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In The News


'Gotta Have It' Factor

Category: RV News
Source: The Truth Newspaper - Elkhart, Indiana
Publish Date: Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Summary: New RV models geared toward comfort and technology

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Throughout the first day of the 45th National RV Trade Show, dealers, suppliers and even other manufacturers climbed the narrow stairs in the Outback Loft to take a gander at a new perspective in the recreational vehicle industry.

A longstanding brand at Keystone RV, the Outback travel trailer toy hauler now sports a pop-up, soft-sided room, complete with a sofa and flat-screen television, atop the unit.

"It's just another living space," said Jim Mac, Keystone spokesman. "Everybody goes out, this goes up."

Like the Outback Loft, many new RVs are being showcased at the Louisville RV show, sponsored by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. Manufacturers make subtle changes on their models from year to year and introduce new products. But with the slowing sales in 2007 expected to get worse in 2008, creating the design or unique feature that sparks consumers' interest takes on even more importance.

Many dealers at the show where not overly excited by anything they were seeing.

They just shrugged or shook their head when asked what unit was creating a buzz.

Craig Rashaw, of the parts and service department at Rivers Bus & RV Sales in Jacksonville, Fla., noted many manufacturers have responded to customer demands regarding towables. Specifically they are making lighter weight travel trailers and fifth wheels that can be hauled with a half-ton truck, the type of vehicle families would typically already have in their garage.

With its Domani brand, Carriage is targeting the non-traditional RVers. These customers typically have not started with an entry-level unit and then graduated to a high-end fifth wheel, said Don Emahiser, vice president of sales and marketing, but rather may make the Domani their first purchase.

Consequently, they want a unit that boasts the comfort of their homes. This type of RVer, Emahiser said, is not interested in the storage capacity of the refrigerator or how many meals the stove can cook. They want something that fits their modern lifestyle.

The sleek, contemporary interior is outpaced only by the bold exterior. This unit, which retails for around $80,000, is not the traditional white with eye-catching graphics but instead comes in a variety of solid colors like red, blue and green. At the RV show, the unit on display was a copper color.

"More than anything with this unit," Emahiser said, "we wanted to create the 'Gotta have it' factor."

Also among the non-traditional RVs is the AllStar, a Class A motorhome by Newmar. Using a chassis with the diesel engine in the middle rather than the back, the RV maker removed the bedroom and installed two kitchens and two bathrooms in the 4258 model. It is a unit built especially for tailgating or corporate parties, said Ron Stichter, vice president of engineering.

The kitchen in the rear is fully equipped with a four-door refrigerator, commercial ice maker, microwave and stove. The side rolls up, exposing two stainless steel countertops where food can be prepared and served to the crowd outside. The exterior has a barbecue grill and storage space for 100-quart coolers.

Newmar intends for this unit to be used as a day vehicle and not for long road trips or fulltime RVing.

Holding his thumbs up, Stichter said his team is having fun designing for the mid-engine chassis.

"This has been a very exciting product to work on," he said.

At Forest River, the company is charging into the bigger is better market with its new Ridgeview Super Class C motorhome. The unit has been built larger and taller on a bigger chassis so it can accommodate those RVers who want to tow a boat or multiple motorcycles,

"When you start with a chassis that is substantially more expensive than you're used to," said Chris McDonough, national sales manager of the Class C division, " you can throw in a few more bells and whistles and not have it affect the price that much."

The Ridgeview comes with a price tag of $145,000.

Whether the bells and whistles sells the RV depends on the customer.

At Avalon RV Center in Medina, Ohio, the customers are more interested in the frills than safety or quality, said Rod Stiffenton, sales representative.

However, at Hi-Way Campers, Inc. in Plainfield, Conn., the eye appeal of the interior and the total cost of the unit are the customers' primary concerns, said Kenneth E. Riley, owner.

"The women are the buyers," he said. "They have to be happy. Otherwise it's not a sale."

Contact Marilyn Odendahl at modendahl@etruth.com.


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