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Going On Luxurious Adventures With The Voltage & Road Warrior

INDUSTRY EDGE

TECH & TRENDS

Expensive Toys And Adventures: Voltage & Road Warrior

5th Wheelers That Are Changing The RV Industry With Luxurious Interiors And Convenient Models That Resemble A Real Home

Voltage Interior [Courtesy/Dutchmen]

It’s frankly amazing what cargo can take refuge in the “garage” of a large 5th wheel toy hauler.

Adventurers and RV enthusiasts have gravitated toward these garages on wheels the past decade as they provide a safe and durable solution for moving around expensive “toys” in the cargo hold of the trailer itself.

“Just like in a house scenario – you never know what they are going to turn that garage into. It is really just a box that you can convert into whatever you need,” said Michael Herdrich, a product manager at Dutchmen, a major RV builder in Goshen, Indiana.

Herdrich is referring, naturally, to the upscale toy hauler his company produces: The Voltage VT 3970.

Just 10 miles up the road in Elkhart, Andy Wesdorp is managing another big 5th wheeler toy hauler line, the Road Warrior. Wesdorp is General Manager of the Road Warrior line.

“We do our best to sell them as multipurpose vehicles,” Wesdorp said. “One lady was a quilter and the garage was her quilting room.”

Other interesting uses of the toy hauler garage: How about a bunch of dog cages that were traveling with circus performers?

The origin of the toy hauler can be traced back to the 1980s.

“There was a company out of Kansas – Kit Manufacturing – and they were the original gangster of toy haulers back in the 1980s,” Wesdorp said. “In the early 2000s RV companies saw it as entirely different product.”

Toy haulers really started to be big business for the Indiana RV makers from 2004 to 2008, but like most luxury items, sales took a gut punch in the Great Recession. But since the economy has started to recover, so have sales of these large 5th wheelers. Many use them for their original purpose: to carry around small vehicles – like golf carts-- to use on vacation or in remote locations.

The Voltage Interior Example [Courtesy/Dutchmen]
Voltage Bedroom Display [Courtesy/Dutchmen]
Voltage Kitchen And Living Room Area [Courtesy/Dutchmen]

But with the extra space, some owners have discovered novel ways to use of the space. Antiquers have put shops in the garage. Some have pulled up to flee markets and set up shop. Recently, in a camp ground west of Las Cruces, N.M., this writer witnessed a family using the space to have a barbecue party.

So, as time has gone on and the business has grown, naturally these toy hauler makers are trying to edge out the competition with innovation. For instance, the Voltage VT has a truly unique door design, which has never been available on such a vehicle before.

“In the past most of the ramps were spring assisted ramp doors – using multiple springs along the ramp door to assist it up and down,” Herdrich said. “Now the Voltage’s door is more similar to a garage door – two springs inside the frame. It takes all of the weight out of the door and it actually wants to close itself up more than it wants to come down.”

Pull this monster into a far-flung park and it will just be a matter of pulling the right knob inside for the back door to slowly glide down and land on the ground without a thud. The innovative spring assembly on the Zero-G door makes it possible for one individual to do the work that used to take two or more.

Over on the Road Warrior side, Heartland has tried a variety of strategies to put more value in these kinds of RVs. With Amish cabinets and luxury kitchen surfaces, innovations in the Road Warrior include full-sized, residential appliances and floor plans that include multiple bathrooms.

Basically, these RVs are starting to look more and more like brick and mortar homes in almost all respects, except, of course, for the fact that these homes can be towed with a large truck to any far flung place in the country at 70 mph.

Road Warrior Kitchen Display [Courtesy/Heartland RVs]
Road Warrior Kitchen Display [Courtesy/Heartland RVs]
Road Warrior Bedroom Display [Courtesy/Heartland RVs]

Prices for both the Voltage and the Road Warrior are comparable to small homes in some communities, with the top end Voltage coming in around $140,000. The Road Warrior tops out at around $105,000.

“It seems we now design the garage around the living area where previously more of the focus was on the garage. Now our consumers expect more conventional features like pantries, better TV viewing angles, larger showers  and other creature comforts that were not always available in toy haulers,” Herdrich said.

Both managers expressed the irresistible pull of the RV building industry in Indiana to establish their careers It is, after all, one of the largest sources of income for the otherwise rural landscape of Northern Indiana, and a bright spot in an American manufacturing sector that has been gutted by foreign competition.

“In a short time I have seen a lot of change, a lot of innovations, and I have seen a lot of growth. It is a really cool industry to be part of,” said Herdrich, who has been part of the industry for about 7 years. “A toy hauler is a lot cheaper than a second home – more affordable and usable than a condo.”

Wesdorp helped launch a new line for his parent company, Thor Industries, before becoming the general manager of the Road Warrior line.  Indeed, Thor sells against itself, to a degree, as it runs several competing trailer lines and motorhomes.

“The innovation has come so far now that they are exploding now,” Wesdorp said of the company, which is traded on the New York Stock Exchange and has a market value of more than $4 billion.

Both managers are excited by the prospects of their brands, as they keep working to come up with new innovations to create more value and compete against each other. When Indiana’s homegrown RV industry gets a hold of a good idea, they indicated, it usually pushes it to the absolute limit in terms of design and functionality.


David Irvin

A graduate with a Masters Of Science from the University Of North Texas, David has written on many beats including crime and business for such outlets as the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Montgomery Advertiser & USA. He enjoys RVing and surfing the Internet.

Pla-Mor Park

Make Sure To Stay At:

Pla-Mor Park, family owned and operated by Joey and Danielle Frederickson. This large established park has been providing camping services for more than 30 years. Featuring grounds that are blessed with beautiful natural ponds, mature trees, wooded areas and lush green grasses.


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