The Coachmen Industries Inc. Board of Directors announced today it rejected the unsolicited $18-a-share bid from Thor Industries Inc. to buy Coachmen.

The rejection sets the stage for a showdown on May 4 during Coachmen’s annual shareholders meeting in Elkhart, Ind.

Thor had not responded to the Coachmen board’s action as of 11 a.m. Eastern Time today. But, earlier, Thor Chairman Wade F.B. Thompson asked Coachmen shareholders to withhold their votes for the nominees up for election to Coachmen’s board.

The result of the shareholder vote is scheduled to be revealed during Coachmen’s shareholders meeting next week.

Playing a major role in the decision will be the institutional investors in Coachmen’s stock. As of March 27, institutional investors owned 38% of Coachmen’s stock. One institutional investor, First Pacific Advisors of Los Angeles, owns 17% of Coachmen’s stock and 14% of Thor’s stock.

Thor also owns 3% of Coachmen’s stock.

Meanwhile, the Corson family, Coachmen’s founders, owns about 9% of Coachmen’s stock.

Although it admits Coachmen’s stock price has been depressed, the Coachmen board believes the current management team can create more long term value for Coachmen shareholders, than a sale of the company to Thor.