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Committed to “adding value to the product line,” high-end towable builder Carriage Inc. unveiled a strategically priced, amenity-laden lineup during the company’s 2006 New Product Show June 16-19 at the Pheasant Run Resort & Spa in the Chicago area.
“We concentrated on designing and introducing new floorplans that will be competitive in today’s market,” stated Greg Kitson, director of engineering for the Millersburg, Ind., manufacturer. “Our goal for the dealer show was to introduce product that offered our trademark quality and cutting-edge design while hitting a more attractive price point.”
Management reported that the 2006 lineup was well received during the meeting, attended by around 200 people representing 59 dealerships, resulting in a 40% increase in dealer orders from last year.
In addition to a host of fresh floorplans and “value enhancements,” Carriage also rolled out its first entry into the growing sport utility recreational vehicle (SURV) market with the introduction of the wide-body C-Force toy hauler with a base MSRP of $74,000.
“The toy hauler market has become firmly established in the industry,” said Don Emahiser, vice president of sales and marketing. “We saw a demand for a more upscale unit, offering full-time capabilities and targeting people who want to upgrade.”
Carriage’s focus on offering more marketable standard features and floorplans in its all-season line of towables reflects the demands of a marketplace that Emahiser described as “posing a harder road for the luxury fiver sector.”
“The fifth-wheel market is down a bit,” said Emahiser, who left Starcraft RV Inc., Topeka, Ind., in February to join Carriage. “I really think it has more to do with economic uncertainty than gas prices. People may be holding off on buying a new RV this year, waiting to see how the economy feels.”
Accordingly, Carriage repositioned its Compass series with the introduction of a new Compass C2 fifth-wheel line during the June session. The Compass was added 2 1/2 years ago to round out Carriage’s lineup with a more affordably priced, full-featured fiver. But Emahiser said the line had not met expectations.
“It never really performed as well as we anticipated priced above $50,000,” he said. “We adjusted the product, adding 40 to 50 feature upgrades, and are now offering a quality-built coach retailing for under $50,000.”
The 2006 Compass C2, available in 11 floorplans with two to four sliderooms and two new bedroom configurations, offers a list of standard features that include: Samsung entertainment system with 24-inch flat screen TV; residential, slide-out pantry drawers; ultra-leather high-backed swivel rocker; and shower skylight.
Carriage also added a rear bedroom on the 30- and 31-foot Compass C2 models, allowing for washer/dryer capabilities. Kitson noted, “ten of the 11 floorplans now offer washer/dryer connections, which is unusual in shorter length units.”
The Compass C2 lineup ranges in size from 27 to 35 feet with base MSRP’s from $44,000 to $54,000.
Marketing Manager Kathy Fuller said the Compass C2 typifies the entire 2006 Carriage lineup with former optional features packaged as standard items. In addition, most lines sport new exterior graphics and all-new décor packages.
“We really went after eye appeal on the decors,” Fuller said. “The new color tones warm up the coach along with the residential style carpeting and accents.”
Other product highlights include:
• The C-Force debut model F39SVI is a 39-foot, triple slide unit offering aluminum and fiberglass construction and automotive styling. Standard features include insulated and enclosed underbelly, 110-gallon fresh water system, all-new fiberglass front and rear caps, Nev-R-Lube axles, MOR/ryde RE suspension system, LED lighting and nine adjustable tie-downs. A low-profile air conditioner increases headroom. The garage area is full featured, including an aluminum storage system and a stainless steel sink. Carriage is also offering an “Extreme Garage Option,” packaged with an aluminum flip-up work bench, stereo system with internal and external speakers, halogen search light and a removable ladder. Interior amenities include Sony 24-inch flat screen TV and home theater system, residential pillow top mattress and an 8 cu. ft. refrigerator.
• The 2006 Royals International fifth-wheel, unveiled at last year’s Louisville Show and positioned at the top end of Carriage’s line, features two Carefree awnings that extend the full length of the coach.
• Carriage added over 20 new features to the Carri-Lite fifth-wheel series, including wraparound paint on the front of the unit, xelogen three-zone lighting system and color-matched Corian countertops.