Bob Martin

Yesterday’s (July 18) announcement that Thor Industries Inc. RV Senior Group President Bob Martin is being promoted Aug. 1 to president and COO is being viewed by industry insiders as a natural move for the respected executive. Martin, 42, had worked his way up through the ranks at Coachmen Industries Inc. and Thor’s Keystone RV Co. subsidiary before assuming the senior group presidency in February.

But many hadn’t expected it so soon for the 18-year industry veteran, an Elkhart, Ind., native who essentially assumes responsibility for all of the operating divisions of Jackson Center, Ohio-based Thor, which posted $2.75 billion in fiscal 2011 sales.

Martin continues to answer to Peter Orthwein, Thor’s chairman and CEO.

“Bob’s done a great job,” Orthwein told RVBUSINESS.com Thursday. “He’s really stepped up. You know, six months or so ago, he became RV Group president, so he’s had responsibility for all the RV companies for the last six months. And this is just the next step, and puts the bus companies under him as well. So, basically, that’s all our operations. He has all of our operating companies now under him.”

In an industry where some have questioned the general depth of management ranks at a host of companies, Orthwein says the Martin move will serve Thor’s succession plan well, even if it was bit quicker than some had anticipated. “Look,” Orthwein told RVB, “I’m going to be 67 in October. You know, I’m getting old, and, plus, I don’t have the operating experience out there that he has. So, I think that this move is definitely better for Thor.”

Peter Orthwein

All in all, Orthwein agreed, this week’s news puts Thor in a more aggressive mode for the years ahead “where we transition into a younger management team, really making way for the next generation of management.”

Does Thor plan to move anyone up into the group presidency slot now being vacated by Martin? “Well, I think Bob right now wants to have all the RV company presidents report directly to him,” said Orthwein.

Is this the extent of the changes we’re to expect from Thor for the time being, coming as it did only weeks after the transition of leadership at Thor’s Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC division with Prime Time’s Chris Hermon stepping up to Heartland’s presidency after the May 1 resignation of Brian Brady? “Yeah, there may be some corporate staff changes coming on,” said Orthwein, “but nothing in terms of operations.”