CrossRoads RV President Mark Lucas acknowledges that the Topeka, Ind., builder isn’t interested in the conventional way of exploring existing niches for new product segments in the rapidly changing towable marketplace.
Rather, the Thor Industries Inc. subsidiary, which has aggressively captured market share while doubling sales in each of the last three fiscal years, prefers to create its own niche in existing or emerging markets.
“We examine what market segments are hot,” said Lucas, who joined CrossRoads as general manager in 2002. “Then we figure out what the other manufacturers are not offering – what portion of that market they’re missing – and how we can differentiate our product to hit what we call the ‘sweet spot.’
“We want to build a product that will capture that 30% of sales that our dealers are missing. What we do is provide a great sister product on the lot in those hot market sectors that are already established.”
That strategy helped CrossRoads avoid closing its doors in 2003, according to Lucas. Known as a low-volume, high-end builder, CrossRoads found it wasn’t competing in some key product areas, most notably the half-ton market.
“The founder of the company and president at the time of the sale was a master of production,” Lucas said. “His background was in manufactured housing and he built a rock-solid product and developed production techniques that we still use today.
“But we needed to expand out of that very high-end niche and build something more mainstream or we weren’t going to survive. We were able to do that with our Cruiser line, which was introduced in the spring of 2003. It was still a quality-built coach, but hit a more attractive price point. The Cruiser product really expanded our dealer base.”
That shift in marketing strategy also attracted Thor, which acquired the company in November 2004.
“Thor gives us financial strength along with a very strong name in the marketplace,” said Cal Jones, national sales and marketing manager.
With Thor’s backing, CrossRoads has significantly expanded its operations, adding a 50,000 square-foot manufacturing plant and a 25,000-square-foot service facility.
“The biggest challenge has been quickly growing people in all areas of the company,” Lucas said. “In 2003, we had 70 people. Today we have 425 people. We started with one plant and now we own four facilities and lease another two.”
Jones said that optimism is due, in part, to the company hitting the ‘sweet spot’ with its 2007 products, including the launch of the Sunset Trail ultralight travel trailer line.
“We’re hitting that lightweight market with a product that is still quality-built with six-sided, hung-wall aluminum construction,” he said. “It also comes standard with several upgraded amenities, like 36-inch deep flush-floor slides.”
Sunset Trail travel trailers are offered in 10 floorplans, seven with slideouts, in lengths of 19 to 31 feet. Built with aluminum framing and fiberglass sidewalls, Jones said all units weigh less than 6,000 pounds with MSRPs ranging from $23,889 to $30,819.
Other features include a bunkhouse that can convert to a large storage area, flat-panel oak cabinetry with brush nickel handles, lift-up bed with gas struts and a dry-erase board for
messaging on the refrigerator door. Jones noted that CrossRoads placed the LP tank in a compartment, allowing for the transport of bicycles and sporting equipment on the A-frame.
CrossRoads also expanded its sport utility recreational vehicle (SURV) offerings for 2007, keeping pace with one of the towable market’s most prolific segments.
Jones said the Cruiser CrossForce is now available in four fifth-wheel and three travel trailer floorplans in lengths of 25 to 30 feet with an MSRP range of $29,641 to $36,420. The CrossTerrain also has aluminum-frame fiberglass construction featuring six floorplans with slideout rooms, including three double-slide layouts and three triple-slide layouts within lengths of 35- to 39 feet with an MSRP range of $46,530-$52,440.
The Zinger CrossFire SURV also features aluminum-sided wood-frame construction in four travel trailer floorplans ranging from 19 to 30 feet, with the 30-footer offering a slide room. Standard features include wide-body construction, queen bed and jack-knife style sofa, stabilizer leveling jacks and a fully enclosed heated underbelly. Units can sleep six to eight people with an optional bed lift added in the cargo area.
While expanding its presence in the lightweight and toy hauler markets, CrossRoads may be interested in the possibility of opening up an operation on the West Coast – a hotbed for both segments.
“We are currently in the West Coast market, but we are considering opening a plant,” Lucas said. “Our concern is ensuring consistency and quality from a satellite operation. If we can find a way to effectively manage quality while gaining an advantage in the market, we would be interested.”