RV Supplier Diversifying into Niche Markets

March 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

5b_CustomColorScheme_t27UHI Worldwide Inc., which transformed the recreational vehicle industry 20 years ago with its UltraHeat device that allows year-round RVing, is diversifying into a broad range of markets, the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune reported.

UltraHeat, which keeps wastewater lines and tanks from freezing, has been the industry standard since 1991 and led to other winter- use improvements in RVs, such as insulated walls and indoor freshwater systems.

“Most of the time the manufacturers put our products on the wastewater tanks and the wastewater systems,” said sales engineer Todd Stahly, adding that the company also sells to after-market customers who want to add Ultraheat to other fluid systems.

The industry’s old “Follow the Sun” slogan, no longer required, gave way to “Destination Camping,” as vacationers in northern latitudes — even pipeline workers in the Arctic Circle — could use their RVs in comfort.

“The UltraHeat product opened the door to four-season RVing,” says UHI Vice President Mike Lewis. “You could heat it, but you were very limited on your usage because you couldn’t drain your system; you couldn’t use your holding tanks. It was very, very primitive comparative to what it is nowadays.”

Rather than resting on those warm laurels, however, the company in 2005 started seeking new markets for heat systems.

“Up until a couple of years ago, 95% of our sales went to the RV industry,” Lewis said. “We had to diversify into other industries.We try to identify niche markets, a need within a market that no one’s fulfilling.”

Now the company’s StepWarmer line is a leader in heated entry steps for mass transit, such as school buses and city buses.

A “med warmer” for the first response field keeps IV fluids at body temperature, ready for emergencies, and a blanket box heater keeps stacks of blankets at 150 degrees in ambulances.

The company also makes heating systems for high-end toilet trailers with holding tanks of up to 1,000 gallons, and heat panels for hybrid cars.

UHI is the only manufacturer of the heating element in its systems, a process it moved from Canada to Elkhart in 2007. Efficiencies in production have quadrupled production with less staff in recent years.

The company, which now distributes products in Europe, Asia and Australia, started in the 1970s to provide alternative heat in Europe and de-icing systems for historical and commercial buildings in North America.

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