Yet another RV manufacturer is entering the marketplace this week (March 26-29) with the debut of lightweight Earthbound travel trailers from startup Earthbound RV LLC at the Quebec City RV Show in Quebec City, Canada.
“One of our goals was to meet a demand that wasn’t being met for full-size lighter weight trailers that are ecologically friendly,” said Bill Hughes, Earthbound vice president of operations.
Founded in January, Earthbound RV is operating from a three-building, 108,000-square-foot manufacturing campus on U.S. 20 in Middlebury, Ind., once occupied by Pilgrim International Corp., which went out of business in September.
“There are approximately 11 million minivans and small-size SUVs on the road looking for something they can tow,” said Hughes, the former head of Pilgrim’s service, warranty and parts department. “Earthbound will be lighter weight, but we haven’t had the weights confirmed yet.”
Limited production of Earthbound travel trailers sporting aluminum superstructures and painted aluminum sidewalls laminated to a lightweight CosmoLite composite material from TekModo LLC is scheduled to begin next week.
“We took design cues from the automobile industry, particularly on the front and rear caps, and the full use of LED lighting,” Hughes said.
A prototype of Earthbound’s 29 1/2-foot “Golden Ridge” floorplan is being unveiled at the Canadian RV show.
“We expect that by June we will be producing 10 units a week,” Hughes said. “The market will dictate where we go beyond that.”
Earthbound RV currently has 16 employees and eventually expects to have 60 workers, Hughes said.
Earthbound trailers will be offered in seven 25- to 30-foot floorplans, four of which are available with a single slideout, brushed aluminum interior walls, dual-pane acrylic windows, aluminum appliances, U-shaped booth dinettes, laminated countertops, vinyl floors and heat pumps. Cabinets have a vinyl wrap laminated to a sheet of aluminum that is laminated to a polyurethane composite.
Earthbound RV also is exploring the use of adhesives not traditionally used in RV applications. “We are committed to innovation and we are developing resources toward that,” Hughes said.
Company principals are industry veterans Hughes; President Ken Geljack; Canadian RV dealers Andre Levesque of A.S. Levesque, Ste-Helene, Quebec; Ken Friedenberg and David Hill, owners of ArrKann Trailer and RV Centre, Edmonton, Alberta; and Elkhart, Ind.-area businessman Ted Holland. Former Pilgrim Chairman David Hoefer Sr., who originally launched the Dutchmen brand, is a consultant.
“A small group of us approached Dave (Hoefer) last fall and asked him to give us some insight,” Hughes said. “He allowed us to use some of the plans he had. Dave is a visionary.”
Hughes said the company has verbal commitments from about 40 dealers – half in the U.S. and half in Canada.
“We don’t need 200 dealers to be successful, and we don’t need to build 10 units a day,” Hughes said. “We are focused on providing quality beyond anything that’s been experienced in the past.”
Three RV industry veterans have formed a new company – Heritage One Inc. - to build Due West travel trailers that are expected to begin shipping in mid- April.
“We are currently seeking dealers and everything is in the process to get our Canadian approvals,” said Steve Smith, vice president of sales and marketing and a former Monaco Coach Corp. executive.
Other owners of the new firm are President Paul Miller, formerly with Newmar Corp., and Vice President of Production Tony Newman, formerly with Travel Supreme.
“The economy concerns us, but this is the industry that all of us have been in pretty much our full careers,” Smith said. “And we have access to extremely skilled employees. With what’s happening in the RV industry, everybody is headed for towable products.”
Operating out of a 60,000-square-foot factory in Nappanee, Ind., Heritage One will offer Due West travel trailers in five 24- to 33-foot wood-and-aluminum floorplans with up to two slideouts. The company primarily will market Due West east of the Rockies because of transportation costs.
“The thing that distinguishes us is that we did an extreme in-depth study of the product that is out there being offered and what has been successful in the marketplace,” Smith said. “We’ve done our own spin on the most popular floorplans. One of the things that surprised us was it wasn’t the least expensive models that were seeing the most success.”
Smith said a void has been left on dealers’ lots with the recent bankruptcy of Monaco and Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. and Pilgrim International Corp. closing down.
“There are a lot of dealers out there wondering what product lines they’re going to fill those gaps with,” Smith said. “And stick-and-tin towables are still having some success in the marketplace.”
The entry-level Due West features queen beds, pass-through storage, linoleum floors, solid wood drawer and cabinet fronts and antique bronze fixtures. MSRPs start at $14,500.
“A special characteristic that we look forward to bringing to the table is a flexibility dealers are not used to seeing in this type of product,” Smith said.