North America’s two largest RV manufacturers, Thor Industries Inc. and Forest River Inc., jointly announced today (Feb. 10) that Elkhart County’s 5th Annual RV Open House Week will be held Sept. 18-20 throughout the northern Indiana RV-building center.
Both companies are planning to locate their product displays in the same locations as last year’s Open House, which drew more than 3,000 U.S. and Canadian dealer personnel to the streets, factories and open roadside lots of area Hoosier communities like Elkhart, Middlebury, Wakarusa and Shipshewana.
Thor’s six RV-building divisions are to be located on the grounds of the RV/MH Hall of Fame, while Forest River’s varied business units will be positioned in and around the grounds of Forest River’s Dynamax facility on C.R. 6 – about a mile apart from each other. Again this year, shuttle buses will ferry dealers back and forth between the two larger displays.
Having said that, the management teams of both companies apparently are looking for another good year of Open House festivities, a rare combination of serious business and social time that tends to cultivate sales as well as build relationships between dealers and manufacturers for the year ahead.
“For this year, we’re looking for more of the same – if not bigger,” says Bob Martin, the former Keystone RV president recently named president of Thor’s RV Group, headquartered in Jackson Center, Ohio. “Based on dealer reaction at Louisville, dealers that weren’t able to make the Open House last year had commented that this year they definitely would make it to the Open House. For us, it’s a great opportunity. We can simply show more product (versus a typical convention) and it’s a little bit more laid back atmosphere.”
Jeff Babcock, general manager for Elkhart-based Forest River, also sees some changes in the works with regard to a “tighter” layout for this year’s exhibitors that should make it easier for some of Forest River’s and Thor’s competitors to “set up camp” in more amenable locations. This would answer one of the chief drawbacks to the Open House for some of the exhibiting companies, who want better and more accessible locations.
“I think that this year is going to be even better than last year,” adds Babcock. “This thing’s taken on a life of its own. I think we’re going to have more participation from other manufacturers outside Indiana and Michigan. They’re going to come in. I know that I’ve talked to a land developer who plans on leasing out over a hundred acres and he thinks he can fill up that acreage.
“I mean, I think this thing’s going to be bigger than it ever has been before, but that just follows suit from the last four years,” he noted. “Every year this goes on, it just gets bigger and bigger, and we’re expecting this year’s Open House to be our best year yet.”