’s just not enough stuff to go around to make
it happen.
Now, the dealers are pushing the manufacturers, the manufacturers are pushing the suppliers.
And after they get something built, they’re pushing
transport companies.
The other thing is that people are waiting to
see if retail sales are going to follow wholesale
RVB: Do you expect the sale of so-called FEMA
trailers to have a serious impact on retail towable sales in
the coming months?
Walworth: They are probably going to hurt the
lower end of the market. They are being sold dirt
cheap, and they are kind of beat up. People are
going to come in and grab the FEMA units and
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RVB1006 NIF-Walworth LO.qxp_RVB News In Focus 5/28/10 2:18 PM Page 21
data is used to determine what is selling
and what is not — and more importantly,
Although national trends can become evident from the data that Stat
Surveys collects, every community is different. “You can’t take national trends
and apply them to local markets,” Walworth said. “What sells in Dallas isn’t
necessarily the same thing that sells in
In 2002, Stat Surveys introduced online Data Beacon Cube software that
allows customers themselves to manipulate the data any way they wish — even
to the point of identifying the number of
people who own RVs in a four-city-block
area. “I can’t tell you who owns it, but I
can tell you how many RVs were sold in
that area,” Walworth said.
Determining where products sell the
best is even more important in recessionary times like the RV industry has
gone through during the last two years.
“In the old days, there was so much volume, a dealer could buy a slow-moving
product and discount it if they needed
to,” Walworth said. “With the turns the
market saw over the last couple of
years, making a mistake on a product
could endanger the dealership.”
Walworth estimates that even with
the RV industry having gone through a
winnowing process during the recent
recession, there are 170 manufacturers
building trailers, including standard RVs
and others with living quarters in them,
such are horse trailers and race-car
“We did a count,” he said. “We were
With the departure of several national
lenders from the RV market, local financial institutions also are availing themselves of Stat Surveys’ services. “While
they don’t have an interest in the national market, they do have an interest
in the local market,” Walworth said. Δ
Tom Walworth
they will be gone. And these were people who
were probably in the used market anyway, so
they won’t hurt the sale of new RVs much.
RVB: How do you see the general economy affecting the RV industry over the short term?
Walworth: The general economy is in a
healing process as is everything else. The industry sits on a three legged stool — employment, interest rates and availability of fuel.
Those are the three pillars that this industry
needs to be healthy.
RVB: And how do you judge their condition?
Walworth: Right now of the three legs —
fuel availability, no problem, and (Fed Chairman
Benjamin) Bernacki says he’s going to keep the
interest rates down.
The third leg of the stool is unemployment.
(University of Michigan economist Richard)
Curtin has shown that RV owners have a higher
rate of employment than non-owners do. While
unemployment is just under 10%, our unemployment (among RV consumers) is lower than that
That being said, if we can get the unemployment number down to 6% or 7%, I think the industry will really excel at that point.
Consumer confidence is part of it, too. But
we can’t control that.
RVB: You didn’t mention fuel prices, which in late
March were again approaching $3 a gallon in some
Walworth: Fuel prices will certainly hold
back all industries, not just the RV industry. They
can have a negative impact on everything.
When people use an RV, though, they are
using it one or two days a week. Or if they are
taking a two-week vacation, instead of staying at
three campgrounds and moving every few days,
you maybe go to one campground and park it. Or
you may stay closer to home than you would otherwise.
There are options to help deal with the increased price of fuel. There are no options when
we have no fuel available. Δ
M A Y / J U N E
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RVB1006 Q&A-Olson LO.qxp_RVB Q & Q 5/28/10 2:19 PM Page 22
Winnebago Industries’ Senior Management Team
Voices Optimism as Company Posts 247% Uptick
In 2Q Revenues — But a Hint of Anxiety Remains
As the RV Industry Begins to Bounce Back From the Great Recession of 2008-’09,
Manufacturers Such as Winnebago Are Finally Getting a Clear Look at How Deep the
Trough Was. “We Lost Good People, Good Plants and Good Competitors,” Said Winnebago CEO Bob Olson. The Forest City, Iowa-Based Motorized-Segment Leader Has
Nearly Reversed Its Operating Losses and Has Been Calling Back Furloughed Employees — But Winnebago, Like Other OEMs, Is Approaching the Future Cautiously.
Welcome to the ‘New Normal.’
If American business had a corporate motto
coming out of the Great Recession of
2008-’09, it might be: “Everything’s relative.” And that certainly might apply to Winnebago Industries Inc., the Forest City,
Iowa-based motorhome builder. Winnebago’s 2010 second quarter financial report pointss to a considerable
upswing in
ction volumes, employment
and sales.
Its revenues
evenues for the quarter, ending
Feb. 27,
re up 247% to $110.5 mi
million from
31.8 million last year and it posted
only a
arginal $1.9 million operating loss vs. an
18.6 million setback a year ago. But relative
ve to where the management of this proud
merican company would like to be at this
oint in history — or even where it’s
it been in
e past — those numbers aren’t quite so
pressive. For instance, Winnebago
ated $266 million in revenues with
w $24.5
illion in operating income in th
the second
uarter of 2004. So, you won’t find Winnebago’s
ebago’s senior management celebrating iin
e streets of Forest City any time soon. No,
if you go there and sit down across th
ble from Chairman, CEO & President
ob Olson, Vice President of Sales aand
arketing Roger Martin and Vice President
of Product Development Bill O’Leary, as
VBusiness recently did, you’ll find thre
ntlemen who are optimistic but still rather
ous about the prospects for 2010. And
e clearly still focused on bringing back
more of their
eir furloughed workers
workers. The ccompany’s workforce peaked at 4,200 five
years ago, but slipped to 1,600 during the
dregs of the recession and stood at just
over 2,000 in April. Here’s the highlights of
our interview.
RVB: Sitting here in Forest City in the first half of 2010, with
the economic recession and a hard winter both in the rear-view
mirror, how do things look?
Olson: We had a board meeting recently where we did some
year-over-year comparisons. And it’s interesting, looking back, because when you are involved in fighting the battles, you don’t take
a step back and see just how good or bad things are. Now, comparing this year to last year, we just shake our heads in amazement
Go To:
M A Y / J U N E
s, I
Going in, we knew it was going to be tough. Thank God that we
(Winnebago) had the seasoned management team that saw the
signs that it was going to be tough. We started our first (workforce)
reduction in January ’08. I think we probably were one of the first
ones to slow down our production and basically start cutting costs.
With everything that we saw on the horizon, we figured this one
was going to be tough. Now we didn’t realize it was going to be
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RVB1006 Q&A-Olson LO.qxp_RVB Q & Q 5/28/10 2:19 PM Page 23
Standing before a 2011 Itasca Ellipse, Winnebago Industries’ senior management team (l-r)
Roger Martin, vice president of sales and marketing; Bill O’Leary, vice president of product
development; and Bob Olson, Chairman, CEO and president.
this tough. None of us liked it, but we
knew that if we were going to survive
we had to make some of these tough
decisions and then act on them.
RVB: You mean tough decisions
regarding staff and plants?
Olson: Yes. We took our model
lineup and reduced it pretty severely
just because we didn’t have the staff
to be able to maintain the kind of prod-
uct offerings we’d had previously. We
looked at cutting inventories. We did
everything humanly possible to turn inventories into cash. We have never had
a debt load in recent time. We knew
this was a cyclical business and to
have debt would be a very, very difficult
hurdle to get over. But this industry and
economy was going down so fast, you
couldn’t keep up. You’d get down with
one round of cost-cutting and you’d
think, ‘We made it,’ and about a week
later you’re sitting there saying, ‘OK
guys, we’ve got to do it again.’ We did
that four or five different times.
RVB: How do you feel about the
federal government’s general response to this downward economic
Olson: The federal and state governments were in a hard place, no
doubt about it. On one hand, you’re
looking at it and saying that if you don’t
bail these guys out, the entire economy could implode. But on the other
hand, you look at the automotive industry and financial institutions and realize that the rest of us made it without
any bailouts.
Now, we are by no means the magnitude of some of these companies
that were bailed out. But I always
thought it was the American way that
you make it or go broke on your own.
There’s no free lunches in this world,
and my fear is we’ve set a new precedent in this country — that we’re enabling people to fail. I’ve got a real
concern about that. Look at our industry. We had several companies that
didn’t make it. There was no government bailouts to those folks. We lost
good people, good plants and good
Martin: One of the challenges certainly that this industry faced for the
last couple of years at the state level
wasn’t anything new. It was existing
laws that provided opportunities for
dealers to return product to manufacturers for what in many cases was no
good cause.
We can argue whether those laws
are good or bad all day long, and certainly we see them as bad because it
provides us with financial challenges
where, if a dealer just decides
overnight that he’s not going to be in
the motorized RV business anymore,
he can simply return inventory to us.
It’s a pretty tremendous burden.
Naturally, we are opposed to these
kinds of laws. But my fear is that states
that have them are envied by states
that don’t have them. And there seems
to be an effort put forth to ‘grow’ some
of these buy-back laws in some states
that don’t have them. The impact on
this industry is going to be substantial
if this happens.
M A Y / J U N E
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The American consumer must have a sense of wealth in order to
buy an RV. It’s a discretionary product. It may take another six
months, another year or two or three years. But eventually, you’re going to see
the thing get back to what I call ‘normal.’”
— Bob Olson, Chairman, CEO and President, Winnebago Industries
That, too, provided us and everybody else in this business with new
problems because not only are we
wrestling with trying to recover from all
the economic challenge out there, but
our dealers, who were also wrestling
along with us, took advantage of those
laws in some states and dumped inventory back on us and other manufacturers and kind of made the
problem multiply.
RVB: Buy-back legislation, we’re
hearing, is an ongoing debate?
Martin: In the states that have
those laws, we’ve counseled and
worked with our dealers as much as we
can so that they don’t get into those situations where they have inventory that
ages on them and presents them a
problem they can’t get out of. We’re arguably being more proactive so that a
dealer doesn’t get into that situation
like they did in ’08 and ’09.
Olson: The fact is that a lot of RV
dealers are affiliated with auto dealers.
And the auto dealers want this buyback provision, but it’s a different environment with auto dealers. You’ve got
GM, Chrysler, Ford or whomever that
tells them they have to have a facility
that looks like ‘X’ and they can only
carry their product. And if something
happens, maybe there is a responsibility on (automotive manufacturers’)
But the RV side of it is a little bit different. We need to somehow separate
the two. We don’t tell dealers how they
have to run their shops. We have no
say whether they have one product
line or eight product lines. It’s not as
though if they don’t have our product,
they’ll go out of business. They can get
anybody that they want just about any
These state laws are just an added
negative to what the economy has
done to RV manufacturers. It’s going
to be a very top priority to get the
states to separate at least the auto
franchise laws versus the RV dealership laws. It was a killer to a lot of manufacturers in this industry having to
buy back some of this product for no
cause. We’ve got to somehow fix that.
RVB: In what states is this issue
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M A Y / J U N E
in the forefront?
Olson: It started with Texas.
Louisiana is a big one, and Connecticut. If I recall, there is something like
14 states that are in discussion on this
legislation right now. I know RVIA (the
manufacturer-dominated Recreation
Vehicle Industry Association) is working very diligently in trying to get (laws)
more RV-specific than a blanket franchise law. It’s a top priority in RVIA and
we will continue to work the issues.
RVB: Tell us about the employment picture you’ve been dealing
Olson: Going from a modern high
of about 4,200 five years ago to about
1,600 is a pretty significant drop. The
difficult part of that is that we are in a
very small town. When you’ve got a situation when you know all of the people — in fact some of them are
relatives — and you’ve got to lay people
off and the next Sunday you're sitting
in church next to them, it’s very difficult.
That’s why my hat is off to this management team. They understood that.
Those are very, very tough things to do
in small communities.
We went almost a year when, on average, we didn’t give our employees a
40-hour paycheck. For an extended
period of time, we’d shut down one of
our three assembly lines. And then we
would have one (line) work one week
and the other work the next week on
a rotating basis so we could build different models. Now we’re working our
way back toward fuller production. But
again, I’ll go back to where we started
this conversation: We have got to have
that retail customer pulling the dealer
inventory off the lots and into the
campgrounds. Then we will continue
this recovery.
RVB: Are the loyal RV enthusiasts,
in your opinion, still in the game?
Olson: Absolutely. I just got back a
couple of weeks ago from a Winnebago/Itasca Travelers state rally in
Florida. We had 300-some coaches
down there. I got to spend four days
with retail customers and observing
their activities. And I can tell you that
this is a committed bunch of people.
RVB: What is your sense of the
retail market?
Olson: Oh, it will come – not back
to the normal retail that we’ve seen
over the years, but it will be an improvement over last year as we get
into the spring selling season.
RVB: Back to the ‘new normal,’ so
to speak?
Olson: Exactly. It’s going to take
awhile. We’ve got other things that
have to improve before we’re going to
see that retail get back to normal.
You’ve got unemployment at record
levels yet, and you’ve got (low) consumer confidence. We’ve got good
news on the horizon with the stock
market hovering around 10,500 (as of
May 19). That’s part of the sense of
wealth that we talk about. The American consumer must have a sense of
wealth in order to buy an RV. It’s a discretionary product. It may take another
six months, another year or two or
three years. But eventually, you’re
going to see the thing get back to
what I call ‘normal.’
You know, I’ve gone back to before
we got into this mess, to 1971 to see
what the average volume was for our
industry in motorized. And the average
volume, believe it or not, was about
55,000 units a year. You look at where
we were in 2009 – at 12,000 units —
and you can see plenty of room for improvement.
Working in our favor is the fact that
350,000 Baby Boomers per month
are joining our potential customer
ranks. Also, it’s getting to be the time
for many of the people who bought
motorhomes back in 2004 to upgrade
those six- to eight-year-old coaches.
RVB: How would you describe
the state of the dealer body?
Olson: One of the things that Winnebago does is go after the top dealers in the certain areas that we are in.
We usually have the No. 1 or No. 2
dealership. So, we started out with a
stronger base, which is a good thing.
We lost approximately 15% to 20% of
our dealer locations through this
downturn, which we didn’t like to see.
They were closures or they may have
discontinued motorized and now are
just in towables. Instead of eight lines,
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Parkland Performance Products
Parkland Means Innovation
For more information call 800 835 4110 or visit our website.
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RVB1006 Q&A-Olson LO.qxp_RVB Q & Q 5/28/10 2:19 PM Page 26
We reduced our number of floorplans from 78 to 68 in 2010 with
the attitude that everything that we offered had to be something
the dealer was willing to stock and had the opportunity to retail from his lot
because of the tougher market out there.”
— Bill O’Leary, Vice President of Product Development, Winnebago Industries
they’ve got six lines now. They had to
downsize just like we had to downsize
the product offerings. It’s all a matter
of volume. They’ve got to cut their
overhead as well.
So coming out of this, we’re going
to continue to have a strong dealer
body. You are going to see them paying closer attention — with the help of
their finance companies — to what
their inventory levels are. Turn rates are
going to be very, very important. The financial stability is going to be important to the lending institutions.
Martin: We are hearing a couple of
things from dealers. First of all, they
are being far more careful about who
they partner with from a manufacturer
perspective. They need to understand
that a manufacturer is financially roadworthy — that they are going to be
there when the tough times come,
whether it’s in support through marketing or whether it’s support through
service in parts and warranty.
Dealers saw some things in the last
two years that they’ve never seen before. So, they’ve got a whole new attitude from that perspective. The fact
that we weathered this storm financially and didn’t really leave anybody
stranded is a feather in our cap.
RVB: What direction has product
taken, emerging from the recession?
Martin: Over the last couple of
years, because of the reduction in
staffing throughout the industry, manufacturers have been challenged by
how many resources they put in developing new product lines. But we didn’t
just put new-model-year designators
on existing product. We consciously
made the investment to retool our
2010 product line and brought some
products to market that are truly revolutionary when a lot of the industry was
understandably taking the year off
saying they didn’t have the resources
to build something new.
So, dealers look at our ability to do
that, I think, and they are saying Winnebago Industries has the financial
stability to do that and they are going
to bring me products that are new
enough, fresh enough to meet the
needs of the market today so that that
product is going to turn on their lots
and make them some money.
RVB: Any 2011 product details?
O’Leary: Over the last year-and-ahalf to two years, my group, along with
the entire organization, took a real
strict look at our offerings to make
sure that everything that we did had
complete value to our company and its
dealers and was obviously going to
have an impact at retail.
So, we reduced our number of
floorplans from 78 to 68 in 2010 with
the attitude that everything that we offered had to be something the dealer
was willing to stock and had the opportunity to retail from his lot because
of the tougher market out there.
We had been working on the (Mercedes-Benz Sprinter-based) Via and
Reyo (Class A) for several years. It certainly was very timely to come into the
market with something fresh for 2010.
That was a major effort on our part —
to be the only Class A manufacturer of
product on a Sprinter cowl chassis. Via
and Reyo have done very well in the
market. There’s a lot of competition in
Sprinter-based products.
RVB: What shifts in product tastes
do you expect for 2011?
O’Leary: There is still going to be
a wide mix of product throughout the
retail-buying public. But there is a
trend, at least for today and I think for
some time, where people are going to
be a little cautious. Maybe they get by
with something that’s more affordable,
maybe less featured. However, on the
contrary, they are looking for things
that show value, plenty of ‘eyeball,’
something that looks good.
RVB: Is it strictly a bottom-dollar,
sticker-conscious market?
O’Leary: I wouldn’t say bottom dollar, but more getting towards the affordable in this market.
Martin: It’s different by every consumer. In ’04, we virtually saw everybody buying up from wherever they
were at.
O’Leary: They had a sense of
Martin: And the product was available. Today, we are seeing more people
buying down from where they were —
not necessarily buying all the way down
to entry level. They’re just buying down.
That could be in price, or size or even
more dramatic — going from a 45-foot
diesel pusher to 25-foot Class A diesel.
On the other hand, I’d say that there’s
still a solid upper end of the market.
RVB: So this, by and large, is also
part of the ‘new normal?’
O’Leary: Yes, but again, there are
a lot of buyers who bought in ’04 or
’05 and are going to be in the market
to trade. They certainly bought the best
that was available at the time, and
there are going to be a group of people who want the same level of coach
continued on page 66
We didn’t just put new model-year designators on existing product.
We consciously made the investment to retool our 2010 product
line and brought some products to market that are truly revolutionary when a
lot of the industry was understandably taking the year off.”
Go To:
— Roger Martin, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Winnebago Industries
M A Y / J U N E
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RVB1006 PG 27 EQUITY LIFESTYLE.qxp_RVB Full-Page Ad 5/28/10 2:19 PM Page 27
May 1, 2010
An open letter from Joe McAdams...
As you all know, 2010 marks a milestone in the RV industry – 100 years in business.
We are so proud to be a part of an industry that is celebrating its 100th year anniversary
and we are proud that we kept rolling along through the ups and downs of the last century.
It looks like we are rolling to the end of the most recent economic downturn and we should
all take a look back to see what we’ve learned. Did we come out of these downturns stronger?
Did we look for ways to do things better, more economically and more efficiently? You bet
we all did and that says a lot about the character of the industry. No wonder we’re still
going strong at 100!
With resort-style camping quickly becoming the latest trend, ELS is looking to stay on the
cutting edge. We’ve looked for ways to keep our members coming back year after year and
ways to attract new RVers into the ELS lifestyle, despite the economic climate. We tossed out
sales presentations, we got rid of large upfront fees, and we implemented complimentary stays
try before you buy! We’re moving toward entry-level products to increase our member base
and to introduce people to membership camping. What’s more, as state parks cut their budgets
the membership campground is an attractive alternative for the camping enthusiast.
If you’ve done business with ELS in the past, you’ll appreciate the changes. If you haven’t
explored the ELS lifestyle, give us a try. For details on new dealer and manufacturer programs,
contact Heather Elswick at (866) 868-4017.
I’m looking forward to the next century. We plan to still be going strong for another 100 years
won’t you join us!
Joe McAdams
Equity Lifestyle Properties
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RVB1006 Airstream LO.qxp_RVB Feature 6/3/10 6:34 PM Page 28
From House Cars t o
An Abbreviated Histo
Any attempt to chronicle the width and breadth of an industry 100 years in the making is bound to come up short —
and the history of the RV industry is more colorful than most. From it’s rather humble beginnings in 1910 housecars to the
extrordinarily sophisticated and technologically advanced RVs of the 21st century, it’s a narration peopled with an amazing
array of characters — and a bewildering collection of machines.
But we had to try.
According to Airstream Inc. President and CEO
Bob Wheeler, “A monocoque shell is a perfect
design to build a long-lasting travel trailer.”
It is also, apparently, a perfect design with
which to build a long-lasting travel trailer company.
The Thor Industries Inc. subsidiary has in fact
been in business since 1936, making it the oldest continually active manufacturer in the RV
industry. Not surprisingly, the riveted aluminum
shape has become the unofficial silhouette of
the RV industry. While “Winnebago” has entered
the lexicon to become the generic equivalent of
“RV,” the Airstream has come to represent the
look of the lifestyle.
The Airstream wasn’t company founder Wally
Byam’s first foray into trailer manufacturing. His
earliest efforts — the Torpedo Car Cruiser —
were egg-shaped units produced in 1931. When
Byam acquired the assets of the Bowlus-Teller
Trailer Co. in 1936, the familiar monocoque
design soon graced the first Airstream Clipper.
The rest, to used a well-worn cliché, is history.
The consummate promoter, Byam toured the
world in his Airstreams, which grew in size and
complexity — and, eventually, into self-propulsion.
After a series of starts and stops — and well after
the debut of the Argosy, known as the “painted
Airstream” in 1972 — Airstream finally plunged
into the motorized sector in 1979. The company
continues to offer both motorized (Class B) and
travel trailers around the world. — Bruce Hampson
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o Motorhomes —
ry of the RV Industry
towed RVs has been a
story of the American
vagabond and our desire to
travel and see our wonderful
country and that of our
neighbors at our own pace.
From the earliest days of the
automobile, travelers, both
here and abroad, have placed
their supplies in, on, and
around their vehicles and
headed down the open road
— in may cases even before
the roads existed.
While many homemade
contraptions of varying degrees of utility were seen
earlier — and horse-drawn
camping vehicles had been
available for years — the ve-
1910 Touring Landau
hicle recognized as the first
production RV with self-contained camping features was
the 1910 Touring Landau by
the Pierce Arrow motorcar
company of Buffalo, N.Y. The
landau was a chauffeur-driven limousine in which the
wash basin on the back of the
front seat, a kitchen basket,
a toilet and storage boxes replaced the running boards.
Perhaps this could be identified as the first “basement
storage” and the first Class B
motorhome. A telephone connected the passengers to the
chauffeur for directional communication. C.W. Post, the
cereal magnate, reportedly
paid $8,250 for a Touring
Landau that provided hot and
cold running water in addition to the standard features.
After 1912 the Landau was
sold as the George Washington Coach.
By 1915, Gustav Bret-
Low floors, high ceilings, aerodynamically designed
fiberglass front and rear end caps, good handling and ride
quality, airy interiors — it’s hard to imagine a time when
these most basic of modern motorhome amenities didn’t
exist. Prior to the GMC, however, motorhomes were
unwieldy, dimly lit tubes.
Arguably the first vehicle built as a motorhome from the
tires up, the 1973-’78 GMC quite literally brought the
industry out of the Dark Ages.
Some of this was by design. Literally. Freed from the constraints of a traditional drivetrain — the GMC was among the
first to use the Oldsmobile 455cid/front-wheel-drive package
— designers were able to dramatically lower the floor height
in the GMC to just 15 inches off the ground. That, in turn, allowed them to raise ceiling height to a respectable 6 feet, 4
inches while still maintaining a low center of gravity. Tandem
rear wheels were mounted independently on the outside of
the extrawide chassis; using simple leading and trailing arms
and air springs between each pair of rear wheels, the configuration channeled road oscillations between the wheels rather
than upward to the coach.
And what a coach it was. Built like the fuselage of an aircraft, the coach used heavy-gauge curved aluminum ribs affixed to the ladder-type steel chassis hung with panels of
fiberglass, aluminum and lots of tempered glass; ringed by
15 individual windows, including a panoramic 32-square-foot
two-piece windshield, the GMC was a virtual atrium on
wheels. It also weighed in at 2,000-3,000 pounds less than
most of its contemporaries, which helped it attain 8-10 mpg.
Unfortunately, the GMC had the bad fortune to be introduced in the midst of America’s first fuel shortage, which
impacted sales. In production for six years, just 12,921
GMCs were built. — B.H.
M A Y / J U N E
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teville of San Francisco had
invented and began manufacturing and marketing the
Automobile Telescope Apartment. It was an aftermarket
camper much like a slide-in
truck camper that mounted
on the back of Model T Ford
runabouts or early pickups.
This unit was remarkable in
that it had a series of slideouts (“telescopes”). The
body slid straight out the
back and then storage units
slid out from either side of
the first slide. One side produced a kitchen and the
other produced wardrobe
storage. Sleeping quarters
were in the center. Ads for
the unit displayed a shower
that used water run through
the radiator for warming.
The basic apartment was advertised for $100 with installation by the purchaser.
At the same time, the Superior Custom Truck Builders
of Toledo, Ohio, was advertising a huge “Land Yacht”
for sale for $2,850. This
monster rig was very well appointed even by today’s
standards. It was powered by
a six-cylinder, 60-hp engine
and used nine forward and
three reverse gears. It in-
1913 Earl
cluded a generator to run
lights and the electric stove
and furnace, a bathroom
with shower, hot and cold
water fed by gravity from
overhead storage tanks, folding Pullman Berths for six
passengers and a “crew” of
two, and a stairwell to the
upper deck that was
equipped with a “phonograph for dancing.” As stan-
dard equipment, it also included a suitcase that held
two folding bicycles as
“lifeboats.” One of these
amazing Land Yachts is
known to have made the trip
with a party of six on board
from upstate New York to the
1915 World’s Fair in San
Francisco and return — with
no paved roads for nearly the
entire trip.
Most of the features that
we recognize in our recreational vehicles of today
were conceived by the earliest of RV pioneers. Well before the Roaring ‘20s we had
tent trailers, travel trailers,
hybrid travel trailers with
fold out tent beds, fifthwheel trailers and motor
coaches of all sizes. Appliances were state of the art
While Ralph Nader may have peered into the rear-engine
compartment of the Chevrolet Corvair and seen fire and
brimstone, Dave Peterson saw opportunity — and within a
year of the Corvair’s 1959 introduction, Peterson had rented
a garage, drafted a dream and began selling lightweight
machines that, if nothing else, were initially blessed with
one of the classic motorhome monickers of all time — the
Go-Home — before the designer settled upon Ultra Van.
Drawing on his background as an aircraft designer for
Boeing, Peterson infused the odd little Class A coach with
then-state-of-the-art aircraft technology. There is no frame
or chassis in the Ultra Van; instead, the monocoque design
gets its strength from aluminum panels riveted to curved
aluminum ribs (the front and rear outer skin was fiberglass). The aluminum water and fuel tanks likewise contributed to vehicle rigidity; running the full length of the
coach, they were actually integrated into its structure.
The liberal use of lightweight materials kept the vehicle’s
dry weight below 4,000 pounds, which allowed the use of
regular 14-inch tires — making emergency replacements as
near as the local gas station. The small rolling stock and
unusual front-suspension geometry gave Peterson’s
machine a tighter (50-degree) turning radius than that
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M A Y / J U N E
enjoyed by most light trucks — not all that surprising, considering it sat on a wheelbase just 22 inches longer than a
contemporary Chevy Suburban.
Initially powered by the Corvair’s 80-hp, 140cid engine
and two-speed Powerglide transaxle, the only-available-inwhite Ultra Van was appointed in rather Spartan fashion —
but then again, it only cost $7,000. Peterson sold the
rights to the “White Whale” to John Tillotson in 1965;
Tillotson moved production from Southern California to
Kansas and later experimented with other powertrains —
including a small-block Chevy and Corvette independent
rear suspension dubbed the Corvette Ultra — before production ceased at 373 total units. — B.H.
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1915 Automobile Telescope Apartment
for the time. Only the improvements of 100 years of
technology have made them
different if not better.
By the mid-teens, many
manufacturers were offering
folding tent trailers as a
much more affordable traveling home. By the late teens,
other forms of RVs had come
into the picture. The fifthwheel trailer was created in
1917 by Glenn Curtiss, the
aviation pioneer, using the
1915 Superior Truck
spare tire and “fifth wheel”
of an auto as the receiver for
the kingpin hitch. It was
first sold as the Adams Motor
Bungalo and then, from
1928 on, as the Curtiss Aerocar — often with custom
tow vehicles attached.
In the 1920s, many more
vehicles began to appear.
The Zaglemeyer Kamper Kar
was introduced in 1920 and,
from 1921 to 1928, Anheuser
Busch took over production
of the Lamsteed Camp Car
when its brewing business
was curtailed by prohibition.
The Lamsteed had been developed by the Lambert
family, also of St Louis, who
created Listerine Mouthwash.
This may have been the
first time successful entrepreneurs from other industries — as well as leading
companies from other industries — delved into the business of recreation, but it
wouldn’t be the last.
Luxury, totally self-contained housecars began to
be more popular in the mid
1920s. They were universally
custom made by small shops
and not production units.
The crash of 1929 and
the Great Depression created
The roots of the Travco coach — considered to be the
world’s first production-line motorhome and the first built
of fiberglass — can be traced back to the mid-‘50s and a
farmer/engineer by the name of Ray Frank. At the time,
travel trailers were the rage and many self-propelled “house
cars” tended to be ugly, homebuilt affairs. However, the
vehicle that emerged from the Frank barn outside Brown
City, Mich., drew accolades from neighbors — and, more to
the point, created a demand for more. Frank called his machine a “motor home” — he’s credited with coining the
term — and in 1958 began churning out Frank Motor
Homes. While the vehicles were top-notch for their time, it
was Frank’s decision to use a Dodge truck chassis that
would ultimately fuel the company’s success.
By 1961, the relationship was paying dividends. Dodge
threw its promotional savvy behind the new RV industry
and offered a nationwide network of dealers. To take advantage of this distribution, the motorhome was rebadged
“Dodge.” In 1963, it became a fiberglass Dodge as Frank’s
visionary practices led him to begin experimenting with the
then-new medium. By 1963, the company developed huge
molds capable of casting a 26-foot coach in ‘glass, using
two full-length sections joined down the middle.
Unfortunately, Frank proved to be a better engineer than
he was a businessman. The move into fiberglass became a
real financial drain; by the time the motorhome was renamed the Travco in 1965 — a move instigated by Dodge,
which by then had two more motorhome chassis on the
drawing boards — it had been sold to Detroit businessman
Peter R. Fink and would cease production in 1979. As for
Ray Frank, the ideas never stopped flowing. He developed
the Xplorer before retiring in the late ‘70s; his family continued to run that company until 1995. — B.H.
M A Y / J U N E
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Adams Motor Bungalo
From the mid-1960s until the oil embargo of 1973-’74,
the motorhome industry was riding an unprecedented wave
of popularity. And, with a few notable exceptions, all vehicles boasted the aerodynamics of a brick.
Then a couple of “car guys” got involved.
The son of William S. Knudsen, president of General Motors in the late ‘30s, Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen seemed destined to follow in his father’s footsteps. However, after
stints as general manager for GM’s Pontiac and Chevrolet
divisions, the car company he ran as president wasn’t GM.
It was Ford. But it was during his time at GM that Knudsen
became acquainted with Larry Shinoda, the legendary designer best known for his work on the 1963 Corvette splitwindow coupe; later at Ford, the duo worked together on
the Boss 302 Mustang. When Knudsen was replaced by Lee
Iacocca in 1970, the executive and designer collaborated
on one more project: the Discoverer 25.
While the sleek vehicle incorporated the Dodge front cab
normally seen on a contemporary Class C coach, it also
sported new streamlined nose and body panels which elim32
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M A Y / J U N E
inated the front doors. From the front door pillars, the
fiberglass design flared out and up, integrating tinted window panels to create an airy interior. The first Discoverer
coaches, with an MSRP of $13,880, went into production
in 1970, built under the Rectrans nameplate, a division of
the venerable White Motor Corp. Rectrans only survived a
handful of years before it was absorbed by White, which itself went into bankruptcy in 1980. — B.H.
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a blip in the growth of RV
development, but it didn’t
last long. By the mid-’30s
more exotic housecars began
to appear. The Hunt Housecars were produced for nearly
10 years by famed Hollywood
cinematographer Roy Hunt.
World War II caused another blip in RV growth, but
the industry blossomed into
full swing in the 1950s with
the inception of many giant
Fleetwood was created in
1951, Holiday Rambler in
1954, Winnebago in 1958 ...
and, as these heavyweights
were joined by others in
short order, the modern RV
era was born. The longest
housecar was the 1954 Executive Flagship built by mobile home manufacturer
Midstates Corp. and offered
for sale for $100,000. It was
65 feet long and had to articulate in the middle so as
to be able to turn corners. It
included a private helipad
for one’s personal helicopter.
The 1950s also saw the
dramatic growth of the
truck-camper sector with the
popularity of pickup trucks
following the war. As the
truck campers grew in size,
manufacturers removed the
truck beds and mounted
their campers directly on
the frame of the trucks creating “chassis-mounted”
campers — which evolved
into Class C coaches.
The term “motor home”
was first applied to a
housecar in 1959 by Ray
Frank, a small travel trailer
builder from Brown City,
Mich., who made his first
unit for private family use.
evolved in 1961 to a molded
fiberglass design and, in the
mid-1960s, became the wellknown Travco coaches. In
1967, Winnebago Industries
applied auto plant assemblyline technology to its motorhome production. These
affordable, mass-produced
coaches very quickly gave
Chassis Mounts
While Class A motorhomes were simply “born
big” at the turn of the ’60s,
Class C coaches display a
progression that would
make Charles Darwin smile.
Class C motorhomes — first
known as “housecars” —
didn’t simply happen. They
evolved. In fact, a case
could probably be made
that they owe their life to
their travel trailer siblings.
This form of motorized camping is thought to have originated from Traveleze Industries, and its founder, Kenneth Dixon. A trailer manufacturer since the early 1930s, the
company made a lasting impression when, in 1948, it decided to see what would happen
if a trailer could be carried as easily as it was towed.
Called chassis mounts, the earliest of these production-based motorhomes were little
more than existing travel trailers bolted down to the chassis of heavy-duty pickup trucks.
By affixing a trailer solidly to the chassis, these coaches offered the same single-vehicle
maneuverability enjoyed by trucks fitted with traditional slide-in camper shells — but a
dramatic increase in interior room and creature comforts.
Throughout the ’50s and ’60s, chassis-mount campers were a popular alternative for
outdoor enthusiasts — but as Class A coaches took hold, the evolution of the truck-based
camper into a legitimate motorhome was virtually certain. — B.H.
William Powell “Bill” Lear was an inventor par excellance.
He developed the first workable radio for automobiles and
founded Motorola, as well as the “endless loop-tape cartridge” — otherwise known as the 8-track tape — and a
corporate-sized jet that still bears his name.
In 1968, Lear established Lear Motors Corp. and began
working on his idea for a low-pollution engine that could
work on steam. Similar in form and function to the boilers
of steam cars built in the early 20th century, the power
system was to include a steam turbine that vaporized steam
in a vapor generator, drawing automatically on the turbine’s
24-gallon water tank. The engine could burn either
kerosene, diesel or 80-octane unleaded gas. Either the main
turbine or a second, smaller unit was envisioned for powering all of the motorhome’s ancillary demands, thereby
eliminating AC generators or propane tanks.
In 1972, Lear began laying the groundwork for his
Coachome, a 24-foot rig (with an estimated 12,000-pound
GVWR) that would be powered by a smaller version of his
Lear Vapor Turbine. Pumping out about 150 hp, the little
turbine — operating through an automatic transmission
designed to capitalize on the unique torque characteristics
of the engine — was claimed to be able to push the vehicle
to speeds in excess of 70 mph.
The coach itself was envisioned to be every bit as advanced as the proposed drivetrain. Built around an aircraftstyle aluminum monocoque shell, the Coachome was
designed with front- and rear caps crafted of ABS plastic.
Unfortunately, the Lear steam turbine-powered Coachome never made it into production. Like steam proponents before him, Bill Lear eventually discovered that the
system simply had far too many drawbacks for pedestrian
use. After spending an enormous amount of money, Lear
was forced to give up on the idea. — B.H.
M A Y / J U N E
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1937 Curtiss Aerocar
1921 Zaglemeyer Kampkar
While an assortment of chassis have been used to support motorhome designs through the years, the Li’l Bugger stands as the only class C-style limited production
motorhome ever built on a car sedan frame.
Bellflower, Calif.-based Travelon Industries offered the
$2,795 modification, utilizing a cutaway VW sedan chassis; the only acknowledgement of a higher (2,400-pound)
wet weight was the need for more supportive tires and
better shocks. Retaining the stock Volkswagen Beetle
front trunk, the 13½-foot Li’l Bugger concealed a
2-burner propane stove, 10-gallon freshwater tank and,
once a few panels were pulled out and the cockpit seats
swiveled rearward, twin 75 x 52-inch beds. Highway
mileage was reportedly 20-plus mpg. — B.H.
Winnebago more than 50%
of the motorhome market
share. Until the 1970s, many
builders made custom motorhomes to order and did
not build fleets of identical
rigs to sell to dealers. That
all changed with the success
of Winnebago’s assembly line
The ’70s also saw the rise
of the luxury custom bus
manufacturers such as Blue
Bird and Newell. The GMC
front-wheel-drive A-body
motorhomes also became
very popular in the ’70s,
demonstrating another new
technology. The decade
brought a new blip in the
growth of the RV industry
when the fuel embargos of
1973-’74 and ’79-’80 — and
the astronomical interest
rates of the era — nearly
brought the industry to its
knees as nearly half of the
manufacturers and dealers
went under.
The ’80s brought another
change in RV design when
bigger units allowed the
growth of living comforts in
coaches. Couches, TVs, entertainment centers and kitchen
conveniences such as microwave ovens. Slideouts
began to provide greater living space with more homelike comforts coming into the
rigs. This brought about a
separation in the RV public,
with the original RV camping
society continuing to grow
and a new RVing community
who’s travels were destination-based. The tree-lined
campground and sitting
around an evening campfire
was not necessarily attractive
to these new RVers, but the
opportunity to travel in comfort and have one’s own bed
and living accessories when
at the destination was. This
new group of RVers added to
the popularity of the lifestyle
and is responsible for much
of the recent growth in RV
The “Eyebrow” Winnebago
Few RV enthusiasts today know that Winnebago — the
exclusively motorized brand that has become so firmly
lodged into the lexicon that it’s used to generically describe
recreational vehicles in general — actually began life as a
travel trailer manufacturer. It wasn’t until 1966 that the
first Winnebago to move under its own power left the
assembly line.
By January 1967, Winnebago was advertising “America’s
first family of motorhomes” — five boxy models from 16
to 27 feet, all of which sported the distinctive “eyebrow”
vee above the slightly canted, split front windshield. The
eyebrow was actually a necessary addition to the motorhome’s design — it was home to a foldaway crosstop
bunk when not in use — but came to be one of the early
Winnebago’s most familiar features.
Other Winnebago lines, from the Renegade and the Indian through the Chieftain and Brave, would continue those
same familiar lines. Newer coaches would soften the “eye34
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M A Y / J U N E
brow” and the grille would finally become more refined, but
the squared-off, snub-nosed silhouette became the most
recognizable shape in the industry. By 1970, Winnebago
claimed that its D-22 Indian model outsold — by itself —
the entire production of any other motorhome brand. As
noted in a test of a D-24 in the November 1970 issue of
Trailer Life, “If you fall down in a motorhome park, chances
are you’ll hit a Winnebago.” — B.H.
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Hertz RV Rentals
1927 Ford
Imagine walking up to the counter of a car rental facility, paying your fare and picking up the keys to a race
car in drag. It happened. For one memorable year, Ford
Motor Company and Hertz Rent-A-Car got together to create an offer that’s firmly entrenched in hot-rod heaven:
the 1966 Hertz Shelby Mustang. Hertz only offered the
Shelby Mustangs for one year, but that didn’t stop the
company from experimenting in other venues. In 1971,
the company began renting motorhomes.
The coach of choice was the Lifetime Premier, a 23footer from the folks at Boise-Cascade. Initially available
in New York, Denver and Los Angeles, the Lifetime Premier
rented for $275 a week, in season, plus 10 cents per mile.
Savvy consumers also quickly began taking advantage of
a few options exclusive to the Hertz program: For a onetime fee of $20, the company would fully stock the motorhome with bedding and cooking equipment; for
another $6, they would fill a cupboard with a plastic camp
dinnerware set. — B.H.
The late ’80s-early ’90s
brought basement storage
into the type A motorhome
with the Fleetwood Bounder
and all the others who
quickly jumped on the bandwagon. Class A coaches now
could have nearly as much
storage as the bus conversions offered.
This led to a dynamic
growth in the full-time RVing
lifestyle as travelers could
comfortably take all their
needed supplies with them.
Coaches also grew — to
lengths of 40 and 45 feet —
greatly increasing the interior living comfort.
As we entered the 21st
century, units continued to
get bigger and bigger. Travel
trailers, fifth-wheels, and motorhomes are often supersized
like french fries at a fast food
restaurant. Longer lengths,
multiple slideouts, even
rooftop patios all have made
it necessary to have bigger
and bigger power plants. Fullsized semi tractors pulling
monster fifth-wheels and
tractor-based 45-foot motorcoaches have made it possible
to live in total comfort while
pulling nearly any load that is
desired. At the same time, excontinued on page 74
While the evolution of Fleetwood Enterprises can be
traced back to the ‘50s and a small company in Paramount,
Calif., by the name of Coach Specialties Mfg. Co. — the
Fleetwood name began as one of the firm’s travel trailer
models. It wasn’t until 1968, when company founder John
Crean bought Pace Arrow, that the manufacturer known for
its motorhomes finally went motorized.
The Pace Arrow acquisition proved to be an able launchpad for new projects. The company designed a small unit
on a chopped-van chassis and christened it the Tioga, then
designed a motorhome using a steel frame rather than
wood, and named it Southwind. There were others, as well,
“But I had a zillion ideas for a motorhome,” Crean admitted, “so I decided to make a brand-new model.” Crean
elected to design and build the motorhome on his own,
and bought a building near his home in Newport Beach,
Calif. What he created there would prove to be much more
than just another motorhome.
What he created was the Bounder.
“On most motorhomes, the storage was on top, which
was particularly inconvenient — and downright dangerous
— for our older, retired customers,” Crean pointed out.
“The major design innovation I came up with was to raise
the height of the floor in the unit. Along with enclosing
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M A Y / J U N E
the water system, the higher floor provided lots of new
storage space.” The raised floor also eliminated the step
up to the forward part of the coach, creating a flat floor
inside. The comfortable floorplan was copied directly from
Fleetwood’s 28-foot Terry travel trailer.
Visually, this brand-new coach wasn’t exactly cuttingedge. In fact, recalling the reaction from dealers when he
took a prototype on the road, Crean said, “The dealers
agreed that it was the ugliest thing they’d ever seen in
their life — but they were really impressed with its features.” Within a few years, the Bounder was the best-selling
motorhome in the country. — B.H.
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100 History of
Most Influe
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uential People in the
of the RV Industry
Lloyd Bontrager
Jayco Inc.
Lloyd J. Bontrager became restless after inventing a patented lift system
for folding camping trailers in the mid-1960s as an
employee of Star Tank and
Boat Co., Goshen, Ind.
At the urging of his
wife, Bertha, Bontrager in
1968 cleaned out two
chicken coops and a barn
on the family’s farm in
Middlebury, Ind., and
formed Jayco Inc. to build
popup trailers with 15 employees. Lloyd ran the company while Bertha did the
“When mom and dad started the business, they had no
long-range plans other than to do the best they could
each and every day,” said son Derald Bontrager, now president of Jayco, one of Indiana’s largest privately held
companies and one of the industry’s leading towable and
motorized RV manufacturers. Brother Wilbur Bontrager is
Jayco chairman while son Jason currently works in sales.
The name Jayco came from Lloyd Bontrager’s middle
name, Jay. “He liked the idea of a Blue Jay, which became
our logo because it was symbolic of the freedom that the
RV lifestyle offered,” said Derald Bontrager.
Jayco’s first few units were delivered one at a time to
a nearby RV dealership. But Bontrager, realizing that that
was inefficient, soon designed a special trailer that would
hold four trailers.
Jayco moved away from the farm in 1969, building a
more efficient factory nearby and later designed the JayKing, the first folding camper trailer to offer full-height
countertops and a 3-cubic-foot refrigerator.
Over the years Jayco, of course, has expanded into
travel trailers, fifth-wheels, Class C’s and most recently
Class A motorhomes. Subsidiaries include Starcraft Inc.,
and diesel-pusher manufactuer Entegra Coach Inc.
Lloyd Bontrager, a pilot, and his youngest son, Wendell, died along with two others in a 1985 airplane crash
in Muncie, Ind., while they were returning from a trip to
Florida. — Bob Ashley
M A Y / J U N E
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chairing a wide variety of organizations, from the California
State RV Dealers Association to the RV/MH Hall of Fame and
national RVDA
Wally Byam
Airstream Inc.
RV industry pioneer Wally
Byam not only designed the
iconic silver-body Airstream
travel trailer more than 75
years ago, but generally can
be credited with fostering
the “RV lifestyle” with
highly publicized caravans
he led to such exotic locals
as Africa, Egypt, Central
America and China.
Byam built his first
trailer — a box on a Model
T frame — because his
wife didn’t like to sleep on
the ground during their camping trips.
He built the first Airstream in 1934 and two years later
developed the first aluminum-shell trailer that gives
Airstreams their trademark look.
World War II interrupted Airstream’s manufacturing.
But in 1947, Byam and a group of others formed
Airstream Trailers Inc. in Van Nuys, Calif., and by 1952
the company had moved to Jackson Center, Ohio., where
Airstream’s headquarters remain today.
While Byam is credited with designing a trailer, the
basic look of which remains the same today, his other enduring legacy is the Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI).
As Byam camped and describe his travel experiences
in magazines, a reader wrote to Byam that he’d like to
take a similar trip, but was afraid to do it alone.
Byam invited the man to join him on a trip to Mexico,
and published the time, date and location where he
planned to cross the border. When Byam arrived at the
border crossing, he found 75 trailers waiting for him.
Thus began WBCCI, which today has about 7,000 members and stages numerous national and regional events
Byam’s 1958 caravan from Cape Town, South Africa, to
Cairo, Egypt, was chronicled by National Geographic magazine. — B.A.
Melvin L. Adams
The Baidas Family
General RV Center Inc.
After taking a camping trip with his family in 1962, Abe
Baidas started renting folding camping trailers out of a gas
station. By the end of the ’60s, he and his son, the late Richard
A. ”Dick” Baidas, were selling 200 units a year through Michigan-based General RV Center. Now, led by Dick’s son, Loren,
president of the nine-store chain, as well as Loren’s Uncle Rob
Baidas, CEO, and brother-in-law Wade Stufft, head of operations, those annual sales are in the thousands.
Theodore Bargman
The Bargman Co.
An early trailer parts supplier, Theodore Bargman’s Coldwater, Mich., firm was founded in the 1950s to become one
of the best-known RV suppliers. In the process, The Bargman
Co. developed door locks, water pumps, AC/DC light systems,
grounded pigtail electrical plugs and a tow vehicle-to-trailer
electric connection that standardized the industry. Bargman,
at the same time, was instrumental in the establishment of
industry wide standards.
Gale Banks
Gale Banks Engineering
Gale Banks set the world’s record for the fastest diesel
truck in 2002 and has applied much of that technology in
developing products that improve performance, fuel economy
and overall drivability for RV owners. A premier designer and
manufacturer of power-enhancing products for gas- anddiesel-powered trucks and motorhomes, Gale Banks Engineering has been a constant aftermarket presence for 50-plus
years — and a driving force in clean-engine technology.
Donald R. Boles
Boles Manufacturing
Don Boles, an early RV manufacturer and industry activist
in California in the 1950s, was a tool-and-die maker who developed many tools used in aluminum fabrication and was
one of the first recreational vehicle manufacturers to provide
a service facility at his plant. A strong promoter of quality
construction, Boles was an active member of several trade
associations and one of the first RV builders to run advertising in general media beyond trailer-related publications.
Airxcel Inc.
The Bontrager Family
Mel Adams for years has balanced industry association activities — he’s a former RVIA chairman — with his own business pursuits as president and CEO of Airxcel Inc., the Kansas
manufacturer of Coleman air conditioners and Suburban furnaces and appliances. A former chairman of the RV Service
Training Council and a leader in the development of the
RVIA-RVDA service technician schools, he’s been a visible
force behind industry education and customer satisfaction.
Jayco Inc. – See profile.
Dave Altman
Altmans Winnebago
When he passed away in January of 2008, 34-year industry
veteran Dave Altman, of Altmans Winnebago in Southern California, was a recognized leader in the nation’s dealer ranks.
A founder and long-time president of the Southern California
RV Dealers Association, he also played a role in founding or
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M A Y / J U N E
Brian Brady
Heartland RV LLC
A co-founder of Damon Corp. who had been affiliated with
Utilimaster, Bivouac and Coachmen, Brian Brady started
Heartland RV LLC on the north side of Elkhart, Ind., just over
five years ago with an innovative fifth-wheel design concept
for units towed by short-bed pickups. Now Heartland — employing 1,200 workers and occupying 14 facilities and with
the recent addition of Fleetwood’s former trailer brands —
may threaten the front-runners.
James Brunskill
Kenskill Trailers/Executive Industries
Pioneer manufacturer James Brunskill in 1948 started
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Kenskill, which he sold to Redman Homes in 1964. He also
helped launch Executive Industries in 1969 to build luxury motorhomes while consistently promoting quality and safety standards for plumbing, heating and electrical systems on the West
Coast. Brunskill also served as the Trailer Coach Association’s
(TCA) safety chairman, lobbyist and two-term president.
Wally Byam
Airstream Inc. – See profile.
The Caravia Family
Komfort Industries Inc.
Manuel and Jorge Caravia, along with their father, Carlos,
parlayed a $1,000 investment in 1967 and built Komfort Industries Inc. into a $60 million-a-year, Top 10 towable manufacturer in the mid-1980’s — and in the process injected
some style and pinache into the industry, including the legendary “Pirate Girls” at the annual Pomona show. Although
their company closed its doors in 1989, the Caravia’s brand
survives as a West Coast division of Thor Industries Inc.
Art Chapman
Rockwood Inc.
Art Chapman worked for his grandfather’s Star Tank & Boat
(later Starcraft Inc.) plus Supreme Corp., Advantage Van and
Master Fab before founding Goshen, Ind.-based Rockwood in
1972 and expanding it into everything from popups to
$200,000 Class A diesel pushers before selling to Bangor
Punta Corp. “His biggest legacy to the industry was he always
kept a high focus on quality and integrity,” said Don Gunden,
who markets Rockwood RV’s today for Forest River Inc.
Sheldon Coleman
The Coleman Co. Inc.
The late Sheldon Coleman, son of William Coffin “W.C.”
Coleman, founder of The Coleman Co. Inc., Wichita, Kan.,
helped make that legendary Kansas-based brand name a
household word in the camping business — from downflow
furnaces (that replaced convection heaters) years ago to
lanterns and today’s licensed Coleman-branded Airxcel air
conditioners, (FTCA) folding camping trailers and new
(Dutchmen-built) Coleman conventional trailers.
Richard A. Coon
Recreation Vehicle Industry Association:
Although he hasn’t been in the saddle all that long at
RVIA, Richard Coon, a former Onan generator executive who
succeeded Dave Humphreys in early 2006 as president of
RVIA, has presided over one of the toughest recessionary moments in association history. And with the help of the trade
association’s stalwart vice presidents, Craig Kirby, Mac Bryan,
Mary “Mike” Hutya, Gary LaBella, Dianne Farrell and Bruce
Hopkins, he’s persevered to oversee the industry’s revival.
The Corson Family
Coachmen Industries Inc. – See profile.
The Corson Family
Coachmen Industries Inc.
In April 1964, three
Corson brothers — Tom, an
accountant with Associates
Financial who financed RV
and manufactured housing
interests; Keith, an engineer; and Claude, a RV
company manager — realized their dream and
started in the small town
of Middlebury, Ind., an RV
manufacturing company
they called Coachmen. Tom
became the CEO and the
others used their skills in
managing the growth of the company. They only built 13
travel trailers in that first year along with one truck
camper and 80 truck caps, but a successful company was
born. Along the way, their sister Rosalie joined in the marketing function and Tom’s daughter, Claire Skinner, an
attorney, later ran the family business.
Tom often expressed his opinion that business success
was related to people and was well-known for his relationships to employees, dealers and customers.
In 1966, Coachmen became a $1 million sales company; in 1969, it issued its first 200,000 public shares
over-the-counter. Four years later, Coachmen Industries
Inc. joined the American Stock Exchange and, in 1978,
qualified for the “Big Board” and began trading on the
New York Stock exchange. By its 20th year, 1983, having
acquired seven other RV manufacturers and two housing
companies, Coachmen built 26,141 RVs and 1,849 homes.
When Corson retired as chairman in 1997, the company
had grown to $171 million in shareholder equity on net
sales of more than $400 million — and was well recognized as a leader in the RV industry nationally.
Corson became very active in RV industry affairs, serving on the RVIA board of directors and executive committee and as PR committee chairman, Awards Committee
chairman and on the Public and Legislative Affairs Committee. He has been recognized for his industry leadership
by RVIA, RVDA and the RV/MH Hall of Fame and, in 1996,
was named “Indiana Master Entrepreneur of the Year” by
the national business services firm Ernst & Young. — Al
start selling RVs. Then, in 1952, he tried custom trailer building by creating a 15-foot “Curtis Cruiser.” An association
activist, Curtis had five RV rental/sales locations by 1969.
And while the Curtis name became a West Coast mainstay,
daughter Cammy Pierson was the second female chairman of
RVDA in 1998-’99.
John C. Crean
Glenn Curtiss
Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. – See profile.
Curtiss Aerocar Land Yacht Company
The Curtis Family
Curtis Trailer Sales
Portland, Ore.-based Curtis Trailer Sales opened its doors
in 1948 after the late Myron Curtis, who had lived in trailers
with his wife Betty after serving in World War II, decided to
An early aviation pioneer who later partnered in the Curtiss-Wright aircraft company, Glenn Curtiss invented the
fifth-wheel hitch — and trailers using it. He promoted their
popularity as luxury RVs in the late ’20s and ’30s utilizing a
light weight, aircraft type, fabric-covered construction. His
Florida firm and his Detroit Aerocar Co. were among the
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John C. Crean
Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.
John C. Crean didn't
mean to design an ugly
motorhome. It just happened as he personally
took charge of developing
the Bounder Class A in
1986 and designed the
first “basement” in a gas
“The dealers agreed it
was the ugliest thing
they’d ever seen in their
life — but they were really
impressed with its features,” Crean recalled before his passing in 2007.
“The major design innovation I came up with was to
raise the height of the floor in the unit. Along with enclosing the water system, the higher floor provided lots
of new storage space.”
Crean is even better known for founding what would become Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. in 1950 in a southern California greenhouse under the name Coach Specialties Mfg.
Co., which sold window blinds for travel trailers. He started
building travel trailers after he put one together for himself
and a dealer urged him to go into manufacturing.
Finding success, Crean changed the company's name
to Fleetwood in 1957 and during the next decade acquired
several companies, greatly expanding Fleetwood’s towable
business while establishing the company’s presence in the
manufactured housing and motorhome markets.
Fleetwood became publicly owned in 1965.
For nearly three decades Fleetwood captured upwards
of 35% of sales in the major RV categories and in 1998,
Crean’s last year as chairman, the company reached record
revenue of $3.9 billion.
Faced in 1973 with restricted fuel supplies during the
OPEC boycott, Crean, in typical “John Wayne” style, said
he was confident about the future.
“When it’s good, it’s gonna get bad. When it’s bad, it’s
gonna get good again,” Crean was quoted as saying. “We
just have to be prepared for when it gets good again.”
After he retired, Crean remained active as a philanthropist while keeping his interest in the RV industry and
again pursuing his passion for show business as a nonconformist chef on his successful syndicated TV show, At
Home on the Range. — B.A.
earliest manufacturers dedicated entirely to RV production
with multiple regional production locations.
Frank DeGelas
Mike Thompson RV Super Stores
Frank DeGelas for the last 32 years has with his wife,
Donna, owned Mike Thompson’s RV Super Stores — and during that time has been a dominant factor in RV sales in
Southern California, one of the largest and most competitive
RV markets in the U.S. Degelas, now with four stores, is
known to place a high priority on a “goals-and-controls”
management philosophy, aggressive customer service, stateof-the-art management systems and the Internet.
Art Decio
Skyline Corp.
Ask anyone around Elkhart, Ind., if they’ve heard of Art and
son Terry Decio, and they’ll likely say “yes.” That’s because the
senior Decio, chairman of the publicly held company his father
(Julius) launched in 1951, has for years been a major U.S.
builder of manufactured housing and RVs, a big-time local philanthropist and an influential diner at Lucchese’s Italian
Restaurant on Elkhart’s east side. And son Terry, vice president
of sales and marketing, is earning the same status.
Kenneth Dixon
Traveleze Trailer Co.
Dixon was the man behind Los Angeles-based Traveleze
Trailer Co., one of the first U.S. companies to make and sell
travel trailers, to include gas refrigerators and to manufacture
truck campers. Traveleze, founded in 1931, sold direct on the
street until 1936 when Dixon began developing a dealer
body. During and after WWII, Dixon’s trailers were sold as assemble-it-yourself kits. In 1947, a plant was built in Burbank
and the firm grew rapidly to five facilities.
John N. Dodgen
Dodgen Industries
John N. Dodgen has viewed the ebb-and-flow of American
business since he founded Dodgen Industries in Humboldt,
Iowa, in 1947 to build automated feed and seed equipment
for Midwest farmers. And he’s focused on the RV business
ever since, launching Born Free Motorcoach in 1969 to become the guru of the downsize Class B and C motorhome market. “We grew out of the mentality, ‘make it simple and make
it strong,’'' Dodgen says of his roll cage-constructed units.
Wilfred S. “Bill” Doyle, Jr.
Western Recreational Vehicles Inc.
Bill Doyle founded Western RV in Yakima, Wash., in 1971
and in the process refined lamination processes and aluminumstructure technology and tooled out a lot of impressive Class
A motorhomes. Doyle, who served 20 years on the Washington
State Governors Board for RVs and Manufactured Homes and
18 years on RVIA’s board of directors, was instrumental in the
merger of RVIA and RVI into one functioning organization.
Cole Davis
Bill Estes
Keystone RV Co.
Affinity Group Inc.
While he exited the business a few years ago for an early
retirement, Davis, a former Dutchmen executive, will best be
remembered among industry insiders as a key player in assembling the financial and operational underpinnings for
Keystone RV Co. Inc. and in helping to morph Thor Industries
Inc. into the RV-building machine it ultimately became.
Davis, in early retirement, can often be found working on his
collector cars and making news as a charitable donor.
Bill Estes, who retired in 2006, was viewed not only as a
leader at the company at which he served as group publisher,
Affinity Group Inc., but in the industry at large from the time
he left his position at the Los Angeles Times in 1968 and
joined what was then called TL Enterprises Inc., publisher of
Trailer Life, MotorHome and RVBusiness magazines. A technically minded fellow with a quiet manner, Estes was so credible that he could write a positive product evaluation and
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almost instantly put a new company on the map.
Ray Frank
Tom Faludy
Frank Industries Inc.
Scott Fetzer Co.
Like many early industry pioneers, Ray Frank in
1958 built his first RV —
a “motor home,” to use a
phrase that he coined —
for his own use.
Working with his son,
Ron, in a barn on the Frank
farm in Brown City, Mich.,
the duo mounted a waterproof wood-and-aluminum
body on a Dodge chassis.
The boxy-looking vehicle
— today known as a Class
A — so enthralled Frank’s
neighbors that by 1961, the Franks had formed Frank Industries Inc. to sell Frank Motor Homes and built 160 units.
However, it was a formal alliance with Chyrsler Corp.’s
Dodge division in 1962 that cemented Ray Frank’s spot
in RV industry lore with the introduction of a 26-foot motorhome with the first molded fiberglass body, an innovation adopted by many motorhome builders during the
last five decades.
The design was revolutionary, not only because of its
use of fiberglass sidepanels attached to a steel superstructure, but because of its aerodynamic design — described by some as looking like a Silly Putty egg — and
features like an inside toilet.
Unfortunately, Frank turned out to be a better engineer
than he was a businessman; in 1965 the company went
bankrupt and was acquired by Detroit businessman Peter
R. Fink at Chrysler’s urging and renamed Travco. Travco,
although having some success — and early Travco’s being
revered by vintage RV aficianados — ceased production
in 1979.
Frank went on to form Xplorer Motor Homes in Brown
City to build small, garagable motorhomes. Frank retired
to Florida in 1975 while Xplorer continued to be operated
by his family for 20 years.
In 1995, son Ron Frank sold Frank Industries to custom
builder Startrack Technologies and the Xplorer operation
was moved to Goshen, Ind., where it exists today, extending the Frank legacy into the 21st century. — B.A.
Tom Faludy was a respected executive at both Camping
World Inc. and Carefree of Colorado during his respective
tenures there. But Faludy, now an executive with Berkshire
Hathaway’s Scott Fetzer Co. in Cleveland, Ohio, will forever
be remembered in the RV arena for steadfastly spearheading
the Go RVing Coalition’s pan-industry Go RVing
marketing/advertising campaign in 1995 and serving as the
popular ongoing program’s first chairman from 1995 to 2004.
Ron Fenech
Thor Industries Inc.
While Ron Fenech will likely make an even bigger splash
as senior group president of Thor Industries Inc.’s RV operations, a job to which the former Coachmen exec was recently
promoted, he earned his way into this “most influential” list
for the 12 years he spent building Keystone into the industry’s top towable RV builder in an era when tow-type RVs occupy more than 90% of the market. During his watch,
Keystone grew from $450 million to $1.3 billion in sales.
The Fitzgerald Family
Venture Out RV
Venture Out, based in Bakersfield, Calif., was a dealership
with more than a local impact. G. Gerald “Jerry” Fitzgerald
purchased the retail store from Gulf Oil Corp. in 1975 and
subsequently operated Venture Out dealerships in and around
the San Francisco Bay, the Central Valley and Southern California before its acquisition by Camping World/FreedomRoads
and ultimate closure. Not to be overlooked, son Lee Fitzgerald played a role in the dealership for years.
The Francis Brothers, Dave and Steve
ROUTE 66 RV Network
The growth of dealer groups like the Overland Park, Kan.based ROUTE 66 RV Network, founded by Dave and Steve
Francis in 2003, is a dynamic new factor in the marketplace.
Now the continent’s largest network of independent dealers,
it includes 150 locations in 45 states. In addition to captive
RV insurance and finance companies run by partners Rob Merrill and Chris Boyd, ROUTE 66 has online software, auction,
parts and travel club stores.
Ray Frank
Frank Industries, Dodge/Travco/Xplorer –
See profile.
The C.M. Fore Family
Foretravel Inc.
The high-end Foretravel motorhome, built on a proprietary
chassis in Nacogdoches, Texas, was started in 1967 after C.M.
Fore and son Ray assembled a 21-foot home-built coach on
a Dodge chassis for a class project. It developed into the
Foretravel — an early diesel utilizing a monocoque design
built by a small company with a sterling reputation. The
Fores sold out in 2005 to an investor group, but the highend Foretravel motorhome brand lives on.
David Garvin
Camping World Inc.
Starting with a small campground store in 1966, David
Garvin assembled the foundation of what would arguably
develop into the world’s largest retail aftermarket RV parts
& accessory network — Camping World Inc. — today consisting of 75 stores. Through his personal service-oriented
philosophy of “No unhappy customers — not one,” Garvin
changed the face of the RV industry’s aftermarket parts-andaccessories business at dealerships throughout the U.S.
Dan George
Georgie Boy Mfg. Inc.
One of the hottest Class A motorhome-building companies
during the ’90s was Georgie Boy Manufacturing Inc., which
in 1993 was churning out eight motorhomes a day with 350
employees, including entry-level Swingers and Cruise Masters, mid-priced Encounters and Cruise Aires. Behind it was
founder and chairman Dan George, along with Art Colvin,
Denny Russell and Fred Emmert. George retired in 1997 after
selling his company to Coachmen Industries Inc.
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John K. Hanson
J. Brown Hardison
Winnebago Industries Inc.
Trailer Dealer Magazine
When Iowa mortician
and entrepreneur John K.
Hanson and a group of
local businessmen in 1958
convinced California-based
Modernistic Industries to
open a factory in Thor,
Iowa, they set in motion a
series of events that led to
Winnebago Industries Inc.
becoming the nation’s
largest motorhome manufacturer and its product a
national icon.
With Modernistic later
filing bankruptcy, Hanson took control of the company
and opened a factory to make travel trailers in an empty
plant he owned in Forest City, and in 1966 the first motorhome rolled off Winnebago’s production line.
The Winnebago brand was soon so popular that it became synonymous with the word “motorhome,” its coaches
easily recognizable for the “Flying W” on their sides.
Born in 1913 on a farm in Thor, Hanson starting working in his father’s farm-implement store as a youngster.
After owning a furniture store he bought from his dad
and an International Harvester/Oldsmobile dealership, Hanson in 1957 became a Mallard travel trailer dealer and a year
later got involved with the Modernistic Industries venture.
In 1972, he took Winnebago Industries public.
The company biography noted that Hanson had three
hobbies — reading, marketing and people. “He turned
these hobbies into a career,” the biography added.
In 1983, Hanson was inducted into the RV/MH Hall of
Fame and, in 1984, received the prestigious national Distinguished Entrepreneur Award from Babson College,
which noted in a profile that Hanson’s philosophy always
was to seize on opportunities.
“If I miss an opportunity,” Hanson’s Babson profile
noted, “the blame is mine for having failed in some manner or another; and then I try to live with it the best way
possible, yet always looking ahead.”
Hanson founded the Winnebago and Hanson Family
foundations, both of which provide assistance to the communities where Winnebago employees live. — B.A.
A pioneering publisher of trade journals including RVBusiness predecessor RV Dealer, Illinois resident J. Brown Hardison established the first national market survey, statistical
production figures and shipment data for the RV arena. A
founder and first board chairmen of the RV/MH Hall of Fame,
he published trade magazines for the housing, RV, aftermarket, and park development industries before his company was
acquired by TL Enterprises Inc.
Larry Girard
Girard Systems
Another heavy-hitter who experienced success in the supplier ranks wherever he went, Larry Girard became president
of A & E Systems in 1973, an awning supplier for which he
assumed 100% ownership in 1984, boosting sales from
$500,000 to $50 million with 500 employees. He then
moved on to Hydro Flame, where he was a majority shareholder in the late ’80’s, then on to Girard Systems in 1996
with his wife, Marcia Girard, as CEO. They’ve added Girard
Products LLC.
John K. Hanson
Winnebago Industries Inc. – See profile.
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Bruce Hertzke
Winnebago Industries Inc.
Bruce Hertzke, like current Winnebago Industries Inc.
Chairman Bob Olson, who will likely wind up in the next
“most influential” list himself, rose from the ranks of hourly
production worker at the Iowa motorhome manufacturer to
captain Winnebago through some of its best years. He also
chaired RVIA’s board of directors and served on RVDA’s Education Foundation board. When last heard from, Hertzke, who
retired in 2008, was shooting ducks in a Canadian bog.
David Hoefer
Earthbound RV LLC
Dave Hoefer, in more ways than you can count, has exerted his presence in the RV (and MH) industry since he
helped start up Gulf Stream Coach Inc. in the mid-1980s and
turned Dutchmen Mfg. Inc. into a high-volume, towablebuilding juggernaut marketing “packaged” towables. He also
had a hand in Four Winds International, Hart Housing, Dutch
Housing, Friendship Manufactured Housing, Pilgrim and now
green RV manufacturer Earthbound RV LLC in Marion, Ind.
Rick Horsey
Parkview RV Center
A soft-spoken individual, Rick Horsey’s contributions to
RVDA — and the RV Learning Center — cannot be overlooked, especially in an era when a recession is testing the
industry’s ability to focus on education. This well-known
Delaware retailer has chaired the RVDA and RVDA Education
Foundation boards while serving 10 years on the RVDA-RVIA
Service Technician Certification board and helping to set up
the Go RVing Coalition’s Committee on Excellence.
David J. Humphreys
As president of RVIA from 1979 until his retirement in
early 2006 and as chairman of the American Recreation Coalition as well as the Travel Industry Association of America,
Dave Humphreys clearly was an industry changer who helped
meld RVIA into a financially and politically strong, Washington D.C.-based trade organization for RV manufacturers and
suppliers nationwide before turning RVIA’s reigns over to
Onan exec Richard A. Coon and moving on to other ventures.
Robert “Boots” Ingram
Teton Homes
After starting a company called Strato Track in 1954 to
make sliding door tracks for the MH industry, Boots Ingram
in 1967 founded Teton Homes in Wyoming, a company that
helped redefine the high-end fifth-wheel market for nearly
40 years. Ingram, once a key stockholder in Marathon Homes,
was also an RVIA and RVDA loyalist for years and arguably
did more as a donor for the RV/MH Heritage Foundation Inc.’s
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Hall of Fame than any other individual.
Richard E. Klingler
Craig Jensen
Holiday Rambler Corp.
Blaine Jensen RV
In 1953, Richard Klingler, with support from his
parents, began building
travel trailers in his father’s two-car garage in
Elkhart, Indiana. A woodworker by trade, Klingler
built the bodies and cabinetry while his father, a
metal worker, designed
and built the frames. A
unique feature of his early
units was a flat roof,
square-end design that
was a departure from the
teardrop and “canned ham” shapes that were used on
most early ’50s models. With Richard and his father building the first trailers, interior details were developed by
his wife and mother — a true family enterprise. Rapid
growth promoted moves to Jimtown and then, in 1959,
to Wakarusa, Ind., as larger facilities and more land were
First producing only travel trailers, Holiday Rambler
began producing motorhomes and fifth-wheels in the
1970s. By the late ’70s, Holiday Rambler Corp. — at 25
years of age — was being recognized as the largest privately held company in the RV industry.
A major contribution to RV design by Klingler was the
development of the Aluma-frame concept, replacing wooden
frame members with aluminum for lighter weight and additional strength. By producing high-quality, innovative products, Klingler was able to defy industry trends; while the RV
industry was suffering major setbacks in 1981 and 1982,
Holiday Rambler was setting all time sales records.
Much of Holiday Rambler growth was by diversification, with the addition of Parkway Distributors as a nationwide aftermarket supply distribution company;
Utilimaster, a manufacturer of cargo trailers and small delivery vehicles for UPS and FedEX; and Holiday House
building permanent-site vacation homes; as well as the
growth of Holiday World RV dealerships. Upon Klingler’s
retirement, the company was sold to Harley Davidson
Corp. and later to Monaco Coach Corp.
Richard Klingler’s contribution to industry associations
includes service as chairman of the RVIA Standards Committee and as member of the executive committee and
vice-chairman of the RVIA board of directors. — A.H.
Craig Jensen’s father, Blaine, started selling truck campers
at Blaine Jensen & Sons’ used car dealership in Kaysville,
Utah, in the 1970s. The Jensen family opened a second dealership as Craig, a respected industry voice, served as president
of the Utah RV Dealers Association and chairman of RVDA.
Both stores were sold to Camping World/FreedomRoads in
2003 and Craig, after serving as president of FreedomRoads,
returned a year ago to church and family life in Utah.
Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson Camping Center
The example Tom Johnson has set in terms of customer
service through the years since he started retailing RV’s off
his North Carolina front yard probably outweighs in our eyes
all of the obvious accolades that go with a dealer who has
been one of the most dominant in the Carolinas for years. With
active partner Gary Stroud, he operates an expansive Marion
“destination” facility plus a satellite outlet at Lowe’s Motor
Speedway in Concord — with 69 service bays combined.
Warren F. Jones
Hehr International Inc.
A viable supplier and RVIA activist who for years was a
familiar face at industry and association functions, Warren
Jones once served on the national boards of TCA, MHMA,
MDNA, MHI, RVI, and RVIA and was the first chairman of the
TCA service clinics. At the same time, he was selected as an
industry representative on the HUD Manufactured Home Advisory Council. He certainly left his mark, and RVIA’s longterm loyalists remember him well.
The Kaplan-Sunshine Families
Stag-Parkway Inc.
Under the leadership of Ted Kaplan and Stan Sunshine,
Atlanta-based Stag-Parkway Inc. (co-founded in 1968 by Ted
and Ann Kaplan and partners) acquired HRC’s Parkway Distributors in 1989 and built Stag into a leader in RV aftermarket parts & accessory distribution. Sunshine, an ex-RVAA
president currently on the RVIA board, has served for years
as chief executive of Stag, the sale of which to Ares Capital
Group was completed in April.
The Ketelsen Family
Ketelsen RVs
It all started with some front yard truck camper sales in
1962 for John R. “Johnnie” Ketelsen, whose sons Randy and
Gary now run Ketelsen Canpers of Colorado in Wheatridge,
Col, and Ketelsen RV in Hiawatha, Iowa, respectively. A legend in his own time and a big-time Coleman camper dealer,
Johnnie Ketelsen was a C&W performer known for his impeccable business values and commitment to founding the Iowa
RV Dealers Association and national RVDA.
Newton C. Kindlund
Kindlund is also recognized today for his outstanding service
to RVDA and RVIA.
Richard Klingler
Holiday Rambler Corp. – See profile.
Holiday RV Superstores Inc.
Bob Kropf
Most will remember Newt Kindlund for having started,
along with his wife, Joanne, the industry's first publicly held
national retail dealership chain — Florida-based Holiday RV
Superstores Inc. In 1999, the Kindlunds sold their controlling
shares of the company. That same year, they established the
first national RV industry college scholarship through RVDA.
Kropf Manufacturing Inc./RPTIA
A 50-year RV and manufactured housing industry veteran
who owned Kropf Manufacturing Inc. in Goshen, Ind., Bob
Kropf was a member and chairman of the RVIA Park Trailer
Committee from 1984 to 1990, and, in 1993, a founder of
the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA)
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Gary M. LaBella
Peter J. Liegl
Forest River Inc.
It takes one to know
one. So renowned investor
Warren Buffett likely knew
what he was getting when
he bought Forest River Inc.
in 2005 from Peter J.
Liegl, an almost largerthan-life entrepreneur in
the RV industry
The negotiations to add
Liegl’s Elkhart, Ind.-based
Forest River to Buffett’s
Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
portfolio with Liegl staying
on as president are reputed to have taken 20 minutes after Buffett received a
fax pitching the company that he’d previously never heard
As the deal for an undisclosed price wrapped up, Buffet
told Liegl that he’d hear from him once a year and otherwise for Liegl to keep on doing what he was doing, a
point that Buffett made in Berkshire Hathaway’s 2005 annual report: “Pete is a remarkable entrepreneur ... You can
be sure that I won’t be telling Pete how to manage his
Liegl, who first made his mark as an executive for
Coachmen Industries Inc., founded Forest River — now
the RV industry’s No. 2 towable manufacturer — in 1996,
more than a year after his departure from Cobra Industries
Inc., a publicly held company he co-founded.
Liegl’s style throughout his career has been to expand
aggressively, hire the right people and let them do their
jobs. “If you hire people who are somewhat competitive
and want to do a good job and thrive at succeeding, you
don’t have to worry about them. They do what they are
supposed to do,” Liegl once told RVBusiness.
He viewed the recent recession as an opportunity to
expand, and acquired Coachmen’s RV division during the
downturn and expanded production while other companies were scaling back.
Forest River currently has more than 70 facilities that
produce a full line of towable and motorized RVs along
with recreational part trailers, pontoon and fishing boats,
cargo trailers, mobile offices, manufactured homes,ice
houses and portable restrooms. — B.A.
A dynamic industry promoter, Gary LaBella, as chief marketing officer for Reston, Va.-based RVIA, has for three
decades overseen much of the industry’s public persona as a
staff liason for both the RVIA Public Relations Committee and
the all-industry Go RVing Coalition. An over-the-top-sports
fanatic and tireless industry advocate, he’s been responsible
for planting the industry’s message in countless print, broadcast and virtual formats for the all-volunteer coalition.
Robert B. Lee
Country Coach Inc.
Bob Lee’s name is synonymous with high-line motorhomes
at every level. He was a former chair of FMCA’s Commercial
Council board and of RVIA’s National RV Show committee.
More than anything else, of course, he’s known as a cofounder and former CEO of defunct luxury coach builder Country Coach Inc., which he founded in 1973 as Country Campers
to build pickup toppers and truck campers. It grew to employ
1,500 in a 450,000-square-foot plant in Junction City, Ore.
Peter J. Liegl
Coachmen/Cobra/Forest River Inc. – See profile
Gaylord N. Maxwell
Life on Wheels
Few individuals could claim more career flexibility than
Gaylord Maxwell, a would-be actor who shifted in his 83
years from school teacher to RV dealer (he was a charter
member and first president of California RVDA) to an accomplished author and “lifestyle advocate” (with his wife,
Margie) for Trailer Life and MotorHome magazines. Later,
Maxwell promoted full-timing through his popular series of
Life on Wheels conferences throughout the U.S.
Joe McAdams
Equity Lifestyles Properties Inc.
Joe McAdams’ name may not be a household word in some
industry circles, but the flamboyant Arkansas native has exerted more influence than most may ever realize as a onetime president of publisher and membership marketer Affinity
Group Inc. and as owner/operator of Thousand Trails resorts.
He’s currently president of Chicago-based Equity LifeStyle
Properties Inc., an RV/MH resort-owning company dba Encore
and Thousand Trails resorts.
John D. McCarry
after park trailer manufacturers exited RVIA. A popular individual, Kropf served as RPTIA’s chairman for the first eight
years of its existence.
Milt Kuolt
Thousand Trails Inc.
Milt Kuolt opened the first Thousand Trails membership
campground in 1972 in Chehalis, Wash, and is generally
viewed as the originator of this concept. He mixed pristine
outdoors atmospheres and comfortable amenities at each of
the gated parks he added to the fledgling system, which grew
to about 65 parks before experiencing widely publicized financial difficulties. Equity LifeStyle Properties LLC currently
owns the Thousand Trails parks and membership network.
Go To:
M A Y / J U N E
McCarry’s company, founded in 1968, conceived and developed the roller type “on demand” RV water pump, which
changed the industry standard from diaphragm and impeller
type pumps. A leader in the customer service and productquality arenas, McCarry was a strong supporter of industry
associations on behalf of a SHURflo brand that still exists
today — with an Elkhart distribution center — as part of
Flow Technologies Group of Pentair, Inc. (PNR).
Larry McClain
McClain’s RV SuperStore
With strong stores in Texas and Oklahoma, Larry McClain’s
reputation grew from his 1962 startup within the industry.
Founder of the Oklahoma State RV Show, he was active in the
Central Oklahoma RVDA and was a long-time member and
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president of RVDA. “Larry McClain was a founding member of
the association and kept RVDA together in its darkest early
days during the oil crisis of the early 1970s,” says RVDA President Mike Molino.
C.T. McCreary
Modernistic Industries
C.T. McCreary’s 1945-vintage California company, building
Aljo trailers, was one of the first with production facilities
in various parts of the country and grew to become the nation’s No. 2 RV manufacturer in 1957. An active TCA member
and show organizer, he helped launch the giant Los Angeles
RV Show and was responsible for many innovations, Few will
recall that Modernistic Industries of Iowa became Winnebago
Industries after a change of ownership.
Thomas R. “Tim” McGuire
Coast Distribution System
Tim McGuire first went to work for the predecessor of
Coast, then a sheet-metal job shop, in 1963 while a student
at San Jose State University. Before long, he quit school,
went to work and bought the business “on a note.” McGuire’s
been there ever since, building Coast into a leading RV aftermarket wholesale distributor that has grown in part from
more than 20 acquisitions of smaller firms, most notably
Coachmen’s Coach Lite and Rogers Distributing.
Wayne Mertes
Dolphin/National RV Inc.
Wayne Mertes and his father emptied their savings and
borrowed against their homes to scrape up the $6,500
needed to launch Dolphin Campers in 1964, building truck
campers with lifetime structural warranties. They eventually
added micro-minimotorhomes and Class A’s and a wide array
of towables. Renamed National RV Inc. in 1985, the company
went public in 1998 and ultimately employed as many as
1,200. National RV closed its doors in late 2007.
Mahlon A. Miller
Newmar Corp.
The bare facts about Mahlon Miller, an innovative AmishMennonite, indicate that he is the “father of power slideouts”
and that he holds several product patents. But that wouldn’t
begin to explain the kind of quiet strength and leadership
that Mahlon Miller, who earlier rose from the cabinet shop
to the presidency of Holiday Rambler Corp., brought to the
table in terms of product and financial support over the years
since he became sole Newmar owner in 1991.
Milo Miller
Art Rouse
Affinity Group Inc.
Los Angeles advertising
executive Art Rouse saw
an opportunity in the
growing recreation vehicle
industry when he purchased Western Trailer Life
magazine in 1958.
“I bought the magazine
as a business because I
thought the (recreational
vehicle) industry would do
well,” he recalled later in
life in an interview with
the Los Angeles Business
Journal. “For two years, it
cost me almost every cent I had. Little by little, we
passed our competitors, and I gradually bought them out
one by one. The circulation grew and grew.”
Indeed it did.
Trailer Life’s circulation — about 11,000 when Rouse
purchased it — grew within the next decade to more than
300,000 as the magazine became the cornerstone of a
publishing group that today includes MotorHome, Trailer
Life, Highways, RVBusiness, Boating Industry, Powersports
News and more than 40 other recreation-related publications in addition to the 1-million-member Good Sam Club,
Camping World retail stores and Coast to Coast
Resorts, a membership club with 600 affiliated parks.
“His passion and commitment to the RVer, combined
with his innovation and savvy business sense, played a
large part in shaping today’s RV community,” said Mike
Schneider, president of CEO of Affinity Group Inc. (AGI),
which in 1988 acquired Rouse’s holdings.
As the magazine grew, so did it’s impact on the RV industry as Rouse led efforts for public lands access and the
magazine provided product reviews and technical information for RVers.
Rouse acquired the Good Sam Club in 1968 — the
same year that MotorHome had its debut — and in 1973
published Trailer Life’s first official Good Sam Club campground directory, the predecessor of the highly regarded
Trailer Life Campgrounds, Resorts and Services Directory.
Having become an RV enthusiast himself, Rouse wrote
a column in Trailer Life for many years, earning him the
nickname “Mr. RV.” Rouse passed away in 2007 at age 89.
— B.A.
Sportsman Trailers
Was Milo Miller actually Elkhart’s first RV builder? Some believe he was. Miller built his first trailer in the ’30’s with auto
junkyard parts and sold it on his first outing, which led to the
launch of Sportsman Trailers (1932-’36, later Schult Trailers),
Elcar Coach (1936, later part of Zimmer) and National Coach
(1937-’45), which he also sold for a handsome profit. Miller’s
gameplan, employing more than 500 people by 1940, garnered
the nickname “School Teacher to an Industry.”
Mike Molino
Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA)
Mike Molino, president of Fairfax, Va.-based RVDA since
1996, has stood at the crossroads of a series of industry debates while serving as president of RVDA and the RV Assistance
Corp., vice president of the Go RVing Coalition, treasurer of
the American Recreation Coalition and as a board member of
the RV/MH Heritage Foundation Inc. Molino, who succeeded
Bob Strawn at RVDA, is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command
and General Staff College and the Army War College.
Ralph Morgan
Morgan Drive Away
Ralph Morgan’s place in the RV universe is as the “father
of the commercial transportation sector for RVs and manufactured homes,” as the Hall of Fame so reverently puts it.
Morgan, by all accounts, was the first to receive nationwide
ICC authority for delivering trailers. He developed a short
wheelbase “toter” truck to enable towing of the largest
M A Y / J U N E
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Wade F.B. Thompson
Thor Industries Inc.
Guaranty RV
Wade F.B. Thompson
described his entry into
the RV industry as a “baptism under fire” when, in
1977, he and partner Peter
B. Orthwein purchased HiLo Trailer Co., a small Ohio
travel trailer manufacturer.
“I would stop at the
local hardware store and
pick up whatever parts we
needed,” the audacious
New Zealand native Thompson told RVBusiness about
his early days at Hi-Lo.
After making a profit at Hi-Lo during a period that saw
RV sales drop 50% two consecutive years, Thompson in
1980 convinced conglomerate Beatrice Foods literally to
give him Airstream Inc., which became the cornerstone
of Thor Industries Inc., today the largest RV manufacturer
in the U.S.
“We put in zero — not even a dollar down — on the
purchase of Airstream,” Thompson said.
Prior to Thompson’s death in November 2009, he and
Orthwein — Thor is an anagram of their last names —
had acquired subsidiaries that include Keystone RV Co.,
Damon Motor Coach, Dutchmen Manufacturing, Komfort
Corp., Breckenridge, CrossRoads RV and Four Winds International Corp. in the U.S. and General Coach in Canada,
the latter of which was recently sold.
Born in Wellington, New Zealand, Thompson received a
bachelor of commerce degree from Victoria University and
a master’s degree from New York University. In the U.S.,
initially he worked for Sperry and Hutchins, the S&H Green
Stamp company, in corporate development, and later in
acquisitions and corporate development for Texstar Corp.
That background fostered his entrepreneurial nature
and served him well when, within a year of acquiring
Airstream, the company made a $1 million profit after losing $12 million the year before.
That set a pattern for Thor, now a publicly owned company.
“From the early days, what we did was take some broken-down companies and turn them around and keep the
management team and got them incentivized and motivated. We’ve always had that philosophy.” — B.A.
possible trailers and engineered “beavertail-style trailers” for
transporting multiple smaller trailers with easy rolloff dismounting.
Franklin A. Newcomer
Franklin/FAN & Monitor Coach
Frank Newcomer was a co-founder of Franklin Coach and
Monitor Coach and the sole founder in 1954 of FAN Coach
Co., which was said to have been among the best travel trailers and motorhomes ever built. By the way, “FAN” Coach,
which was among the first self-contained towables, got its
name from Newcomer’s own initials. Quality-minded, Newcomer served on the boards of MHMA, RVI, and The Gold Seal
Go To:
M A Y / J U N E
The Nill Family
Herb Nill first launched Guaranty as a used car lot in 1966
after graduating from the University of Oregon and eventually
nurtured it into the largest dealer in Oregon. A one-site store
with the recent closure of its I-5 location in Coburg, Guaranty
today sits on 40 acres in Junction City shared with Guaranty
Chevrolet. “One of our main secrets over the years has been
top-notch service,” says Shannon Nill, general manager,
whose brothers, Eric and Marty, also work at Guaranty.
I.B. “Irv” Perch
Aristocrat Travel Trailers
Irv Perch personally had a hand in the founding of Aristocrat Trailers — more than 170,000 of which were built between 1958 and 1970 — plus American Clipper
minimotorhomes (1974-’80) and unique Fold n Roll towables.
Perch claimed to have debuted the first motorhome sliding
windows, fold away “gaucho” beds, RV “potty drawers,”
garagable “lo-liner” travel trailers, short tandem wheel trailers and trailers with doors behind the axle.
David Peterson
Ultra Van Corp.
David Peterson’s another individual whose influence was
projected through innovative product — in his case a memorable, light-weight Ultra Van that was perhaps way ahead
of its time. Peterson, a California aircraft designer, developed
the Ultra Van on GM’s new 80-hp Corvair in 1960. Production
models ($8,995) followed, as did subsequent units powered
by brawnier Corvette and Oldsmobile V-8 Rocket engines —
all coveted by collectors to this day.
Joe & Kay Peterson
Escapees RV Club
The Petersons wanted to see America. So, at age 43, when
most people are home working, Joe and Kay Peterson set out
on a 15-year, 27-state trip during which they worked (he as
a union electrician) on the road. Along the way, they hatched
the Escapees RV Club, a one-of-a-kind outfit that operates
its own parks and otherwise services a loyal crowd of wanderlust-stricken members from its Texas base with mail forwarding, books, magazines, message-forwarding, etc.
Harold D. Platt
Platt Trailers, Platt RV Sales
A well-known individual in Elkhart business circles, Harold
Platt began building trailers in 1935 and was a member of
the committee for the first national show. He built the first
known full-bath unit and was the trailer industry representative on the War Production Board during WWII. His career
as a manufacturer and, later, a retailer continued into his
’90s. He was the first dealer to sign up for both Coachmen
and Jayco lines when they were started.
Donald R. Pletcher
Fleetwing Traveler, Mallard, Damon Corp.
The RV/MH Hall of Fame refers to Don Pletcher as “a longtime industry leader as a supplier, RV manufacturer and housing manufacturer (who) distinguished himself as a champion
of industry integrity and unity… for nearly 40 years.” We
can’t argue with that. There are plenty of industry observers
who will also remember Pletcher, a former RVIA executive
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RV Business and the
Ann Coulter:
In the
Eye of the
3rd Annual RV Business Top 50 Dealer Awards Banquet
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
RVDA Con/Expo, Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas
In an effort to continue the work of the Go RVing Coalition’s
Committee on Excellence in raising the bar on industry quality, RV
Business is rolling out the 3rd Annual RV Business Top 50 Dealer
Awards program. Manufacturers are asked to nominate worthy dealer
candidates who, in turn, submit applications to a review panel. The
Top 50 dealers, once selected, are honored at a gala awards banquet
during the RVDA Con/Expo in Las Vegas.
Please join us in celebrating these 50 outstanding dealers and their
achievements in customer care and overall professionalism. To attend
call (800) 719-1085. For more details on the RVB Top 50 program,
please visit
Go To:
User Guide
RVB1006 Top 100 LO.qxp_RVB Feature 6/1/10 3:38 PM Page 50
committee member now in retirement, as having been a
pretty aggressive business competitor.
Dan Pocapalia
Kit Manufacturing Co.
Dan Pocapalia and the Long Beach, Calif.-based company
of which he was chairman and CEO — Kit Manufacturing Co.
— were major players in their day, churning out towable
lines like Road Ranger, SunChaser, Companion, Millenium and
Patio Hauler from plants in Caldwell, Idaho, and McPherson,
Kan. Pocopalia was an active TCA member before RVIA and
MHI and before his company, dating back to 1945, closed its
RV operations in 2003.
Terrell J. Reese
Reese Products Inc.
An active member of RVIA, WDA, RVDA, Terrell Reese developed the Reese stabilizing jack, Reese weight-distributing
hitch, automatic sway control and many other accessories
which added greatly to the ease and safety of trailer transportation. And the hitch brand he helped build, under the
corporate umbrella of Cequent Commercial Products, a TriMas
unit that markets several other hitch brands as well, is still
very much alive and well today.
Jim Rogers
Kampgrounds of America (KOA)
KOA Chairman and CEO Jim Rogers is arguably the industry’s most relentless marketeer. A former Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. executive and national Boy Scouts advocate, he
has etched KOA’s yellow brand into the American psyche and
now looks to grow the franchise and change the face of KOA’s
465 parks — and the American campground business along
with it — with the infusion of Internet-based systems and
destination-style camping “cabins” and “lodges.”
Kelly L. Rose
EverGreen Recreational Vehicles LLC
As a supplier at Rose-Irions and ASA, as a heavy-weight
van converter at Starcraft Automotive and now as a key investor in EverGreen Recreational Vehicles LLC — a Middlebury, Ind., manufacturer of state-of-the-art “green” towable
RVs — few individuals have had a longer and more varied
career in and out of the RV business than the ubiquitous
Kelly Rose. A past RVIA chairman, he’s also noted for the development of handicapped vans and RVs.
Art Rouse
Affinity Group Inc. – See profile.
The Roy L. Sampson Sr. Family
Arizona State Trailer Sales Inc.
Roy Sampson’s love of camping led him to open Arizona
State Trailer Sales Inc., later called Little Dealer Little Prices
RV in Mesa, Ariz. While Sampson’s wife, Vivian, and extended
family helped out at the growing Coleman dealership, Roy’s
daughter, Debbie, gradually stepped up to the presidency of
the three-store dealership and to the current chairmanship of
RVDA. All of Debbie Brunoforte’s six siblings have worked at
Little Dealer Little Prices, as have grandchildren and others.
Frank Sargent
neering Co. in 1963 into Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Thetford
Corp., “the world’s leading supplier of sanitation products for
the RV, marine and heavy-duty truck industries.” While Thetford continued to make its mark with RV toilets, Aqua-Kem
holding tank deodorants and its legendary “Porta-Potti,” Frank
Sargent quietly passed away in September at the age of 100.
John Serro
Serro Scotty
John Serro, another foundational manufacturer, started
building small 10-to-13-foot-long garagable trailers in 1956
and in 1957 “stole” the Midwest RV Show in Elkhart with a nifty
new 13-foot Sportsman lineup. While growing into a threeplant operation in 1962, he started the Serro Scotty Owners
Association in 1962 that by 1973 had 56 chapters. Serro served
on the RVIA and Pennsylvania RVCA boards and was the first
RV builder to open a campground exclusively for his owners.
The Shea Family
Gulf Stream Coach Inc.
Whether it’s a towable or motorized RV — or a manufactured home for that matter — there’s been no more consistent and savvy survivor of the ups and downs of the RV arena
than Nappanee, Ind.-based Gulf Stream Coach Inc. And the
Shea family, the late Jim Sr., Jim Jr., Brian and Dan, have
been the driving force through thick and thin, having entered
the housing business as Fairmont Homes in 1971 and the RV
side as Gulf Stream in ’83.
Arthur G. Sherman
Covered Wagon Co.
The person to whom most historians attribute the first
successful, mass-produced, contemporary-style American
trailer is Detroit scientist and former pharmaceutical maker
Arthur Sherman. His first unit, like many others, was built in
his backyard. In 1928, the legendary Covered Wagon Co. was
formed, building 35 to 40 units a day from one plant as early
as 1935. Sherman broke new ground in floorplan financing
(with CIT) and developed new laminating processes.
Paul R. Skogebo
Robert Crist & Co./REDEX
Paul Skogebo sold his first trailer when he was 14 years
old at his dad’s small Minnesota dealership. He later went to
work for — and became a partner in — Robert Crist & Co.,
a salient Southwest dealership in which he currently serves
as president. In 1996, meanwhile, he helped launch the
REDEX Recreation Dealers Cooperative, now doing business
with 42 principals and 84 stores under the Priority RV brand,
and was REDEX president until this spring.
The Smalley Family
Cruise America Inc.
Founded in Miami, Fla., in 1972 as American Land Cruisers
Inc. — the name it adopted when going public in 1984 —
Cruise America saw an opportunity in setting up a nationalscale rental and sales operation for the growing RV market.
Launched by one-time Hertz President Robert Smalley, Sr. and
sons and co-owners Bob and Randy Smalley, the Mesa, Ariz.,
outfit built a coast-to-coast rental operation, with 150 U.S.
and Canadian locations and a fleet of 3,700 motorhomes.
Thetford Corp.
Elden L. Smith
Frank Sargent and sons Charles “Bud” and Ron Sargent
grew their legacy from a garage shop called Thetford Engi-
Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.
Go To:
M A Y / J U N E
For a period of decades, no one voice in the RV industry
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Times changed. He didn’t. Will you?
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around. Eating whatever he wanted. But then things changed. Kind
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RVB1006 Top 100 LO.qxp_RVB Feature 6/1/10 3:38 PM Page 52
carried more weight than that of Elden Smith, the long-time
(1971-’97) senior vice president of Fleetwood Enterprises
Inc.’s RV Group. In Smith’s tenure, backed by executives like
Larry Hughes, Bill Toy and Jim Sheldon, Fleetwood ruled the
roost in this business, selling virtually millions of towable
and motorized units. And while Smith’s opinions were often
controversial, he was a force to be reckoned with.
Duane Spader
The Spader Companies
A founder and former president (1974-’75) of RVDA, Duane
Spader, an author and consultant now in retirement in North
Dakota, is viewed as a wizard of retailing in the sense that
he is recognized as having conceived and developed the
RVDA 20 Group programs allowing dealers to network, compare notes and share best practices. “More dealers owe their
business success to Spader and his training than to any other
person in the industry,” says RVDA President Mike Molino.
Tom Stinnett
Tom Stinnett RV Freedom Center
Few individuals have crossed the divide between manufacturers and retailers in industry affairs more deftly than
southern Indiana RV dealer Tom Stinnett, of Tom Stinnett RV
Freedom Center. And what Stinnett, a former RVDA chairman
whose dealership just north of Louisville boasts one of the
industry’s largest indoor showrooms, is best known for is
wielding an efficient gavel since 2004 as a respected and
thoughtful co-chair of the Go RVing Coalition.
Robert Strawn
An RV dealer since 1968, Bob Strawn was an officer in
state, regional, and national associations before becoming
RVDA executive vice president and then president. He led the
growth of the association to more than 1,500 member dealers, developed education programs leading to RV technician
certification and formulated the dealer/manufacturer sales
agreement. He established the RVDA Education Foundation
to assist dealers in serving their customers, and was instrumental in establishing the coalition that created the Go
RVing campaign.
Omar Suttles
Airfloat Coach Co.
Forming his California company in 1930, automotive engineer and inventor Omar Suttles created one of the oldest
brands in trailer manufacturing and was one of the founders
and a long-time officer of the Trailer Coach Association (TCA).
He designed and patented many trailer features, including
an integrated dolly wheel to carry tongue weight so standard
autos could pull his heavier trailers. He was also one of the
first manufacturers to use all aluminum exteriors.
BJ Thompson
BJ Thompson Associates
As a high-profile Mishawka, Ind.-based public relations
and advertising agent, BJ Thompson has represented a number of prominent companies in the RV industry and still does
today. Moreover, he helped found the Go RVing Coalition and
its expansion into major print, broadcast and virtual media
and, most notably, has served — for more than 25 years —
as a behind-the-scenes guardian of the industry’s public persona as chairman of RVIA’s Public Relations Committee.
Go To:
M A Y / J U N E
Wade Thompson
Thor Industries Inc. – See profile.
The Tiffin Family
Tiffin Motor Homes Inc.
Talk all you want about quality service and customer satisfaction. Bob Tiffin, since building his first no-frills motorhome in 1972 in an Alabama cotton warehouse, has
walked the walk. And his sons, Tim, Van and Lex, have done
their best to help carry on the tradition in winning RVDA DSI
honors and in handling both dealers and consumers buying
the inventive and stylish Allegro-brand Class A motorhomes
built by Tiffins’ family-owned corporation.
Kay L. Toolson
Monaco RV LLC
After stops along the way at Kings Highway and an earlier
version of Monaco, Kay Toolson served as chairman and CEO
of Monaco Coach Corp. from 1986 until last year, taking the
company public in 1993 and ultimately morphing it into a
5,400-employee Oregon-based concern generating annual
revenues in excess of $1.3 billion. Toolson today is president
of Monaco RV LLC, a Navistar unit and a successor to Monaco
Coach still specializing in motorhomes.
M.D. “Mike” Umbaugh
Barth Inc.
Mike Umbaugh liked the construction style of Barth Corp.’s
trailers so much when he purchased the Barth trailer company in 1968 that the northern Indiana businessman applied
the same upscale, all-aluminum, wood-free format with his
Barth-brand motorhomes. And the Milford, Ind., coach
builder did a heck of job of it, attracting a cult-like following
of owners even after Barth’s 1998 closure with an elegant,
game-changing, Chevy-chassis coach.
Eugene L. Vesely
Vesely Co.
A groundbreaker in the design and manufacture of folding
camping trailers, travel trailers, motorhomes and a variety of
other recreational vehicles, this Lapeer, Mich., building contractor produced his first canvas-sided camper in the mid1950s for family and friends. By the mid-’60’s, Vesely, an
active RVIA board member, was selling millions of dollars in
RVs per year and had expanded to several factories and more
than 400 dealers.
Bobby Vincent
Suburban Manufacturing Co.
Recognized by the industry as a heating pioneer, Bobby
Vincent was the first to use permanent magnet motors and
piezo ignition in RV furnaces. At the same time, he developed
one-piece vent caps, and his promotion of DSI ignition eliminated the use of standing pilots in RV furnaces as well as in
water heaters and refrigerators. And while introducing aluminum ranges for RVs, he also was a leading proponent of
RV gas appliance safety.
Donald W. Wallace
Lazydays RV SuperCenter
Father H.K. and brother Ron Wallace played key roles in
the early days. However, it was Don Wallace who ultimately
made Lazydays all it could be — the nation’s preeminent,
single-site RV dealership that more than anything else has
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About That!
Spend an evening with Ann Coulter and Honor 2010’s Top 50 Dealers.
…all are welcome
6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Hosted by RV Business magazine
and the Leadership Alliance
7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
The Rio Suites Hotel & Casino,
Brasilia Ballroom
Las Vegas, Nevada
8:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
During the RV Dealers International Convention & Expo
8:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Ticket cost is $139; RVDA members pay $119.
To register, visit and click on Top 50
registration, or fill out the form below and fax back to
574-522-0918. Questions? Call 800-719-1085
RV Business and the
Number of tickets:
List Attendees:
Your Name:
Your Title:
Your Company Name:
Go To:
OCTOBER 6, 2010
Type of Credit Card:
Expiration Date:
Card Number:
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I authorize Affinity Group, Inc. to charge my credit card for the
RV Business Top 50 Awards Reception and Dinner.
To register, visit and click on Top 50
registration, or fill out this form and Fax to: 574/522-0418
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RVB1006 Top 100 LO.qxp_RVB Feature 6/1/10 3:38 PM Page 54
set a shining example of how to treat customers in a “destination” setting. Huge selection, free meals, an on-site Camping World store and Crackerbarrel restaurant is still all part
of the formula in the post-Wallace era.
Bill Warrick
R-Vision Inc.
Bill Warrick made a lot of industry news, usually behind the
scenes. After buying high-end fifth-wheel builder Prairie
Schooner in the early ’80s, he later hooked up with a couple of
partners (Ron Cleland and Don Pletcher) and bought the Mallard
name out of Wisconsin to assemble a 500-employee company
in Nappanee called Mallard Coach Co. Inc. that was later sold
to investors and closed. Then came stints with Monaco and RVision for Warrick, who’s currently retired in Florida.
R.A. Woodall
Woodall’s Publications Corp.
still likes to visit industry events, where the former RVIA
chairman is known as a leader in dealer relations and as one
of the first to open the Canadian and Australian markets to
U.S. products. Yoder, whose son Kent is Jayco’s CFO, still gets
a kick out of fiddling with product, as he did recently on a
Triple E coach unveiled (with a Murphy bed) at the last
Louisville Show.
Clarence T. Yoder
Carriage Inc.
One of 15 children, Clarence Yoder left his Amish home at
16 with an 8th-grade education, a bicycle and $3 in his
pocket and parlayed his dreams into one of the most respected companies in the RV industry before he sold out in
1999 — Carriage Inc. in Millersburg, Ind. One of the 1968
founders of Carriage, a company with stylish and expensive
trailers retailing for up to $200,000, Yoder for years functioned as his company’s main R & D department. Δ
R.A. Woodall, who purchased Dixon Publishing in the
1940s and renamed it Woodall’s, championed the Tin Can
Tourist movement and published a magazine around it and
ultimately assembled what would later become one of the
nation’s most popular campground-rating publications — the
Woodall’s North American Campground Directory, now part of
Affinity Group Inc.’s family of magazines, including RVBusiness, Trailer Life and MotorHome.
Allen Yoder, Jr.
Jayco Inc.
Espar Heater Systems, go to
Former Jayco Inc. President Al Yoder — retired since 1993
— is a current member of Jayco’s board of directors. And he
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RVDA Con/Expo from page 9
provide a place for our Oct. 6 (Wednesday night) social hour and dinner at the
2010 RV Dealers International Convention/Expo, Oct. 4-8 at the Rio All-Suite
Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
• The senior management of Affinity
Group Inc., which has patiently stood by
this young program through thick and
More than anyone else, however, we’re
grateful for the participation of the “Leadership Alliance” members, the sponsors
who have stepped up this year fully aware
of the fact that the underpinnings of professionalism and topnotch customer care
in any industry are tested more than ever
during downtowns like the one from
which we’re currently emerging. They’re
well aware of the fact, for instance, that
one of the most critical issues the industry
faces in times like these is maintaining the
ground that we’ve already gained by recertifying the technicians trained since the
Florida Distance Learning Network went
national in 2003 under the auspices of the
RVIA/RVDA Technician Certification
Getting people to pay attention in
times like these to the merits of obtaining
one’s certification — the end result of
which is a more professional retail store
and a happier long-term consumer — is
pretty difficult. And its under the steady
guidance of companies like the following
“Leadership Alliance” sponsors of the
2010 RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards
that the RVBT50 program thrives and
the industry is reminded of its commitment to consumer care: ADP Lightspeed,
Bank of the West, Blue Ox, Cummins
Onan RV Generators, Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., RV America Insurance, RV Trader Online and Protective.
All things considered, we’re looking
forward to another gala evening at the
Rio during which we’ll host a cocktail
party, dinner and elaborate Top 50 award
presentation ceremony for the industry’s
movers and shakers, including the honored dealers, an array of manufacturers,
numerous exhibitors and our special
keynote speaker, conservative Republican columnist and attorney Ann Coulter, a best-selling author who’s known of
shaking up the establishment — on both
sides of the political aisle — with her
quick wit and opinionated commentary.
Her appearance, along with that of
former U.S. Secretary of the Interior
Dirk Kempthorne, keynote speaker for
at RVDA’s Tuesday (Oct. 5) general session, should lend a national spotlight to
this year’s Con/Expo. Δ
Kempthorne continues to champion outdoor recreation and is an active RV traveler and motorcyclist.
As secretary of the interior, he brought fundamental
changes to the relationships among national interests
in the environmental, conservation, and outdoor
recreation. 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.
He received the 20th Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award during Great Outdoors Week from the
American Recreation Coalition (ARC) in 2008.
Themed “Go to Grow — Innovative Ideas, Revolutionary Results,” the RV Dealers International/Con-
vention Expo will be filled with vital information that
will prepare RV dealers and their employees to take
advantage of new opportunities in today’s RV market.
The education program will include workshops on
wholesale and retail financing options, new inventory
management strategies, and how to reach new customers through innovative marketing communications.
The 2010 convention will also feature an exhibit
hall filled with the RV industry’s top companies offering products and services to help dealers improve
profitability. RVDA’s Partners in Progress Brand
Committees will also meet to work on important
dealer-manufacturer issues and the results of RVDA’s
Dealer Satisfaction Index (DSI).
Companies interested in sponsorship opportunities and exhibitor information can contact RVDA at
(703) 591-7130, ext. 103 ,or send an e-mail to
[email protected] Δ
Dicor Corporation, go to
State of the Art from page 4
M A Y / J U N E
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QUESTIONS | answers
Equity LifeStyle Properties
Elevates Emphasis on RV
Resorts, Revises Traditional
Membership Strategy
Joe McAdams
ELS President Joe McAdams and Senior Vice President
Seth Rosenberg Address the Latest News at ELS, Which
Currently Owns 88 RV Parks Plus 136 MH Communities
Publicly held Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc. (ELS), a
Chicago-based real estate investment trust (REIT) that
operates Encore and Thousand Trails RV parks and membership resorts as well as ELS manufactured home communities, is a national powerhouse in the camping
Yet, ELS, which g
generated $475 million in revenue in
2009, retains a rather low profile for a company of iits
re within the RV park and campground sector.
Joe McAdams, ELS’ outspoken and sometimes flamboyant
yant president, is about to change all that by better p
oting the overall brand of ELS, which predominantly
wns and operates resorts in Sunbelt states and near
ajor East Coast metropolitan areas.
”One of the biggest problems I have is a brand na
roblem because people don’t know how good I (ELS)
m,” McAdams told RVBusiness. ”People have been
oming back to Tropical Palms (Orlando, Fla.) resort
0 years because they like the park. They don’t ca
care who
wns it – that it’s part of ELS. They are coming back to
opical Palms.
“We are a national-scope company. We are going
goin to
romote ourselves on TV where you have to have bra
dentification — a national identity.
ms estimates that more than 750,000 people
st year spent time at ELS properties — under names
uch as Encore, Sunburst, Outdoor World Resorts
Resor and
Mid-Atlantic Resorts — that serve the RV resort and membership
ership campground communitie
A newspaper and magazine publishing vete
Adams himself has been guiding ELS for two years.
He joined
oined Adams Publishing in 1987 as pres
president of a
group off small Michigan newspapers and from 198
1989 to
2003 was president of privately held Affinity Group Inc.,
owner of the Good Sam Club, Coast to Coast Resorts,
the Trailer Life and Woodall’s directories and a group of
RV, powersports and boating-related magazines that include Trailer Life, MotorHome, Highways, RVBusiness,
Boating Industry, Powersports News and Woodall’s
Campground Management.
Seth Rosenberg
A dynamic talker with a thick Arkansas accent,
McAdams in 2004 joined the board of Manufactured
Home Communities, which subsequently changed its
name to Equity LifeStyle Properties. In 2006, while serving on the ELS board, McAdams bought the Thousand
Trails membership resort chain. He was hired in 2008 as
ELS president while continuing to operate Thousand
Trails resorts, which ELS purchased eight m
months later.
A change in emphasis that already wa
was underway
when McAdams signed on to lead ELS ha
has escalated
since his
is arrival. ”When I came here in ’04, w
we were primarily a manufactured-home community,” McA
McAdams said.
“We looked around and thought that RV resor
resorts are better. They’re more sticky, they’re younger, so w
we started
buying R
RV resorts.”
In 2003, ELS had 128 manufactured home p
and 14 RV campgrounds and resorts. By the end
en of last
ear, ELS had increased its RV resort inventory to 88 Encore and 80 Thousand Trail properties with 64,00
64,000 sites
e still owning 136 manufactured home communities.
n effect, we have shifted our business from b
being a
trailer park company to being an RV company — a life
ompany,” McAdams said. ”Where ELS had been getting
in trouble is that the average age of people in the m
tured home communities is something like 72 years
old. They were
re throwing the keys at us because they get
too sick to be in Florida and they have to go back to
Elkhart to be
e with their grandkids because somebody
got to take care of them.”
Encore parks are open to the public, while Thousan
Trails is a nationwide membership resort system. “The
ority of our resorts are within a 45-mile drive of major
metropolitan areas
areas,”” McAdams
To get a better handle on the latest news at ELS,
RVBusiness Publisher Sherm Goldenberg recently visited in downtown Chicago with McAdams and new Senior Vice President Seth B. Rosenberg, the former
president of ReserveAmerica and general manager of ActiveOutdoors. Here are the highlights — on the record —
of that visit.
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drive in on a dirt road, and when they
get there they want a store and a pool
and someone there who is happy to
help. That’s why you’ve seen the privately owned parks incredibly well-positioned to go where we’ve all shifted
to during the last five or 10 years. It is
things as simple as having Wi-Fi and
whether the signage to the park is
great and whether there is a profes-
sional staff. People want a higher-end
experience than they did five years ago.
McAdams: The first thing that a
family or a senior wants is safety and
security. That’s why you’ll see us with
gated communities. That sets us apart
from a lot of the state parks who have
to cut the budgets. They don’t even
have a gatekeeper.
RVB: Are you still committed to
Progressive Dynamics, go to
RVB: ELS serves more than one
market, doesn’t it?
McAdams: We go after two market segments — the RV and outdoor
enthusiast and we’re also focused on
the senior retiree. In the economic retirement community, there is nobody
like us. And frankly, in the upper-end
RV resort destination, we are unique.
We are a solution company to both of
those — the economic retiree as well
as the RV guy.
RVB: How have your various
properties performed lately?
McAdams: The RV segment of our
business has shown consistent growth
in spite of this recession. RV people
have a passion for the lifestyle and they
have invested in the vehicle. The housing side of our business has really been
hurt by the inability of people to finance
(manufactured) homes and the inability
of people migrating to our markets to
sell their (primary) houses. We have addressed that by renting our inventory.
That gives us occupancy and helps the
growth on that side.
RVB: Even though they are separate markets, they converge at some
point, don’t they?
McAdams: We like both businesses because they sort of complement each other. The RV guy from Ann
Arbor, Mich., goes there. He likes the
surroundings. He starts going down
there for the season and then decides
to buy a home from us. Our product
flexibility allows us to do that. We start
out with a lot of customers renting
something from us. And then they may
become a member, and if they see
what they want to buy, they can turn
their membership in to us as a tradein and they can buy the house or the
park model or even the RV site.
RVB: We should point out that
ELS has been succeeding during a
recession when RV sales have taken
their worst hit in more than 30 years.
Rosenberg: The key is the installed base. There are 8 million RVs
on the road. We are not relying on new
sales. New sales are wonderful and
help absolutely, but there are 8 million
RVs on the road today. Campers want
more amenities; they want a cleaner
experience — that literally can mean
less dirt.
If they spend $250,000 on a motorhome, they want to park on cement, not
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The RV Segment of Our Business Has Shown Consistent Growth in
Spite of This Recession. RV People Have a Passion for the Lifestyle
and They Have Invested in the Vehicle.” — Joe McAdams, President, Equity LifeStyle Properties
ship and we will market a membership,
but it will be based on usage, time,
need. It will be a customer-valued
proposition, not the old-time membership — the traditional sale of the perpetuity membership and overselling
what the membership needs. We are
not into that.
Parallax Power Components, go to
the membership business? The
membership business has, at times,
been a tough niche, and people tell
us that Thousand Trails is not as interested in it as it once was.
McAdams: We are not committed
to the traditional sales membership.
We believe there is value in a member-
Go To:
M A Y / J U N E
RVB: Think you could elaborate a
bit more on that?
McAdams: Everybody has disdain
sometimes for membership. We are
starting to change the whole membership concept because we determined
that a guy only wants one park. So we
can sell it to him for $499. He pays his
dues and if he wants to add another
park and go up to the north, he can
add it for a year. They are only oneyear products. There is not any more
of this selling in perpetuity — get them
under the ether and sell them something forever. Then the guy gets mad
and so does his wife, and they start
fighting. We are not in that business.
But it’s taken me a long time to
change that business metric.
RVB: OK, you’re not going to
oversell. But why only one year?
McAdams: What we try to do is
get a guy to come there; he sees the
activities that we have — whether it’s
golf, or tennis or a one-day university,
a fishing tournament. Once we get him
there, we say, ‘Would you like to come
back next season?’ And a majority of
those people say they are coming
back next season. The RV customer,
you can’t fool them. They are discerning value shoppers. That’s why we’ve
tried to change our pricing compendium and value proposition to take
care of that.
RVB: You mentioned that you’re
altering your approach to the manufactured housing communities as
well. Why?
McAdams: Last year things got so
bad that we shut down the majority of
our home-selling operations. We
started renting homes. We are trying to
keep the demographic to that guy that
we know will rent and convert to an
owner. And we will let him take some
of the credit from his rent. But a lot of
these guys couldn’t sell their houses in
Detroit or Des Moines, yet they want
to be in Florida. So we started this
rental program. That’s where we are
getting our velocity right now, but we
need a lot more velocity. The key to
homes is bringing the prices down.
They are really nice, but if you get
down to $60 a square foot, you become a viable opportunity.
RVB: Of course, you’re well aware
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even all year is common.
RVB: ”Cabins” and ”lodges,”
these types of sedentary accommodations, are gaining traction in many
RV parks these days. Are they doing
the same in some of your parks?
McAdams: Yes, they are. I don’t
have a figure for you. It could be as
much as 15% of our sites today. We
see it as an accommodation to our
customers. A lot of customers who are
staying with us don’t want to make the
drive anymore. It’s too far or they’re too
old, but they still want to come to our
resort. It’s a good business for us.
RVB: Looking at the financial side
of things, how is ELS doing from a
profitability standpoint?
McAdams: Because this is a public
company it needs steady, predictable
revenue. Investors want to know how
much dividend they are going to get.
We average 2% to 3% dividend each
year. But we are showing them sizable
growth. Since 2004 this stock has doubled, with all the rest of the market
going down. The average yield is 15%
to 20% a year. But they want to make
sure that it’s steady and predictable. It’s
got to be there every year.
RVB: Back on that branding question you mentioned early on, would
you care to comment any further on
Rosenberg: That’s one of our top
three priorities right now — determining the brand going forward. Is it going
to be ‘Sunshine Key, an Encore Resort?’ Or is it going to be ‘Thousand
Trails, part of Encore Membership Resorts?’ That kind of concept is actively
being discussed right now.
McAdams: It’s even deeper than
that because long-term in our strategy,
we would love to have mixed-use RV
resorts. We would love to have opento-the-public X-amount of sites, membership X-amount of sites and a home
community because that’s how the
customer migrates.
RVB: All in one entrance way?
McAdams: In one place. Like Marriott. If you go to Marriott, they’ll have
a Marriott Hotel, they’ll have Marriott
vacation ownership and they’ll have
whole ownership for people that want
to come there all the time. We would
love to be able to do that.
Rosenberg: There’s a great opportunity. It’s an amazing platform that has
the growth potential with only small
changes in the end. We’re not reinventing the whole business here. — Sherman Goldenberg & Bob Ashley
B&W Trailer Hitches, go to
of the recent shift from motorized to
towable RVs within the RV arena. The
Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) says 7.8% of units
shipped in 2010 will be motorized.
What can people in your position do
to serve a market that is swinging this
heavily to towables?
McAdams: That’s a tough question.
We are aware of the shift. We see it. We
know the kinds of vehicles that our customers have. We are going to have the
same amperage, the same amenities,
the same clubhouse. We see it as price.
If we can get the price of our manufactured homes down low enough, we have
a lot more market entrants. By the same
token, I believe that’s why the guy is buying the towable. These are guys that love
the lifestyle, but can’t afford the motorhome. So, they are shifting to the towables. I see it as great for my business.
Rosenberg: Or they want more
flexibility within the lifestyle. There are
two different price points. You buy an RV
and then you’re towing a car, and the
reason is that when they get to our property and want to go to the major metropolitan area, they have a car to drive. For
some people it’s the best of both worlds.
And some people like the idea of leaving
their towable at the property all summer;
M A Y / J U N E
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RVB1006 OEM-Newell LO.qxp_RVB OEM Showcase 5/28/10 3:04 PM Page 60
Luxury Coachbuilder Newell Coach Corp.
Sees Upswing in Factory-Direct Retailing
‘The High-End Market Definitely is Coming
Back,’ Noted Company President Karl Blade.
‘We Have a Relatively Healthy Order Bank.’
Sales of Pre-Owned Units Also Are Important
to Bottom-Line of Miami, Okla.-based OEM.
COMPANY: Newell Coach Corp.
LOCATION: Miami, Okla.
PRODUCTS: Luxury Class A motorhomes
KEY PERSONNEL: Karl Blade, president; Boyd
Vanover, vice president of engineering; Scott Lawson,
vice president of manufacturing; John Clark, vice president of service
FACILITIES: 150,00-square-foot factory in Miami,
including a 40,000-square-foot service department
manned by 20 technicians.
According to Newell Coach President Karl Blade, the
company’s in-house service is a key to its success. “A
direct relationship with the customer makes for a much
better experience,” he noted.
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M A Y . J U N E
long with the rest of the American
economy, the niche occupied by
Newell Coach Corp.’s high-end
motorhomes is emerging from the economic maelstrom that has enveloped
the RV industry the last two years.
And it’s emerging as an even narrower slice of the U.S. economy than it
was prior to the Great Recession.
“The high-end market definitely is
coming back,” said Newell President
Karl Blade. “We have a relatively healthy
order bank coming out of the debacle
that has been this economy.
“Interestingly, from what we’ve seen,
the biggest change in recent months has
been our late-model pre-owned (coach
buyers) filling the void left by others
(manufacturers) that have exited the
market,” said Blade.
A legendary brand in the motorhome
business, Newell was founded in 1967 by
L.K. Newell who purchased the motorhome division of California-based
Streamline Trailer Co. and moved it to
Oklahoma. Blade purchased the company in 1979.
“Mr. Newell’s innovation at the time
was radical,” Blade said. “We take it for
granted now, but he built the first rearengine motorhome in 1969 and the first
diesel-powered motorhome in 1970. He
also designed the first basement storage.
It took years for the rest of the industry
to adopt those things.”
Newell coaches, whicht sell for more
than $1.4 million, are retailed factory-direct from the company’s headquarters in
Miami, Okla., where Newell also has an
extensive service facility.
Although the company offers floorplans in 38- to 45-foot lengths, the vast
majority of customers want 45-footers.
“The price savings aren’t significant if
you build a smaller coach,” Blade said.
“And people won’t buy small stuff unless
they can save a lot of money.”
Selling expensive motorcoaches requires a personal approach to marketing
and that’s among the reasons Blade
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spends the winter at Motorcoach Country Club in Indio, Calif.
“I spend three months every winter in
Indio to show the product and cultivate
relationships with our existing customer
base,” Blade said.
With dealer inventories of other
high-end motorhomes limited by the
current economic situation, Newell is
seeing new customers who previously
might not have considered buying a
coach factory-direct.
“Too often, prospects would go to
their nearest local dealer and look at a
new high-end Class A and that’s what
they’d buy,'' Blade said. “We never saw
them. Today you don’t see many new or
used high-end Class A’s on dealers’ lots
in California. It’s (the economy) expanding the market dramatically for us.”
Newell, in turn, has become popular
among motorsports participants. “The
motorsports people understand the premium nature of the components in
Newell coaches and appreciate it,” Blade
said. “The first Newell motorhome that
we sold into the motorsports area was to
(Indy 500 driver) Al Unser Sr. Al Unser
Jr. came along a few years later and, in
1984, Roger Penske bought one. That
started a trend in IndyCar and
Sales of pre-owned coaches are an
important part of Newell’s business, according to Blade.
Typically, Newell will take a two- or
three-year-old coach in trade and refur-
OPPOSITE PAGE: 2011 models were freshened up
with upgrades to the front caps, rear body trim, taillights and interior decor. THIS PAGE, LEFT: Complexity of a Newell coach is evident in the blueprints for
each model. LEFT ABOVE: A technician plumbs a 45foot motorcoach. ABOVE: Coach interiors feature
high-tech carbon fiber instrument panels.
bish it before resale. “It’s very similar to
the way we sell a new coach,” Blade said.
“It’s not custom, but we’ll make modifications, depending on financial factors.
We might add closets or entertainment
centers or pull a desk out and change it to
a sofa. It’s limited by the fact that if you
get very deep into it, it gets expensive.”
Blade said that in-house service that
Newell provides at its headquarters “is
key to this business.”
“We pioneered having a 24/7 service
telephone number,” Blade said. “We can
handle most emergencies on the phone,
and if we can’t fix it, we can usually design a work-around. Our average response time from when the tech gets
paged and gets back to the customer is
20 minutes. In a product of this price
range and this complexity, a direct relationship with the customer makes for a
much better experience.” Δ
Custom-built Newell motorcoaches retail
for upwards of $1.4 million in 38- to 45-foot
floorplans built on the company’s own 63,300pound GVWR “bridge-truss” diesel pusher chassis
powered by 650-hp Cummins ISX engines.
Modifications to the 2011 welded-steel-andaluminum Newell motorcoaches are the first since
the 2006 model year. They include upgraded front
caps with bright-white “string-of-pearl” LED running lights that outline the outer edges of the
headlights plus rear-body trim and redesigned
side moldings. Interiors feature wood windowsill
trim bordered with seamed leather, carbon-fiber
instrument panels and automated air conditioning
and heating.
Interiors sport high-pressure laminate cabinet finishes, European-style concealed hinges, deluxe
drawer glides, positive drawer latches with flush
drawer fronts, pull-out pantries in most floorplans,
rectangular integrated kitchen sinks, California
king side-island beds and Villa convertible sofas
and reclining chairs.
M A Y / J U N E
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of the NEWS
RVB Top 50 from page 10
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proper planning, procedures
and materials.
This process includes an
independent, third party
organization that adds trust
and verification.
TRA Certification is the leader
in advising and certifying RV
manufacturers as “green”.
TRA Certification, Inc., go to
See how TRA Certification and
green work for you.
Green Business is Good Business!
Go To:
M A Y . J U N E
many outlets they have, and the Top 50
dealers will not be ranked, although 10
Blue Ribbon retailers will be named and
one individual will be singled out for the
Dave Altman Award, the equivalent of
RVB’s “Lifetime Achievement Award.”
In addition to the recognition offered
at the October dinner during this year’s
Con/Expo, sponsored by the U.S. Recreation Vehicle Dealer Association
(RVDA) and the Recreation Vehicle
Dealers Association of Canada (RVDA
Canada), those selections ultimately will
be announced in the pages of RVBusiness
and on, both of
which are owned by AGI.
Again this year, RVBusiness has invited
a special celebrity guest to dinner to provide some thought-provoking table talk:
conservative Republican columnist Ann
Coulter. An author of seven New York
Times bestsellers, including Guilty: Liberal Victims and Their Assault on America
( January 2009) and If Democrats Had Any
Brains, They'd Be Republicans (October,
2007), Coulter more than likely will focus
her remarks on the nation’s anticipated,
off-year-electoral shift to the political
right, including the “Tea Party” movement and related conservative themes.
A lawyer and frequent guest on “Hannity” and “The O’Reilly Factor,” Coulter
will field audience questions after her remarks. Meanwhile, her appearance, along
with that of former U.S. Secretary of the
Interior Dirk Kempthorne, keynote
speaker at RVDA’s Tuesday (Oct. 5)
general session, should lend a crowd-inducing national spotlight to this year’s
“We chose Ann Coulter not because
we endorse any one political viewpoint, “
said Mike Schneider, AGI’s president
and CEO, “but because we wanted to
bring a thought-provoking speaker to the
podium in Las Vegas who might give us
all — left, center or right — a chance to
think and an opportunity again this year
to enjoy a dinner with friends and industry peers along with a high-profile national celebrity.”
After the Con/Expo, RVB will promote the Top 50 award winners within
the industry and in dealers’ local and regional newspapers. They’ll get RVBT50
window decals, rights to use the
RVBT50 logo in their advertising plus
exposure to millions of active RV enthusiasts in the pages — and on the websites
— of AGI’s RV-related consumer magazines: Trailer Life, MotorHome, High-
ways, Coast to Coast and Camping Life.
Supporting the RVBusiness Top 50
Dealer Awards this year are the following
“Leadership Alliance” sponsors:
ADP Lightspeed: With ADP Lightspeed, dealers can steer their businesses
with more precision than ever before.
The integrated modules in the Salt Lake
City, Utah, company’s LightspeedEVO
RV dealer management system include
comprehensive sales and F&I tools, realtime accounting functions, service tracking, automated parts inventory
management and rental unit management. For more information, visit
Bank of the West: Bank of the West,
with more than $60 billion in assets and
community bank roots dating back more
than 135 years, has more than 700 commercial and retail banking locations
throughout 19 western and midwestern
states. Headquartered in San Francisco,
Bank of the West originates commercial,
small business and consumer loans and
leases and provides a range of other individual and commercial deposit, cash
management, trust, and investment
products. For more information contact
a Bank of the West account manager or
look on the web at www.bankofthe
Blue Ox: Blue Ox, a leading manufacturer of towing and hitching products, attributes its success to its dealer partners
and the vital interest this Nebraska company takes in their success by providing
education, innovative new products and
support that’s invested in serving dealers’
needs long after the sale. This approach
has been paramount in developing the
strong partnerships that have made the
company’s dealers “True Blue.” For more
information, visit
Cummins Onan RV Generators:
Cummins Onan RV Generators are built
by Cummins Power Generation, Minneapolis, Minn., the global leader in generator design and construction. For
nearly 80 years, Onan generators have
been providing reliable stationary and
portable power for cities, hospitals, shopping centers, military vehicles and fire
engines around the world, as well as for
the U.S. RV industry. For more information, visit
Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp.:
Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (FCCC) manufactures diesel chassis
for walk-in vans, motorhomes, school
buses, and commercial buses and enjoys
market share leadership in all relevant industries. Established in 1995 in Gaffney,
2 0 1 0
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RVB1006 Top of the News LO2.qxp_RVB Top of the News 6/2/10 3:09 PM Page 63
of the NEWS
Cruiser RV LLC Reports Shipments Spiked in Q1
Cruiser RV LLC, Howe, Ind., manufacturer
of Fun Finder X, Fun Finder XTRA, Shadow
Cruiser and ViewFinder towables, announced
it has enjoyed exponential growth in the first
quarter of 2010.
According to company records, wholesale
order input for January through March climbed
by approximately 145% year over year, with
April numbers only looking to add to the increase.
“Retail activity for the last three months has
been especially strong,” said Jay Mohamed,
central territory regional sales manager. “Retail
turns have been exceptional, leading to many
dealers replenishing their inventory at a record
pace to keep up with demand.”
With continued production increases, a
building addition nearing completion and aggressive product development taking place,
Cruiser RV is poised to continue to lead the
ultra-lightweight sector of the towable market,
according to the release.
Splendide Laundry Sales, go to
S.C., FCCC chassis provide customers
with exceptional performance and reliability. More than 400 dealers in the U.S.
and Canada provide sales and service,
and FCCC offers 24/7 customer support
at 1-800-FTL-HELP.
RV America Insurance: RV America,
headquartered in Simi Valley, Calif., has
provided some of the lowest rates for specialized recreational vehicle insurance for
more than two decades, and each of its
companies is rated “A, Excellent” or
higher by A.M. Best Company. The
company works hard to find clients the
best rate and coverage for their travel
trailer and motorhome insurance needs.
For more information, visit www.RVA
RV Trader Online: Available at is an extensive selection of classified ads, with more than
60,000 recreational vehicles to choose
from and more than 800 dealership listings. More than 640,000 serious buyers
visit — more than
any other source — each month, company
officials state.,
Norfolk, Va., also offers video advertising,
web services, lead management, mobile
search and several new tools and leadgenerating opportunities. Whether you
are looking to buy, sell or research recreational vehicles, is
the No. 1 resource for all RV enthusiasts,
manufacturers and dealers.
Protective Life Corp.: Chesterfield,
Mo.-based Protective offers XtraRide
RV extended protection programs exclusively endorsed by RVDA and designed
to meet recreational vehicle dealership
needs. Building customer loyalty, increasing repeat business and generating customer referrals are among the added
benefits XtraRide brings to its dealership
partners. For more information, visit
For more information, contact BJ
Thompson Associates Account Executive Barb Riley by phone at (574) 6746300 or by email at [email protected]
Goldenberg can be reached at (574) 4573370 or [email protected] Δ
or 1-800-746-7478
M A Y / J U N E
Go To:
User Guide
2 0 1 0
RVB1006 Supplier Showcase LO.qxp_RVB Supplier Showcase 6/4/10 3:30 PM Page 64
Adequate hand protection is critical in professions such as
metal fabrication. Kimberly-Clark Professional has made
one of its award-winning gloves even better.
According to the company, the newly
re-branded Jackson Safety G60
Purple Nitrile Cut-Resistant
Gloves now provide an even
higher level of cut resistance
(ANSI Level 3) with enhanced dexterity and comfort features. To improve
cost-in-use, the new gloves
are ambidextrous and feature
a tapered coating on the fingertips to provide added durability
without sacrificing dexterity and a dotted
palm to enhance grip and flexibility. Available in
sizes S-XXL. For more information: Kimberly-Clark Professional, 1400 Holcomb Bridge Rd.,
Roswell, Ga. 30076; (770) 587-8048,
If your RV wasn’t equipped with an oven, most
portable units take up valuable
space. The OM4500 Omnia
Oven from InterCon Marketing
measures just 10.5 inches in
diameter and 5.5 inches in
height, including knob, yet allows
outdoor enthusiasts to prepare delicious baked
meals and fresh
bread. Requiring no
installation, the Omnia
Oven bakes food on a
gas stove, alcohol
stove or electric
hotplate. Its unique,
three-part design
includes a 2.1 qt.
aluminum dish,
treated-steel base
plate with center
hole and an aluminum lid. Ventilation holes give cakes and breads room to rise. The oven uses the burner to provide an equal
distribution of heat. For more information: InterCon Marketing, 1540 Northgate Blvd., Sarasota,
Fla., 34234; (941) 355-4488,
Go To:
M A Y / J U N E
Fiberglass may be a “miracle medium” that allows RV manufacturers to create extrordinary
looks, but it can be difficult to clean. Unattractive fiberglass stains can be hard to remove —
and using the wrong product can cause permanent damage to the surface. Fiberglass Stain
Remover (FSR) from Davis Instruments is capable of lifting discolored marks and dirt without
harming fiberglass. A unique, non-abrasive gel, FSR also is designed for difficult-to-clean
stainless steel, white-painted and gelcoat surfaces. It’s claimed to remove rust, oil, exhaust,
waterline and transom stains as well as road dirt. It’s simply applied with a brush, sponge or
cloth and is removed with a wipe or rinse. For more information: Davis Instruments, 3465
Diablo Ave., Hayward, Calif. 94545; (510) 732-9229,
Running work orders
between departments,
field offices and into
mechanic bays can subject the documents to all
sorts of problems. RNR
Plastics developed a
clear Critical Documents
Pouch to let technicians,
mechanics, and maintenance personnel keep
important documents
nearby and protect them
from liquid spills. Made
from clear, 12-gaugethick PVC vinyl, the
pouch features a bright
red strip that overlaps
the opening on top to
keep the contents visible
and protected. Available
in sizes from 4 inches square to 24 inches square, the pouch also can be custom-printed
with company logos and titles and can include eyelets for hanging, magnetic strips, twosided tape and full adhesive backings. For more information contact: RNR Plastics, Inc.,
20 Bellows Rd., Raynham, Mass. 02767; (508) 821-4800,
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RVB1006 Supplier Showcase LO.qxp_RVB Supplier Showcase 6/4/10 3:31 PM Page 65
There’s a lot to be said for “primitive” camping without hookups — until you can’t run certain
equipment in your non-AC-generator-equipped rig. Generac Power Systems has recently
reengineered its GP Series of portable generators to provide users with a more compact
design for easier portability. According to the company, the GP Series delivers more kilowatts
per dollar than nearly any other competitive model. The reengineered GP units are 15%
smaller than previous models, and feature covered outlets to provide protection from outdoor
elements and, depending on the model, an easy-to-read fuel gauge, hour meter with maintenance resets, dual 120V outlets and a 30-amp Twistlock with circuit breaker protection.
For more information: Generac Power Systems, S45 W29290 Hwy. 59, Waukesha, Wis. 53187;
(888) GENERAC,
Whether its for charging a cell phone or powering up the kids’ Xbox 360, there are times
when a power inverter is invaluable. This August, Northshore Power Systems will introduce
four new Honeywell Generators power inverter models capable of converting 12V DC battery
power into 120V AC house current. The new inverters include two (HW100SPI and
HW100PI) 100-watt units models that feature a 115V AC outlet as well as a USB port, and a
pair of inverters that, when connected directly to the battery, will yield 400watts (HW400PI)
and 750 watts (HW750PI) respectively. For more information: Northshore Power Systems,
LLC, 4425 N. Port Washington Rd., Suite 105, Milwaukee, Wisc. 53212, (414) 332-2375;
The advent of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) allows RVers to incorporate lights into just about
any space imaginable without compromizing house battery power. has
introduced new G4 lamps that use high-power SMD LEDs and constant-power buck drivers.
These lamps are perfect for interior RV lighting retrofits since they operate at much cooler
temperatures, use about 1/10th of the power and last about 10 times longer than standard
halogen bulbs. The built-in buck drivers also allow for constant power consumption over a
wide input voltage range. For more information: Super Bright LEDs, Inc. 4400 Earth City
Expressway, St. Louis, Miss. 63045-1328, (314) 972-6200,
There’s no denying that a clean shop is more efficient and productive. Shure Mfg.’s new
Recycling Cabinet takes this one step further, providing a clean and attractive location for
recyclables or simply to conceal unsightly shop refuse. The cabinet features a large swingout door, revealing a 40-gallon plastic receptacle with dolly (ordered separately). Available
in 22 powder coat paint colors, the heavy-duty steel cabinet includes leg levelers and a
stainless-steel top with a 12-inch-diameter recycle receptacle hole. For more information:
Shure Manufacturing Corp., 1901 West Main St., Washington, Mo. 63090; (800) 227-4873, Δ
M A Y / J U N E
Go To:
User Guide
2 0 1 0
RVB1006 Q&A-Olson LO.qxp_RVB Q & Q 5/28/10 2:19 PM Page 66
Coach Glass Inc., go to
MBA Insurance, Inc., go to
Winnebago Q&A from page 26
Windshields, Side Windows & Related
Gaskets & Moldings for All RVs
(800) 714-7171
Inventoryy Warehouses in
Indiana, Oregon, Florida & Arizona
Go To:
M A Y / J U N E
that they had. It’s very tough to understand where it’s going to end up as far
as the total amount of the business.
Our offering for 2010 and going forward took both extremes.
RVB: Tell us about the current
credit atmosphere?
Olson: If you go back to the days
that got us into the trouble in ’08 and
’09, it was days of no down payments.
You could finance 130% of the value
of the coach. Those days are gone. On
the other hand, we are hearing that it
(credit availability) is starting to ease a
little, ever so slightly. Anything under
$100,000, you probably can get a loan
a little easier than you could before.
But a bigger part of this is that the
dealers and retail customers are starting to understand what the rules are.
When you apply for a loan you understand that it’s going to take a down
payment and they are going to have to
prove that they make what they say
they make, and they are only going to
get 80% to 100% of the value of the
coach. Those are all predetermined
things before I even give my application to the finance company.
RVB: So, all things considered,
sitting here today, looking at the cup
half full, the outlook for Winnebago is
pretty decent, is it not?
Olson: Yes, I’m definitely confident.
To be able to come through this — and
this isn’t the first one we’ve come
through — and be in a position right
now where all of our assets are bought
and paid for, both facilities and equipment. We’re debt-free. We’ve still got
2,000 employees. We’ve got product
out there like we’ve never had before,
with the leading market share in both
Class C’s and Class A gas. And we’re
not stopping with the 2010 product;
you’ll see some pretty neat stuff for
2011. I’m very optimistic that we’ve
turned the corner.
RVB: Can’t let you guys go without asking you about a rumor we’ve
heard for some tme about Winnebago going into towable RVs. Any
truth to that?
Olson: As I've stated several times,
there is nothing that’s not on the table
right now. If it looks like it’s a good fit
and it will make Winnebago stronger,
we’ll pursue it.
There are no guarantees. I've taken
‘no’ out of my vocabulary. We are going
to take a look at anything that makes
sense that would be a good addition to
Winnebago’s business plan. Δ
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RVB1006 Public Domain LO.qxp_RVB Public Domain 5/28/10 3:47 PM Page 67
Braking System
Mexico’s Drug War Sidelines
RV-Train Tours, While Campers
Object to National Park Fees —
And Forest River Is Held Blameless in Second ‘Bellwether’
Formaldehyde Lawsuit
swine flu scare, an explosive drug
war and the global recession have
put an end to what had become a
tradition among many RV enthusiasts:
unique train caravans into Mexico organized by Tracks to Adventure.
“The train tours are over for now. It’s
a decision I had to make,” said Larry
Olsen, president of the RV tour company.
The drug war violence was the last
“We canceled our Mexico trips because of everything that was going on
down there,” he said.
Last year Tracks organized two tours
to the Yucatan Peninsula — one through
the 172-mile-long Copper Canyon and
one to Baja California, where RVs were
transported to Mexican campgrounds on
flatbed railroad cars.
But even with the elimination of the
Mexico tours, El Paso, Texas-based
Tracks still is organizing more than 30
over-the-road RV tours this summer at
an average cost of $6,000 per coach
throughout the U.S., Canada and Australia. Rallies and trips include excursions
to Alaska, through national parks in Colorado, Wyoming and Arizona plus the
Old South, Canada’s Maritime provinces
and to special events such as Madi Gras,
the Calgary Stampede and the Rose Parade.
“We are still answering the phone and
concentrating on the United States,”
Olsen said. “We’ve never had any trouble
in Mexico, but something could happen.
It took some thought and some soul
searching to cancel the Mexico tours.”
Although reducing his tour catalog,
Olson, in one sense, is glad that the Mex-
Patent Pending.
ico tours are over.
“It’s a good thing,” he said. “Running
Mexico tours is very difficult. The suppliers are not reliable and the parks often
are not up to the standards that people
expect. There is a lot of adversity there.”
Still, Olsen will consider resuming the
Mexican tours “if the security situation
gets better down there.
“People always want to go to Mexico,”
Olsen said. “There are 100,000 Americans living down there, and we’ve got
people calling up and saying they want
to go, even now.”
✺ ✺ ✺
The Western Slope No-Fee Coalition,
a group based in the West that objects
to the government charging entrance
fees to national lands, reports that a National Forest Service (NFS) survey late
last year found major objections to private vendors running forest services.
The report was obtained through a
Freedom of Information Act request.
“I’d say nine of every 10 responses
mentioned concessionaires when it
wasn’t even part of the survey,” No-Free
President Kitty Benzar told the Durango
(Colo.) Heraldd. “There was overwhelming
sentiment that federal land should be
managed by a public agency — or at
least volunteers — and not private business.”
✺ ✺ ✺
The RV industry won the second
“bellwether” formaldehyde lawsuit when
a New Orleans jury took less than three
hours to reject a man’s claim that he suffered health-related issues because of
an emergency living unit built by Forest
River Inc.
RV Business Senior Editor Bob Ashley is an Indianapolis-based freelance writer/ editor and
a 25-year newspaper veteran. He focuses on the RV industry and national recreation issues.
The Patriot works for your
motorhome and tow car by
safely bringing it to a smooth
stop with proportional braking.
from coach with wireless remote
(shown above)
or air hoses to leak
air cylinder
and remote control
push of one button
pedal clamp
Blue Ox, go to
M A Y / J U N E
Go To:
User Guide
2 0 1 0
RVB1006 Public Domain LO.qxp_RVB Public Domain 5/28/10 3:47 PM Page 68
Cikira RV, go to
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M A Y / J U N E
In September, a jury rejected a similar
claim against Gulf Stream Coach Inc.
All politicians, however, haven’t gotten
the word that juries are finding these
lawsuits specious.
On the contrary, the subject of a
House hearing in late April was “The
Public Sales of Hurricane Katrina/Rita
FEMA Trailers: Are they Safe or Environmental Time Bombs?”
You can guess which direction the
testimony took.
The fact of the matter is that out of
more than 500 “FEMA trailers” tested by
the Centers for Disease Control only six
had formaldehyde levels higher than that
allowed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for manufactured homes.
And there hasn’t been a serious effort
that I’m aware of to increase that standard — even though most RV and recreation park model manufacturers have
adopted more stringent standards set by
the California Air Control Board (CARB)
The question shouldn’t be whether
these stripped-down trailers built for
emergency shelter have formaldehyde
problems but whether or not many of
these non-self-contained units should be
sold as “RVs” in the first place.
✺ ✺ ✺
The Obama administration proposed
rules in April that would require automakers to reach a 35.5 mpg average
across their fleets by 2016.
The National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration (NHTSA), which is implementing the CAFE standards, was a bit
more lenient with light trucks, recognizing their role in towing trailers, including
RVs. Light trucks are required to meet a
28.8 mpg average by 2016.
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) submitted comments to
NHTSA on the new standards earlier this
“RVIA is glad to see that the towing
capabilities of light trucks has not been
significantly impacted by the new standards,” said Dianne Farrell, RVIA vice
president of government affairs.
✺ ✺ ✺
Massachusetts is taking aim at
RVers who register their units through
LLCs in Montana to avoid Bay State
sales and excise taxes. Local media reported that Massachusetts had already
collected $138,000 of $250,000 billed
to 30 state residents who had formed
Montana LLCs. Δ
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RVB1006 Top of the News LO2.qxp_RVB Top of the News 6/2/10 3:09 PM Page 69
of the NEWS
“Advanced EGR” diesel engines as standard
power train equipment.
”As time went on, we just saw there was so
much unawareness (around the industry and
among consumers) of us being bought, of us
even going through (bankruptcy),” said Mike
Snell, senior vice president of sales and product development, during a May 5 interview at
the Holiday Rambler RV Club’s 419 Maintenance Rally at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds
in Goshen, Ind. ”What we are really trying to
do is relaunch ourselves again to not only the
dealers, but to consumers — because a lot of
people didn’t know through the show season
that we were acquired by Navistar.”
”The No. 1 message that we want to get out
to our dealer body and our consumers is that
Monaco RV is a new company that is backed
by Navistar,” Ryan Lee, director of marketing for
Monaco RV, told RVBusiness at the northern Indiana rally, which drew 253 diesel coach owners. “And with the Navistar influence behind us,
we are going to be able to do many different
things that this industry has never seen before.”
That Navistar influence should be evident in
a new front-engine diesel Class A – the first to
have withstood the rigorous R&D standards of
Monaco’s new parent company — at its
Monaco Dealer Congress in late July in
Chicago. Navistar is headquartered in the
Chicago suburb of Warrenville, Ill.
In this and other product-development programs, Lee said, Monaco RV has incorporated
Navistar’s back-office practices along with
aerodynamic testing and design criteria.
“We will be working with automotive design
groups to look at ergonomics, viewing angles
and to better understand and control sound
within our products,” Lee said.
This same assertive marketing and R&D approach will also apply to the company’s Holiday
Rambler and R-Vision towables which, Snell
and Lee emphasized, are still a big part of the
picture as Monaco prepares for the debut of a
new conventional product built on a newly organized Oregon production line. “We’ve refined
some of the different (towable) product offering
in the models,” said Lee, “and we’ve really seen
some solid upticks. April was the best month
we’ve had in towables (for Monaco RV).”
Lee, likewise, said Monaco will be doing
wind-testing of trailer front caps to help increase towability. “Just because it doesn’t
have a motor in it doesn’t mean that we don’t
have a design team that understands how to
build a great product,” Lee noted.
Navistar Truck Group Vice President of Marketing Mike Cerilli said Monaco’s new marketing campaign should bring dealers and
consumers up to speed on the company’s
progress since it was formed.
“This campaign is really critical for us because it lets us tell the story about all the
things that are actually happening that very
soon will benefit customers,” said Cerilli. “This
is just a great way for us to tell the story of the
two companies and to start anew.
“I compare it to the (International LoneStar)
product we launched in the commercial truck
industry a couple of years ago that has revolutionized one of our segments,” he continued.
“From an industrial design standpoint, it was
unlike anything else you’ve seen on the road.
It was also incredibly aerodynamic and delivered on fuel economy.”
In utilizing Navistar’s MaxxForce engines,
Cerilli pointed out, Monaco has become a vertically integrated OEM. “No one else has their
own engines,” he said.
Snell noted that the EPA-compliant
MaxxForce engine requires no additional effort
to operate, unlike some of its EPA-compliant
competitors. “We’ve got a no-hassle, turnkeytype program with this engine,” Snell said.
“This is running in millions of trucks worldwide. Navistar has a great dealer network, a
great support system.”
Cerilli, for his part, said the two firms’ cultures have meshed well “in terms of how the
two companies approach challenges and opportunities and overall demeanor and cadence
of work and the processes.”
“The biggest thing I’ve seen,” he added, “is
there has been a really great ‘commonality’ of
culture, which has accelerated all of the backoffice work we’ve been doing.”
The biggest challenge Monaco RV faced over
the past few months, in Snell’s view, was simply
getting back into the business of building RVs.
“We weren’t building product for nine
months,” he said. “Our competitors were continuing, but we weren’t. We had to go through
this bankruptcy and building up a dealer body
and regaining our customers, because we are
a new company. In the long run, it’s been
great. It’s just been a lot of change for us.
When you are trying to restart this business
with 800 employees versus 6,000, everyone
is doing a lot more.”
Monaco’s second biggest challenge, Snell
confided, was rebuilding a dealer network.
“In this downturn, dealers were real conservative, rightfully so,” he observed. ”Now they
are seeing their needle move, and they need to
grow with the market and now is the best time
for them to partner with us.
“When the MaxxForce engine hits the consumer side and they see there is a solution out
there that is easier and more user-friendly like
we are going to have, they are going to demand it. Those dealers are either going to want
to get on board with us or they are going to
see someone else capitalize by them not having our products on their lots.” Δ
Weight Distributing Hitches
SwayPro™ from Blue Ox
utilizes the latest in weight
distributing technology to be
the most user-friendly hitches
on the market today. SwayPro™
eliminates trailer sway under
heavy loads, high winds, and
rutted roads utilizing built-in
friction sway control.
potential loss of control
head sockets, cannot fall out.
the spring bar head socket.
bracket means no pins or
clips to lose!
all axles of the trailer and
tow vehicle.
adjusts with a thumb screw.
M A Y / J U N E
Go To:
User Guide
2 0 1 0
Blue Ox, go to
Monaco LLC from page 9
RVB1006 Ad Index LO.qxp_Ad Index Template 6/1/10 4:17 PM Page 70
A D V E R T I S E R S ’
FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION on products and services advertised in this issue, circle the number on the
attached Reader Service card corresponding to the number of the company that interests you, and mail.
ADP Lightspeed .................76
AGI Events .........................21
B&W Trailer Hitches..........59
Blue Ox ...............................67
Blue Ox ...............................69
Blue Ox ...............................71
Cikira RV ............................68
Coach Glass Inc. .................66
Coach Net .............................5
Crane Composites Inc.........37
Dicor Corporation...............55
Espar Heater Systems..........54
Equity Lifestyle Properties ..27
Hickory Springs ..................15
King Controls......................68
Little Guy Trailers ...............18
MBA Insurance, Inc. ...........66
Manheim Auctions................8
Moncao RV LLC ..................2
Parallax Power Components58
Parkland Plastics..................25
Progressive Dynamics..........57
Protective ............................17 .............................70
RVB Top 50....................49,53 ........................71,73
Skyline Corporation ............11
Splendide Laundry Sales .....63
TRA Certification, Inc. .......62
The Spader Companies .......51
Thetford Corporation..........13
One-stop site for buying
and selling RVs!
While every effort is made to maintain accuracy and completeness, last-minute changes
may occasionally result in omissions or errrors.
(1 800 746 7478)
Things Happen Quickly
in the RV Industry.
Stay Informed – and Save Time –
by Making Your Home Page.*
Information is power — and no Website delivers that knowledge
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Updated continually throughout the day, keeps executives, managers and sales
personnel informed about events that affect their business — and the way they do business.
Stay Connected with
* Go to RVBUSINESS.COM and click on "Make RVBUSINESS.COM my Home Page"
Go To:
M A Y / J U N E
2 0 1 0
User Guide
RVB1006 Top of the News LO2.qxp_RVB Top of the News 6/2/10 3:09 PM Page 71
of the NEWS, go to
Fuentes, chairman of the Assembly Appropriations Committee. “AB 1824 will
help keep the state’s groundwater clean,
and benefit hundreds of small businesses
throughout the state, potentially saving
them tens of thousands of dollars that
would otherwise be spent on repairing or
replacing their parks’ septic systems.”
Nineteen chemicals already are banned
in state regulations. “AB 1824 will simply
clarify that six additional chemicals cannot be used in RV toilet additives for the
same reasons as the 19 currently banned,”
Cooke said.
Taking a vocal position against the bill
is Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Thetford
Corp., which markets a complete range
of RV and marine sanitation products
from toilets to waste evacuation systems
to holding tank additives, including some
affected by the potential ban and some
not targeted by California legislation –
including an array of third-party-certified, formaldehyde-free Eco-Smart
holding tank deodorants and additives.
Thetford’s contention is that California’s proposed law is a bit overzealous
continued on page 73
B dS
fifth wheel is more common
and dangerous than you might
think. With BedSaver™ from
Blue Ox, you can put those
your truck bed with the product
that works as the best insurance
you will ever buy.
The BedSaver works for your towing
drilling or hitch modifications.
M A Y / J U N E
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Legislation from page 12
with regard to formaldehyde-type products and doesn’t take into account some
of the general habits of the camping public and the functionality of many septic
systems. And the company has been trying to get that message across.
“We are trying to get a broader discussion
going about this,” Kevin Phillips, Thetford
vice president of sales and marketing, told
RVB in a recent interview. “This might
move very quickly through the legislative
process in California and miss the key issues. CalARVC has been dealing with issues around their sanitation systems for
years. This goes back decades that they’ve
been having struggles with their legislative
entities about their septic systems and their
wastewater treatment plants.
“From time to time, we’ve been providing them with data, information, resources and education, trying to help
them navigate that problem,” Phillips
added. “We are very sympathetic to the
issues California campgrounds are facing.
We just don’t think the bill they put in
place is going to solve those problems.”
The bill puts the focus on deodorants
and holding tank additives, and Phillips
maintains that that’s not the main issue.
“You’re out for a holiday weekend and
everybody leaves Memorial Day Monday
and they all dump at once,” he explained.
“So you get a very large volume of very
highly concentrated waste entering the
system. These systems are very sensitive
to both the organic load and the volume
of waste. They also have to be properly
maintained. They have to be properly
sized, the waste has to be metered in so
that it’s not hitting all at once in a short
period of time, and you’ve got to monitor
these systems.”
Mary Burrows, manager of chemical
development for Thetford, also doesn’t
believe that the ban, as proposed, is the
answer. “The products we are talking
about and the two that are used most predominantly, formaldehyde and bronopol,
are actually biodegradable,” she explained.
“They don’t exist in a properly functioning
system after a period of time.”
Burrows, for her part, suspects that the
real issue concerns misuse.
“Eliminating deodorant is not looking
at the real problem,” she said. “What they
need to address, at least look at and make
sure, is that their systems are sized and
operated properly so we can verify what
the problem is. Again, we need data.
Right now there are just assumptions.”—
Leanne Phillips Δ
RVB1006 Classified Ads LO.qxp_Classified Ads 6/1/10 3:39 PM Page 72
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RVB1006 Top of the News LO2.qxp_RVB Top of the News 6/2/10 3:16 PM Page 73
of the NEWS
Jeep Partnership Drives Carriage Inc. Receives Bank Credit Extension
Carriage Inc. secured a substantial fi- up, so this financial security will only help
Livin’ Lite’s Expansion
boost confidence as we introduce aggres-
LOOK Trailers Approved
for GE Floorplanning
LOOK Trailers, headquartered in Bristol,
Ind., is now approved for GE floorplanning, according to a news release.
Matt Arnold, owner and founder of LOOK
Trailers, said “This partnership with GE will
allow us to accelerate our already stellar
growth. We are excited to work with GE, a
leader in wholesale financing, and we look forward to welcoming even more dealers to our
growing dealer network.”
LOOK Trailers recently added to its nationwide manufacturing presence by opening a
manufacturing plant in Phoenix, Ariz. This plant
will service the Western United States.
LOOK Trailers produces a wide variety of
cargo trailers as well as custom-built trailers to
meet individual needs and tastes in Indiana,
Georgia, and Arizona.
nancial credit extension from its bank in
mid-May, according to Don Emahiser,
president and CEO of the Millersburg,
Ind.-based RV manufacturer.
“This loan agreement enables us to
move forward in a positive manner,”
Emahiser stated in a news release.
The company is working on new products that will be introduced at its annual
dealer meeting in Dallas on June 21.
“We have more dealers than ever signed
sive programs and products,” Emahiser
Carriage Inc. was founded in 1968 and
introduced the luxury fifth-wheel to the
RV market. Today its high-end fifthwheels include the Cameo, Carri-Lite
and Royals International brands.The
company has operated continuously for
more than 40 years at its 72-acre Millersburg facility. Δ, go to
Livin’ Lite Corp., maker of ultra lightweight recreational vehicles, announced
June 1 it will expand its operations in
Wakarusa, Ind., creating up to 25 new
jobs by 2011.
The company, which manufactures
aluminum and composite-built recreational vehicles, will invest $750,000 to
expand its existing 35,000 square-foot
headquarters to accommodate production of a 1,000-pound camping trailer
designed exclusively for Chrysler Jeep vehicles.
Founded in 2002, Livin’ Lite has developed more than a dozen different
models of specialty automotive campers
that can sleep up to six and be towed by
passenger cars, minivans and motorcycles. The company will begin hiring production associates in June to coincide
with the start of production for the Jeep
“With more and more consumers trading in their larger vehicles for smaller,
more fuel-efficient vehicles, the demand
for ultra lightweight campers continues
to increase,” said Scott Tuttle, president
of Livin’ Lite. “Our all-aluminum and
composite campers are a great fit for this
next generation of automobiles as they
are both ultra lightweight and will stand
the test of time. Orders for each of our
unique product lines are up, and with the
new Jeep project coming later this
month, we needed to expand our facilities to accommodate the growth.”
Are you an RV manufacturer?
Dealer? Parts distributor or supplier? Service provider? Consultant? You can’t afford to miss a
single issue of RVBusiness — offering the most expansive coverage of the RV industry available.
Bontrager family matriarch
Bertha Bontrager-Rhodes
with granddaughter Amber
Gorsuch, son Derald, grandson Jason, and son Wilbur
Your FREE subscription to RVBusiness includes two special
annual issues — the RV Industry Directory (April) and the
RV Dealer Directory (September). Both are essential resources
for those in the RV industry and will be sent to you FREE — but
only if you complete the subscription renewal card found within
this issue!
Don’t hesitate — complete and mail the attached
postage-paid card today, or fax it to (818) 760-4490
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RVB1006 Airstream LO.qxp_RVB Feature 6/3/10 6:34 PM Page 74
The Amphibious ‘Thing’
Jayco Embark “Super-sized C”
While the term “land yacht” has been used to describe
a rather opulently equipped RV, there was a time when it
could be taken quite literally. In the summer of ’73, the
Waterland Corp., Belmont, Calif., built the world’s first
amphibious motorhome, nicknamed “The Thing.”
Mechanically, the craft sported all the requisite accouterments for highway cruising — essentially, wheels and
tires and lights front and rear, er, fore and aft. Once lakeside, however, you just drove into the water, and pushed
a button to lower the outdrive. Once in the water, all the
operator had to do was shift the automatic transmission
into neutral, unlock the wheel mechanisms with a second
key, and monitor a series of switches and indicator lights
on the dashboard as the front wheels were positioned correctly, the front and rear wheels tucked into ports and the
wheel openings were covered by hatches. Power for the
outdrive was from the same 392-CID V-8 that powered
the wheels.
Whether The Thing ever went into production isn’t
known; with an anticipated $35,000 price tag, it cost
more than a comparably equipped motorhome and boat
of the era together. — B.H.
From Housecars... from page 36
traordinary fuel costs have
encouraged downsized rigs
also. The modern “big B” units
have become more and more
comfortable and popular.
As for what’s on the horizon, well, who can really
say? Trying to foretell the future is a bit of a crapshoot.
In its spring 1969 issue,
MotorHome Life “predicted” a
motor coach evolution that
included such possibilities as
turbine engines and a
swivel-in-the-middle coach.
Then, in the magazine’s
Summer 1969 issue, it asked
Winnebago President John
Hanson what an average motorhome might be like 10
years down the road. “It will
be made of totally plastic
parts,” Hanson reflected. “It
will have its own purifying
system and probably will
generate its own power.” A
year later, the publication
queried Vince SorBello, thenpresident of Beechwood Industries, who envisioned a
future of “Buck Rogers rigs,
more streamlined, with more
exotic materials ... we may
have electric motorhomes in
the ‘70s.”
Obviously, none of these
forecasts rang true — but
it’s fun to dream. The days of
science fiction are growing
closer and closer. Δ
Toy(ota) Motorhomes
Backyard mechanics had been fitting the miniscule Toyota pickup with an array of homebuilt campers almost from
the time the truck debuted in the U.S. in 1964. So it wasn’t
surprising when in ’73 the company finally introduced an
“RV” version — and created the world’s first micro minimotorhome in the process.
The new Toyota-Chinook sported a chassis that was built
specifically for RV use; the truck’s 101.7-inch wheelbase
was initially stretched to 110 inches and equipped with a
wider axle and stouter tires. The bigger platform took care
of weight and handling issues — and Chinook International
took care of the rest. The coach builder fitted the little
chassis-mount camper with a sleek fiberglass shell that
concealed an impressive number of comforts without presenting a cumbersome profile. Not quite 17 feet long and
77 inches high (closed), the Toyota-Chinook offered weekenders a two-burner gas stove, 2.3 cubic-foot icebox, a
long 6-foot, 6-inch bed and a second bed above the cab
once the spring-latched pop-up top was unlatched; open,
the coach boasted six feet of headroom.
Granted, it had a few drawbacks — a portable toilet was
optional, it ran on DC power exclusively and the sink
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M A Y / J U N E
“drain” consisted of an outside fitting to which owners
attached a hose leading to a container — but it also was
capable of traveling more than 250 miles on one fill-up of
its 13.7-gallon gas tank.
More than two dozen nameplates were ultimately affixed
to Toyota-chassis minis before the coach finally fell out of
favor in the early ’90s, ranging from Coachman and Dolphin
to Keystone, Odyssey and Winnebago. Of course, even
though the chassis’ weight rating was improved to 5,500
pounds, many of the later entries were really pushing the
limit on GVWR. What looked underpowered and overweight
quite often was. — B.H.
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RVB1006 PG 75 STAG-PARKWAY.qxp_RVB Full-Page Ad 5/28/10 2:19 PM Page 75
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RVB1006 PG 76 ADP LIGHTSPEED.qxp_RVB Full-Page Ad 5/28/10 2:20 PM Page 76
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