ELKHART - Elkhart-based Thor Industries Inc. (NYSE: THO) Chief Executive Officer Bob Martin characterizes his company's plan to acquire German recreational vehicle manufacturer Erwin Hymer Group SE as "one of those opportunities that come maybe once in your lifetime." The companies say the combination -- valued at approximately $2.4 billion -- will make Thor the largest RV company in the world. Martin says key components of the deal include the technological and research and development potential that Thor and EHG offer each other.

During a conference call Tuesday morning with investors, Martin discussed the global opportunities the acquisition could spur. For example, he says EHG already has an autonomous vehicle in testing and it has worked with Mercedes-Benz on a lighter-weight chassis for a high-tech model. "I think there definitely are opportunities we're looking toward to learning more and that was part of the entire negotiation. They knew that we're very keenly looking at their innovative and R&D aspects," Martin said. "They've got a creative center that is proactively looking for what's the next big thing, and this is something our companies do, but they are a little bit more advanced, and think we can work with them and help them to help both companies."

Thor says plans call for the employee and facility count to stay the same for Thor and EHG. The deal, which has received Thor board approval but still needs regulatory approval, is slated to close by the end of the year.