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It’s no longer a dream or even a plan —- it’s a reality.
Less than nine months after planning their own RV startup, Dave Middleton and Claude Donati have NeXus RV operating in Elkhart, Ind., and have sold 62 units, the South Bend Tribune reported.
The company, which got off the ground in August at Notre Dame’s Innovation Park, has been in its own facility at 3400 Reedy Drive, Elkhart, since October.
Production got under way Feb. 14, and already four recreational vehicles have been produced. The business is now producing about one RV per day.
“It really is exciting,” said Middleton, co-founder and vice president.
“We were just talking the other day, myself and Claude, in regards to where we were at. And not even a year later we have our manufacturing up and running, our production line actually producing product and have sold it and shipped it. We have come a long way in a short period of time.”
The company is building Class B-plus style and Class C motorhomes. Both styles are built on Ford V-10 Cutaway chassis with both the cab and living quarters on one unit. The Class C is 23 to 32 feet long while the Class B+ is 23 to 29 feet long.
“You drive down the road and pull into the campsite, push a couple buttons for the slide-out awning and you are done,” Middleton said. “You are camping in less than a minute.”
Beyond the two founders, the company currently has 34 employees. Middletown and Donati own half the company with the rest being held by a group of investors.
An open house will be held at the facility in Elkhart June 20-30.
Lifelong friends Donati and Middleton are veterans of the RV business, having worked in various roles for about 15 years.
Prior to forming their own company, the pair worked at Gulf Stream Coach Inc. in Nappanee where Donati was vice president of the motorized division and Middleton was national sales manager.
It was there they felt they could do some things a little differently that would benefit the customer.
The three-tier system of the RV maker selling to the dealer who in turns sells to the customer, is costly to the customer, the pair believed.
Plus the economic downturn cost the industry more than 300 dealers nationwide since 2007.
So they started their company which eliminates the dealer.
“We felt we could roll the red carpet out for our retail customers, save them money, let them have a looking glass into the manufacturing process as well as give them a say in the product they would like us to build for them,” Middleton said. “And in doing that combination, we felt we would be able to supply a better product.
“We would be hands-on with the customer, dealing directly with them and they would be more satisfied with the buying purchase.”
Donati and Middleton also believe their way results in better service after the purchase.
The company, with its “Fly and Drive” program, will even fly in customers for free as long as they agree to purchase one of their RVs. The program allows the customer to not only order their RV, but customize it to their liking, choosing things like exterior colors and decals as well as interior cabinets, fabric and paint.
In addition, things like back-up cameras to aid in parking, are standard as is the electrically operated awning.
The company features a 25,000-square-foot climate controlled showroom and 86,000-square-foot manufacturing facility.
Thus far, 60 of NeXus RV’s orders are from dealers who will use the RVs as rentals and two are from customers, one of whom will be picking up an RV during the open house.
Since placing an ad in MotorHome Magazine, the company has taken more than 230 calls from interested customers.
The two individual customers estimate their savings ranging from $7,000 to $12,000, Middleton said.
“Everything is going better than expected,” Middleton said. “Our game plan is if everything goes well, by the third year we would like to add a Class A product and by year five have 100 employees.”