Scott Tuttle: Acquisition By Thor is ‘Perfect Fit’
Scott Tuttle needed a partner. The founder of Livin’ Lite Recreational Vehicles LLC had always anticipated expansion, but Tuttle’s business plan didn’t account for the type of “explosive growth” that the Wakarusa, Ind.-based company has experienced since its founding in 2002.
“We were to the point where we had grown so quickly that taking that next step was going to be a challenge,” said Tuttle, also a former co-founder of Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC. “I was going to have to personally finance that next growth stage, so I started thinking about a partner that could help us.”
Tuesday (Aug. 27), Tuttle’s “next step” took shape as Thor Industries Inc. announced the acquisition of Livin’ Lite, adding the company to its stable of towable manufacturers (see previous story by clicking here).
“It’s really a perfect fit,” Tuttle told RVBUSINESS.com. “I considered private equity firms, but that’s just a cash infusion. With Thor, we gain a huge dealer network, plus all their experience, expertise and resources. It made perfect sense. It’s one thing to grow, it’s another to grow right.”
Livin’ Lite also fits into Thor’s growth plan. Offering a product mix featuring a unique aluminum-and-composite construction that Tuttle said “has created a new weight class,” Livin’ Lite fills a gap in Thor’s portfolio.
“Adding such a creative RV maker to Thor’s strong stable of brands will enable us to expand our industry-leading position in new product development into camping trailers and truck campers,” said Thor President and CEO Bob Martin in Tuesday’s press release, adding that Livin’ Lite is expected to generate sales of approximately $24 million for calendar year 2013. “We see many opportunities for expanding Livin’ Lite’s market presence through the Thor dealer network, and the ability to leverage their lightweight aluminum and composite construction technology in other Thor products. This transaction represents a solid example of executing our strategic plan to grow our RV presence through the acquisition of brands and technologies that complement our existing business.”
Also a factor was Thor’s recent acquisition of the former Navistar Inc. facilities in Wakarusa. The vast complex was left vacant when Allied Specialty Vehicles purchased Navistar’s RV assets then moved operations to its campus in Decatur, Ind.
“Livin’ Lite has four buildings in Wakarusa – two that are just four years old – and we’re not going to abandon those facilities,” said Tuttle, noting the company employs around 120 workers. “But we are looking forward to possibly expanding our production into some of Thor’s buildings.”
Particularly with the pending launch of several new product lines. Adding to its lineup of travel trailers, toy haulers, camping trailers and truck campers, Livin’ Lite will be introducing a new fifth-wheel at next month’s Elkhart County RV Open House along with the Bearcat brand of off-road campers.
“We will be bringing to market fifth-wheels that hit three different segments,” Tuttle said. “At Open House we will show fifth-wheels in our Camplite ultralight series and our Quicksilver VRV line, which will be a bigger unit. Then, at Louisville, we’ll debut a ‘micro’ fifth-wheel” – a super light fifth-wheel that nobody else is making.”
Tuttle said the Bearcat would extend its camper lines, offering more rugged, durable construction.
“We have always had off-road packages for our campers,” he said. “But the Bearcat will be built to haul ATVs and motorcycles that people normally tow with a trailer. They’ll have all-terrain tires and come in all shapes and sizes while still hitting an affordable price point.”
Beyond that, Tuttle said Livin’ Lite is poised to accommodate the new trend toward lighter-weight trucks and even all-electric vehicles that are in the planning stages.
“Because of new emission regulations, truck manufacturers, and the auto industry in general, are building units with better gas mileage,” he said. “But that means they will have less power, especially an all-electric truck. When that hits the market, we will have a vehicle that will work.”