Nappanee, Ind.-based Aluminum Trailer Co. (ATC) continued to increase its presence in the growing toy hauler market with the unveiling of a 40-foot, all-aluminum ARV40 fifth-wheel prototype during two private dealer open houses in February at the company’s new 110,000-square-foot manufacturing facility.
According to Dale Davis, head of sales for the ATC toy hauler division, the company began prototyping bumper-pull, toy hauler products about three years ago and introduced the Aluminum ToyHauler brand just two years ago.
“In 2015 we built the first one and did $1.5 million in sales the first year,” he said. “People had not heard of us and the all-aluminum difference. We kept improving the product, going to shows, and in 2016 we reached $4 million in toy hauler sales. Last year we did close to $7 million in toy haulers. Now we have a new fifth-wheel for 2018.”
He said introducing the new fifth-wheel at a private dealer event provided valuable feedback on the new product.
“We had five dealerships show up for this first round,” he said, noting the opening meeting was held Feb. 12 with the followup on Feb. 19. “We have 10 dealers lined up for the next event. We wanted to keep them in suspense so we first had training on how to sell our toy haulers, including marketing programs, warranty, and then after lunch they came over to the new plant to see the new fifth-wheel. We spent a few hours with our dealers walking through the prototype and picking it apart to see how we can improve.”
Davis said each dealer was provided with a pad of orange sticky notes and markers to write down their suggestions and stick them to the areas concerned. “That process worked so well we are going to do it for the next event,” he noted.
He related that the ATC toy hauler line currently has about 28 dealers, adding that the company had to be careful bringing on more as production is somewhat limited at this time. Davis stressed that ATC is looking for a select group of dealers “divergent from their current niches” in cargo, specialty trailers and auto haulers. “We are not going after the massive RV dealers because of capacity, and this unit we offer has a ton of options,” Davis stated. “Our dealers only stock a few — most are then special ordered.”
“Our car hauler dealers just don’t automatically get to sell these,” he said. “They have to commit to stocking these high-end units and getting trained on handling all the issues. The dealership has to have a service department and understand RVs – it’s a whole new level than just selling car haulers or cargo trailers because of the complexity of this product.”
The new toy hauler is all aluminum-framed and lightweight — down to the aluminum cabinets and interior wall framing — and fabricated in-house at ATC’s two Nappanee plants.
“There is not a shred of wood in our toy hauler,” Davis said tapping on a wall. “It’s a big deal for us from our walls to our roofs — all aluminum framed and skinned. Only this interior wallboard is seamless Azdel – a fiberglass composite. You can literally power wash our units out. Just tip it back and let the water run out. There is no wood to rot in this unit. Even our sub-floor is all extruded aluminum. So we are very much about handling the weight of the serious toy hauling side of this market.”
Davis pointed out different colored tapes on the floor of the prototype to help the visiting dealers envision how the toy hauler could accommodate today’s most popular toys inside the 40-footer’s, 25-foot-plus garage area. “So here we have the footprint for two side-by-side Razors,” he showed. “Here is room for a full-sized Jeep Rubicon, and the yellow tape shows room enough for the new CanAm four-seater, side-by-side that is hot right now.”
The ramp door is built in-house of extruded aluminum channel which is powder-coated with non-skid material. Davis said the ramp door is capable of handling the weight of a 7,000-pound forklift as demonstrated in a company video. The customer can choose from two packages that include off-road or toy hauler versions. The off-road package is standard with an eight-foot-wide ramp door for wide-tire vehicles while the car hauler version has a floor lower to the ground with a beavertail rear and a ramp extension option.
Extra height allows for loading full-sized toys while still retaining the space for a queen sky bed tucked above in the rear. All furniture flips up flat to the walls in the interior garage area to make room for the load. The bedroom and baths are built larger for the toy hauler crowd with all the storage and creature comforts found in most RVs while still crafted of aluminum.
Davis said the estimated dry weight of the new ARV40 fifth-wheel prototype is 10,800 pounds. “The GVWR is now 16,800 pounds but will change with bigger axles to be more in the 18,000 to 19,000 GVWR range. We are considering triple 6,000-pound axles or tandem 8,000-pound at this point in time.”
He added that the ATC toy hauler product line is high-end and in the semi-custom range because of numerous options available. “Customers can pick colors of cabinets, the wall board and solid surface countertops,” he said. “We give the customer a lot of choices and we are in a price range where they understand we are going to provide the exact trailer they want. Although we’ve yet to determine a price, this fifth-wheel will probably start at over $100,000.”