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What a difference a year makes!

On April 17, 2000, Thor Industries Inc. Chairman Wade Thompson startled the RV industry when he revealed a proposal to acquire Coachmen Industries Inc.

A Thor/Coachmen combination would have created an industry giant in a solid No. 2 position in motorhomes and towables behind market share leader Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.

Although Coachmen’s board rejected Thor’s $18-a-share bid (Coachmen stock closed at $8.73 a share on Monday, April 16, 2001), it was assumed through the summer of last year that Thompson eventually would stage a proxy contest in which Coachmen shareholders would be asked to vote to approve Thor’s bid. But no such question appears on the agenda for Coachmen’s annual shareholders meeting, which is scheduled for May 3 in Elkhart, Ind.

Since last summer, the RV wholesale and retail markets have cooled and it appears both companies now are putting more emphasis on diversification programs to counter balance the RV industry’s cycles.

Coachmen is looking to grow its modular housing and modular structures business while Thor appears to be giving greater attention to its transit and shuttle bus business, particularly the development of fuel cell-powered buses.

Thor executives have declined on several occasions to say whether they will continue pursuing Coachmen. Their silence is due to Securities & Exchange Commission regulations and the legitimate need to keep confidential certain strategic plans.

But events occurring during the last several months makes it appear that a Thor/Coachmen combination is highly unlikely.