Kansas-Based Peterson Industries Shuts Down

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March 21, 2015 by   4 Comments

Peterson Industries, manufacturers of Excel-brand fifth-wheels including the Limited, Winslow and Wild Cargo models, has closed its doors.

A phone call to the company’s headquarters in Smith Center, Kan., was answered by a message indicating that the company was “forced to discontinue operations,” and that “no further information was available.” The towable manufacturer apologized for any inconveniences the closing may have caused.

There is no announcement on the company’s website, but Bryan Tillett, Peterson Industries president, reportedly has informed the company’s independent dealers of its decision.

In addition, an announcement was issued in a message posted earlier today (March 20) on the Excel RV owners online forum. The individual who posted the announcement has an account attributed to Tillet. Under the heading of “A Heartfelt THANK YOU From Peterson Industries,” the message read:

“Dear Excel Family Members,

“Peterson Industries, Inc. has been a pillar of the RV industry and our community for nearly 50 years. Founded in 1966 by Vaughn & Leonard Peterson, the Excel brand has survived crisis upon crisis and always bounced back — beginning with the fuel shortages in 1974, when people stood in line for hours just to get gas, followed by the interest crisis of 1979, when interest rates jumped to a staggering 21%.

“Next, we had a fire in 1983 that burned our main plant to the ground. Operating out of 5 locations around Smith Center, we produced our 1st unit within 30 days after the fire.

“Then came 9/11 and the softening of the RV markets during the Gulf War.

“And finally, the greatest recession to hit America since the 1930’s, caused by the sub-prime mortgage crisis that began in 2007 and lasted for a staggering 6 years for the RV industry. Coming into the 2007 recession, Peterson Industries was positioned quite well to sustain a moderate downturn. This however, was in no way “moderate!” The recession began with approximately 15 RV manufacturers building in the “high end” market, until finally there were only 2 left. DRV and Excel.

“After a diligent search seeking a buyer or investor proved fruitless, I am so sorry to say that the last 7 years has left Peterson Industries undercapitalized and unable to continue.

“Therefore, we regret to inform you, our valued family members that Peterson Industries is closing our doors, effective immediately.

“On behalf of Vaughn, Duana, Bryan, Curtis, and all the employees, we want to take this opportunity to sincerely thank you for your loyalty and for giving us an opportunity to be a part of your lives.

“Words cannot express our gratitude… We will miss you all so very much!”

In addition to Tillet, company management includes CEO Vaughn Peterson, Secretary/Treasurer Duana Peterson and Vice President Curtis Peterson.

According to the company’s website, Peterson Industries was formed in 1966 by Leonard and Blanche Peterson and their son, Vaughn, originally to make pickup campers. An expansion in 1974, allowed the company to add Class C motorhomes to the mix. In 1980 Peterson Industries ceased building motorhomes and began making fifth-wheels.

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4 Responses to “Kansas-Based Peterson Industries Shuts Down”

  1. JIM DEJARNETT on March 23rd, 2015 11:23 pm

    Sad day from someone that has been there done that. I owned a factory back in the 70’s and 80’s in Kansas and knew the Petersons as friendly competitors, and great people. It is hard to see another “Family business” stop producing and the large builders take over. Quality comes with the small producers. Enjoy the relaxation from fighting the “Big Guys”

  2. Shan McLemore on March 24th, 2015 1:52 pm

    It is, indeed, a sad day in the rv industry. I want to say, couldn’t you hold on for a few more months? Apparently not. I would have hoped that this company would hold on for better times.

  3. Connie Gallant, RV Consumer Group on April 10th, 2015 5:32 pm

    We had hoped that the situation would turn around in time for Peterson Industries not to have to close its doors. Having rated them as one of the top fifth wheels/trailers manufacturers not owned by a conglomerate, we are also saddened with these news. It will be a major loss to RV consumers and, no doubt, to the hard working folks at Peterson and the Smith Center community.

    It has been our privilege to communicate with Brian Tillet over the years, and to have seen their impressive factory first-hand. The staff and employees at Peterson Industries deserve a great deal of credit for consistently building a very good product.

  4. Roland Bergeron, from Quebec, Canada on December 17th, 2015 3:16 pm


    We bought a Fifthwheel in 2012 Excel 33GKS Limited at the RV Show in Tampa. We did pick it up at Bulls Gap Tennessee. We did have a very good service and the people were very kind.
    We are very sorry to ear that they are closed.
    It’s our third fifthwheel and we feel it is the BEST buy we did. We never had any problem.
    Our representative at TRIAM RV Center at Bulls Gap was Mrs.Anderson.
    Thank you to those people and we wish them GOOD LUCK!