While debuting new product during Carriage Inc.’s 2007 dealer meeting June 9-12 at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee, Fla., the longtime fifth-wheel builder also unveiled a more aggressive strategy to better compete in a tight marketplace.
“We have adopted a pirate mentality,” Don Emahiser, vice president of sales and marketing, told attendees representing 52 dealerships. “With interest rates and fuel prices on the rise, I don’t think anyone is going to say 2006 was a phenomenal year, especially in the luxury fifth-wheel market. We have adapted to the fact that if market doesn’t grow, we need to go out and capture market share.”
He added, “Everybody knows we’re quality builders. This year we wanted to show that we could build a quality product at an attractive price.”
A key component toward accomplishing that goal has been the construction of a 136,000-square-foot manufacturing plant at its headquarters in Millersburg, Ind., that will consolidate the builder’s main production processes under one roof.
“For years, we have been operating out of 22 buildings, including our subassembly operations,” Emahiser said, noting completion of the project was slated for early January. “Units run through five different buildings – sometimes twice – before they’re finished. This new facility is going to boost our production capacity by 50% and significantly increase efficiencies. It will also free up our other buildings for production of new products, one of which will be shown in Louisville this year.”
According to Emahiser, the ability to produce more units will allow Carriage to hit more competitive price points without sacrificing quality or amenities.
“There are sectors of the market that we weren’t competing in due to price,” he said. “Right now, the most volume in the fifth-wheel market is in the $40,000 to $45,000 range at the retail level. Our best-selling brand, the Cameo LXI, was selling for $50,000 to $55,000. That has changed. With our new, aggressive positioning and price points, we’re now at that lower price point with a better product.”
The 2007 Cameo LXI fifth-wheel line, ranging in lengths from 30 to 35 feet, still offers “all-season” construction designed for full-time RVing while adding a slate of new amenities.
“Structurally, the line hasn’t changed,” said Greg Kitson, director of engineering. “But while coming in at a lower price, we were still able to add some key features like increasing the headroom in the coach without adding to the overall height. All Cameo models are under 13 feet. It’s also equipped with a flush bedroom/bathroom floor.”
Kitson said that price-wise the Cameo would now compete with the company’s Compass series. Additions to the 2007 Cameo include a centralized docking bay with water, electrical, cable or satellite and phone hookups. Other standard features are Corian countertops, angled and radius cornered kitchen components, power rear jacks, gelcoat fiberglass-and-aluminum sidewalls, and all-fiberglass insulation.
Carriage also added a cherry wood interior while redesigning the furniture and the dining table, which features a self-storing leaf.
Kitson noted that a quad-slide 35-foot Cameo 35SLQ was added to the line featuring a decorative archway that is also used on the company’s Carri-Lite 36SLX5 36-foot fiver. “It’s all trimmed out with solid wood and is built between the kitchen and living area to create more of an open floorplan,” he said.
Other product highlights include:
• C-Force Nitro Toy Hauler: After introducing the C-Force sport utility recreational vehicle (SURV) last year – Carriage’s first entry into the toy hauler arena – the company debuted the new Nitro series in the 2007 lineup. Retailing in the $60,000’s, the Nitro is available in two 39-foot floorplans and offers two graphic packages – contemporary and “moto.” The Nitro is equipped with an 8-foot-by-11-foot garage and sports a 16,999-pound GVWR rating and 4,000-pound cargo capacity. It comes standard with a 30-gallon fuel tank with pump station and fuel gauge, 50-amp electrical service with marine power cord, 35,000 BTU pilotless furnace and a TV antenna with built-in power booster. Carriage is offering an “extreme” option package that includes a flip-up work table, pull-down screen, a ladder and storage netting. Another available option is a “Kicker” sound system with interior and exterior speakers, and marine-grade exterior stereo control.
• Carri-Lite upgrades: The Carri-Lite series, offering five 36-foot models and ranging in price from $60,000 to $70,000, also offers the radius and curved kitchen components and the flush bedroom/bathroom floor. Several “convenience” features were added, including a high-end suspension system and pinbox from MOR/ryde International, electric holding tank dump valves, ball-bearing drawer guides and a central vacuum system. The interior is also set off by all-new decors, including fabrics, valances and lighting.