Carriage Inc. needs to become a higher volume producer, so the company will launch its first series of entry-level towables next month, according to Glenn Cushman, the owner who now is involved in day-to-day management of the Millersburg, Ind.-based firm.

The new series of travel trailers and fifth-wheels will be called the Carri-Sport and it will be introduced during the Carriage national dealer meeting July 26-29 at the Indianapolis Convention Center.

Carri-Sport unit lengths will range from 24 to 37 feet and they will retail for under $25,000, said Peter Recchio, director of sales and marketing. About half of the floorplans will include slideouts, some with double slides.

Because the Carri-Sport is in the prototype stage, the weights have not been determined, although Recchio said Carri-Sport units will be designed to be pulled by “vans, downsized trucks and SUVs.”

A significant number of larger Carri-Sport units, most likely, will become “condo campers,” the term that is gaining use for travel trailers that remain in a campground semi-permanently, Recchio added.

Cushman, a resident of Phoenix, Ariz., bought Carriage from Clarence Yoder during 1999. He is working full-time at Carriage now because the RV industry is in a “mini-recession,” he said.

“I financed the company initially and we need to put more money into it,” Cushman said. “Lenders will want me running it.

“Our sales have been steady, but we need an entry-level product,” he added.

An entry-level product is needed because the “breakeven quality” is higher for manufacturers due to the industry’s current slowdown, Cushman said.

Carriage, a 33-year-old company known for high-end towables, has built strong customer loyalty over the years, as reflected in its high percentage of repeat buyers, Recchio said. An entry-level product builds upon that strength, he said.

“We want to give them (retail buyers) the Carriage experience sooner,” Cushman added. “We don’t think a high quality entry-level product is an oxymoron.”

The Carri-Sport will be marketed through Carriage’s current dealer network, although the company will make some additions to its dealer base, Recchio said.

The firm will hire an additional 100 production workers this summer primarily to build the Carri-Sport line.

Cushman added that he believes the industry’s mini-recession is almost over than that the second half of this year “will be pretty good.”