This is an interview with Ryan Ellson, Regional Sales Manager, Diesel Motorhome Sales of THOR Motor Coach, about design and manufacturing RV trends for 2014.
What are the RV design trends at THOR Industries for 2014?
At Thor Motor Coach we are constantly striving to accommodate our customers with new technology and innovative designs on our products. In an industry that is always changing, our engineers and sales team is constantly working hard to develop products that we believe will serve all of our customer’s wants and needs. 2014 is a special year for us at Thor Motor Coach as we have revolutionized our product design, placing an emphasis on the exterior aesthetics of the coach. Each of our models, the Palazzo, Tuscany XTE, and Tuscany Tag, has their share of upgrades.
Our new look Palazzo will feature frameless flush mounted dual pane windows. We have also incorporated a new exterior paint scheme, Folkstone, to complement our two most popular colors, Cinnamon Shore and Galleria. We also have come out with a new upgraded interior ultra leather package coupled with two-tone cockpit chairs.
The 2014 Tuscany XTE’s and Tuscany’s will feature new and innovative front and rear caps. We have also incorporated our frameless flush mounted dual pane windows into our XTE and Tuscany line. Our customers will see additional changes to the XTE including upgraded interior packages, new backsplashes, and new furniture styles. On our Tuscany line we’ve really ramped up offering customers four new paint schemes with an extra cut and buff, actuated baggage lock door systems, a new cockpit overhead, cedar lined rear closet shoe compartment among many excellent features.
Do you see similarities in requests for all of your brands or do they differ with each type of RV product? For example, do people prefer to downsize now?
This is a great question Grace, the “chatter” heard around the industry is that most people are downsizing into smaller units, be it from 42/45-40 or 40-34/36. Since the beginning of 2013 I’ve actually seen a consistent demand for both the Palazzo line as well as our Tuscany line. Since we now offer a 34ST Tuscany XTE and the ever popular Tuscany 36MQ we are adhering to those who do in fact wish to downsize. With that being said, our larger units and tag axles have been growing substantially! I would attribute this to the value of coach for the dollar a customer pays. We offer a larger coach with all the “bells and whistles” at a price point that can’t be matched in the industry. So while the notion may be that everyone is downsizing, I think our RVers will be pleasantly surprised with all of the tag axles cruising down the road (Especially in Alberta )
How has the rising cost of gas and diesel prices refocused your design and engineering department to create more cost-effective “green” solutions in your RVs?
There is no question that fuel efficiency is an important subject of conversation when designing these coaches. Again, we have to really focus on “what’s important to our prospects and customers”. With the development of our Palazzo line, we have revolutionized fuel economy in a motorhome. Offering a customer 10.5-12.5 MPG in a rear engine diesel motorhome used to be a myth. I have spoken to many customer and transport drivers who are recording this efficiency WHILE pulling a small tow vehicle. Now I can’t speak for the “lead foots” out there but I am confident in the Palazzo bringing a customer unmatched fuel efficiency. Cummins, who is our engine manufacturer has also incorporated substances to help with cleaner air, better engine performance, and better fuel efficiency.
How much do your customers’ opinions play a role in defining the next trend for RV design and manufacturing?
Our customers play a vital role in our product innovation and design. These are the folks who will be using the product daily, weekly, monthly, annually. I always use the phrase, “what are two things women want more of in a motorhome?” Counter space and cabinet/storage space. When taking a look at our product I encourage our customers to take a look at all of the usable counter top area and storage area in the coach. That’s just one example, we understand how valuable a customer’s opinion is to our success… and we utilize it.
Can you give me an example of a product that you did a complete rethink on (design and manufacturing) due to your customers’ suggestions and describe the result by how well this product is selling?
We’ve just come out with a brand new floorplan, it is called a 40RX. We’ve found that many customers want all of the features and luxury of a tag axle coach, without the tag axle. So we developed a 40 foot motorhome, offering a 450HP Cummins engine, Independent Front Suspension, and Aqua Hot heating system just to name a few features. This coach also offers the most square footage of any non tag axle motorhome in the industry at 432 square feet. Since the product is brand new I don’t have any “stats” per say but I am confident that this will be one of the best selling coaches in the industry this year and for years to come. The price point for this coach will really be what generates the buzz.
Are you seeing that certain color combinations sell compared to others? If so, what are the most popular color combinations for interiors that customers ask for with your RV products?
Color combinations, both inside and outside are very important aspects of the coach. They give the coach its “character” if you will. On the exterior, with as high of quality paint (Sikkens) as we use… the color is essentially the customer’s preference. We offer 3 paint schemes in the Palazzo, 4 in the XTE and 4 in the Tuscany, all ranging from light to dark.
On the inside we also offer a lighter and a darker wood color. Again, much of this is what fits the customer’s needs. Our accent colors are designed to match each of the wood combinations. We actually have a professional interior designer who comes up with these patterns and schemes. While I think I can mix and match to many customers approval, I think they feel a lot more confident knowing that an interior designer is generating the patterns they will see in their new coach haha.
What do you believe trends in any industry are defined or caused by?
Man, you’re starting to ask me some tricky questions! I think you nailed it on the head a couple questions ago… market factors, environmental factors, financial factors all certainly play a large role in any industry’s trends. At Thor Motor Coach we are kind of like a sports team, we prepare ourselves and our company for the future, but at the same time we like to focus at the tasks at hand each day at a time, much like the Calgary Flames focuses on each game one at a time.
Do you have any parting comments about future trends beyond 2014? Is there any indication that engines will use alternative forms of energy?
I am extremely excited about 2014 and what we will be offering our customer base. Past 2014 I believe you will continue to see the RV industry continue to develop in a positive way. Although alternate forms of energy have been primitively explored as of now, I think you will find more manufacturers using technology to create new means of energy. I know with a company our size and with the customer’s needs we will continue to explore new ideas and concepts for RVing.