Editor’s Note: To view a slideshow of the Forest River West Coast Open House scroll to the right side of the RVBUSINESS.com home page.
Forest River Inc. officials reported that about 150 dealer personnel attended the 4th Annual West Coast Open House, held Aug. 18-20 at the company’s manufacturing plant in Harrisburg, Ore.
About 100 units were displayed during the three-day Open House – mostly towables built by Forest River’s West Coast Operations located in Oregon and California along with a number of other towables and motorhomes produced by Indiana factories.
While the focus was on conducting business as dealers placed orders with Forest River sales personnel, the event also featured catered meals and a casual atmosphere – a scenario reminiscent of the larger Elkhart County RV Open House slated for Sept. 22-24.
Paul Eskritt, a general manager for Forest River, said he thought the West Coast Open House “went really well and was really successful.”
“Dealers were really happy with our product improvements and the new floorplans we rolled out, and were generally just excited,” he said. “We’ll be writing orders over the next few weeks, but overall it was very positive.”
Kevin McArt, a Forest River general manager based in Elkhart who brought several units from the Surveyor and r-pod lines he oversees, said dealer attitudes were more upbeat not only with the current market conditions in the Pacific Northwest, but also with changes made to the 2016 product.
“It gets bigger and bigger every year and it’s a great time, just like our Open House in Elkhart, where we can spend one-on-one time with the dealers, especially the ones who can’t make it out to Indiana,” McArt said.
Eskritt, who oversees production of Forest River’s Wildcat Maxx, Salem, Wildwood, Cherokee and Vibe, said this year’s new lines – all built in Oregon – represented “the biggest change year that we’ve had in a long time.” The West Coast Open House featured 20 new floorplans and every single brand received interior makeovers.
“Some were slight interior changes, some were significant interior changes,” he pointed out. “On the exterior side, we had changes on over half of those brands. We had a lot of positive conversation from our dealers on our new Wildcat Maxx exteriors. We put a newly designed fiberglass cap on that unit that extends out onto the tongue and hides the LP tanks behind the door. The door is integrated into the cap so it looks like one smooth cap. Dealers also liked the new exterior graphics.”
Coming into the show, Eskritt said his goal was to have enough dealer orders to keep the manufacturing facilities operating throughout the summer. Based on orders taken during the Open House, and with more expected over the next several weeks, Eskritt said that goal was met.
McArt agreed that sales had been strong, noting, “all the results aren’t in yet but already we have surpassed what we did the previous year as far as sales go on the Surveyor and R-pod products.”
McArt introduced two new floorplans in the r-pod and Surveyor lines, including a dry-bath RP180 r-pod travel trailer that’s 20 feet long and weighs 2,800 pounds. “The West Coast Open House was the first place where dealers could take a look at that, and we had great response. We wrote a lot of business just on that one floorplan,” McArt said, adding the new Surveyor PFP295 QBLE with an outside kitchen and quad bunks also was popular.
Although this was the fourth West Coast Open House, it was the first year the event was held at the 16-acre Harrisburg location and its 180,000-square-foot facility, which Forest River acquired in July 2014. The plant, which builds Forest River’s Cherokee and Vibe products, had been closed for several months when its then-owner, Allied Specialty Vehicles, decided to exit the small towable trailer market. Allied bought the plant the previous year from Navistar Inc., which in turn had acquired it from Monaco Coach Corp. in 2009.
Forest River has been expanding its West Coast Operations as of late, which includes the Harrisburg and Dallas plants in Oregon, as well as the recent acquisition of a facility in Hemet, Calif., to go along with the Rialto, Calif., site.