By Greg Gerber
The Elkhart Dealer Open House officially opened today as thousands of dealers arrived to check out the 2018 RVs being offered by virtually every manufacturer in the industry.
Gloomy, rainy weather failed to dampen enthusiasm or interest in the products as every display appeared to be well attended.
The Supplier Showcase, featuring 19 companies, has a new location one-half block north of the intersection of County Road 6 and Northland Drive directly across from the Forest River anchor location. Last year, the event took place directly on the corner, but this year the displays were pushed back to a bigger lot with better parking.
The larger space allowed more supplier firms to participate
Guests can enjoy free ice cream treats today and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. as well as free lunch catered by Bacon Hill Kitchen and Pub, a local restaurant.
Some of the new products on display include a universal spare tire carrier from BAL that can be mounted on RVs as small as teardrop travel trailers. Using a cable drive, it can be cranked down easily so that tire is stored beneath the RV.
Suburban is displaying its new Voyager portable fire pit that features an adjustable intensity flame that can be used even in areas that have burn restrictions, ensuring consumers can enjoy a campfire wherever they may be camping.
ADCO is introducing a new four-layer RV cover designed specifically for long-term RV lot storage. The polypropylene material is UV treated and includes locking cam buckles to prevent slippage during unattended use. A patent-pending slip seam strapping system cinches tight on the bottom four corners to help prevent wind penetration.
Winegard is introducing a new Dish Playmaker portable automatic satellite TV antenna that is shorter and wider, yet delivers 20 percent better signal strength, the firm noted. Two versions are available, a single receiver retails for $249 while a dual receiver sells for $299. The military-grade aluminum alloy reflector makes it stronger, and the higher-performance stepper motors provide more speed and precision tuning.
Hymer brings European technology to North America
One year ago, the Erwin Hymer Group acquired Roadtrek and displayed several innovative RVs at open house to signal the type of products the firm planned to introduce to the American RV industry. This year, the firm is displaying dozens of vehicles now being built out of two factories in Kitchener, Ontario.
One of the more unique vehicles on display is the new Aktiv (pronounced “acteeve”) Class B motorhomes that features a pop-up top for rooftop sleeping and a spacious interior that sleeps another three people. The RV will be available to North American RV dealers by February.
Another prototype is also on display with the roof of the travel trailer extending up to create more livable interior space. That, too, will be available for sale in early 2018.
Winnebago develops anchor destination
Further east on County Road 6, Winnebago has staked claim to a new, permanent location for what it hopes will become the third destination anchor site during open house.
Land developers approached the company at last year’s open house and outlined their vision for building a combination indoor/outdoor display area, and Winnebago signed a long-term contract to use the space. The building has about a dozen of RVs on display inside and features restrooms and a large gathering area for lunch and beverages.
“We love the location because it provides an area for outdoor engagement in a natural setting and a climate-controlled building for people to escape the heat or rain,” said CEO Michael Happe. “Traffic through the displays has been excellent during the first day and a half.”
“We have greatly increased our presence at open house with large displays promoting Grand Design products near the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Winnebago products at the location on County Road 6, he added.
Winegard Innovation Center
Winegard officially launched its innovation center at 401 North Pointe Blvd. in north Elkhart near Hotel Row off Cassopolis Street.
Open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Wednesday, people can visit the center to see a full range of Winegard products in action, including over-the-air and satellite systems. The center will allow company officials to meet with RV manufacturers to discuss incorporating the products into new RV designs. The firm also plans to conduct training at the facility.
Select industry insiders will be allowed access to the “vault room” where prototypes and unreleased products can be viewed. Light snacks and beverages are offered all day.
Furrion Innovation Center
Opened in May, the open house is the first opportunity visiting RV dealers have to check out the product displays at the Furrion Innovation Center, at the end of the cul-de-sac on Independence Court, just off Executive Parkway.
The building is home to Furrion’s Design Division where designers, engineers and technologists work together to transform concepts into reality. Visitors can walk through an ultra-modern motorhome, featuring a helicopter port and rooftop hot tub. An equally modern fifth wheel displays a variety of Furrion products from sound systems to appliances.
“The concept vehicles promote a new era of mobile/connected living,” said Matthew Fidler, chief marketing officer. “Our new Elkhart center allows our team to engage the RV industry in forward-thinking innovation in luxury mobility.”
Some of the unique products making their debut include:
- An oven that consumers can switch to operate on either propane or electricity.
- A vehicle observation/security system that allows people to view inside or outside the RV from an app.
- A rechargeable LIT indoor/outdoor Bluetooth speaker than is also waterprooof and shockproof with a light on the end that can serve as a camping light or emergency light.
The Furrion Innovation Center is open today, Wednesday and Thursday until 5 p.m. A party caps the open house festivities starting at 2 p.m. Thursday that will feature helicopter rides, go cart races, and a golf simulator. A grand prize 75-inch television will be awarded to the golfer who gets closest to the hole.
The day began on a sour note as a major accident sent one person to the hospital near the entrance of the Forest River exhibit in the 3100 block of County Road 6. From what I could gather from witnesses, apparently a white Grand Cherokee turned in front of a semi-trailer while attempting to enter one of the display areas.
Police, fire and emergency medical services responded. The driver’s condition was unknown at press time.
However, witnesses said it was not a surprise the accident took place as a string of cars looking to enter the displays caused a considerable backup on County Road 6 as early as 7:30 a.m. They said the backup helped prompt impatient drivers to cut through smaller openings in traffic at the uncontrolled intersection.