UPDATE 7/15/2020: The 2020 Elkhart RV open house/expo has been cancelled since the publishing of this story. Click here to read an up-to-date story on the event’s cancellation.
The 2020 Elkhart RV Open House is still set to continue as planned this September in Northern Indiana.
On Monday, event organizers and representatives from both Forest River and Thor Industries confirmed continued plans to hold this year’s Open House. The 2020 Elkhart RV Open House will take place Sept. 21-25 in the nation’s RV capital, Elkhart, Indiana.
A representative from Forest River said the company reached out to dealers and not one dealer indicated they would not attend. While some dealers irndicated they may not bring as many people. All informed Forest River that they felt looking at next year’s models was crucial to the continued success of their business.
Forest River CEO Pete Liegl announced the September dates for the event in January. The Open House was scheduled for the days immediately following the Pennsylvania Recreation Vehicle & Camping Association’s Hershey Show, which was cancelled last week.
Bob Martin, president and CEO of Thor Industries, said his team is planning now for its displays and new vehicle launches at the event. He said as preparations continue event organizers are monitoring nationwide data regarding the pandemic and will continue to share information with industry leaders in the coming months. He said he meets every morning with local and state representatives via teleconference to ensure Thor has the latest information and can respond to new information.
The company created and released comprehensive best practice guidelines for RV manufacturing during the crisis to make sure the industry was able to ramp up production safely. Thor shared the 30-page document of best practices with suppliers and its competitors to help them take advantage of the company’s expansive resources, because Martin felt it was important for the industry’s continued health and safety.
“Right now, we’re planning on it and hoping nothing changes so we can do it,” Martin said. “We want to, but if something comes up that we can’t (host the Open House), we’ll deal with it.”
Martin said the various divisions of Thor are moving ahead with updating models and floorplans for 2021. With the 1 million square feet of outdoor space Thor occupies during the event, he is confident that if the event is managed properly and tweaked, social distancing guidelines can be safely followed.
Martin said the company is looking at a variety of ways to ensure the event is safe and CDC guidelines are followed. Specific details for Thor’s display and how to ensure employees and attendees are safe is still being finalized and may change in coming weeks.
Guidelines that may be incorporated may include mandatory masks, six-foot social distancing, recommendations to not shake hands or hug, expanded seating for dining and potential required appointments spread out over four days for dealers to meet with manufacturer sales representatives, cleaning RVs before each new person enters, among others under consideration.
He confirmed that a crowded concert with a national musical act will not take place at Thor’s display this year.
“It’s a tough call because we want to make sure everyone is safe and we want to responsible for both our employees and customers,” Martin said. “We also have to consider how dealers want to look at product before they buy and are indicating they intend to come.”
Martin said his management team is continuing to reach out to dealers to gauge interest attending Open House. The team is also adapting and changing how the event will be run as new information becomes available.