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Suppliers React to Green RV Movement

Category: RV News
Source: The Truth Newspaper - Elkhart, Indiana
Publish Date: Thursday, November 29, 2007
Summary: Fuel efficiency considerations begin to pervade manufacturer and supplier decision-making and designs.

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- When Workhorse Custom Chassis rolled out its new UFO chassis in August of 2006, it arrived just in time to see the market shift to lighter-weight vehicles.

The rear-engine chassis could handle 26,000 pounds of recreational vehicle built on top of it and was launched to capitalize on what Workhorse saw as the RV industry building bigger and bigger units.

But at the same time, $3-a-gallon gasoline had been creeping into the market and RV makers were starting to create smaller, lighter units that consumed less fuel.

Once again, in response to the budding demand, Workhorse developed a UFO chassis with a capacity of 22,000 pounds especially for the smaller units.

"It's a little greener because it's a little lighter," said Bill Walmsley, RV marketing manager at Workhorse.

As RV manufacturers try to increase fuel consumption on their units, component and parts suppliers, like Workhorse, are offering products that, if they do not directly impact the fuel gauge, will be friendly to the environment.

About 300 suppliers were displaying their products at the 45th annual National RV Trade Show sponsored by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association.

At Dometic, maker of such products as refrigerators, toilets and microwaves for RVs, green is a philosophy that extends beyond the product. The company not only tries to incorporate recyclable parts into the goods it manufactures but also finds ways to use less energy when producing the item.

Recently the company joined with the Arbor Day Foundation and purchasing seedlings for each of its 5,000 employees worldwide. It then gave the small trees to dealers and manufacturers for planting.

"We like to take it into everyday life at Dometic," Brad Sargent, vice president of marketing, said of the company's commitment to the environment.

Although 70 percent to 80 percent of components in the products Dometic makes for the RV industry are recyclable, RV manufacturers have, so far, taken little interest.

"It's just the way to" make a product, Sargent said. "Everybody is slowly starting to get out and understand the need and the requirements" for green products.

At Diamond RV in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, customers are asking about green products such as solar panels, said Rory Wood. He has found the selection of such products on the market to be limited but growing.

"It seems people will actually spend their money to go green if it's available," said Ian Silkstone, Wood's colleague at the dealership.

The growing interest among consumers has been noted by Thetford Corp., based in Ann Arbor, Mich. Fifteen years ago, the RV supplier brought Supreme Green, a biodegradable, formaldehyde-free deodorizer for RV toilet systems. Within the past five years, the company has recorded stronger sales of the product from RVers.

Supreme Green is part of a line of environmentally friendly products the company offers to consumers. The ideas for the products, said Mike Mesharer, manager of aftermarket sales, comes from the consumers themselves.

In the lab, Mary Burrows, manager of chemical development, leads a team to formulate the green items the consumers say they want. Into this mix, she must also make sure the final product carries a price tag within those customers' budgets.

"Price always comes into play with everything," Burrows said. "You can't price yourself out of the market."

Contact Marilyn Odendahl at modendahl@etruth.com.

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