Keystone: ‘The Mother Ship of the RV Industry’

June 14, 2010 by · Comments Off on Keystone: ‘The Mother Ship of the RV Industry’ 

Nick Eppert, product manager for the Springdale line at Keystone RV Co., leads a tour of campground officials through the Springdale plant last week.

Nick Eppert (with hands aloft), product manager for the Springdale line at Keystone RV Co., leads a tour of campground officials through the Springdale plant last week.

Keystone RV Co., already the leading builder of travel trailers and fifth-wheels in terms of U.S. market share, is looking to significantly increase its industry role this year, Keystone President Bob Martin told an audience of campground sector representatives gathered for the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) Business Forum at the Thor Industries Inc. division’s home plant in Goshen, Ind., on June 8.

In fact, Martin, who assumed the helm at Keystone earlier this year, told the campground industry panel that his company is aiming to raise its market share, now around 25%, to between 28% and 30% by year’s end. But Keystone needs a strong summer of retail sales to reach those goals, said Martin, whose company is a preferred ARVC builder and, as such, offers special discounts to members of the Colorado-based trade association on selected lines. “But all the signs are there,” he said. “Lenders are making loans again.”

Bob Martin

Bob Martin

In his remarks, Martin said the company, the largest of eight Thor divisions, has rebounded considerably since its low point a year ago and has ramped up production to meet growing demand. It’s 3,000 employees at 18 plants are currently building 250 units daily across its 20-plus models. Keystone’s management expects to produce 45,000 RVs this year at its plants in Indiana and Oregon and in mid-June is 11,000 units ahead of its 2009 production rates. He said consumers “are backing off” of motorhomes and turning to trailers, with the “meat of the market” being 27- to 32-foot travel trailers.”

Keystone, which distributes its towable RVs through 900 U.S. and Canadian dealers, recently broke ground on its Goshen campus for a new 64,000-square-foot plant, and Martin said Keystone could use yet another plant to meet demand. The Keystone business model allows each product brand its own factory and sales team. Rather than add new brands, brands are “extended,” Martin said.

“We are very sensitive to cloning,” he said. “We don’t do that. We fight to keep things separate.”

In a separate presentation, Nick Eppert, product manager for Keystone’s Springdale travel trailers and fifth-wheels, explained to the forum how the company came to design and build its Fireside travel trailer based on input from ARVC members. Built exclusively for ARVC members for the campground rental market, the Fireside features residential-size refrigerators, hardwood cabinet doors, porcelain toilets, 30-pound propane tanks and does not contain carpeting. The units come in two 29- and-37-foot floorplans, each sleeping up to 10 people.

Keystone also markets the Residence, a 396-square-foot destination travel trailer for campgrounds, to the campground sector.

Shane Ott, director of campground relations for Thor, arranged last week’s forum meetings to be held at Keystone, which he dubbed “the mother ship of the RV industry.”

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